By Jake Johnson
President Donald Trump issued an executive order late Thursday that environmentalists warned will accelerate the corporate exploitation of oceans by relaxing regulations on and streamlining the construction of industrial offshore aquaculture facilities, which critics deride as "floating factory farms" that pump pollution and diseases into public waters.
The Don't Cage Our Ocean Coalition, which was formed to oppose ocean industrial fish farming, said in a statement that Trump's Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth "mandates federal agencies to craft a program for rapid authorization of industrial offshore aquaculture facilities, which use giant floating cages to cultivate finfish, allowing toxic pollution to flow into open waters."
Rosanna Marie Neil, policy counsel for Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, a member of the coalition, said the Trump White House is "supporting the corporate takeover of our oceans while they hope we aren't paying attention."
Environmental attorney Marianne Cufone similarly accused Trump of exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic to "push through dangerous short-cuts to regulatory processes, while communities struggle to stay healthy, pay rent, and put food on the table."
"The federal government should strengthen local food security during this health crisis by supporting sustainable seafood," said Cufone, "rather than allowing corporations to pollute the ecosystems we depend on."
BREAKING: In the middle of a public health pandemic, Trump just issued an executive order to bolster aquaculture --… https://t.co/u18OynL4wg— Friends of the Earth (@Friends of the Earth)1588887527.0
Trump is exploiting a public health crisis to help an industry known for pumping diseases & antibiotics into oceans… https://t.co/itIuFwjMtw— Friends of the Earth (@Friends of the Earth)1588887713.0
Trump's executive order Thursday was just the latest step the president has taken amid the coronavirus pandemic to loosen regulations on polluting industries. In late March, as Common Dreams reported, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a sweeping suspension of pollution regulations and empowered the fossil fuel industry to police itself indefinitely.
Environmental groups sued the EPA over the move, which they condemned as a "free pass for polluters."
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal Thursday, White House advisers Joe Grogan and Peter Navarro touted Trump's aquaculture executive order as a step toward making the U.S. "the world's seafood superpower."
"President Trump's executive order creates a task force to enact policies that encourage fair and reciprocal trade for America's seafood industry, and strengthens enforcement of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing," Grogan and Navarro wrote.
But environmentalists cautioned that the order simply hands U.S. mega-corporations more power to plunder oceans without oversight, imperiling local fishing communities and the health of public waters.
"It is outrageous and unethical for the federal government to use the current public health crisis to bolster this polluting industry," Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. "Now is the time to prioritize our health, security, sustainable food systems, and American farmers and fishermen, not corporations."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Ben Knight
Reports that the new coronavirus is disproportionately killing African Americans in the United States are no surprise to the country's public health researchers. Numerous examples, from polluted water in Flint, Michigan, to parasites like hookworm in Alabama, have long shown that African Americans are more exposed to environmental dangers and ill-health than white Americans.
But a study into one of the most enduring of these threats — lead poisoning among children —provides a new measure of what many say is the toxic effect of systematic racism in the US.
There is no safe level of lead in the blood, which means even trace amounts can damage brain cells. But it is particularly dangerous for children in their pre-school years, when it can disrupt brain development. Overall, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that around 2.5% of children aged between 0 and six in the country have an "elevated blood lead level".
Using publicly available data collected by the CDC from a representative sample of thousands of children aged one to five over an 11-year period, the study, published in February by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that black children living below the poverty line are twice as likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood than poor white or Hispanic children.
The CDC did not offer a comment on the new study, on the grounds that it was not involved in writing it.
The Danger of Being African American
Statistically, the increased risk of lead poisoning associated with being black persists even when you correct for all other factors, from poverty to education levels to the presence of smokers in the home, to quality of housing.
"A lot of people had been saying: 'oh black children are just more at risk because they're more likely to be poor,'" said study co-author Deniz "Dersim" Yeter, an independent academic and undergraduate nursing student in Kansas. "Yeah, poverty's a problem, but it's nothing compared to being a black child in America."
Yeter was "astounded" by the results of their three-year analysis. "I knew it was bad, but I was expecting something like a marginal increase, something statistically significant, but ... not two to six times higher," they told DW. "That is obscene."
The study includes some surprising conclusions: The social condition of being African American is a bigger risk than living in an old house. In other words, black children living in buildings built between 1950-1977 are six times more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood than white children living in a building of that era.
That date is important. The US began putting restrictions on the lead content of paint in 1977. But leaded paint was never systematically removed from old buildings, and the US Department of Housing estimates that over 3.6 million homes housing children still contain lead hazards.
"It's so bad," Yeter said. "It deteriorates, it's little pieces of dust, you inhale it, kids touch stuff, touch their mouths, absorb it. [Before the 1950s] it used to be so bad that kids would go into seizures, go to the hospital and die, because there was so much lead in their blood."
The Consequences of 'Redlining'
The figures Yeter unearthed aren't surprising to community workers in areas where lead poisoning is just one of many health hazards that African Americans face.
"You just have look around you," said Kinzer Pointer, pastor and health campaigner in an overwhelmingly African-American community in Buffalo, New York, a city where most of the housing is older than 1978 and 40% of children tested in 2016 had an elevated blood lead level.
