By Marc Yaggi and Sandy Bihn
Before President Trump took office, a barrier designed to protect American jobs from a growing foreign threat had been researched by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. A month after President Trump took office, while promising that his strongman tactics would protect American jobs above all else, he quietly delayed the project.
This barrier along the Des Plaines River, also known as Brandon Lock, in Illinois was part of a plan by the federal government to defend the Great Lakes—the world's largest inland fishery—from an Asian Carp invasion. With its ability to crowd-out and outcompete American fish populations, this non-native fish species threatens thousands of American fishing and tourism businesses, the job markets of entire communities and more than $40 billion a year in revenue. The Asian Carp threat is powerful enough to unite republican and democratic leaders against it, but Trump has gone soft, choosing this invasive species over American livelihoods.
After escaping containment during floods in Louisiana in the 1990s, Asian Carp rapidly spread. Asian Carp breed like rabbits, eat like pigs and quickly grow so large natural predators can't kill them. When they enter a river, they consume all the available food, killing off the local market fish population and with it, our fishing businesses. They also have a dangerous habit of leaping out of the water when they hear a boat motor, earning them the nickname "bowling balls," as the 50+ pounders can hit boaters mid-air, cracking ribs and breaking jaws.
Asian Carp are barging through any nook and cranny they can find that leads to their promised land, Lake Erie. If we don't stop them, they will quickly make all 95,000 square miles of the Great Lakes their new permanent home, and then have unbridled access to the rest of America's major river systems. If they penetrate the Great Lakes, we lose jobs, billions in domestic revenue, generations-old businesses and our livelihoods.
Since 2010, the federal government has invested $300 million each year to successfully defend the Great Lakes with Asian Carp river barriers and underwater electric fences around the Great Lakes. Earlier this year, a federal report urged $275 million in both technological and structural improvements at an imperative Illinois lock to prevent these invasive fish from reaching the Great Lakes. According to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Canadian counterparts on the state of the Great Lakes in 2017, so far, the barrier efforts defending the lakes from Asian Carp establishing itself in the lake have been successful—but the work isn't done.
We need to build more controls and continue to maintain existing barriers, yet Trump has chosen a much weaker plan, halting current barrier research and construction and proposing a complete elimination of funding in the future. Broad bipartisan support for a strong Great Lakes defense saved it from cuts in last week's congressional budget vote. Republicans stood arm in arm with Democrats and refused to sacrifice a dollar with thousands of jobs and businesses at stake.
Why has Trump gone so soft on defense of our Great Lakes economy? Some have speculated that a small special interest group of cargo shippers in Chicago may have an influence on Trump's decision. They worry a river barrier would slow the movement of goods through the area. In truth, the small industry makes up less than one percent of Chicago's local economy and businesses will only be inconvenienced while they make the transition to truck and rail transport. It's a grain of sand in comparison to the threat of Asian Carp to tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of American businesses across multiple states.
The real reason is political. Trump is trapped in his own rhetoric. The Brandon Lock barrier study was released in August, but in order to build the recommended barriers, we need a federal budget that adequately funds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has spent has spent $56.6 million since 2010 on efforts to keep out Asian Carp, yet Trump's proposed budget would completely eliminate this program. Of course, if you ask any Great Lakes fishermen, they will tell you EPA is their homeland security, guarding their livelihood from this foreign threat. Now it is up to Congress to decide on EPA's budget, and we need a strong, well-funded EPA if we are to stop the spread of Asian Carp.
Congress: Don't go soft on Asian Carp when jobs and businesses, including those beyond Chicago, need your strength. Use EPA to build strong river barriers that stop the Asian Carp invasion and save American jobs. Please, do it before it's too late. If you're worried about looking like an environmentalist, tell the naysayers and the news media to talk to the people who depend on fishable water. Tell them to talk to the American fishermen of the Great Lakes after you've saved their livelihoods from an Asian Carp invasion. If you give EPA the ammunition they need to win this battle, the American families whose jobs you saved will thank you.
Continuing its march toward elimination of key Clean Water Act protections, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday issued a formal notice of withdrawal of the Obama administration's rule defining which waters can be protected against pollution and destruction under federal law.
This is the first step in EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's plan to eliminate essential Clean Water Act protections for waterways across the country that have been in place since the 1970s.
