Archive for the 'Healthy, Safer Families and Communities' Category

The Interns of Clean Water

The Interns of Clean Water

The Interns of Clean Water

By Adriana Diaz, Florida Intern

The interns of Clean Water come from all parts the country, working together to protect our environmental well-being and quality of life. These interns work in offices in every region of the nation. We have students engaged in this organization in California, Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, Washington DC, and more. Each participant has their own set of background that they bring to the Clean Water family, ranging from their diverse genders and ethnicities to their university and area of study. These students work on various projects and campaigns all over the Clean Water board. Some work on public outreach and relations, while others put their efforts towards mapping, data analysis, political campaigns, and environmental justice. Clean Water Action has a wide variety of projects, campaigns, and other structures of experience to ensure every intern is improving their skills in a desired area. While Clean Water benefits these interns, the interns also further the organization by bringing in diversity, dexterity, and a strive towards a common goal of greatness.

 

To inquire more information about the internship program and how you can become a member of the Clean Water Team, email Interns@cleanwater.org

Turning Back the Clock on Toxic Protections

By Jennifer Peters, Water Programs Director – Follow Jennifer on Twitter (@EarthAvenger)

Later today Congress will vote on yet another giveaway to big utilities and coal companies. H.R. 1734, the misleadingly named Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation of 2015 would turn back the clock on critical protections to keep communities safe from harmful coal ash pollution. Coal ash contains arsenic, lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium and numerous other toxic chemicals. This dangerous bill is an insult to the many communities around the country that have been devastated by a coal ash spill or have had their drinking water contaminated. This bill is so horrible that the White House has already issued a veto threat. Read the rest of this entry »

Imagining Sustainable Streets

By Grace Molino, TRI-Lab Summer Intern

This post was originally published on SwearerSparks

“The siding is all new so the fire must have been recent,” said Rachel Newman-Greene, from West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation guiding our walking tour. I looked where she was pointing in an alley between two houses. The new siding on one house was twisted and drooping like tangled ribbons. The other house had scorch marks up to the roof.

“Probably a trash fire,” Rachel continued, “you can see all the mattresses in the back.” Six mattresses were piled in the back of the alley along with other garbage. A bag of sea shells lay near us and as I walked over to get a closer look I stepped on a piece of circuit board already stripped of any valuable metals. Read the rest of this entry »

What a Surprise: The Dirty Water Caucus is at it Again

By Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director – Follow Lynn on Twitter (@LTCWA)

As the U.S. House of Representatives takes up spending bills for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and

Department of Interior (DOI) funding today and tomorrow, I’m thinking of two simple yet astute questions posed by my colleagues this week.

Has the Congressional process around federal spending bills always been like this?

“It feels like it,” I told our Oil and Gas Campaigns Coordinator John Noel. “But I don’t think so.” The basic business of passing spending bills to fund the federal government’s activity has become a perpetual motion machine of anti-government rhetoric. It’s gotten so bad that individual appropriations bills often never happen and the federal government is funded through a series of “continuing resolutions” just to keep things going. There has always been debate, and compromise, and that’s how the system is supposed to work. During the last several Congresses in particular, we have seen the appropriations process turn into squabble over all the work that the American people think the government ought to be doing. For example, polling shows continuing strong public support for protecting water resources. That hasn’t stopped opponents of the recent EPA/Army Corps of Engineers “Clean Water Rule” from inserting language in this spending bill to protections for drinking water sources and other water bodies. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Controversial? Absolutely Nothing (about the Clean Water Rule)

by Jonathan A. Scott, Director of Corporate Relations, on Twitter, @jscottnh

There’s no real controversy here…

Capping more than a decade of campaigning by Clean Water Action and allies, the Obama Administration released its final Clean Water Rule on May 27.

Although the protracted battle has received little news coverage, most of the time, when it has been reported at all, the news has focused on “the controversy” or “the controversial Clean Water Rule.”Nothing Controversial

We can’t really complain when the news media keep on doing what they seem to do best –seize on a perceived conflict and then report on it. We’ve seen this time and again with news coverage of the climate crisis, which magnifies industry-backed anti-science climate denial and portrays deniers’ fringe views as legitimate, mainstream ones. That’s just the way much of the news business works these days.