Buffalo is a prime example of the effects of "redlining" — the exclusion of minorities in the US from everything from insurance, to grocery stores — which offers a clue to how racism leads to poor health.
Pointer said that in the neighborhood he serves, the nearest supermarket selling fresh fruit and vegetables is over five miles away, and 60% of people don't own their own transport. "People live on fast food," he said.
Redlining also extends to mortgages and home ownership — the US census shows that only around 42% of African Americans own their homes, compared to 68% of white Americans.
Rahwa Ghirmatzion, director of People United for Sustainable Housing in Buffalo, explained that when renters receive a letter from health authorities warning their building is contaminated, "the expectation is for them to either move … or get their landlord to remediate the issue."
Confronting your landlord can be more fraught for black people: A 2012 study in the American Journal of Sociology showed that African Americans face disproportionately higher eviction rates than whites in the same income brackets. And moving voluntarily may mean breaking a lease and losing a deposit, making it still harder to afford a lead-free home.
The 'Color-Blind' Failure
David Rosner, co-author of the 2014 book Lead Wars, which traces the post-war history of lead poisoning, said racism has always been part of why lead poisoning has been tolerated.
As he explained, after the war, the Lead Industries Association even tried to blame black parents for letting their children eat paint: One 1956 letter showed the LIA arguing to government that lead poisoning was a problem of "educating the parents, but most of the cases are in Negro and Puerto Rican families, and how does one tackle that job?"
With their study, Yeter wants to show that hidden, structural racism can be just as dangerous, and that "color-blind" public health screening only exacerbates the problem.
Currently, blood lead screening is recommended (by organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics) when children live in old buildings or belong to a certain economic class. Yeter says not addressing race too, blinds authorities to the endemic discrimination.
"If you're ignoring black race as a leading risk factor — you're leaving so many black kids at far greater risk out of the local, state, and federal response." He added: "To act like there's no politics behind people being at risk, or what causes that, or how to solve that... it's political!"
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Derrick Z. Jackson
The Trump administration is trying mightily to gut the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the law that mandates rigorous, science-based environmental impact reviews for major infrastructure and construction projects prior to federal permitting. NEPA also reserves significant time for the public to weigh in on the impact of projects to their communities.
The loss of public input in the administration's proposed changes to NEPA has environmental justice leaders up in arms. For them, the silencing amounts to regulatory racism.
At a Feb. 25 public hearing on the proposal in Washington, DC, Hilton Kelley, a 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for his work in reducing emissions from petrochemical facilities and incinerators in Port Arthur, Texas, told the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) that, with at least six explosions and plant accidents in his city over the last year, the events had become so common that children play basketball right through the noise and plumes.
"When you're talking about weakening NEPA and expediting a process, this is what happens," Kelley said, as reported by The Associated Press. "Don't lessen the regulation. Don't silence our voices."
That is precisely what the Trump administration is trying to do in rewriting the implementation guidelines for this bipartisan act signed by President Nixon and designed to allow the public input needed to ensure that "man and nature can exist in productive harmony."
Cheered on by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the nation's leading fossil fuel, chemical, construction, manufacturing, airline, trucking and farming interests, the Trump administration is trying to cut the average time for environmental reviews by more than half.
The Trump NEPA rewrite would undermine the act by allowing companies and contractors to write up their own environmental reviews. It would free builders of chemical and petrochemical factories, oil and gas pipelines, highways, port terminals and other infrastructure from accounting for the cumulative effects over time of pollution, land and wetland loss and erosion.
More Harm to Communities Already Under Siege
For communities long polluted by industry, which are disproportionately poor and of color, the Trump administration's changes promise particular devastation. Such communities already suffer higher rates of illnesses from asthma to cancer, life-altering effects such as low birth weight and cognitive child development, and daily insults to quality of life in diesel exhaust, soot penetrating into homes and contaminated yards and playgrounds.
If the administration has its way, NEPA implementation guidelines would be rewritten so that even in neighborhoods already densely packed with toxic industries, a proposed facility need only assess its own pollutants, not how much they combine and compound those of nearby facilities to worsen the overall quality of air, water and land.
To make sure residents cannot complain about such compounded damage, the Trump administration is trying to severely limit the opportunity for mothers, fathers, seniors, teens and community leaders to speak directly to the government.
The rollout of the proposed changes is a case in point. Despite the sweeping environmental risks Americans currently face, with air pollution that kills 100,000 people per year and 77 million Americans drinking tap water in violation of health regulations, the White House Council on Environmental Quality allowed only two hearings on the proposed changes to NEPA before the close of public comment period March 10, in Washington, DC, and in Denver. By way of comparison, The Washington Post reported that major issues involving NEPA usually get around nine hearings.
One community leader who did get into the Washington hearing called out the cynicism of the Trump administration for its scant public scheduling. Belinda Joyner of Northampton County, North Carolina, who has spoken out against dumping in her lower-income African American community by a wood pellet facility, industrial-scale hog farms and a part of the proposed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline, told the CEQ panel, "You act like you're listening, and I'm not going to say you're not. But we see the results of these hearings."