Within the next few months, Pruitt is expected to take the more dangerous second step—adopting a narrow definition of "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) long sought by industry that will allow uncontrolled pollution and destruction of our nation's rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands.
The decision to withdraw and replace the definition that protects our nation's waterways—a move advocated by industry groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Petroleum Institute—was made soon after Pruitt became administrator and without consultation with the public, the states or environmental groups. In fact, Pruitt attended the Farm Bureau Advocacy Conference on the same day he signed the withdraw and replace notice to announce to his allies that "relief is on the way."
50+ Interviews With EPA Staff: Trump Poses 'Greatest Threat' to Agency in 47-Year History https://t.co/oAxZP5JNyn (@EcoWatch)— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1498347007.0
It has been widely reported that, after becoming administrator, Pruitt had multiple meetings with senior executives in the automotive, coal, oil and gas, and utility industries, including attending "a March 22 meeting of the executive council of the American Petroleum Institute at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, with 45 oil and gas CEOs."
By contrast, despite Pruitt's purported goal of "restoring states' important role in the regulation of water," the states were briefed on EPA's plan on April 19th after Pruitt had already determined to proceed with the withdrawal and replacement of the existing definition, and an official request for written comment was provided to the states roughly 40 days prior to a June 19th deadline.
"This action is not about restoring the state's role in the protection of water—the states are the primary entities that implement the Clean Water Act," said Waterkeeper Alliance Senior Attorney Kelly Hunter Foster. "This is EPA Administrator Pruitt's first step in implementing a long-term industry strategy to eliminate federal and state authority to protect waterways against industrial pollution."
Waterkeeper Alliance is committed to ensuring that the Clean Water Act continues to protect our nation's rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands, and all those that depend on clean water. Waterkeeper Alliance will fight every attempt to weaken this vital environmental protection.
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 Anna Bachmann
The 16' tall puppet Enki, Iraq's Sumerian God of Water, was forced to stand in for Iraq's Upper Tigris Waterkeeper, Nabil Musa at the Waterkeeper Alliance conference in Utah last week.
Musa, who was born and currently lives in Northern Iraq also carries a British passport and has attended several Waterkeeper conferences in the past under a U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This program permits citizens of 38 countries (including the UK) to travel to the U.S. without a visa. Nabil was denied the visa waiver to attend the 2017 conference after the Department of Homeland Security changed the rules with the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.
This act states that nationals of VWP countries who have been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, at any time on or after March 1, 2011 will be denied the visa waiver. As a result Nabil, who works to protect rivers in Iraq, missed an important opportunity to connect with this vital network of water advocates from around the world.
Anna Bachmann is the founder of Waterkeepers Iraq.
A coalition of environmental and public health advocates filed suit Wednesday to challenge a Trump administration rollback that could wipe out critical protections for cleaning up America's leading source of toxic water pollution: coal power plant waste.
The federal lawsuit seeks to invalidate an April 25 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) order that abruptly put an indefinite hold on a set of safeguards to control the amount of arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead and other pollutants that spew from coal power plants into our public waters. By putting those protections on hold indefinitely, the Trump administration is allowing power plants to continue discharging toxics without any specific limits, using standards set 35 years ago.
"I don't think anything considered state of the art in 1982 would still be state of the art today, especially when you are talking about the number-one source of toxic water pollution in the country," said Earthjustice attorney Thomas Cmar. "EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is not above the law and he doesn't have the power to roll back public health protections with the stroke of a pen."
Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance and Clean Water Action in the District of Columbia's federal district court. Also joining the suit are the Environmental Integrity Project, PennEnvironment, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility and Prairie Rivers Network, represented by the Environmental Integrity Project. The suit asks the court to find that the EPA didn't have legal authority to put the protections on hold, didn't give public notice or allow public participation before doing so, and selectively applied its action to prioritize the interests of the coal industry over public health.
"These standards would have tackled the biggest source of toxic water pollution in the country, and now the Trump EPA is trying to toss them out. It's indefensible," said Pete Harrison, an attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance. "The EPA didn't even pretend to seek public input before plowing ahead with this rollback that could allow millions of pounds of preventable toxic pollution to go into our water."
The toxics in coal plant waste raise cancer risk, make fish unsafe to eat and can inflict lasting brain damage on children. Heavy metals in the waste, like lead, arsenic and mercury, don't degrade over time, and they can concentrate as they travel up the food chain, impacting fish and wildlife and ultimately collecting in our bodies and our children's bodies. Power plant pollution can also make municipal water bills more expensive, because water treatment plants may have to spend more money to ensure that they deliver safe water to their customers.
