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

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 »

Americans Agree: #CleanWaterRules

Protect Clean Water Today!By Jennifer Peters – National Water Programs Director – Follow Jennifer on Twitter (@EarthAvenger)

Nothing is more fundamental than clean water. Though many of us take it for granted until it dries up or becomes too polluted to use. Not only do we all depend on water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning, but water is the major economic driver in every sector in our economy. From farming to manufacturing to tourism, I bet you can’t think of a business that does not depend on clean water to thrive. Clean water is needed by everyone everywhere, all the time.

Despite our nation’s dependence on clean water, vital water sources have been at risk of pollution or destruction for more than a decade. This includes many of the streams and wetlands that feed the drinking water sources for 1 in 3 Americans. For the first thirty years of its existence our nation’s landmark Clean Water Act (CWA), clearly protected nearly every river, lake, bay, wetland or stream in the country. But in the early 2000’s the same polluters who opposed the original CWA were successful in getting the Bush administration to rollback protections for certain streams and wetlands. Clean Water Action and our partner organizations have been fighting to close these dangerous polluter loopholes ever since. Read the rest of this entry »

#Act4CleanWater – Celebrate #Earth Week at Clean Water Conference!

By Jenny Vickers, NJ Communications Manager, Clean Water Action. Follow on Twitter @CleanWaterNJ

FACEBOOK LOGOTake action for clean water during #EarthWeek! Join us at Clean Water Action’s 29th annual conference on Saturday, April 25, 9:00 am-5:00 pm, at Brookdale Community College’s Student Learning Center in Lincroft, NJ.

The event features prominent environmental leaders, scientists and policy makers discussing key issues such as Climate Change, Renewable Energy, Banning Frack Waste, Stopping Bad Oil & Gas Pipelines, Sustainable Water Infrastructure, as well as Protecting the Pinelands & Other Critical Land and Water Resources. Don’t miss out – find all the details on our website and Facebook page and register today!

Tom Moran, Star Ledger editorial page editor and longtime statehouse reporter and political columnist, will lead an Environmental Roundtable with NJ Senator Tom Kean (R-Westfield), NJ Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth), NJ Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Freehold), and NJ Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Hamilton Square). Read the rest of this entry »

A Pleasant Surprise in the Field

When my fellow canvassers hear that I’ve been knocking on doors for Clean Water Action for 4 years, they often say, “so nothing catches you by surprise.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Read the rest of this entry »

Top Weed Killer Linked to Cancer

By Mara Silgailis, PhD, Clean Water Action Board Member and Cedar Grove Environmental Commission Chair

Last week, glyphosate, the pesticide found in the popular herbicide product Roundup, was declared to be “probably carcinogenic to humans” by an international committee of cancer experts known as the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide (weedkiller) in the world. Not only is glyphosate sprayed on farms, forests, on road sides, parks, and in gardens, but it is used with crops (such as corn, soybeans, and cotton) that have been genetically engineered to be tolerant to the herbicide. Farmers can spray it across entire fields, killing weeds while their crops survive. The use of glyphosate has been soaring in recent years.

The IARC said that several studies have shown that people who work with the herbicide seem to be at an increased risk of a cancer called non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Also, studies link it to tumors in mice and rats, and there is laboratory evidence showing chromosomal damage to human cells from exposure to glyphosate.

Of course industry groups, including Monsanto, attacked the announcement and accused the IARC of “cherry picking data”. And unfortunately the US EPA views glyphosate to be non-carcinogenic to humans since 1991.

We at Clean Water Action have known about the problems with glyphosate for years and that it is detected in water, in the air during spraying, in food, and in people. We know that children, pregnant women, the sick, and elderly are especially vulnerable to pesticides. We have been fighting for Pesticide Free Zones and Safe Playing Fields that avoid the use of toxic chemicals for years.

What’s most alarming is that for over four years, a strong bi-partisan majority of legislators have repeatedly expressed support for legislation that will protect children from toxic pesticides where they play. However, legislative leaders continue to stall the bill.

The Safe Playing Fields Act (S541/A2143) will restrict the use of the most toxic lawn pesticides in day cares, playgrounds, and K-8 school fields. Given the recent Roundup cancer link, it’s clear that our kids’ health can’t wait! Please contact your legislators and urge them to ensure The Safe Playing Fields Act (S541/A2143) becomes law this year. For more information on our pesticides campaign, call 732-963-9714 or email us at


Talking Mercury at the State House

By Dave Gerraughty, Rhode Island Program Organizer

My adrenalin was on overdrive and my nerves were jangling a bit as I was called to testify before the Rhode Island House Environment Committee on our bill to create a Producer Responsibility Program for light bulbs containing mercury.

I had spent the past year researching and implementing a pilot program to demonstrate that Rhode Islanders would respond positively to the opportunity to recycle compact fluorescent bulbs close to home.

The idea was to use the success of Clean Water Action’s program to set the stage for making bulb manufacturers take over the funding of residential recycling. So there was a lot riding on how a strong a case I could make. Read the rest of this entry »

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