In Denver, indigenous Americans spoke out strongly against the destruction of NEPA. Seventeen-year-old Navajo Najhozhoni Rain Ben drove seven and a half hours to say to the CEQ panel, "We shouldn't be talking about this. We should be implementing plans for the future. This is not for the future. This is for profit." Musician and spoken word artist Lyla June Johnston, also Navajo, drove six hours from Santa Fe to tell the panel that the proposed changes were "a slap in the face to our democracy — a slap in the face to the integrity of our mother earth."
The Modern Need for NEPA
NEPA originally was conceived amid growing public awareness and outrage in the 1960s over river and lake pollution, pesticide poisoning of birds, highway proposals that would blast communities apart, and tanker oil spills that fouled beaches and wiped out wildlife. There is no less need for it today as climate change is already slapping America and the world in the face with more devastating storms, chronic coastal flooding, deadly heat waves, western and Alaskan wildfires and acceleration of species extinction.
There is arguably even more of an immediate need for NEPA in communities that were dumping grounds long before the concept of climate change, even before the signing of the act itself. It has been proven beyond coincidence that — similar to the tobacco industry marketing to vulnerable populations — toxic industries and builders of massive infrastructure projects target locales where they assume residents will offer the least political resistance.
That significantly explains the shameless shoehorning of petrochemical plants into Louisiana's Cancer Alley in predominantly African American areas. That explains the routing of the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline through lands and over waters indigenous Americans consider sacred, and the Atlantic Bridge pipeline protested by Joyner. It explains the concentration of industry in heavily Latino and African American Southeast Chicago, which is dealing with an endless siege of dust and neurotoxic contamination from coal ash, lead, and manganese dust.
That explains the ramrodding of roads through redlined communities and why people of color drove or flew hundreds and thousands of miles for the only two hearings offered by this administration. They said the NEPA, especially in a White House that is also hollowing out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is one of the last tools standing between them and a wholesale hostile invasion by industry.
Hope in the Courts
There is a glimmer of hope that the U.S. courts will determine that President Trump and his industrial partners are reaching too far in the rewrite of NEPA, as it relates to environmental racism. Take the Atlantic Bridge Pipeline, which is in the public eye for its upcoming Supreme Court case on whether it can transect the hallowed federal Appalachian Trail.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia recently vacated a Virginia state permit for a compressor station along the pipeline because developer Dominion Energy did not adequately assess its environmental impact on the historic African American host town of Union Hill. The town was founded by free African Americans and formerly enslaved people. The federal courts have also sent other fossil fuel projects and Trump administration oil and gas leases back to the drawing board for their inadequate consideration of environmental and climate impacts.
"Five years ago, Dominion told us that there was going to be a compressor station in Union Hill and there was nothing we could do about it," Chad Oba, president of a Union Hill coalition protesting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor, said in The Hill. "That's not fair, and it's not American. This is a win for a group of citizens who were committed to protecting their community and never ever gave up."
Such victories give hope that this is one rollback the Trump administration may not ultimately get away with. The assault on NEPA is so sweeping and blatant in its turning control of the environment over to industry, it is sure to receive a massive court challenge from environmental groups and environmental justice advocates. If communities like Union Hill refused to give up, there is no reason for anyone opposed to the rewriting of NEPA to throw in the towel, either. There is still time before the March 10 deadline for public comment.
Recently, Union of Concerned Scientists colleague Adrienne Hollis interviewed Mildred McClain, an environmental justice leader in Savannah, Georgia, about the importance of NEPA. McClain recalled how the act gave her community a voice against the dumping of nuclear waste and unchecked widening of the Savannah River for container ships.
"If it had not been for NEPA," McClain said, "the community would not have been a part of the process."
It's important to recognize that taking communities of color out of the process is a major goal in the administration's efforts to gut NEPA. When President Trump announced the rewrite, he was — by no small coincidence — flanked by a nearly all-white phalanx of supporters as he claimed with a straight face, "We're maintaining America's world-class standards of environmental protection. We have some of the cleanest air and cleanest water on Earth. And for our country, the air is, right now, cleaner than it's been in 40 years."
For the past two generations, NEPA has offered a powerful tool for the protection of the nation's environment. If the Trump administration succeeds in ripping it apart and turning environmental reviews over to industry, we will risk the dirtiest air and water of any developed nation on Earth, cementing this nation as a hotbed of environmental racism.
The deadline for public comments on the proposed changes to NEPA closes this Tuesday. Submit your comment today.
Reposted with permission from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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The affected river was St. Marys River in Decatur, which is a town of 9,500 people about 100 miles from Indianapolis.
Cleaning the spill could take weeks, Decatur Mayor Kenneth L. Meyer told the Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Journal Gazette.
The spill was first reported Friday night in a safety warning issued by the Decatur Police Department urging residents to avoid the area around the spill, local news outlet WANE reported Saturday.
Houston-based Buckeye Pipe Line Company, L.P., which owns the pipeline, confirmed the spill to WANE Saturday.
Company officials said there had been a failure Friday evening that had caused the spill.
"One of their workers discovered a pressure drop, went immediately to check on it and immediately shut it down," Allen County Homeland Security Director Bernie Beier told The Journal Gazette.
