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While it may seem obvious, especially with coal companies completely burying streams and routinely poisoning drinking water supplies, an article in the scientific journal Science shows clear scientific evidence that mountaintop removal mining destroys streams and poisons communities.

Even though a large group of polluters tried to derail it, Earthjustice won this week a historic settlement—with nationwide implications—that requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set legal limits for the widespread nutrient poisoning that triggers harmful algae blooms in Florida waters.

I met Tom Graff in about 1970 or so. I was at the brand-new Friends of the Earth. Tom had come out from New York to open an office for the slightly older Environmental Defense Fund near the Berkeley campus. He immediately dove (pun intended) into the fractious, messy and endless battles over water in California, the place where, Mark Twain supposedly said, “water flows uphill toward money.”

The California Water Project had been built by then, a maze of canals and pumping stations to divert water from the wet north to the dry south and San Joaquin Valley. Not satisfied with what they had, big ag proposed a “peripheral canal” to route water from the Sacramento River around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a proposal Tom Graff called a rifle pointed at the heart of the Sacramento Valley, or words to that effect. The proposal was resoundingly defeated, in large part owing to Tom's efforts. He went on to help George Miller pass the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which belatedly guaranteed water for fish and wildlife.

Tom died the other day at the too-young age of 65. He leaves a legacy we can only admire and learn from—especially as a brand-new proposal for a kinder, gentler peripheral canal is likely to come bearing down on us soon and the CVPIA is under continuous attack.

Farewell, my friend, you are missed.

 

It's not enough that Tennessee's Clinch River was devastated by a toxic spill that dumped 1 billion gallons of coal ash into its waters last December. Now the Tennessee Valley Authority wants to systematically pollute the river (which leads to the mighty Tennessee River) to the tune of one million gallons a day of toxic pollutants. We're talking dumping mercury, selenium and other chemicals into a river which the Tennessee Valley Authority is supposed to be protecting.

How much sense does it make for your tax dollars to underwrite home loans for new homes in a place with inadequate water supplies, say like out in a desert? The realtors love it, but when the new homes drill another well for water, nearby rivers disappear undergound.

At least that's what's happened to the San Pedro River in south central Arizona. The San Pedro is one of the last free-flowing rivers in the desert southwest. The river is a lush ribbon attracting all manner of southwest wildlife, and is a major overwintering spot for migratory birds, but all this is threatened by a real estate boom. Earthjustice sued to stop government lending that was pushing ever more home construction—until builders come up with a water source that won't kill the river. So far, the builders have failed, which is why Earthjustice attorney McCrystie Adams will be back in federal court this week, arguing to protect the unique ecosystem and wildlife of the San Pedro River.

When is hazardous coal ash not considered hazardous? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, when you dump it in a landfill as opposed to a pond. This approach is currently being floated by the EPA in its plans to regulate coal ash later this year. Coal ash—the waste left over after coal is burned at coal-fired power plants—is full of dangerously high levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium and other hazardous metals. Cancer rates skyrocket near coal ash dumps that have leaked into drinking water supplies.

Today is Blog Action Day, and this year's theme is Climate Change. Here's my pitch for an immediate step that could be taken to reduce the production of greenhouse gases significantly, while promoting good health; improving the economy in rural America; and reducing cruelty to animals. In fact, this suggestion is so logical that it's a travesty that I have to suggest it. It makes Sarah Silverman's recent hunger-ending proposal look paltry in comparison. Here's my suggestion:

It is hard to imagine anyone defending the polluters that are turning Florida's waters green and slimy. But, hey, money talks.

At long last, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is agreeing to set legal, enforceable limits on such nutrients as phosphorous and nitrogen, which are poisoning Florida's public waters. EPA's historic decision settles the lawsuit we filed in July 2008.

Today, the Savage Rapids dam—reputedly the worst killer of Rogue River salmon—died a well-deserved death at the hands of those who spent decades seeking its removal. Heavy equipment removed the last barriers, fully opening a channel for river and fish to flow through.

For Earthjustice attorney Mike Sherwood, who watched today's demolition, this is a sweet day. He spent years litigating its removal on behalf of WaterWatch of Oregon. "This is a great day for the Rogue River, and for its coho and steelhead," Sherwood said.

Here's an eyewitness report on the demolition.

 

In his final years of life, David Brower spoke of the need for Global CPR (conservation, preservation and restoration). What a shame Dave is not around to witness a few major river and stream restoration projects that are upon us.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

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. Learn more about Earthjustice.