Posts tagged: Health and Toxics

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Health and Toxics


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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
18 October 2012, 5:34 AM
On the Act's 40th anniversary, how it touches lives across the country

Growing up just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, my siblings and cousins and I spent our summers swimming in Lake Erie. The water looked clear enough, and though I remember hearing about the invasion of zebra mussels, our greatest worries were the imagined creatures in the deep. We didn't know that just a few years before, the lake was popularly deemed “dead" because of the pollution it received from surrounding industries.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
17 October 2012, 5:57 PM
Congress abandons citizen interests for 'pollution prosperity'

Forty years ago today, against a backdrop of flaming rivers, dying lakes and sewage-choked beaches, our politicians reached across the aisle to pass the Clean Water Act—a law aptly described by the New York Times' Robert Semple as "a critical turning point" in rescuing the nation's waterways from "centuries of industrial, municipal and agricultural pollution." The primary goals of the law were simple and bold: to stop using our nation’s waters as open sewers and end the discharge of water pollution.

This wonderful, landmark law flourished under three decades of bipartisan support, reining in torrents of industrial and municipal discharges, and restoring health to waters great and small across the land.

But some 10 years ago, the clean water tide slowed as polluters gained traction in Congress; and two years ago, with political collaboration at an end, the tide turned. As a result, loopholes and lax enforcement led to the fouling of beaches and rivers with toxic slime, the filling thousands of miles of Appalachian streams with the rubble of mountaintop removal mining; and have allowed dozens of toxic coal ash ponds to exist unregulated among our communities.

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View Joan Mulhern's blog posts
17 October 2012, 12:02 PM
Should we still have waste, raw sewage in our water after 40 years?

On December 28, 2012, Earthjustice lost its original Mountain Hero, Senior Legislative Counsel Joan Mulhern, who passed away after a long illness. Joan will be greatly missed.
Read Marty Hayden's tribute and a memorial to Joan from the Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine.

 

Clean water is one of Earth’s most precious resources. Life is not possible without clean water. Thursday is the 40th anniversary of our nation’s most important law to protect clean water and end water pollution: the Clean Water Act of 1972.

This is a great law whose goals include making all waters safe for fishing, swimming, and drinking, and to end the use of our lakes, rivers, streams and oceans as dumping grounds for pollution.

Yet some polluters are today trying to shred this fundamental law. Coal companies, paper mills, industrial facilities, gas and oil drillers, fertilizer and pesticide manufacturers and others have long been engaged in a campaign to roll back clean water safeguards.

Perhaps most outrageous of all are the efforts by sewage treatment plant operators and their lobbying arm—using public dollars—to tear down a basic building block of the Clean Water Act: the command to end the use of our waterways for the discharge of untreated human waste.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
15 October 2012, 11:51 AM
Article features communities living near coal ash ponds
Curt and Debbie Haven may have to sell their family home in Chester, W. Va. due to coal ash waste run-off seeping onto their land.  (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

In our effort to raise awareness on the hazards of coal ash, we have written blog post after blog post, sent press releases, submitted editorials and letters to the editor.

So we are mighty pleased that the Washington Post featured this important issue in a story today written by Juliet Eilperin. The story illustrates the politics obstructing the coal ash rule from moving forward.

But what I am most pleased about, is the voice that this story gives to folks on the ground who are enduring the hazards of living near coal ash ponds. More on that later…

View Daniel Hubbell's blog posts
15 October 2012, 11:14 AM
Clean Water Act revived this polluted river and ones like it across America

After growing up in Massachusetts suburbia, I have fond memories of canoeing with my family on the town’s river, the Sudbury. Gliding along, we would keep our eyes peeled for turtles on the rocks or fish under the boat, and maybe if we were very lucky a heron drying off in the afternoon sun. Once or twice I even fell in, to the eternal frustration of my parents.

Just 20 miles outside of Boston it was possible to lose sight of the houses, forget about the cars, and assuming I wasn’t too busy yelling and splashing, it was possible to just relax. Outside of the odd swarm of mosquitoes, it’s hard to conjure up a more idyllic image; an impressive feat for what used to be considered a toxic nightmare.

Sudbury River. (Courtesy of Appalachian Mountain Club)

Sudbury River.  (Courtesy of Appalachian Mountain Club)

Once upon a time the Sudbury was labeled one of the 10 worst toxic cleanup sites in the nation, the product of decades of mill and later corporate dumping in the river, and a serious threat to not only the natural ecosystem but the health and water supply of everyone near the river.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
04 October 2012, 3:41 PM
Plus: Cleaning up greenwashing, pesticide overdosing, toxic tuna
(flickr, tribp)

Climate change leaves CA wine lovers with fewer options
California’s popular wine varieties may soon be hard to find thanks to drier and hotter temperatures caused by climate change, reports the Center for Investigative Reporting. Though by now farmers are used to Mother Nature’s unpredictability, a slightly wetter or drier season is nothing compared to the extreme weather that the world has been experiencing over the past few years, which is wreaking havoc on California’s vineyards (and those who insure them). And, the situation is only expected to get worse. Recent research from Stanford University found that as little as two degrees of warming, predicted to happen by 2040, could reduce California’s prime wine-growing land by up to 50 percent. The situation is so dire, in fact, that wine breeders are recommending that vineyards switch to grapes that are well-adapted to higher temperatures, and soon, since vineyards have a shelf life of about 30 years. So far, wine growers are hesitant to make the switch given the public’s attachment to well-known wine varieties like pinot noir. But if our carbon-based economy continues as business-as-usual, consumers may have no choice but to drink outside of the wine box.
 