The pipeline will remain shut off until it is repaired and safe to operate, and Buckeye's Emergency Response Team worked to control the spill and clean the area, WANE reported. The company is investigating the cause of the failure.
Beier told The Journal Gazette that booms were used to contain the spread of the fuel, which was being vacuumed off the top of the river.
"So the goal is to get as much of the product or the fuel off the top of the river before the rains get heavier, the waters rise and the currents get faster," Beier explained. "When the water becomes more turbulent, anything off the top tends to get sucked down with logs, sticks and debris. And they're really making great progress, they're getting a lot of fuel off the water," Beier said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also monitoring air quality around the spill site and the water quality downstream, The Associated Press reported.
However, Adams County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director John August told WANE that drinking water in Decatur shouldn't be impacted, because it is sourced from wells and not the river.
He said that the air might smell strange but that there was no danger.
Police warned Decatur residents not to smoke or light flames near the river, WANE reported.
For river-advocacy-group Save Maumee President Abigail Frost-King, the spill was a wake-up call about the importance of protecting rivers.
"I don't want there to come a time when things are too polluted that it may be too late," Frost-King told The Journal Gazette.
This is the second pipeline spill to impact an Indiana waterway within the past six months.
A pipeline owned by Marathon Petroleum Corporation leaked 42,000 gallons of diesel into Big Creek in Posey Creek, Indiana in March.
The spill also comes as there is increased mobilization against new oil and gas pipelines over concerns about their local environmental impact and contribution to climate change.
A Twitter account dedicated to opposing the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia posted a link to news of the Indiana spill with a message for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.
"Do not let these warnings come back to haunt you," @NoMVPVirginia cautioned.
[email protected] A company says one of its pipelines has spilled more than 8,000 gallons of fuel into a river in Indian… https://t.co/Crp8Diw06d— No MVP (@No MVP)1536546528.0
Two environmental groups have filed suit against the U.S. Coast Guard in a Detroit federal district court, arguing that their plan to respond in the case of a Great Lakes pipeline oil spill is inadequate, The Detroit News reported on Aug. 22.
The suit is part of a larger push to shut down Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac between Lakes Huron and Michigan and comes as indigenous activists have set up camps protesting the line that could damage 400 miles of shoreline in a spill.
"Until we decommission this aging, risky pipeline, we need the best-possible spill response plan to protect our Great Lakes, our communities, our wildlife and our economy," National Wildlife Federation staff attorney Oday Salim said in a statement reported by The Detroit News.
National Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) are suing based on comments made by former Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft during a congressional hearing in November during which he said the Coast Guard was not prepared for a pipeline spill in the Great Lakes.
"Between 2014 and 2017, Coast Guard personnel have publicly stated that the agency is ill-equipped to adequately remove a spill from the open waters of the Great Lakes—let alone one as severe as a worst case discharge," the lawsuit states, Courthouse News Service reported.
The suit argues that the Coast Guard's 2017 approval of the North Michigan Area Contingency Plan violates the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which was written in response to the Exxon-Valdez oil spill and mandates contingency plans in any areas where oil is transported through water, according to The Detroit News.
The case further argues that, if the contingency plan is invalid, the facility response plan (FRP) required to allow Enbridge to run its pipelines under the Great Lakes would also be invalid, according to Courthouse News Service.
"You are not allowed to operate without a facility response plan," ELPC senior attorney Margrethe Kearney told The Detroit News. "If the court agrees, as they should, that the area contingency plan is not valid then certainly one of the outcomes could be someone requesting that Line 5 be shut down."
Mistrust of Enbridge partly stems from a rupture in its line 6B in July 2010, in which more than one million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River in one of the nation's largest inland oil spills, according to Courthouse News Service.
Coast Guard spokesman Lieutenant Paul Rhynard refused to comment on the lawsuit, but told Michigan Live that the Coast Guard was "confident" in the existing plan.
"The efforts that goes into these contingency plans is deliberate," Rhynard said.
Environmental Groups Blast Michigan Officials for 'Trust' in Pipeline Operator https://t.co/QSHR1ZKWJf @GSCV… https://t.co/Ok08bU0mgp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1511971507.0
Less than a week before the new school year, the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) announced Wednesday it would shut off drinking water in all schools after tests at 16 turned up high levels of copper or lead, The Detroit News reported Wednesday.
"Although we have no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in our other schools where we are awaiting test results, out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our students and employees, I am turning off all drinking water in our schools until a deeper and broader analysis can be conducted to determine the long-term solutions for all schools," DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in a statement reported by The Detroit Free Press.
Vitti said he immediately turned off water Tuesday at the 16 schools that tested positively and had provided water bottles until water coolers could be delivered, The Detroit News reported.
Vitti began water testing at all 106 of the DPSCD's schools this spring independent of any federal, state or city requirement, The Detroit Free Press reported. He said this round of testing would be the first to evaluate every source of water in the schools, including sinks and drinking fountains.
When test results came back for the initial 24 schools tested, there were already 18 schools where water had been shut off due to water quality concerns. Tuesday's shut-off of the 16 schools that tested positively raises the total tally of schools with shut-off water to 34.
