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Spanish Village Playground Air Monitor

St. Louis Injustices & Bill Gates

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As I write this I’m on my way back from St. Louis, Missouri. Yes, I there are riots in the street

Spanish Village Playground Air Monitor

and it was a bit risky to go now rather than postponing the trip for another day when the city settles down. But, this is a city of so many injustices, and honestly the “quiet” after the protests only means the world stopped paying attention. The problems don’t go away when the media leaves. It’s because people took the voices and bodies to the street that a light is shining on one of the problems today, but there are many serious injustices that exist in St. Louis. The local group Just Moms STL have been planning this training and educational event for six months, so I needed to go.

Just a short distance from the center of the unrest is another form of injustice, a landfill which is burning underground. The fire is slowly moving beneath the surface toward the neighboring landfill which contains radioactive wastes. What happens when the fire reaches the nuclear waste, no one knows? It’s very scary for families with small children who have no idea when the fire will reach the radioactive material or what will happen when it does. This waste travels through Ferguson but originates from a neighboring subdivision.

The truth is, all of North St. Louis is in a fight for justice. CHEJ is moving forward to provide assistance, but only where we have expertise. Our work is focused on the families living in the Mobile Homes Park and single family homes that have been exposed to smoke, odors, toxic chemicals and likely radioactive waste for over a decade without relief. Their children are sick, the community riddled with cancers and nothing has been done. The fire continues to burn and release toxins into the air, government continues to test and continues to find dangerous chemicals, and the responsible company, Republic Services, is doing less.

What makes this site even more symbolic of injustice—on one side is the rich, powerful, protected people and on the other side the poor. Bill Gates, the wealthiest man in this country is the largest shareholder in Republic Service. He alone has enough money to move the families who need to be evacuated out of harm’s way. He wouldn’t even miss the funds. Certainly, as the largest shareholder, he could convince Republic Services to pay him back. Or with his power as the largest shareholder get Republic Services to move the innocent families and permanently clean up the sites. But he hasn’t lifted a finger to help.

I have to wonder if Bill and Melinda Gates saw the story of unrest on T.V. or if either of them realizes that the company that is paying him over $30 million dollars a quarter in dividends is responsible for another form of violence on the local people. They both give generously to children’s hospitals across the country (and should continue) but in St. Louis children are the being made sick daily because of the fire and landfill related pollution in which he could do something about. He has the power to get Republic Services to move the families that live in harm’s way and clean up properly the dump sites.

One participant at the community training said, we need to tell Bill Gates, “We can’t open our windows.” They aren’t describing his windows program but rather that the pollution and odors are so bad that they need to keep the windows of their homes closed and air conditioning running, for those who can afford air conditioning.

Try to imagine living in a community with a burning landfill moving slowly toward a radioactive waste site and no one seems to care. Although I do not support violence, however, it seem people raising their voices in the street is the only way people can expose their suffering to the public and their best hope of getting ant action.

Issues arise in Alberta, Canada regard air pollution and tar sands extraction

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Alberta, Canada has been the epicenter of the controversial practice of tar sands extraction in North America. The numerous charges by environmentalists that tar sands or bitumen is significantly more dangerous than regular crude oil have plagued oil companies in the last few years, most notably around the controversial transcendental Keystone XL  pipeline which would carry Canadian tar sands all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

But recently a new study has shed even more light on the danger that tar sands poises on human health. A new report showed that air pollution as a result of bitumen extraction poses a greater concern to human health than previously thought. “The report shows polluting emissions in 2012 did not surpass the legal limit set out in the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan. (Just two substances, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, were measured). But air pollution rose to levels two and three on a scale of four at several monitoring sites, mostly between Fort McMurray and Fort McKay”.

Environmental Minister Robin Campbell has dismissed concerns surrounding the tar sands controversy, ““It’s important to understand the triggers are well below the (legal limit), so we are not anywhere near an issue where will have health issues for humans or our biodiversity,”  he said last Wednesday.

But recent records show a different picture, “The 2012 air pollution data are 18 months old, but it is the first test of province’s new regional approach — to monitor pollution arising from all oilsands projects together, called cumulative effects. The worst pollution occurred near two large upgraders, the report shows. Sulphur dioxide emissions hit level three at two stations, a level below the legal limit set by the Alberta Ambient Air Quality Objectives (AAAQO). Five other sites recorded sulphur dioxide at level two above the clean air norm, according to 2012 data.”

Threats of cumulative air pollution as a result of tar sands extraction loom in the near future. As the Edmonton Journal writes, “Forecasts showed the huge project could take sulphur dioxide pollution over the legal limits. That project is awaiting approval.”

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TAURO: Reverse Christie veto of fracking waste ban

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Janet Tauro

If Gov. Chris Christie won’t stand up and fight to keep toxic waste from hydraulic fracturing out of New Jersey’s drinking water and off our roadways, the New Jersey Legislature will have to step up to the plate.

The bipartisan majority of state senators and Assembly members who voted to ban fracking waste from New Jersey must stand by their vote, and place the protection of New Jersey’s water and residents first. They need to stick together and override Christie’s veto of a bill (S-1041/A-2108) that would have prohibited the discharge, processing or storage of fracking waste in the state.