"By allowing power plants to continue to dump chemicals into drinking water sources, Trump's EPA is putting polluter profits above protecting public health," said Jennifer Peters, national water programs director for Clean Water Action. "For decades, power plants have been dumping toxic metals and other harmful contaminants, including bromide, which creates cancer-causing byproducts during drinking water treatment. Absent strong safeguards to limit this pollution, drinking water systems and their customers will continue to bear the burden of unchecked power plant water pollution."
After decades of inaction, limits for these toxic discharges from coal power plants were finally updated by the Obama administration in September 2015 due to a court order secured by some of the same groups filing suit today. The new safeguards would have required power plants to eliminate the vast majority of this pollution, protecting our nation's drinking water sources and making thousands of river miles safer for swimming and fishing.
Power plants were set to begin meeting these new safeguards starting in 2018, but EPA's Pruitt agreed to a coal industry request to reconsider the rule.
"EPA's action brings us back to the dark ages by not requiring industry to stay on schedule to curb toxic water pollution from power plants, the largest industrial source of this pollution," said Lisa Hallowell, senior attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. "Instead of requiring modern pollution controls that cost only pennies a day, the Trump administration is instead allowing this industry to continue to dump unlimited arsenic, selenium and other toxic pollution into our nation's waters."
Through the April 25 order, the EPA is telling the industry that it doesn't need to take any steps to modernize wastewater treatment while a potentially years-long rule-making process plays out.
"Today, we are making a firm declaration that we will not stand idly by as Trump's administration tries to steer America back to an era where rivers caught on fire and polluters dumped their waste in our waterways with impunity," Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, added.
"With the drinking water of millions of Americans at stake, we will fight tooth-and-nail to protect safeguards that restrict coal plants from dumping toxic heavy metals into our drinking water supplies and putting thousands of families at risk of poisoning each year. Though these irrational attacks against basic science and public health are horrifying, we are confident that common sense will win the day and the American people will prevail over polluter greed in the courts and in the streets."
The DC Circuit Court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday to close a loophole that has allowed hazardous substances released into the environment by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to go unreported.
"We applaud the DC Circuit Court's clear decision to enforce this vital environmental safeguard to protect public safety," said Earthjustice attorney Jonathan Smith, who helped argue the case before the court.
"In the words of the court, the risk of air emissions from CAFOs 'isn't just theoretical; people have become seriously ill and even died' from these emissions. But the public cannot protect itself from these hazardous substances if CAFOs aren't required to report their releases to the public. The loophole also prevented reporting of these toxics to local and state responders and the court held that plainly violated the law."
CAFOs are large-scale livestock facilities that confine large numbers of animals in relatively small spaces. A large CAFO may contain upward of 1,000 cattle, 2,500 hogs or 125,000 chickens. Such facilities generate a massive amount of urine and feces, which is commonly liquefied and either stored under the facility or nearby in open-air lagoons. This waste is known to release high levels of toxic pollutants like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide into the environment.
The court's decision closes a loophole that exempted CAFOs from the same pollutant reporting required of other industries to ensure public safety. Prior to the promulgation of this loophole at the end of the Bush administration in 2008, federal law long required CAFOs, like all other industrial facilities, to notify government officials when toxic pollution levels exceeded public safety thresholds.
"Corporate agricultural operations have always been well-equipped to report on hazardous substances," said Abel Russ of the Environmental Integrity Project. "Now they will once again be required to do so."
This ruling is the latest turn in Earthjustice's advocacy on behalf of environmental and animal advocacy groups including Waterkeeper Alliance, Humane Society of the United States, Sierra Club, Center for Food Safety and Environmental Integrity Project.
"People have a right to know if CAFOs are releasing hazardous substances that can pose serious risks of illness or death into the air near their homes, schools, businesses and communities," said Kelly Foster, senior attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance.
"This ruling ensures that the public will be able to obtain this information in the future and will hopefully spur EPA to start responding when hazardous substances reach toxic levels."
Nearly three-quarters of the nation's ammonia air pollution come from CAFOs. Once emitted into the air, this ammonia then redeposits on land or water, adding to nitrogen pollution and water quality impairments in places like the Chesapeake Bay.