District spokesperson Chrystal Wilson said the remaining schools' water will be shut off before school starts the Tuesday after Labor Day, according to The Detroit Free Press.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's Office and the Detroit Health Department published a statement supporting Vitti's water testing efforts.
"We are fully supportive of the approach Dr. Vitti has taken to test all water sources within DPS schools and to provide bottled water until the district can implement a plan to ensure that all water is safe for use," the statement said, according to The Detroit News.
Officials think the problem comes from old school water fixtures, and not from the water's external source, The Associated Press reported.
A report released in May said that the DPSCD would need to spend $500 million now to improve school facilities, and Vitti, who became superintendent in May 2017, has criticized the state-appointed emergency managers who ran the district from 2009 to 2016 for not investing in necessary improvements.
"It's sending the message to students, parents and employees that we really don't care about public education in Detroit, that we allow for second-class citizenry in Detroit," Vitti said in May, according to The Detroit Free Press. "And that hurts my heart and it angers me and it frustrates me that I can't fix it right now."
It was also state-appointed emergency managers who sparked the water crisis in nearby Flint, Michigan when they decided to save money by sourcing the city's water from the corrosive Flint River, which leeched lead from old pipes into drinking water.
The Kansas government allowed hundreds of residents in two Wichita-area neighborhoods to drink water contaminated by a cleaning chemical called perchloroethylene, also known as PCE or tetrachloroethylene, The Wichita Eagle reported Sunday.
The state discovered the tainted groundwater at a Haysville dry cleaner in 2011 but the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) did not act for more than six years. KDHE did not test nearby private wells or alert residents about the contamination.
Similar contamination was discovered at another dry cleaning site near Central and Tyler in Wichita, but the state did not notify residents for four years.
KDHE said they initially assumed the contaminated groundwater in Haysville was traveling southwest away from the private wells. They did not realize until 2017 that the groundwater was actually flowing southwest and directly along the wells.
The delay in notification can be blamed on a 1995 state law requested by the dry cleaning industry called the Kansas Drycleaner Environmental Response Act that actually instructs health authorities not to look for contamination from shops.
In 1994, Kansas Republicans took control of all state government. They passed the Kansas Drycleaner Environmental R… https://t.co/7TdV0q4NJg— altEPA (@altEPA)1535330832.0
One family's private well that was tested had water containing 49 parts per billion of PCE, about 10 times what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows.
"You think they would have notified everybody, taken some precautions until something was done," the resident told The Wichita Eagle. "Instead, they all kept quiet. They didn't let anybody know about the contamination, so we all continued to drink the water."
When consumed, dry cleaning chemicals can build up over time and can possibly affect a person's nervous system, liver, kidneys and reproductive system, according to The Wichita Eagle. Prolonged exposure can cause changes in mood, memory, attention, reaction time and vision. Some studies even found a link between PCE and a higher risk of bladder cancer.
By Dan Serres
As highlighted by the article Why Does Climate Change Matter to the Columbia?, we are in the the fight of our lives to stop dirty fossil fuels and transition to clean energy. The good news? You are making a difference right now. As activists, you have a tremendous impact on greenhouse gas pollution in the Pacific Northwest. Over the past decade, you defeated the region's largest fossil fuel proposals. From stopping liquefied natural gas (LNG) developments on the Lower Columbia River, to blocking mind-blowing quantities of coal exports, to persuading Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to deny North America's largest oil train terminal, your efforts register on a global scale.
Together, we have helped prevent:
- Coal — more than 132 million tons per year, destined to travel through the Columbia River Gorge in dozens of mile-long coal trains, to ports in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
- Oil — more than 760,000 barrels per day shipped in "bomb trains" to new or expanded oil-by-rail terminals in Oregon and Washington.
- Fracked Gas — more than 2 billion cubic feet of fracked gas per day (more than Washington and Oregon combined use in a day), by defeating pipeline, power plant, and LNG terminal proposals. And we continue to fight projects in Kalama and Port Westward that would use or export another 640 million cubic feet.
Altogether, you helped stop 471 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year. That's almost four times the carbon pollution of the Keystone XL pipeline, and more than seven times Oregon's total in-state greenhouse gas pollution. Incredible! Not only did you take a stand for our climate, but you made a difference for clean air and water as well. Fossil fuel projects pose tremendous safety and toxic pollution risks to millions of people across the Northwest. When we fight fossil fuels, we are fighting for clean water and healthy communities.
Together We Are Strong
To win against powerful coal, oil and gas interests, we must work together with allies. Riverkeeper engages with community activists from eastern Oregon and Washington all the way to the mouth of the Columbia River.
People may fight dangerous fossil-fuel projects because the projects harm local businesses, water resources, forests, farms or public safety. We are fortunate to work with firefighters, fishers, foresters, farmers, health professionals, educators and union leaders who see fossil fuel risks in their communities and stand against injustice. Whether seeking to protect critical salmon habitat, the safety of schools near rail lines, or a stable climate for our children, we seek common ground and a path away from dangerous fossil fuels. We strive to learn from one another and stand in solidarity across traditional political boundaries.