In fact, the Clean Water Rule is a relatively straightforward, common-sense fix to a growing problem within the Clean Water Act. Weakening changes first adopted during the Bush Administration (George W.) at the behest of polluter interests were made even worse by polluter-friendly court decisions. In the years since, fundamental protections were muddied to the extent that it was no longer clear what water resources were supposed to be protected. Enforcement suffered. Read the rest of this entry »

Fighting Cancer with Fire Fighters

By Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts State Director – Follow Our MA Team on Twitter (@CleanH2OMA)

Elizabeth Saunders speaks at Professional Fire Fighters  of Massachusetts annual meeting.

Elizabeth Saunders speaks at the 41st Biennial Convention of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.

I have a vivid memory of being on a long bus-ride during an 8th grade school trip and talking with 3 of my friends about what we were going to do when we grew up. I told them I was going to be an environmentalist. I already knew where my passion lay.

Not that I knew what that would look like. If you’d told me that I’d be researching water quality or endangered species, leading nature walks, using a law degree to sue polluting companies, or working to pass new laws (as I do now), all that probably would have sounded plausible to me. If you told me that my career in environmental protection was going to find me speaking to a room of about 500 fire fighters, I’m not sure I’d have believed you.

But that’s where my path led me week: to the 41st Biennial Convention of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. What my 8th grade self didn’t yet know that my 14 years at Clean Water Action have taught me, is that the work of protecting the environment is truly the work of protecting public health, the work of protecting public health impacts everybody, and truly effective environmental and public health advocacy requires partnership with many people who would not necessarily call themselves environmentalists.

This week, the fire fighters and I were talking about cancer. The Boston Fire Department has created a powerful video about the toll that toxic chemical exposure takes on fire fighters. In Boston, so many fire fighters have died “with their boots off” that their “brothers and sisters” and families have created a memorial of black and white photos in a larger wall of photos of firefighters who have lost their lives in fires.

The chemicals in the consumer products and building materials that we are exposed to every day become noxious fumes in fires and fire fighters’ exposure is much more intense than yours or mine. Notably, the flame retardants in our furniture, electronics, nursing pillows, car seats, carpet padding, and other products cause cancer, as well as many other health problems, and the way they are often used, they are ineffective at stopping fires. Clean Water Action, working with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow coalition, is partnering with the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts to support legislation that will phase out toxic flame retardants from children’s products and household furniture in Massachusetts.

I couldn’t be more proud of this collaboration. As I told the 500 assembled fire fighters on Wednesday,

“We are committed to passing this legislation so that our children, nieces and nephews can have healthier lives than we have today. We are committed to passing this legislation so that no worker has to come home from the job more likely to get cancer than when they left in the morning. We are committed to passing this legislation so that the black and white section of the wall of photos in the Boston Fire Department stops growing. I am in awe and deep gratitude for the risks that you take every day that put your lives on the line on behalf of others. We owe it to you to phase out these toxic chemicals, so that when you come home safe from a fire, you actually come home safe from a fire.”

And that is what this work is about.

Being the Change at Clean Water Action

By Zachary Turkheimer, Clean Water Action Maryland Intern – Follow Our MD Team on Twitter (@CleanWater_MD)

“Be the change you want to see”, that’s the motto that I have tried to live my life by. I believe this motto is applicable with the goals of Clean Water Action because they set the precedent of what changes they strive to see in our society.

I lived in the small town of Olney, MD for my whole life up until I moved to Towson, MD for college. I will be entering my junior year in the fall. I am an Environmental Science Major with a focus in Policy and Management and a minor in Political Science. I became interested in this field after I took an environmental science course in high school. Read the rest of this entry »

Pursuing a Passion for Clean Water

By Kaitlyn Lindsey, Clean Water Action Maryland Intern – Follow our Maryland Team on Twitter (@CleanWater_MD)

Hey Clean Water Community! My name is Kaitlyn Lindsey. I am going into my fifth and final year at Towson University where I have been studying Family Science.

I have a passion for helping people. More specifically, my passion is for helping families. I hope to one day make a difference by working with advocacy and policies that affect family life and maybe even go to law school. Read the rest of this entry »

35 Years of Clean Water in Maryland!

Group Photo from Maryland Celebration

Celebration in Baltimore!

