Weekly Mulch: When Will Our Water Be Clean?

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Ed. Note: The Mulch is participating in Blog Action Day 2010, an initiative led by Media Consortium member Change.org that asks bloggers around the world to publish posts on the same issue on the same day. This year’s topic is water.

Last week, rivers in Hungary ran red with toxic sludge, creating the perhaps most powerful image of water contamination possible. Imagine, for a second, if every chemical leaching into waterways in this country had such a brilliant hue. What color would our water be?

Less than crystal clear, certainly. We still don’t know, for instance, what chemicals the government and BP poured into the Gulf Coast after the Deepwater Horizon spill, as Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard reports. Beyond one time dumps, American industries and consumers are steadily polluting our water system. Energy companies contaminate waterways. So do massive, industrial farms. Sewer systems overflow, and landfills leach waste. Even household chemicals — pesticides applied to suburban lawns, for instance — contribute to the problem.

Flouting the Clean Water Act

After the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, politicians finally took note of the country’s polluted and within a few years had passed the Clean Water Act. In theory, the Clean Water Act should limit contamination, but as The New York Times reported last year, violations have been increasing. Just this month, in Kentucky, environmental advocates brought a case against two coal companies that allegedly violated the Clean Water Act more than 20,000 times, as Public News Service’s Renee Shaw reports.

The violations “include doctoring water pollution reports, failing to conduct tests, and exceeding permit pollution limits,” Shaw reports.

Toxic run-off

That’s just one example of water pollution. At Grist, Tom Laskawy reports that researchers Indiana found a chemical produced by genetically engineered corn in “25% of streams they tested, and all the streams that tested positive were within 1,500 feet from a cornfield.”

The chemical in question, Bt, is technically organic. Plants grown from Monsanto seeds produce it to ward off bugs, and since it comes from an organic process, it is approved for use in organic farming, too. So, what’s the big deal? As Laskawy writes, it’s still a toxin, and the consequences of injecting large doses into the water system are unclear:

No one has any idea yet of the effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to Bt on fish and wildlife. Perhaps it’s high time somebody did a study on that since, as the researchers dryly observed, the presence of Bt toxin “may be a more common occurrence in watersheds draining maize-growing regions than previously recognized.”

Enforcement

These types of problems continue in part because governments are unable or unwilling to crack down on polluters. In the Kentucky mining case, for instance, Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard reports that the environmental advocates filed the suit in part because they felt the Kentucky office that oversees the Clean Water Act “had not enforced the law.” Sheppard writes:

Donna Lisenby, who works for the environmental group Appalachian Voices, described literally blowing the dust off stacks of reports from the companies that did not appear to have been actually reviewed by anyone in the state office. Or at least, they were not reviewed thoroughly; she also described reports that appeared to have the same data copied and pasted from previous months, and reports that were dated before the testing was actually conducted.

Even when the government does hold companies accountable, however, that doesn’t guarantee a good, quick result. Take General Electric’s clean up of the Hudson River. The company began dumping chemicals there in the 1940s but is still trying to delay its clean-up efforts, writes Change.org’s Jess Leber.

Climate change

As with every environmental issue nowadays, climate change also plays a role. When it comes to our drinking water, carbon dioxide pollution is not a problem. But for ocean dwellers, it is. As Courtney Shelby writes at Care2, the ocean has absorbed 400 million metric tons of greenhouse gas, which has lead to a shortage of oxygen. Shelby explains, “This creates “dead zones” that are absent of all marine life for thousands of years, posing a serious threat to biodiversity.”

Joining forces

Ultimately, though, water contamination is not just about the environment. The lack of clean water extracts a real human costAs Change.org writes, “Access to clean water is not just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue. An animal welfare issue. A sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, and it affects all of us.” What that means, however, is that environmental advocates concerned about water pollution can find allies in other social action movements.

In Detroit, for example, environmental and health advocates joined together to address water issues, as Making Contact reports. The “People’s Water Board” works on water pollution and on water access, and so far has pushed city officials overseeing water issues towards greater transparency.

In all of these cases, whether the culprit is the energy industry, agribusiness, or climate change, the work of environmental advocates is calling attention to and pushing to resolve the problem. With these sorts of efforts, perhaps it won’t take a flaming river to push leaders across the country to work to make our water clean.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Rand Paul Radical Rhetoric Endangers Kentucky's Working Families

The list of bedrock American laws that Rand Paul is opposed to keeps growing longer. In addition to the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Paul has made it clear that he doesn't like the Clean Air Act either. Last weekend, Paul said that President Obama should leave Kentucky alone, especially when it comes to pollution. "You need to keep the EPA out of our affairs," he called on the president.

Paul prefers to have things "handled on a local level."But unlike Paul, I grew up in Kentucky, and I question this logic.

My elementary school sat on a cliff above an Ashland Oil refinery, and our playground was about eye level with the top of their smokestacks. When the paint on teachers' car started to peel and children started getting sick, the PTA tried to make Ashland Oil do something about it. After some fighting, the company finally installed air monitors on the kickball field - and a few months later the school closed its doors.

What sticks with me still is the way the problem was solved: As far as I can see, Ashland Oil didn't clean up its act at all. Our school shut down instead.