We also salute the incredible work of Columbia River tribes that stood up to coal exports and oil-by-rail. Several tribal nations presented rock-solid arguments to state and federal decision-makers on the dangerous impacts of coal exports and oil-by-rail. According to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission:
[Our] opposition stems not only from the climate effects of continued fossil fuel use, but also the present danger of transportation risks. Continued reliance on fossil fuels would have long-lasting, harmful impacts to the environment and the natural resources upon which tribal cultures are based. This alone is reason enough for opposition to expanding fossil fuel transport through the region, but adding in the risk of catastrophic environmental damage from spills and derailments and the correct course of action is even more obvious.
We are honored to work in solidarity with these tribes to protect the Columbia from the perils of oil-by-rail and other dangerous fossil fuel projects.
The Battle Continues
Linking Grassroots Power to Expert Advocacy The "Thin Green Line"—the Northwest's remarkable effort to block fossil fuel expansion projects—is driven by everyday people who take time to connect with their friends, neighbors, and public officials.
Riverkeeper works to link these people with one another, empower them with technical information, and fight for their rights in the courtroom.
The fight continues. Fracking companies desperately seek outlets for their climate-disrupting methane. Two massive fracked gas-to-methanol refineries proposed in the Lower Columbia River would consume nearly as much fracked gas as the entire state of Oregon. Meanwhile, shippers of tar-sands crude are eyeing the Lower Columbia River for outlets for oil that is so thick and polluting, it sinks upon spilling, a huge threat to salmon recovery in the Columbia River.
As the backers of the Millennium coal terminal continue to litigate over a rejected coal export scheme in Longview, Washington, the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board upheld the Washington Department of Ecology's denial of a necessary water quality permit for proposed Millennium coal terminal, affirms that DOE acted validly to protect the water, land, air and people of Washington from harm.
The Columbia River has two futures. The first: a superhighway for fossil fuel exports—oil tankers, refinery smokestacks, flares and piles of coal eight stories high—enriching multinational corporations.
The second: strong, healthy communities and thriving local businesses united by clean air, clean water and sustainable salmon runs. Thank you for choosing clean air and water. When it comes to the onslaught of fossil fuel infrastructure on the Columbia, the actions you take in your community have global climate impacts.
What Can You Do to Help? Take Action.
Tell Washington State Gov. Inslee to "Oppose Kalama Methanol Refinery!" The world's largest fracked-gas-to-methanol refinery threatens our safety, river, climate, and private property rights! Act now!
It would appear that the Trump Organization's business practices aren't any more environmentally friendly than the policies of the current president, who ran it from 1971 to 2017.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced Tuesday that she had filed suit against the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago for taking and re-releasing millions of gallons of water from the Chicago River without the proper permits and without assessing the impact of its activities on the fish that live there.
"Trump Tower continues to take millions of gallons of water from the Chicago River every day without a permit and without any regard to how it may be impacting the river's ecosystem," Madigan said in a statement. "I filed my lawsuit to make sure Trump Tower cannot continue violating the law."
Trump Tower takes in almost 20 million gallons of Chicago River water daily to cool its air conditioning, ventilation and heating systems. That's more than other, similar skyscrapers in the city and roughly equivalent to the amount of water used by a plant that cools many buildings, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Buildings that use that much water are required by the Clean Water Act to submit a study on the impact of their intake systems on fish populations, because fish can get pulled into a building's cooling system or trapped by intake screens, according to the attorney general's announcement.
Trump Tower also releases the water back into the river as much as 35 degrees warmer, according to the Chicago Tribune, and is therefore required by law to get a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit in order to do so, according to Madigan's announcement.
The lawsuit, filed in the Cook County Circuit Court Monday, accuses the building of failing to submit the results of a study on its cooling system's impact on fish to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) in 2013. It also alleges that the building did not renew the NPDES permit that expired Aug. 31, 2017 but continued to release heated water anyway.
Trump Tower is the only Chicago high rise that has failed to document how it would protect fish and aquatic life, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The river, once seen as irredeemably polluted, has become home to around 30 types of fish in the past four years.
This isn't the first time the Chicago Trump Tower has run into legal trouble over environmental concerns. In 2012, three years after it opened, Madigan filed a suit against the building with the Illinois Pollution Control Board accusing it of releasing heated water without an NPDES permit. Trump Tower settled and obtained a permit in 2013.
However, the Trump Organization responded to Madigan's current suit, accusing her of playing politics.
"We are disappointed that the Illinois attorney general would choose to file this suit considering such items are generally handled at the administrative level. One can only conclude that this decision was motivated by politics," they wrote in an email reported by the Chicago Tribune.
While Madigan is a Democrat, the Chicago Tribune noted that she is not running for reelection and that she filed the suit partly due to a referral from the IEPA, which falls under the jurisdiction of the state's Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.
Trump Administration Sued for Suspension of Clean Water Rule https://t.co/65gwNGTOFE #CleanWaterRule @Earthjustice… https://t.co/5Q4LBjAMSL— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1518026901.0
By Karl Havens
Editor's note: Two large-scale algae outbreaks in Florida are killing fish and threatening public health. Along the southwest coast, one of the longest-lasting red tide outbreaks in the state's history is affecting more than 100 miles of beaches. Meanwhile, discharges of polluted fresh water from Lake Okeechobee and polluted local runoff water from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee watersheds have caused blooms of blue-green algae in downstream estuaries on both coasts. Karl Havens, a professor at the University of Florida and director of the Florida Sea Grant Program, explains what's driving this two-pronged disaster.
