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

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.

How I spent my Earth Day. How’d you spend yours?

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

April offers a unique opportunity for community members to recognize the importance of stewardship of their local environment and waterways. Residents are eager to shake off ‘Old Man Winter’, strap on their boots and get to their nearest stream or green space and get cleaning. Clean Water coordinated a variety of events for Baltimore residents to give back to the Chesapeake Bay.

On Earth Day, joined by the Towson University Environmental Science and Studies Club, the EcoReps, Office of Sustainability & student volunteers we took on the Towson Run stream, as part of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Project Clean Stream.IMG_1176

Cleaning from the Residence Tower to the Baseball field we collected and sorted ten pounds of trash, plastic & glass, and aluminum.

Now if any of you reading this are alumnae or have ever been on campus, you know that stream connects the bar scene and northern part of campus leading to many dorms and on campus apartments.

Most of what we found was leftovers from parties on the way to the bar or leftovers from the bar on the way to the after-party. But, that’s college and who’s to say we all haven’t celebrated after a test or term-paper.

IMG_1194Student passersby were interested in sorting trash appropriately and even stopped to ask questions about the importance of composting and how they might do it on campus.

Saturday brought a day of cleaning illegal dumping sites, green spaces, gutters, and adding some color to our communities by stenciling our most polluted storm drains in Hampden and Westport.

Starting in Westport, we worked with community members to clean Annapolis Road, the main street in the community, stencil storm drains throughout the resident’s neighborhoods, and even cleared litter and debris from the future green space hosting the new Westport Farmer’s Market.

Residents driving by pulled over to help clean and stencil the storm drains because they “are tired of people treating the drains like trashcans,” says Keisha Allen, President, Westport Neighborhood Association.IMG_1218

While the cleanup was underway in Westport, Clean Water coordinated another cleanup in Hampden, partnering with the Hampden Community Council and Towson University’s Big Event. Clean Water volunteers scrubbed and stenciled storm drains along Falls Road, encouraging residents “Don’t Dump” because it “Drains to the Chesapeake Bay,” expressed by the stencils.

Leading 15 volunteers from TU’s Pasión dance team through Hampden, Amy (Clean Water intern), split volunteers up to take on nearly a dozen storm drains. “Residents were coming out of their houses to ask us if they could help clean up,” says Amy. “It was a great opportunity to educate residents on the effects polluted runoff has on their local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.”IMG_1188








Later that afternoon, we returned to South Baltimore for a Concert for Fair Development celebrating a recent victory in securing divestments from a toxic waste-to-energy incinerator just one mile from elementary and high schools, playgrounds and resident’s homes.

The Baltimore Regional Cooperative Purchasing Committee (BRCPC) was the sole investor in the Energy Answers incinerator, consisting of 22 state entities aligned to receive energy from the WTE Incinerator.

Through a coalition of advocates, Clean Water helped secure the divestment of the 22 entities, leaving Energy Answers without financial support.IMG_1202










The afternoon kicked off with a parade to support fair development in South Baltimore, followed by a concert from local residents.

IMG_1217A BIG THANK YOU to all our Earth Week 2015 partners and contributors: Towson University Big Event; TU EcoReps; TU Environmental Science & Studies Club; Westport Neighborhood Association, Hampden Community Council; Baltimore Community Toolbank; & MD Department of Natural Resources.

It’s Personal: Calling on Walgreens for a Safe Chemical Policy

By Cindy Luppi, New England Regional Director

This post was originally published at Women’s Voices for the Earth

Cindy Luppi
Cindy and partners recently delivered over 135,000 petition signatures collected nationally to Walgreens stores in Hartford and Boston.

I feel really fortunate to live in the kind of community where your neighbors are a  cornerstone of your life — we get together for coffee on Saturday mornings in our pj’s, we take care of each others’ pets when someone goes away to travel, and we share our family life. In the past 5 years, my two closest neighbors and I have all lost our moms to cancer. Our 3 moms grew up in different areas, had very different lives, struggled in different ways with 3 different kinds of cancer. But the bottom line is that as neighbors, we tried to help hold the pieces together as we each struggled with first taking care of our moms and then learning how to live without our moms after they passed away. There wasn’t a specific chemical spill that had exposed our moms to cancer-causing chemicals, they didn’t work together in a potentially sick building, and none of them had a family history of cancer.  So how did this happen? How is it that all of us lost our moms too early in our lives? Why are cancer rates, and rates of other chronic disorders linked to toxic chemicals like learning disabilities so elevated population-wide? Read the rest of this entry »

Burning Tires (Hazardous is the New Clean)

By Denny Green, Michigan Office Manager and Communications Coordinator

This post originally appeared on Eclectablog

You know that warm, cozy feeling you get from seeing black toxic plumes of smoke billowing up from a pile of burning hazardous rubbish and industrial waste? (No, I didn’t think so.)

Well, earlier this month Republican State Representative Aric Nesbitt introduced an eight-bill package that redefine burning old tires as “renewable energy”. (Yes, you read that right.) This pack of reckless and irresponsible ideas flagrantly thumbs its nose at Michigan’s current renewable energy standard (which defines “renewable energy sources” as things like wind and solar … you know, real renewable energy). Read the rest of this entry »

Hold the phones! Literally

By Cindy Luppi, New England Regional Director

Lula Pearl is making the call. Will you?

Join Lula Pearl and make the call today!

Call your Senators Today: To call your Member of Congress: US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 

You may not have noticed yet but there’s an epic battle about to break wide open and onto the floors of Congress regarding our nation’s chemical safety policies. The chemical industry would like to preserve as much of the status quo as possible, with few restrictions on how they produce and distribute chemicals. The nation’s leading health and environmental groups are pushing for common sense updates that reflect modern science and protect our families from toxic chemicals in every day products like children’s toys and couch cushions.

This battle will answer critical questions like how soon we can expect protection from  asbestos and other toxic chemicals with strong links to cancer or learning disabilities.  Will there be stringent enforcement of the law that ultimately passes, or will follow through be crippled by blocking the usual role of state officials? Will there be loopholes that allow years of stalling and foot dragging from the Exxon Mobiles and Dow Chemicals of the world,  or will the Environmental Protection Agency be given the tools they need to move on health-based decisions about toxic chemicals? Read the rest of this entry »

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