Federal efforts to cut pollution aren't perfect, but they are the last line of defense for places like my hometown. They literally save our lives: the Clean Air Act, for instance, has been documented to prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

Kentucky has a long dark history of environmental injustice. Amazing groups like Appalachian Voices have been fighting for cleaner water, cleaner air, and better safety rules for miners. They often find local solutions, but they also turn to federal agencies like the EPA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration when they need to.

Paul may call it "federal overreach," but I call it protecting the health of Kentuckians. 
Of course, Paul trots out the old saw that cutting pollution kills jobs. But I think Paul is more concerned about ideology than jobs, because if he really wanted to create jobs for Kentucky, he wouldn't turn his back on clean energy and climate legislation. Clean energy jobs are growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs. Paul would rather shoot down federal climate solutions than bring the jobs of the 21st century to his state.

Instead, he is banking on the same old dirty industries, and he seems to think that if children get asthma because they played on a field next to a refinery, that's alright because someone had a job. I am sorry, but I can't accept the misconception that my classmates and I were the collateral damage of some polluter's payroll. Good companies that are following the law and being good neighbors provide jobs every single day.

Companies have found time and again that a clean business model is part of the recipe for a successful company. That is why 5,171 small businesses from across the country are supporting the climate bill. That is why some of the largest companies in the nation are calling on Congress to take action immediately.

The parents I know in Kentucky have no interest in working jobs that sacrifice their children's health. They want to provide for their families AND keep them safe at the same time. This isn't an either or situation. Paul seems to forget this in the midst of his fixation with "federal overreach." I too respect states rights, but states still have to be good neighbors. Local empowerment doesn't give you the right to endanger your residents' health, export pollution into nearby states, or block national solutions to fight global climate change.

If leaders like Paul forget these lessons in responsibility, then I am glad federal agencies like the EPA can step in and remind them. 

 

 

Rand Paul Radical Rhetoric Endangers Kentucky's Working Families

The list of bedrock American laws that Rand Paul is opposed to keeps growing longer. In addition to the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Paul has made it clear that he doesn't like the Clean Air Act either. Last weekend, Paul said that President Obama should leave Kentucky alone, especially when it comes to pollution. "You need to keep the EPA out of our affairs," he called on the president.

Paul prefers to have things "handled on a local level."But unlike Paul, I grew up in Kentucky, and I question this logic.

My elementary school sat on a cliff above an Ashland Oil refinery, and our playground was about eye level with the top of their smokestacks. When the paint on teachers' car started to peel and children started getting sick, the PTA tried to make Ashland Oil do something about it. After some fighting, the company finally installed air monitors on the kickball field - and a few months later the school closed its doors.

What sticks with me still is the way the problem was solved: As far as I can see, Ashland Oil didn't clean up its act at all. Our school shut down instead.

Federal efforts to cut pollution aren't perfect, but they are the last line of defense for places like my hometown. They literally save our lives: the Clean Air Act, for instance, has been documented to prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

Kentucky has a long dark history of environmental injustice. Amazing groups like Appalachian Voices have been fighting for cleaner water, cleaner air, and better safety rules for miners. They often find local solutions, but they also turn to federal agencies like the EPA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration when they need to.

Paul may call it "federal overreach," but I call it protecting the health of Kentuckians. 
Of course, Paul trots out the old saw that cutting pollution kills jobs. But I think Paul is more concerned about ideology than jobs, because if he really wanted to create jobs for Kentucky, he wouldn't turn his back on clean energy and climate legislation. Clean energy jobs are growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs. Paul would rather shoot down federal climate solutions than bring the jobs of the 21st century to his state.

Instead, he is banking on the same old dirty industries, and he seems to think that if children get asthma because they played on a field next to a refinery, that's alright because someone had a job. I am sorry, but I can't accept the misconception that my classmates and I were the collateral damage of some polluter's payroll. Good companies that are following the law and being good neighbors provide jobs every single day.

Companies have found time and again that a clean business model is part of the recipe for a successful company. That is why 5,171 small businesses from across the country are supporting the climate bill. That is why some of the largest companies in the nation are calling on Congress to take action immediately.

The parents I know in Kentucky have no interest in working jobs that sacrifice their children's health. They want to provide for their families AND keep them safe at the same time. This isn't an either or situation. Paul seems to forget this in the midst of his fixation with "federal overreach." I too respect states rights, but states still have to be good neighbors. Local empowerment doesn't give you the right to endanger your residents' health, export pollution into nearby states, or block national solutions to fight global climate change.

If leaders like Paul forget these lessons in responsibility, then I am glad federal agencies like the EPA can step in and remind them. 

 

 

Rand Paul Radical Rhetoric Endangers Kentucky's Working Families

The list of bedrock American laws that Rand Paul is opposed to keeps growing longer. In addition to the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Paul has made it clear that he doesn't like the Clean Air Act either. Last weekend, Paul said that President Obama should leave Kentucky alone, especially when it comes to pollution. "You need to keep the EPA out of our affairs," he called on the president.