"CAFO waste pollutes our air and waterways and creates dangerous food pathogens. This decision forces these operations to be transparent about their environmental impact," said Paige Tomaselli of the Center for Food Safety.
CAFOs can be terrible air polluters. People who live near them often suffer from constant exposure to foul odors and the toxic effects of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Low levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and high levels can be fatal.
"This safeguard isn't just about protecting the environment; it's about making entire communities safe for the people who live in them," said Sierra Club staff attorney Katie Schaefer.
Unsurprisingly, CAFO pollution also severely impacts the animals raised at the CAFO.
"Animal factories force billions of animals to suffer dangerously high levels of toxic air pollution day after day for their entire lives," said Humane Society of The United States' Chief Counsel Jonathan Lovvorn. "This ruling helps shine a light on the horrors of factory farms and the hidden costs to animals, people and the environment."
The Atlanta-born, Appalachian-bred, New Orleans-seasoned soulful Folk/World troubadours Rising Appalachia released their latest music video today in honor of World Water Day.
Rising Appalachia is honored to release Rivermouth in partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance, the largest and fastest growing nonprofit solely focused on clean water. Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper organizations and affiliates around the world, focusing citizen advocacy on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol and protect nearly 2.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.
Rising Appalachia brings to listeners a collection of sounds, stories and songs steeped in tradition and a devotion to world culture. Intertwining a deep reverence for folk music and a passion for justice, they have made it their life's work to sing songs that speak to something ancient yet surging with relevance. This video release is an ongoing part of the band's "Slow Music Movement"—an effort to promote sustainability, engage with activist networks, bring local outreach to each event and continuing to create and promote sustainable practices within the music industry.
"Rivermouth is a love song ... Both human and elemental," Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia said. "The depths of the human heart and the force of a river are both wild and unchartered at their core, best left alone to swell and stretch and change with the seasons. We have been aligned with the Mississippi River, Gulf and Kalamath water protectors and recently branched out to form alliances with Waterkeepers around the world, working towards drinkable, fishable, swimmable water everywhere."
On Jan. 13, the MV Aichgati, a large bulk cargo vessel carrying 1,000 tons of coal, sank in the estuary of the Pashur River in the Sundarbans World Heritage Site. In addition to the large amount of coal, hundreds of gallons of fuel oil, batteries and other toxic contaminants may now be polluting the Sundarbans.
The is the fifth time a vessel has sunk in the Sundarbans over the past two years. In December 2014, an oil tanker capsized in the Chandpai Dolphin Sanctuary on the Shela River, spilling and spreading 350 m3 of fuel oil across at least 40 km of the waterway. Five months later in May 2015, a cargo vessel sank, polluting the Bhola River with 200 tons of potash. In October 2015, a barge transporting 570 tons of coal capsized near the Dhangmari Dolphin Sanctuary in the Pashur River. In March 2016, a cargo vessel transporting 1,245 tons of coal sank in the Shela River. The waterways flowing through the Sundarbans are home to the Dhangmari and Chandpai dolphin sanctuaries, created to protect the rare Irawaddy and Ganges dolphins.
"Five recent episodes of ships capsizing have created a cumulative impact that endangers the rare aquatic ecology of the Sundarbans," Donna Lisenby, clean and safe energy campaign manager for Waterkeeper Alliance, said. "The Rampal coal plant must be stopped before it further imperils the World Heritage Site."
Another Fully Loaded #Coal Vessel Sinks of Coast of #Bangladesh https://t.co/SEez1I6kQH @Waterkeeper @acousteau @350 https://t.co/CEgTEx61Wq— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1458747121.0
The governments of India and Bangladesh are aggressively moving forward with the construction of the proposed Rampal coal-fired power plant which will dramatically increase the shipping of coal, coal ash and gypsum pollutants through the Sundarbans.
"If the Rampal coal plant is built, it will require hundreds more coal ships and barges to travel through the Sundarbans," Sharif Jamil, coordinator of Waterkeepers Bangladesh, said. "This is one of the many reasons why the World Heritage Centre (WHC) and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) concluded that the proposed Rampal power plant poses a serious threat to the Sundarbans and should be canceled."
