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

Our Latest Trip Around the Sun: A 2015 Collection of Articles and Insights

By John Noël, National Oil and Gas Coordinator – On Twitter: @Noel_Johnny

I wanted to highlight some of my favorite insights and developments this year in the world of oil and gas, drinking water protection and climate change. I did not include the more well known high points, notably, EPA’s Carbon Pollution Plan, the Popes historic visit to the US and the recent COP 21 Paris agreement. Instead these potentially lesser-known but still wildly important stories will tee up Clean Water Actions’ work in 2016 along with helping to shape the conversation in the broader movement.

Aquifer Exemptions Exposed Nationwide and California Regulatory Meltdown

UIC AE Program Graphic - How Many Aquifers Have been SacrificiedIn January 2015, Clean Water Action released a report outlining a little know provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act that provides an exemption for the oil and gas industry. The program effectively writes off drinking water resources in favor of oil and gas wastewater disposal and expanded production.

In order to raise awareness in the drinking water professionals’ community on this issue we published a journal article in the American Water Works Association. The editor warned that the article “would snap your head around” for readers not familiar with how the oil and gas industry is exploiting this out of date aspect of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Read the rest of this entry »


By Bob Wendelgass, President and CEO (Follow Bob on Twitter – @BWendelgass)

Family, friends, coffee (especially this time of year), clean water. That’s my list right now.

What’s yours?

Most of us have been focused on other things the past few days (and rightly so!).

But here’s the thing –  now is a great time to re-focus on protecting clean water, no matter where it is on your list. Will you make your tax-deductible clean water gift today?Checklist_owl

You know that clean water is fundamental. But did you know your financial support has never been more important? It will ensure that we start 2016 off right and that we can make sure that putting drinking water first is on the top of everyone’s list to start the new year.

Whether it’s winning the fighting to protect streams and wetlands, getting toxic chemicals out of everyday products or protecting communities from oil and gas development, your support will make sure that protecting clean water is the number one priority in 2016.

Donate now, while there’s still time. You’ll be glad you did.

  • Bob Wendelgass, President and CEO

Keep Us on Keepin’ On

by Andrea Herrmann, Director of Development

It's clear, sustaining gifts protect clean water all year long.It doesn’t happen overnight.

And it takes a movement.

Winning the fight to protect clean water, safeguarding communities from the threats of oil and gas extraction, and putting drinking water first is an ongoing mission. With each breakthrough we find another threat to our water, our health and our communities.

And that’s where you come in. You can make sure Clean Water has the ongoing funding needed to win by making your sustaining, monthly gift today.

Monthly gifts ensure a steady stream of support for research and policy work, organizing our neighbors one-on-one and inspiring them to take action, and so much more. Plus, a sustaining gift makes things easy for you. Make your monthly (or quarterly) gift now, and you will support Clean Water throughout the year without having to do anything else.

Your sustaining gift will make sure Clean Water can keep on keeping on, protecting clean water throughout 2016 and beyond!

California green lighted more irrigation with oil wastewater

oil well, almond trees, shafter, clouds

By Andrew Grinberg, California Oil and Gas Program Manager – On Twitter, @AndrewBGrinberg

Last week, regulators approved the expanded use of oil wastewater for irrigation of crops in Kern County.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board), unanimously approved a Waste Discharge Requirement (WDR) permit for California Resources Corporation (CRC) to sell 21,200 acre feet (6.9 million gallons) of oil and gas wastewater from the Kern Front Oil Field to the North Kern Water Storage District annually. The produced water will be distributed to farmers for irrigation and used for groundwater recharge, despite significant questions about the safety of this practice, and lack of any established protocols for monitoring or treatment. The Regional Board acted without adequate information and the permit approval did not follow appropriate process, leaving serious questions about the safety of this practice unanswered.

California Resources Corporation site Location MapThe clearest inadequacy of this permit is the safety of using produced water for irrigation has never been scientifically vetted. A review of the literature on this topic turns up a dearth of information. There are open questions about whether oil and gas associated chemicals could bioaccumulate in crops and threaten food safety, as well as the long term impacts on groundwater from irrigation or groundwater recharge with produced water. The risks have not been assessed and the appropriate monitoring and reporting requirements may not be in place.