Paul prefers to have things "handled on a local level."But unlike Paul, I grew up in Kentucky, and I question this logic.

My elementary school sat on a cliff above an Ashland Oil refinery, and our playground was about eye level with the top of their smokestacks. When the paint on teachers' car started to peel and children started getting sick, the PTA tried to make Ashland Oil do something about it. After some fighting, the company finally installed air monitors on the kickball field - and a few months later the school closed its doors.

What sticks with me still is the way the problem was solved: As far as I can see, Ashland Oil didn't clean up its act at all. Our school shut down instead.

Federal efforts to cut pollution aren't perfect, but they are the last line of defense for places like my hometown. They literally save our lives: the Clean Air Act, for instance, has been documented to prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

Kentucky has a long dark history of environmental injustice. Amazing groups like Appalachian Voices have been fighting for cleaner water, cleaner air, and better safety rules for miners. They often find local solutions, but they also turn to federal agencies like the EPA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration when they need to.

Paul may call it "federal overreach," but I call it protecting the health of Kentuckians. 
Of course, Paul trots out the old saw that cutting pollution kills jobs. But I think Paul is more concerned about ideology than jobs, because if he really wanted to create jobs for Kentucky, he wouldn't turn his back on clean energy and climate legislation. Clean energy jobs are growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs. Paul would rather shoot down federal climate solutions than bring the jobs of the 21st century to his state.

Instead, he is banking on the same old dirty industries, and he seems to think that if children get asthma because they played on a field next to a refinery, that's alright because someone had a job. I am sorry, but I can't accept the misconception that my classmates and I were the collateral damage of some polluter's payroll. Good companies that are following the law and being good neighbors provide jobs every single day.

Companies have found time and again that a clean business model is part of the recipe for a successful company. That is why 5,171 small businesses from across the country are supporting the climate bill. That is why some of the largest companies in the nation are calling on Congress to take action immediately.

The parents I know in Kentucky have no interest in working jobs that sacrifice their children's health. They want to provide for their families AND keep them safe at the same time. This isn't an either or situation. Paul seems to forget this in the midst of his fixation with "federal overreach." I too respect states rights, but states still have to be good neighbors. Local empowerment doesn't give you the right to endanger your residents' health, export pollution into nearby states, or block national solutions to fight global climate change.

If leaders like Paul forget these lessons in responsibility, then I am glad federal agencies like the EPA can step in and remind them. 

 

 

Rand Paul Radical Rhetoric Endangers Kentucky's Working Families

The list of bedrock American laws that Rand Paul is opposed to keeps growing longer. In addition to the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Paul has made it clear that he doesn't like the Clean Air Act either. Last weekend, Paul said that President Obama should leave Kentucky alone, especially when it comes to pollution. "You need to keep the EPA out of our affairs," he called on the president.

Paul prefers to have things "handled on a local level."But unlike Paul, I grew up in Kentucky, and I question this logic.

My elementary school sat on a cliff above an Ashland Oil refinery, and our playground was about eye level with the top of their smokestacks. When the paint on teachers' car started to peel and children started getting sick, the PTA tried to make Ashland Oil do something about it. After some fighting, the company finally installed air monitors on the kickball field - and a few months later the school closed its doors.

What sticks with me still is the way the problem was solved: As far as I can see, Ashland Oil didn't clean up its act at all. Our school shut down instead.

Federal efforts to cut pollution aren't perfect, but they are the last line of defense for places like my hometown. They literally save our lives: the Clean Air Act, for instance, has been documented to prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

Kentucky has a long dark history of environmental injustice. Amazing groups like Appalachian Voices have been fighting for cleaner water, cleaner air, and better safety rules for miners. They often find local solutions, but they also turn to federal agencies like the EPA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration when they need to.

Paul may call it "federal overreach," but I call it protecting the health of Kentuckians. 
Of course, Paul trots out the old saw that cutting pollution kills jobs. But I think Paul is more concerned about ideology than jobs, because if he really wanted to create jobs for Kentucky, he wouldn't turn his back on clean energy and climate legislation. Clean energy jobs are growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs. Paul would rather shoot down federal climate solutions than bring the jobs of the 21st century to his state.

Instead, he is banking on the same old dirty industries, and he seems to think that if children get asthma because they played on a field next to a refinery, that's alright because someone had a job. I am sorry, but I can't accept the misconception that my classmates and I were the collateral damage of some polluter's payroll. Good companies that are following the law and being good neighbors provide jobs every single day.

Companies have found time and again that a clean business model is part of the recipe for a successful company. That is why 5,171 small businesses from across the country are supporting the climate bill. That is why some of the largest companies in the nation are calling on Congress to take action immediately.

The parents I know in Kentucky have no interest in working jobs that sacrifice their children's health. They want to provide for their families AND keep them safe at the same time. This isn't an either or situation. Paul seems to forget this in the midst of his fixation with "federal overreach." I too respect states rights, but states still have to be good neighbors. Local empowerment doesn't give you the right to endanger your residents' health, export pollution into nearby states, or block national solutions to fight global climate change.

If leaders like Paul forget these lessons in responsibility, then I am glad federal agencies like the EPA can step in and remind them. 

 

 

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