RIGHT TO BREATHE: 50 STATES UNITED

Rebecca Van De Water

The first day that a ship rolls in, we all can't help but notice that our incredibly pristine air is visibly sullied by the large smoke stacks on the ships.

Profession: Certified Nurse-Midwife, Advanced Nurse-Practitioner
Group Affiliation: Juneau Family Health and Birth Center

Clean Air Ambassador:

Rebecca Van De Water

Juneau, Alaska

Years ago, as a child in Massachusetts, I remember waking up to my mother trying to protect us from our town's regular "mosquito spraying" in the nights. Trucks would rumble up and down the streets, spraying an insecticide into the air, in an effort to reduce the summer mosquito population. My mother would be ready with signs on the yard, requesting no spraying onto the property, would run around and close all the windows when she heard the truck come, and would even run outside to yell at the trucks. This is the very first memory I have of becoming aware of air pollution, and the importance of protecting our lungs.

Now, I live in Juneau. We have three major air pollution issues in our remote town: cruise ship emissions, wood smoke and mining emissions. Cruise ship season is from April through September. The first day that a ship rolls in, we all can't help but notice that our incredibly pristine air is visibly sullied by the large smoke stacks on the ships.

My heart falls on this day, every year. We have five ships in our downtown harbor daily during the summer months, and the air is visibly gray/purple, and greasy in texture. We breathe this in every day of the summer.

Access to fuel is tricky in our town, since there are no roads into the city; access is by sea and air only. We have fantastic hydropower, but are cut off from the supply whenever snow avalanches take out a portion of this system. Oil and propane are shipped in which is expensive. Families here often turn to woodstoves for heat in the long winters. While this is far more economical than the other options, there is little regulation of these emissions. Anyone can have a woodstove, and of any vintage, but when there are temperature inversions, all woodstove use is banned. During these bans, there is no distinction made between old models and the modern efficient ones. While these bans are appropriate for minimizing air emissions, many families are left without adequate heat.

We also have two active gold mines in Juneau, with a proposed third. Air quality concerns are ongoing here. The two current mines are accessed by air and sea only, existing nearby off the road system. The proposed mine will literally be in the heart of downtown, and this is of particular concern to each of us, as it will have direct impact on our air and water.

Additionally, I am told that the native people up north in “The Bush” are impacted by air pollution in a surprising way: Their native foods (caribou, bowhead whale, seals, etc…) are incredibly contaminated by airborne substances such as PCBs, which collect in vegetation, and then are eaten by these animals. The Alaska Native peoples rely on these traditional food sources for survival and to maintain their culture. However their health is in jeopardy as a result of this contamination.

I want our elected leaders in Washington, D.C. to help us address these problems. We should regulate cruise ship emissions and continue to find ways to make these ships "greener." We should regulate the mining industry's management of air emissions. We should continue to fund research on clean, green, and sustainable heat/energy sources, and we should work with countries to reduce their use of contaminants such as PCBs.
 

All Messages: Supporting Our Clean Air Ambassadors.

Thank you for your hard work . I am always in support of clean water and clean air. I ry to have a small foot print. I live off the grid and use rainwater.I have solar electricity. The sooner we all are using more renewable resources the better off we will be . Thanks again. Elizabeth

Good luck when you speak to that ole corporate shill Donnie boy. Try waving a 100 dollar bill in front of his face, that's the only thing Donnie responds to.

Having lived in Juneau for 17 years, half that time being pre Mt. Roberts Tram, I understand your loathing of the first cruise ship day. I was naive enough to believe tourism would never be harmful to Juneau....boy was I wrong. In the days before the tram and the new Princess dock, tourism was relatively benign. Not so now, although I haven't been to Juneau for years, I was shocked at what happened the first season after the Princess dock south of town opened.

Thanks for your efforts, and don't give up the fight. Just remember who you're fighting...the corporate plutocracy.

thank you so much for trying to make a difference regarding clean air, and for your plans to be a part of the group trying to get washington to hear our complaints. i live between homer and anchor point, and a gas pad just went a half a mile from us a couple of years ago. there are now 4 wells producing, with many more in their plans. we often smell the fumes wafting from the pad, including diesel and all kinds of VOC's (volitile organic compounds). whenever they flare off a well, which usually lasts up to two weeks, i get headaches and dizziness, as methane, and other gases are being burnt off. because of the halliburton loophole, gas/oil companies are exempt from the clean air act, the safe drinking water act, cercla, and superfund. they can do as they please with no accountability. if you or i did this, we'd go to jail, but corporations can do this and we'll all supposed to be supportive. not me. thank you again for what you're trying to do.

Rebecca - Thank you for speaking up!

The first cruise ship arrives in Juneau on May 5th. I am not looking forward to the smog over downtown. If the wind is blowing it isn't noticeable but many mornings I can see a layer of smog.

Smog shouldn't be a part of Alaska life. It really shouldn't be a part of anyone's life but it is particularly obnoxious in a setting like the one Rebecca and I live in because it would be so easy to fix. We should require cruise ships to plug into hydro-power while docked.

Wood heat is actually a very good way to go since it's locally produced and renewable. That said, people should use the most efficient wood stove.

Thanks Rebecca and good luck. Carl from Juneau.

Best wishes; when you see Yon Dung, ask him to explain his vote against Medicare, and Planned Parenthood, while he worries about rich guys polar bear hides.

Merci beaucoup pour votre travail. Je vous souhaite beaucoup de courage. A bientôt.

Thanks and good luck from Sitka.

Thank you, Rebecca. Good luck in D.C.!

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <p> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.