In addition to cancellation of Rampal, Waterkeeper Alliance and Waterkeeper Bangladesh supports the shipping recommendations made by the WHC and IUCN in the June 2016 Monitoring Mission Report:
Enforce the permanent closure of the Shela River to all vessel traffic, national and international, and apply speed limits and effective control measures for night and poor weather conditions for vessels navigating along the Pashur River.
Develop an effective action plan and emergency response facility in consultation with all relevant stakeholders to react to any future shipping incidents in a timely and coordinated manner, and consistent with the recommendations made in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) oil spill assessment report.
There was grossly inadequate emergency response that failed to remove of sunken vessels and their toxic cargo in a timely manner in all past five shipping disasters in the Sundarbans. Adherence to the WHC and IUCN recommendations is necessary to prevent more capsized ships from spewing additional pollution into one of the world's most important, water-dependent World Heritage Sites.
"All these shipping accidents show that the leaders of India and Bangladesh are not taking steps to protect the Sundarbans; rather, they are attempting to increase damage and destruction," Pashur River Waterkeeper Noor Alam said. "This accident again proves the carelessness of the government towards the protection of the Sundarbans and justifies the call to stop construction of Rampal on the banks of River Pashur."
Waterkeepers Bangladesh and Pashur River Waterkeeper will continue to monitor this latest shipping disaster to assess whether proper clean-up, mitigation and enforcement are completed by the government of Bangladesh.
Waterkeeper Alliance and 13 North Carolina Riverkeeper organizations have launched a new video campaign that captures the struggle of community members living with the impacts of industrial farm pollution.
The True Cost of Industrial Meat Production raises awareness of environmental injustices being perpetrated against North Carolina's most vulnerable populations and features powerful, first-hand accounts of community members, esteemed scientific experts and local people on the ground. This campaign shows the devastating impacts to public health, quality of life and local waterways caused by industrial animal agriculture.
The campaign is comprised of nine short videos:
- The True Cost of Industrial Meat Production: An overview of what is happening in North Carolina, where industrial animal production has taken the place of family farms.
- Wasting Away: Highlights the problem of industrial animal waste and how the pork industry is not being held accountable to dispose of it correctly.
- Belly Up: How waste generated by industrial meat production is decimating North Carolina's waterways and in turn, killing its fish and ecosystems.
- Birthright: Community members whose families have lived on their properties for generations talk about the heritage of their land and how it has been overtaken by industrial agriculture and animal waste.
- Prisoners: Residents discuss how they have become prisoners in their own homes due to the impacts of pollution from industrial animal production, which make it nearly impossible for them to enjoy their property.
- Mislabeled: How the pork industry deceives consumers with its marketing tactics and labeling of its products.
- Bullied: Duplin County resident Elsie Herring talks about how she has been intimidated and threatened by the pork industry to remain silent about the injustices she and her family faces.
- Silenced: The pork industry intimidates by bullying and seeking to silence the people most affected by the impacts of its pollution.
- The Value of Land: The pork industry's refusal to dispose of its waste in a regulated and more sustainable manner has decimated people's property values, making them unable to move.
This video campaign also expands on the recent landmark report and GIS initiative by Waterkeeper Alliance, North Carolina Riverkeeper organizations and Environmental Working Group that shows the location and waste outputs of more than 6,500 swine, cattle and poultry operations throughout North Carolina.
To prevent one of the nation's most egregious environmental injustices, Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. joined the fight at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation Tuesday, speaking in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Since September, the people of Standing Rock have camped along the Missouri River in peaceful protest of the pipeline to protect their homeland, historic and sacred sites and the drinking water of millions of Americans.
"Today, we stand in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock and commend the Sioux Nation for taking on this courageous fight on behalf of our country, humanity and democracy," Kennedy said. "Across the nation, communities of color face environmental and public health threats most communities don't have to think about. This historic peaceful protest declares that all communities deserve clean water."
Kennedy denounced that the state of North Dakota has deployed its police power and advanced military power against peaceful citizens who dare to stand up against the thuggery of corporate interests.
Early proposals for the pipeline planned to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, North Dakota. After evaluating the plan and finding it was too close to Bismarck's well-water supply and homes in the community, the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers changed the route to go under Standing Rock Sioux Reservation's Lake Oahe—on the Missouri River.
Kennedy met with the Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II, toured the camps and held a press conference where he called on President Obama to halt construction immediately. He also called for a full Environmental Impact Statement to assess the cumulative impacts, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act for a project of this size.