What's the difference between red tide and blue-green algae?
Both are photosynthetic microscopic organisms that live in water. Blue-green algae are properly called cyanobacteria. Some species of cyanobacteria occur in the ocean, but blooms—extremely high levels that create green surface scums of algae—happen mainly in lakes and rivers, where salinity is low.
Red tides are caused by a type of algae called a dinoflagellate, which also is ubiquitous in lakes, rivers, estuaries and the oceans. But the particular species that causes red tide blooms, which can literally make water look blood red, occur only in saltwater.
What causes these blooms?
Blooms occur where lakes, rivers or near-shore waters have high concentrations of nutrients—in particular, nitrogen and phosphorus. Some lakes and rivers have naturally high nutrient concentrations. However, in Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, man-made nutrient pollution from their watersheds is causing the blooms. Very high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus are washing into the water from agricultural lands, leaky septic systems and fertilizer runoff.
Red tides form offshore, and it is not clear whether or to what extent they have become more frequent. When ocean currents carry a red tide to the shore it can intensify, especially where there are abundant nutrients to fuel algae growth. This year, after heavy spring rains and because of discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee, river runoff in southwest Florida brought a large amount of nutrients into near-shore waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which fueled the large red tide.
Algae is clearly visible in this satellite image of southwestern Lake Okeechobee, taken July 15.NASA Earth Observatory
The public health advisories about red tide are related to respiratory irritation, which is a particular concern for people with asthma or other respiratory issues. But almost anyone, including me, who has walked a beach where there is a red tide will quickly experience watering eyes, a runny nose and a scratchy throat. The algae that cause the red tide release a toxic chemical into the water that is easily transported into the air where waves break on the shore.
Some people are allergic to cyanobacteria blooms and can have contact dermatitis (skin rash) on exposure. Several of my colleagues have developed rashes after submerging their hands to collect water samples. It is not advisable to purposely contact water with a cyanobacteria bloom. And if farm animals or pets drink water with an intense bloom, they can become seriously ill or die.
Above video: The blooms are causing widespread fish kills and threatening Florida's tourism industry.
How can states prepare for these events?
The onset of algae blooms is unpredictable. We know high levels of nutrients allow a lake or shoreline to have blooms. We even can predict with some certainty that a bloom is likely in a particular summer—for example, if in the preceding spring heavy rainfall and runoff from the land delivered large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus into the water.
But we can't predict exactly when a bloom will begin and end, because that depends on things we can't project. Why did the cyanobacteria bloom start in Lake Okeechobee this summer? Perhaps because there were several successive hot sunny days with little cloud cover and little wind. For some lakes in Florida and many others across the nation, we have loaded the surrounding land with so much phosphorus and nitrogen from agricultural and urban runoff that all it takes is the right weather to trigger a bloom: A rainy spring and then a few perfect sunny days in summer.
We cannot control the weather, but we can control nutrient pollution, both by reducing it at its sources and by capturing and treating water running off of large land areas. Florida has many such projects under way as part of the greater Everglades restoration efforts, but they will take decades to complete.
Nutrient pollution sources include decaying organic material; fertilizers applied to crops, lawns and golf courses; manure from fields or feedlots; atmospheric deposition; groundwater discharge; and municipal wastewater discharge. USGS
One key aspect of rehabilitating polluted lakes, rivers and estuaries is knowing whether actions are having a positive effect. This requires long-term environmental monitoring programs, which unfortunately
have been scaled back in Florida and many other states due to budget cuts.
Carefully designed monitoring could help us understand factors affecting the kind of blooms that occur and what triggers them to start and stop at particular times, and provide guidance on nutrient control strategies. We are not monitoring at that level now in Florida.
Is climate change influencing the size or frequency of these outbreaks?
Scientists have clearly shown that there is a positive and synergistic relationship between water temperature, nutrients and algal blooms. In a warmer future, with the same level of nutrient pollution, blooms will become harder if not impossible to control. This means that it is urgent to control nutrient inputs to lakes, rivers and estuaries now.
Unfortunately, today the federal government is relaxing environmental regulations in the name of fostering increased development and job creation. But conservation and economic growth are not incompatible. In Florida, a healthy economy depends strongly on a healthy environment, including clean surface waters without these harmful blooms.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
- Across U.S., Toxic Algal Blooms Threaten Lakes and Other Waterways ›
- Nearly 300 Sea Turtles Dead as Red Tide Plagues Southwest Florida ›
- Water Pumped Into Tampa Bay Could Cause a Massive Algae Bloom ›
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) officials said there was no reason to believe this leak left the the site of the Westinghouse plant or posed a threat to public drinking water, but state senator Darrell Jackson is calling for a public meeting to discuss the leak and other historic issues at the plant, The State further reported Wednesday.
"This is very disturbing," Jackson said. "This is one of the fears that those of us who grew up in that area, and lived in that area, have always talked about. I'm asking DHEC to get to Westinghouse officials and let's have a public meeting, not just with elected officials, but we need citizens there also.''