The Pacific Institute, in a paper published this month, recommends that “Scientists should conduct a study to determine what level, if any, of chemicals in oil-field wastes is safe for farmworkers, animals, and consumers,”. The paper notes the absence of statewide standards for ensuring safety of the practice and advises that,  “Regional water boards should not issue new permits for the reuse of oil-field wastewater for irrigation until the risks have been comprehensively assessed and appropriate monitoring and reporting requirements put in place.” Read the rest of this entry »

When Reform Doesn’t Look Like Reform

Close-up of two flasks with liquids in tube rack

Close-up of two flasks with liquids in tube rack

On December 17, 2015 the Senate  passed a bill by voice vote to amend the nation’s main chemical policy, the Toxics Substances Control Act. The bill is an updated version of S. 697, introduced earlier in the session by Senators Vitter (R-LA) and Udall (D-NM). Earlier this year, a companion bill passed the House of Representatives, H.R.2576.

This new Senate bill reflects the hard work of a number of Senators to address major flaws and fight against the heavy influence of the multi-billion dollar chemical industry. And, though the bill is improved from earlier versions, significant problem remain. The bill ties the hands of state policymakers who have innovated to protect people from hazards  like toxic flame retardants, bisphenol A, lead, cadmium and others found in everyday products. Read the rest of this entry »

Go With What Works

Watch the video to fnd out why Any supports Clean Water - and donate today!

By Andy Bauer, Clean Water Action Board Member

A friend of mine once said that your environment is wherever you are.  Clean Water understands that we have to work to protect it.

When toxic emissions from CT’s Sooty Six power plants were sending people to hospitals, Clean Water worked to clean them up.

That’s the year I became a huge fan of Clean Water Fund and Clean Water Action.

They have history – leading the campaign to create the Clean Water Act  more than forty years ago because water where we swim, fish, and what we drink. This year Clean Water fought to ensure Clean Water Act protection for small streams and tributaries.

I’m a Clean Water Action board member and a donor because I believe in the good works they do.  

Please join me and make a tax-deductible donation to Clean Water Fund before December 31st. Read the rest of this entry »

Drinking Water News – Protecting Public Health and Your Drinking Water

By Lynn Thorp, Campaigns Director – On Twitter, @LTCWA

Today’s release of the fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule won’t make headline news, but it is an important piece of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) work to implement the Safe Drinking Water Act and to protect public health. Two weeks ago, EPA also published Algal Toxin Risk Assessment and Management Strategic Plan for Drinking Water. These actions are connected not only by their relationship to drinking water research and potential regulation, but by what they tell us about opportunities to prevent drinking water contamination. For Clean Water Action, any opportunity to Put Drinking Water First by understanding and preventing pollution in the first place is a headline.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requires EPA to develop a list of unregulated contaminants for which more monitoring is needed to determine how often and how much they are present in drinking water. The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR), created by the 1996 SDWA amendments, is an important part of the research needed to determine whether a contaminant should be regulated under SDWA. After a public participation process, EPA will review and finalize the list and monitoring will begin in2018.   Some examples of what’s on the proposed UCMR list:

  • Bromide: Bromide is of increasing concern in our work on coal plant water pollution and oil and gas drilling. During the drinking water treatment process, bromide can react with other substances to produce harmful “disinfection byproducts.” We need to understand how much bromide is in which drinking water sources while we work to prevent this contamination in the first place.
  • Disinfection byproducts: The UCMR list includes 3 currently unregulated disinfection byproducts. Bromide is one factor in formation of all three.
  • Cyanotoxins: Cyanotoxins are produced by Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and some cyanotoxins pose public health risk in drinking water. The drinking water disruption in Toledo, Ohio last year was caused by cyanotoxins produced by an HAB outbreak. There are ten cyanotoxins on the proposed UCMR list.

Clean Water Action will participate in the public process around the UCMR proposal but we will also be looking at proposed UCMR contaminants through another lens. We know enough about each of these contaminants in drinking water to be concerned. As monitoring goes forward, is there something we should be doing to keep these contaminants out of drinking water in the first place?

That’s why we were pleased to see emphasis on source water protection in EPAs Algal Toxin Risk Assessment and Management Strategic Plan for Drinking Water. The presence of ten cyanotoxins on today’s proposed UCMR list indicates we need to take these chemicals seriously. But we know we can’t solve this problem only in our drinking water treatment plants.