Federal consumer watchdog cleans up greenwashing
Ecofriendly. Biodegradable. All Natural. As green goes mainstream, consumers are finding it hard to determine which eco-friendly terms are legit, but the Federal Trade Commission’s revised guidelines for green marketing should help shed some light on all the fuzzy claims, reports the Christian Science Monitor. And it's about time. The revisions are long overdue (they were written in 1998), and since that time consumers have seen a dramatic increase in the number of products that tout supposedly green characteristics. Though the guides are not considered rules or regulations, the FTC has fined companies for using deceptive claims. Speaking of deceptive marketing, Earthjustice has been working to make green shopping easier by advocating for better verification testing for Energy Star, which points consumers to energy efficient appliances, but doesn’t do a great job in strengthening its testing requirements or updating labels. 
 

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View Debra Mayfield's blog posts
04 October 2012, 3:15 PM
Author asks, answers: If coal is so clean, why is it killing us?
Dr. Alan Lockwood is Emeritus Professor of Neurology and Nuclear Medicine at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

In the latest episode of Down to Earth, our own Jessica Knoblauch interviews Dr. Alan Lockwood, neurologist and author of the new book, The Silent Epidemic: Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health. Dr. Lockwood reiterates eloquently what we’ve known for decades: there’s nothing clean about coal.

Whether you’re mining it, moving it, washing it, burning it, or disposing of it, coal is dirty, dirty business. And one that is killing us.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
01 October 2012, 12:06 PM
Plus: Bacon blues, ocean critter jitters, burger smog and cattle candies
(flickr, cookbookman17)

Climate change may ruin BLTs and loaded baked potatoes
You know Americans may be a little food-obsessed when the only time we get concerned about climate change is when it affects our favorite meals. According to the USDA, this year’s drought is so bad that it’s expected to negatively impact next year’s pork production, reports Mother Jones, meaning that BLTs and pork chops may soon become a luxury item for many Americans. And forget about importing your bacon fix from Europe. Britain’s National Pig Association recently announced that a “world shortage of pork and bacon is now unavoidable” thanks to high pig-feed costs that are causing farmers to reduce their herd sizes. Though the association’s press release doesn’t specifically mention “climate change,” it does allude to “disastrous growing and harvesting weather,” which scientists only expect to get worse with increasing carbon emissions. In other words, if we don’t get our act together soon, it may mean good-bye, baconator®. Hello, tofu maker?
 
Consumers’ caffeine consumption gives ocean critters the jitters
Many people these days tend to be a little over-caffeinated, and it turns out that all of the sodas, coffee and energy drinks that people consume are having a similarly jittery effect on the world’s oceans, reports National Geographic. Conditions are especially amped up along the Pacific Northwest, home of Starbucks and many a caffeine-fiend, where researchers recently discovered caffeine pollution off of Oregon’s coast. Currently, caffeine’s impact on natural ecosystems is relatively unknown, though at least one researcher has found that the stimulant’s presence in water does tend to stress out mussels. Surely anyone who has knocked back too many cups of black gold can relate. But the problem isn’t just coming from the Pacific Northwest. Caffeine has also been detected in Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay seawater. The presence of caffeine is the oceans isn’t all that surprising though considering that most water treatment facilities typically don’t screen or filter for many pollutants, such as pharmaceuticals, detergents or estrogen-containing birth control pills. But given the growing evidence for elevated levels of human contaminants in the water, they may soon have to, or suffer the caffeinated consequences.
 

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View Andrea Delgado's blog posts
27 September 2012, 10:33 AM
Citizens to sue AES corporation for coal ash dumping near homes
A child near an AES coal ash fill site in Guayama, Puerto Rico.

(Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans is co-author of this blog item)

Fed up with the illegal dumping of toxic waste in their communities, a group of concerned citizens from Guayama and Salinas, Puerto Rico, Comité Dialogo Ambiental (CDA), has drawn a line in the sand. CDA announced yesterday that they will take AES Corporation—theVirginia-based energy giant—to federal court unless it meets the group’s demands and stops the dangerous dumping of toxic waste from its Guayama power plant.
 
Salinas attorney Ruth Santiago and Public Justice, a national public interest law firm, sent a Notice of Intent to Sue this week on behalf of CDA, asserting that AES’ practice of dumping toxic coal ash in residential areas poses an “imminent and substantial endangerment” to health and the environment.
  
The AES’ Guayama power plant produces 400,000 tons of coal ash a year – toxic waste that contains arsenic, radioactive isotopes, hexavalent chromium and other heavy metals. But, despite its prodigious generation of dangerous waste, AES has never built a landfill to contain the polluted byproduct since it opened the plant in 2002. Instead, AES sells the waste to local contractors for pennies a ton to build roads and housing developments.
 

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
27 September 2012, 9:48 AM
Pollution is hurting their businesses and quality of life

In June, Earthjustice was dismayed when the Maryland Department of the Environment put out a proposal that failed to adequately reduce pollution from Baltimore Harbor. Tina Meyers of the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, who we work with on this issue, said:

The Baltimore City stormwater pollution permit is meant to regulate the pollution that is discharging directly from Baltimore City’s stormwater pipes into our rivers, streams and Harbor. Unfortunately, this permit lacks limits on the amount of pollution that is allowed to go into our waterways and also lacks enforceable deadlines by which these limits must be reached.

Well, it turns out we aren’t the only ones who are upset.