The company informed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of the leak July 12, which came through a hole in a part of the plant where acid is used. The hole was three inches and extended six feet into the ground, the NRC told The State.
The NRC found uranium levels in the soil of 4,000 parts per million, more than 1,000 times higher than average for soil.
"That's a lot, oh yeah," U.S. Geological Survey scientist Frank Chapelle told The State.
The company has covered the hole with a metal plate and said it would not use the area until it was completely repaired.
The DHEC said they were still testing the groundwater on the site to see if it was contaminated, but said the plant itself was far enough away from public drinking water that it shouldn't cause a problem.
"Based on existing information, there is no threat to the public from this recent release or from historical groundwater contamination at this secured site as there is no exposure risk to the general public," DHEC spokesperson Tommy Crosby told The State.
But Jackson was not reassured.
"What we don't know is what kind of impact that's going to have 20 years from now on the groundwater, this drip, drip, drip," Jackson said. "I don't know of too many people too receptive to living in the area when they know the groundwater is contaminated."
DHEC spokesperson Cristi Moore said the agency would consider the senator's request for a meeting.
This isn't the first time safety concerns have surrounded the Westinghouse plant.
Part of the plant had to shut down two years ago because of uranium found accumulating in an air pollution device, The Associated Press reported. It was also cited by the federal government this year for failing to plan adequately for a potential radiation burst.
Groundwater below the plant has also been found to be contaminated with nitrate since 1984. While clean up efforts were made, the nitrate was not entirely removed, The State reported.The leak comes as the Trump administration has promised to assist unprofitable nuclear and coal plants. Its most recent plan, reported in June, would require that grid operators buy power from struggling plants for the sake of national security.
Some neighborhoods in the town only get running water a few times a week, so residents turn to soda, drinking more than half a gallon a day on average.
"Soft drinks have always been more available than water," Maria del Carmen Abadía, a 35-year-old security guard, told The New York Times.
Abadía and her parents are some of the many in the town who suffer from diabetes as a result of their limited drinking options. The mortality rate from diabetes in Chiapas, the region of Mexico where San Cristóbal is located, has increased by 30 percent from 2013 to 2016. It follows heart disease as the region's second leading cause of death, killing 3,000 a year.
Scientists say that part of the town's water woes is due to climate change.
"It doesn't rain like it used to," Ecosur research center biochemist Jesús Carmona told The New York Times. "Almost every day, day and night, it used to rain."
The lack of rain means the artesian wells that supplied the town in the past don't get enough water.
But residents also blame a local Coca-Cola factory, both for the product it sells and the water it diverts. The factory has a deal with the federal government allowing it to extract more than 300,000 gallons of water a day at the extremely cheap rate of 10 cents for every 260 gallons.
"When you see that institutions aren't providing something as basic as water and sanitation, but you have this company with secure access to one of the best water sources, of course it gives you a shock," clean water nonprofit Cántaro Azul director Fermin Reygadas told The New York Times.
Part of the problem is that the deal between the plant, owned by Femsa, a company with the rights to bottle and sell Coca-Cola in Latin America, and the federal government benefits both at the expense of the town itself.
"Coca-Cola pays ... money to the federal government, not the local government," Kettering University social scientist Laura Mebert told The New York Times, "while the infrastructure that serves the residents of San Cristóbal is literally crumbling."
Anger at the company led to protests in 2017 demanding the plant shut down. Demonstrators marched on the building wearing masks and holding crosses that said "Coca-Cola kills us."
Tensions also derailed attempts by Femsa to build a wastewater plant last year, something San Cristóbal still lacks.
Coca-Cola released a statement in response to The New York Times article, saying the bottling plant paid market rate for the water it used and that the company had worked with locals for a decade to build water tanks, rooftop rain collectors and develop water conservation projects.
"We also agree too much sugar isn't good for anyone, and that is why we are taking actions around the world to help people drink less sugar from our beverages," the statement said, adding that 45 percent of their Mexican product portfolio was low or no sugar.
The company, however, has a history of presenting misleading information about the health benefits of its products.
As recently as 2015, it was uncovered that Coca-Cola funded the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) to argue that exercise, not limiting calorie intake, was the best way to lose weight and stay healthy. In documents uncovered in March, the company even said it saw the GEBN as a "weapon" in a "growing war" over the causes of weight gain.
Similarly manipulative tactics are partly responsible for the proliferation of Coca-Cola in Chiapas.
In the 1960s, Coca-Cola and Pepsi put up billboards in indigenous languages often showing people in the traditional dress of the native Tzotzil people.
Coca-Cola has since been integrated into local culture and religion. In the nearby town of San Juan Chamula, worshipers in local churches pray over chickens and bottles of soda. Many Tzotzil people even believe the beverage has healing powers.
"Coca-Cola is abusive, manipulative," local activist Martin López López told The New York Times. "They take our pure water, they dye it and they trick you on TV saying that it's the spark of life. Then they take the money and go."
Bottled Water Companies Pay Next to Nothing to Siphon Freshwater From Pristine Lake https://t.co/GCCn1SrGXE @OurWaterCounts @WaterAidAmerica— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1490752505.0