Shopping Frenzy

by Jonathan A. Scott, Clean Water Action’s Director of Corporate Relations, on twitter @jscottnh

By now, you and everyone else online, has been buried in shopping promotions. Here are my personal tips, as someone who’s been part of Clean Water Action for more than 30 years:JonMeme

  1. Shop smarter, greener. Whenever possible, I try to buy local, from people and businesses in my community. I rely on Fair Trade and Organic certification to help make sure my purchases are better for people and the planet. Or, and this is a radical idea, I don’t buy anything at all.
  2. Make your online purchases count. Our partners at have a great app that works automatically with your internet browser to generate micro-donations that really add up for Clean Water Action (at no cost to you). With hundreds of thousands of users, those donations really add up. Join them by following these easy steps.
  3. Sign up and help us win. A new sweepstakes from offers you the chance to win a $500 travel voucher to fly anywhere this holiday season and other great prizes including big cash $$. If you win Clean Water Action wins a donation too. Enter here, and get additional chances to win with the online shopping app and by sharing with friends.
  4. Shortcut to savings. has curated a great collection of Black Friday and CyberMonday savings. This link takes you direct to online Black Friday deals where your purchases benefit Clean Water Action. Cyber Monday deals for online purchases via this link (which goes live on Monday) will also benefit Clean Water Action. If you’re going to be buying online anyway, why not do it to help our great cause.

Remember, the choices you make about what, when, where, how and whether to buy something at all can have great impact for good. We know you will choose wisely.

Public Safety vs. Public Health (an unnecessary choice)


On Monday, November 9th, the Boston City Council held a public hearing on a proposal to update Boston’s Fire code so that the city’s public spaces could, in the future purchase, furniture that is free of toxic flame retardants. Under the current code schools, hospitals, universities, conference centers, libraries, theaters and other public spaces must use furniture that complies with a flammability standard called Technical Bulletin 133 (or TB133). This standard is a way of testing furniture before it’s sold to make sure that when exposed to flame in certain conditions it does not catch fire for a certain amount of time. In order to pass that test, furniture manufacturers usually need to add large amounts of flame retardants to the furniture.

The city is considering changing that standard and instead requiring a different standard, called TB117-2013. This newer standard can be met either using flame retardants or by constructing the furniture with less flammable materials. The state of Massachusetts has already adopted TB117-2013, so that means that universities, hospitals and other public spaces elsewhere in the state can choose flame retardant free furniture but those in Boston cannot.

An impressive group of people came out to testify in support of the change including a scientist, students, furniture manufacturers, a firefighter, public health advocates, mothers, and others. Here are excerpts from my testimony:

My name is Elizabeth Saunders, I am a resident of Dorchester (a neighborhood of Boston), and I am the Massachusetts Director of Clean Water Action. One of the hats that I wear in that role is the coordinator of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow–a coalition of 100+ organizations in Massachusetts working to prevent harm to human health and the environment from toxic chemicals in consumer products and workplaces.

A core tenet of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow’s work is that toxic chemicals should be replaced with safer alternatives wherever feasible. That replacement may take many forms. It could be a direct chemical substitute. It could be a different way of constructing the product, and in this case it could mean a different way of achieving fire safety in a room or building.
I have deep respect for the responsibility borne by [Boston Fire] Commissioner Joe Finn and [Boston Firefighters Local 718] President Rich Paris, and I am grateful for the work of the members of the Boston Fire Department (BFD) and Local 718.

It is an impossible choice to choose between public safety and public health and we would not ask anyone, including the leaders of the BFD or the city council to make that choice.

Many other jurisdictions, including the state of Massachusetts, have evaluated this question and made the decision to adopt TB117-2013. However, just because everyone else is doing it is not reason enough for Boston to do it. We do believe that other cities and states that have made this issue have carefully considered the implications and determined that the change makes sense for both public safety and public health.

I hope that after the BFD and the City Council evaluate this question fully, taking into account all of the possible ways to achieve fire safety, that you will determine that a change from TB133 to TB117-2013 will be right for Boston.

The Dirty Water Caucus Strikes Back


By Lynn Thorp, Campaigns Director – On Twitter (@LTCWA)

While in some places today people are voting in municipal and statewide elections, the U.S. Senate is voting on whether to undo clean water progress. Later this afternoon, U.S. Senators will take up a bill we call the Dirty Water Act. Spearheaded by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), the misleadingly titled Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S.1140) would block implementation of policy that clarifies Clean Water Act protection for critical water resources. As if that is not enough, it is likely that Senators will then proceed to invoke the rarely used Congressional Review Act to overturn the same U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/Army Corps of Engineers “Clean Water Rule.” Read the rest of this entry »

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