By Will Fadely, Baltimore Program Organizer – Follow Will on Twitter (@TrillChillWill)

Clean Water has been organizing and advocating for Maryland’s communities for 35 years now so we decided to throw a party!

Advocates, elected officials, community members, and the like dressed up and came down to Baltimore to honor former Regional Directors, Andy Fellows and Dru Schmidt-Perkins. Read the rest of this entry »

Virginia’s Big Ash Problem

By Michael Bochynski, Clean Water Action Virginia Program Organizer

Virginia Conservation Network in partnership with Clean Water Action, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, and EarthJustice released a new report that is the first comprehensive examination of coal ash sites in Virginia and regulatory options for managing coal ash disposal practices. The report clearly demonstrates that every major region of Virginia contains coal ash ponds that are leaking, unstable and have exceeded their projected lifespan by an average of seven years; creating the potential for major environmental catastrophe. Download the report here.

Coal ash, industrial waste generated when coal is burned for energy, is the second largest source of waste stream in the U.S. A long list of harmful heavy metals, including arsenic, mercury, nickel, lead, cadmium and selenium, are found in this waste stream. Human exposure to these metals, even at low levels, has been linked in scientific studies to cancer, respiratory problems, neurological difficulties and gastrointestinal disease. Numerous documented cases of coal ash contamination of groundwater, surface water, and drinking water sources have occurred in the Commonwealth, posing a danger to the health of Virginians and our environment.

Why has this happened? Aren’t there safeguards in place to protect us? The problem is coal ash disposal sites are almost always located in close proximity to rivers, creeks, and streams because coal-fired power plants require large quantities of water, and operators typically dispose of coal ash on-site. Many of these coal ash waste sites are not lined or capped (to prevent leaching of heavy metals) because they predate both modern state and federal solid waste disposal safeguards. In addition, current Virginia regulatory programs continue to lack many basic safeguards to prevent coal ash from polluting water, air and endangering communities. The reason for this is that the industry has fought for decades to block pollution control standards such as storing coal ash in dry landfills that are properly lined and sited far away from water sources, monitoring to ensure contaminants don’t leach into surface or groundwater, and covering waste sites to prevent the blowing of toxic dust.

Coal ash, scientifically speaking, is absolutely a hazardous waste, and classifying it as such would address many of the storage problems we currently face. Under pressure from utility companies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided in 1993 and 2000 that coal ash should be regulated as a non-hazardous waste and be subject to the same disposal guidelines as household garbage! In response to several catastrophic coal ash spills such as the 2008 Kingston Fossil Plant disaster that dumped over a billion gallons of toxic slurry into two Tennessee rivers and buried several homes, the EPA issued the first-ever federal coal ash regulation in December 2014. Although the proposed coal ash rule addresses some of the current lax state regulations regarding coal ash storage, EPA and the Obama Administration once again caved to lobbying by utility companies and failed to classify coal ash as a hazardous waste.

So what can we do? For starters, tell President Obama you want EPA to issue a strong rule that will require utilities to clean-up all of their waste, not just some of it. States can also issue stronger regulations than the federal minimum standards, so send the same message to Governor McAuliffe, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and your local elected officials.

What’s at stake is the drinking water sources for millions of Virginia residents. In August 2014, the Virginia-Pilot documented the presence of arsenic in groundwater at a Chesapeake, VA coal ash site at up to FORTY TIMES the state’s safety standards. Water testing at the Possum Point Power Plant in Dumfries, VA showed that heavy metals continue to leak from coal ash ponds nearly fifty years after the last deposit of new waste. The 2014 Duke Energy coal ash disaster in North Carolina impacted the drinking water sources for Virginia communities downstream from the spill, and reminds us that these ponds, especially as they age, are disasters waiting to happen. As long as coal ash remains along the banks of our waterways, it will continue to leak dangerous pollutants into state waters. The Virginia General Assembly must not allow any further weakening of existing state protections to coal ash, and must strengthen and enforce state protections. Coal ash ponds require strict permitting and siting requirements, and the state should require the removal of all coal ash to dry, lined storage facilities away from our rivers and drinking water supplies.

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