Currently, president-elect Donald Trump is considering oil tycoon Harold Hamm for energy secretary and climate change denier Myron Ebell to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency transition. Trump plans to rollback President Obama's environmental and energy policies and deregulate production of oil, coal and natural gas.
Here's How Trump Plans to Dismantle Environmental Laws https://t.co/I4bUgLGGXz @TheCCoalition @climateinstitut— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478858449.0
"Donald Trump has millions invested directly in oil companies and stakeholders like Energy Transfer Partners, whose stock will rise significantly at the expense of Standing Rock's health and rights," Kennedy said. "It is not a question of if, but when. Oil pipelines leak and break and poison our waters."
Trump's Personal Investments Ride on Completion of Dakota Access Pipeline https://t.co/p6Kzdh6kjY @wwwfoecouk @globalactplan— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478946627.0
Each year in the U.S., oil pipelines spill an average of 11 million gallons. The Dakota Access Pipeline breaking would dump crude oil into the Missouri River, poisoning the drinking water of the tribes and communities along the Missouri River Basin, potentially 18-million people.
There have already been 220 'significant' pipeline spills already this year. https://t.co/RXergs8OTO via @EcoWatch— NRDC (@NRDC)1477684864.0
Pipeline projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline require an Environmental Impact Review before government approval to begin construction is granted. However, Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, wants to avoid the review process by gaining permits meant for "low-risk" projects like power lines.
"By requiring the environmental analysis, we resolve to fully understand the options, implications and footprint before we can't go back," Kennedy added.
The record-breaking flood of the Neuse River inundated three inactive coal ash ponds for five days last week from the Duke Energy H.F. Lee facility, 10 miles upstream of Goldsboro, North Carolina. The flooded ponds are unlined and uncovered, containing more than 1 million tons of coal ash spread over more than 170 acres in a layer 4 to 10 feet deep.
On Oct. 14 at 4:28 p.m., before the flood waters had completely receded from the flooded ash ponds, Duke Energy reported a spill of an undetermined amount of coal ash into the Neuse River to the U.S. Coast Guard's National Response Center. On Oct. 15, Duke Energy and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality personnel inspected the inactive ash ponds by foot, claiming they "determined that the amount of material that was displaced would not even fill the bed of an average pickup truck."
On Oct. 17, the flood waters had receded enough to allow the Waterkeeper Alliance rapid response team to launch a boat in the Neuse River to inspect for coal ash releases. Later that afternoon, the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper discovered a second coal ash spill coming from the inactive ash ponds at HF Lee. The coating of ash on tree branches high above the receding flood waters proved the spill had been ongoing for almost a week.
Duke Energy and DEQ claim their representatives identified the second spill on Oct. 17 as well, independent of Waterkeeper Alliance's public disclosure of the spill on Oct. 18. The Waterkeeper Alliance rapid response team questions the claim that both DEQ inspectors and Duke Energy staff traveled to the location of the second spill by boat on Oct. 17 and identified the white substance floating on the water and coating the trees.
To the contrary, Duke Energy reportedly told WNCN on the evening of Oct. 18 that it had not yet conducted water sampling from a boat because state regulators had not deemed it safe to boat on the flooded river. This directly contradicts subsequent claims by Duke and DEQ that they had observed the spill by boat on Oct. 17.
"The agency that should be a watchdog protecting the public is acting more like a PR firm trying to protect Duke Energy's reputation," Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Pete Harrison said. "This is the same agency that only a year ago stood up in court and tried to block an agreement between Waterkeeper and Duke that requires Duke to remove all the coal ash from the ash ponds that flooded."
Since we exposed the second spill on the afternoon of Oct. 18, Duke Energy has continued to insist that the spilled material is "not coal ash," falsely claiming that cenospheres are distinct from fly ash, the primary constituent of coal ash.
However, scientists at Appalachian State University used a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to visualize samples of the spilled coal ash cenospheres, and tested the particles for contaminants using Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX).
The EDX analysis detected dangerous heavy metals attached to the fly ash cenospheres, including antimony and cobalt.
Scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of coal ash cenosphere found in Neuse River on Oct. 17.Dr. Guichuan Hou, PhD, Director of Dewel Microscopy Facility, Research Associate Professor of Biology, Appalachian State University
Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) graph of chemicals in or on a coal ash cenosphere that was found in the Neuse River on Oct. 17. The analysis detected antimony, cobalt, and thallium, which can be toxic to people and aquatic life.Dr. Guichuan Hou, PhD, Director of Dewel Microscopy Facility, Research Associate Professor of Biology, Appalachian State University
Duke Energy has previously reported elevated levels of both these contaminants in groundwater monitoring wells located around the inactive ash ponds where the coal ash spill occurred. Throughout the week, Duke Energy attempted to characterize cenospheres as "not coal ash" and "inert" and "not inherently toxic." These talking points carefully avoid acknowledging what the EDX analysis confirms: the spilled coal ash cenospheres, though composed largely out of silica and aluminum, have more dangerous contaminants attached to them.
Harrison called the mischaracterization "a shameful attempt by Duke Energy to trick the public and cover up a large coal ash spill that the company failed to identify and/or failed to report."
Duke Energy even acknowledges on its website that "cenospheres are a form of fly ash." Duke's failure to report the spill may have even been a violation of the company's probation sentence, which it received last year after pleading guilty to federal crimes involving its mismanagement of coal ash at the H.F. Lee facility, among others.
Because Duke Energy did report a spill of coal ash on Oct. 14 (the purported pickup truck load), and the company has emphatically denied that the material discovered by the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper is coal ash, it is clear that material discovered in the river on Oct. 17 was a separate and distinct spill from the one Duke Energy reported on Oct. 14. Based on currently available information, Duke Energy has still not reported the second spill to then National Response Center.
On Oct. 19, the day after our organizations exposed the second coal ash spill, the DEQ claimed its "staff determined on Monday that material found at the H.F. Lee facility in Wayne County is not coal ash," and accused Waterkeeper Alliance of "falsely reporting" the coal ash release. Both Duke and DEQ claimed, without analyzing the spilled material, that it was harmless cenospheres comprised of just aluminum and silica.
"After adopting Duke Energy's indefensible position that the material was not coal ash and requiring no further action from Duke on Wednesday, DEQ has now done an about face, admitting last night that cenospheres are fly ash and ordering Duke to investigate the spills further," Matthew Starr, Sound Rivers' Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, said.
"The DEQ bureaucrats must have woken up yesterday with the embarrassing realization that the state Coal Ash Management Act they're in charge of implementing defines cenospheres as coal ash," Donna Lisenby of Waterkeeper Alliance said.
"Now DEQ seems to be changing its tune and agreeing with what we've been saying all along: Duke Energy is responsible for another coal ash spill into the Neuse River. Unfortunately this one looks like a lot more than a pickup-truck's worth of ash was spilled."
Duke Energy Cooling Pond Dam Collapses in Wake of Hurricane Matthew Flooding https://t.co/nmRCcB8Ftb @Coal_Ash @maryannehitt— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1476409517.0
Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers have discovered a large coal ash spill into the Neuse River from the Duke Energy H.F. Lee facility, 10 miles upstream of Goldsboro, North Carolina. A substantial but undetermined amount of coal ash was found floating on the surface of the river in a layer over one inch thick. See the video below:
The spill came from at least one of three inactive coal ash ponds containing more than 1 million tons of exposed coal ash. The ponds had been submerged by Hurricane Matthew flood waters for more than seven days until flood waters receded over the weekend. Fly ash coated tree branches as much as seven feet above the river surface, indicating the spill began no later than last Tuesday, when the water level reached a record flood stage.
Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers discovered a large quantity coal ash spill into the Neuse River from the Duke Energy H.F. Lee facility, 10 miles upstream of Goldsboro. Pete Harrison / Waterkeeper Alliance
Independent microscopic analysis confirmed the white material is fly ash particles known as cenospheres, a waste product of coal combustion.
Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr, said:
"This spill is easily visible to anyone in a boat. The area looks like a winter wonderland of toxic coal ash as it has coated the water and trees. It is hard for me to understand how both Duke Energy and state regulators failed to notice such a large area of coal ash contaminating the Neuse River when they claim to have inspected these very ash ponds on Saturday."
On Oct. 15, Duke Energy issued a press release stating:
"Site inspections at the H.F. Lee Power Plant in Goldsboro, N.C., today confirm there was only very minor erosion of material from an inactive coal ash basin on the site.
The majority of that material, which includes coal ash, remained very close to the inactive basin, on the berm or a few feet away on the basin roadway. The state team that inspected the facility determined that the amount of material that was displaced would not even fill the bed of an average pickup truck."
