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Environmental Protection Agency

Florida's St. John's River is fouled this summer with green slime, and dead fish are washing up on its shores. Every time it rains, nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen poison this river and others all over Florida. The poison comes from sewage, animal manure and fertilizer.

It is a crisis big enough that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed in November 2009 to set the first-ever legal limits for nutrient poisoning.

One of the first issues I worked on when I started at Earthjustice in 2004 was a lawsuit we filed to compel the EPA to take action on mercury and other toxic air pollution from cement kilns. This was during the Bush years, and despite winning in court, the EPA did next to nothing to abide by the law and clean up the air for dozens of communities living around these big polluters.

In just over three weeks, the EPA will hold the first of five public hearings on its plan to finally regulate coal ash, the nasty, hazardous remains leftover from coal-fired power plants. On August 30, right here in Washington DC, the EPA will hear from hundreds of victims, advocates, community members, environmentalists, activists and everyday citizens about the need to clean up these dangerous dumps and waste ponds filled with decades of contaminated coal ash.

City-dwellers are intimately familiar with the pros and cons of living with neighbors. Their heavy footsteps thunder overhead, their loud music penetrates the walls, and strange odors sometimes drift down the halls. These are nuisances, no doubt, but not all neighborly disturbances are so innocuous.

Consider, for example, communities across the country that live near chemical plants, paper mills and other polluting industries. Air pollution from these industrial neighbors often results in higher rates of asthma and other serious illnesses in local communities.

<Editor's Note: Our newest blogger, Earthjustice attorney Marianne Engelman-Lados, compiled this report.>

The response to the oil spill in the Gulf has exposed fundamental flaws in the current system for regulating the use of chemical dispersants. Since April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded, BP has added nearly two million gallons of dispersants to the waters of the Gulf.

Under the federal Toxics Substances Control Act, chemical manufacturers are required to submit health and safety studies to the EPA. Other federal law requires manufacturers of the oil dispersants being used by BP to submit data on the toxicity and effectiveness of the dispersants.

Earthjustice went to court today representing the Gulf Restoration Network and the Florida Wildlife Federation to get that information.

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