"When a raging river floods over 1 million tons of coal ash, you're obviously going to get more than a pickup truck's worth of ash polluting the river," said Waterkeeper Alliance staff attorney Pete Harrison.
"It was very troubling to discover such a large amount of ash in the river, especially knowing that untold amounts of ash have been washing out of these ponds for more than a week now. It's baffling how Duke Energy could be so oblivious to such an obvious spill and how state regulators continue to look the other way when it comes to Duke's coal ash problems."
An substantial but undetermined amount of coal ash was found floating on the surface of the Neuse river in a layer more than an inch thick.Pete Harrison / Waterkeeper Alliance & Matt Starr / Upper Neuse Riverkeeper / Sound Rivers
Four of five retired coal ash ponds at the H.F. Lee plant near Goldsboro, North Carolina were inundated for at least 7 days. The submerged ponds contain more than one million tons of coal ash, spread in a layer between four and ten feet thick across an area the size of 130 football fields. In a 2015 site assessment, Duke Energy reported high levels of toxic heavy metals in the flooded ponds, including arsenic, antimony and thallium.
[email protected] 'Asleep at the Switch,' Takes News Station to Inform Them of Dam Breach https://t.co/wrw5EaJJhO @Waterkeeper #NorthCarolina— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1476459615.0
Last week at the H.F. Lee facility, Duke Energy failed to identify a breach in a cooling pond dam the size of a school bus for as much as 24 hours before a local news helicopter spotted the collapsed dam and reported it to officials.
[This breaking news is an update to a post earlier today on EcoWatch: Millions of Chickens Feared Dead at Factory Farms in Wake of Hurricane Matthew]
Waterkeeper Alliance and Upper Neuse Riverkeeper are responding to and documenting the breach of a 1.2-billion-gallon cooling pond dam at Duke Energy's H.F. Lee plant.
The breach occurred today just minutes after Duke Energy issued a statement claiming that the "Ash basin and cooling pond dams across the state continue to operate safely; in fact, we've been pleased with their good performance during the historic flooding Hurricane Matthew brought to eastern North Carolina."
Pete Harrison, staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance, and Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, released the following statement:
"When families are being threatened by some of the worst flooding in North Carolina's history, they should not also have to worry about Duke Energy's dams collapsing.
"This failure likely happened because the river has begun to recede, which is when structural problems often develop. Like so many of Duke Energy's coal ash ponds across the state, the cooling pond at Lee has a long history of structural problems—these are disasters waiting to happen.
"Minutes before the dam collapsed on the cooling pond, Duke Energy issued a statement declaring it was operating safely. Duke continues to claim the dam of a 120-acre coal ash pond at Lee is operating safely, even though the river has only begun to recede. The same ash pond suffered extensive damage after flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. We remain very concerned about the integrity of the ash pond dams at Lee as the river recedes over the next week.
"It has been more than two years since the Dan River disaster, and Duke's coal ash continues to sit behind rickety dams on the banks of flood-prone rivers all across the state. Three ash ponds at the Lee plant, totaling 160 acres, have been completely submerged since Sunday."
In response to Waterkeeper Alliances breaking news, Greenpeace organizer Caroline Hansley said:
"Duke Energy can attack environmental groups all it wants, but the fact remains that it is misleading the public and the people of North Carolina about the safety of its dams, and Governor McCrory is letting the company get away with it- again. As the flood waters from the devastating Hurricane Matthew recede, we need a Governor who will put people's safety and access to clean drinking water before the interests of his previous employer, Duke Energy.
"Duke Energy has a terrible track record when it comes to protecting the safety of North Carolina's waterways and drinking water. In the two years since the Dan River coal ash disaster, Duke Energy has fought efforts to clean up leaking coal ash pits which threaten the health and safety of nearby communities. Instead of cleaning up its hazardous messes, Duke uses its political influence with its previous employee, Governor McCrory, allowing the company to leave 70 percent of its toxic coal ash leaking across the state.
"Hurricane Matthew proves again that Governor McCrory will always put corporate interests before the people of North Carolina."
Millions of Chickens Feared Dead at Factory Farms in Wake of Hurricane Matthew https://t.co/nM8nDJiflQ @Waterkeeper @RobertKennedyJr @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1476283459.0