Fracking is a process increasingly used by the fossil-fuel extraction industry to release underground natural gas. It requires mixing millions of gallons of water consisting of a chemical cocktail of up to 700 ingredients such as benzene, methyl-benzene, and formaldehyde. Many of the chemicals employed in the process are poison to our bodies. They can disrupt the endocrine system and are linked to cancer and other known health problems.

This purposely chemically contaminated water is blasted into the ground, fracturing the earth to release underground gas. Gas is not the only substance that comes to the surface — millions of gallons of fracking wastewater, carcinogenic heavy metals and radioactive isotopes are brought to the surface, too. New Jersey’s treatment plants are not set up to handle wastewater and sludge from hydraulic fracturing.

These harmful substances also can seep into groundwater. While not being done in New Jersey today, some states use fracking waste as a deicer for roadways in winter and to stabilize road dust. This creates another easy pathway for contaminating waterways.

It’s a safe bet that New Jerseyans do not want fracking waste in their drinking water, rivers and bays, and no parent would want to unwittingly serve it to their child.

Christie would have us believe that we don’t have to worry about fracking waste because New Jersey doesn’t produce any. That’s a thin excuse not to pass the ban. Fracking waste from Pennsylvania has been dumped here in the past, and even though the state Department of Environmental Protection contacted those companies and advised them not to do it again, there is mounting pressure for more to come this way if neighboring states say no.

And the pressure will only increase. Pennsylvania fracking is expanding. Moratoriums on fracking in New York and the Delaware River watershed are tenuous at best. The federal government has found significant shale gas deposits in a rock formation that cuts across New Jersey from Trenton and Lambertville all the way to northern Bergen and Passaic counties.

Without a New Jersey law banning the acceptance of waste from fracking, there is nothing to prevent companies from attempting to, and successfully, dumping it here in the future.

Christie claims the bill violates the interstate commerce clause, which forbids New Jersey from setting different disposal regulations for out-of-state companies. He is wrong. The bill was specifically written to ban the processing of any fracking waste in New Jersey now or in the future, regardless of its origin. Also, the commerce clause has a public health exemption.

That’s why the bill has passed constitutional muster with the Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, and our state senators and Assembly members deemed it legally, and morally, worthy of their votes not just once, but twice. However, they now need to take immediate action for a third time to reverse the governor’s ill-advised veto.

This isn’t the first time other states and industries dumped on New Jersey. During the 1980s, Gov. Tom Kean signed legislation banning the dumping of sewage waste off the Jersey Shore. He understood that doing the right thing trumps all when he said, “Our children and grandchildren deserve the right to live and work in this state free from the fears of poisons in their air, water, and earth.”

And those are words to govern by.

Janet Tauro is New Jersey board chair of Clean Water Action and founding member of GRAMMES (Grandmothers, Mothers, and More for Energy Safety).

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CO Republican: Fracking is okay, it’s natural for water to burn. ‘Indians’ used it for warmth.

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A Colorado Republican state senator justified the practice of hydraulic fracturing — commonly known as “fracking” — by saying that the presence of burnable amounts of methane gas in drinking water is a perfectly natural phenomenon. In fact, he said, the “Indians” used it for “warmth in the wintertime” many years ago.

According to Right Wing Watch, state Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R) was speaking to former Navy chaplain turned conservative activist Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver.

Klingenschmitt recorded the interview for his daily “Pray in Jesus’ Name” show. He asked the Republican what he thought of the government trying to “pick and choose” and prioritize some forms of energy over others.

“I’ve been doing a lot of the fracking seminars,” said Baumgardner, “and if people haven’t been, then they really don’t understand it.”

“They talk about methane in the water and this, that, and the other,” Baumgardner went on, “but if you go back in history and look at how the Indians traveled, they traveled to the ‘burning waters.’ And that was methane in the waters and that was for warmth in the wintertime.”

“So a lot of people,” he said, “if they just trace back the history, they’ll know how a lot of this is propaganda.”

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Md. Court Ruling Likely to Delay Cove Point LNG Export

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“For months, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and our partners have been warning that corporate leaders and elected officials were cutting dangerous corners in the permitting process for the proposed fracked gas export facility at Cove Point in southern Maryland. Thankfully this week a Calvert County circuit court judge agreed with a big part of our argument. Judge James Salmon ruled with the AMP Creeks Council that Calvert County commissioners had illegally exempted mega-company Dominion Resources from a host of local zoning ordinances.

“At a minimum, this ruling will likely cause real delay in the ability of Dominion to begin major construction of this controversial $3.8 billion fossil fuel project. The ruling should certainly give pause to the Wall Street investors that Dominion is seeking to recruit to finance this expensive, risky project. As fracked-gas exports grow increasingly controversial nationwide, we believe the court ruling in Calvert County this week is just the opening step in exposing the truth about this unsafe, climate-harming, and economy-damaging facility.

“On behalf of CCAN’s supporters and concerned citizens nationwide, we congratulate the attorneys at the AMP Creeks Council in southern Maryland for their extraordinary—and now successful—legal work in this case.”

Contact: Mike Tidwell, 240-460-5838, mtidwell@chesapeakeclimate.org

Diana Dascalu-Joffe, 240-396-1984, diana@chesapeakeclimate.org

Caroline Lucas

Fracking campaigners criticise ‘censored’ report on house prices

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The government has been criticised for censoring a report into the impact of shale gas drilling that examines the effect on house prices and pressure on local services.

Campaigners are calling for full publication of the study carried out by Whitehall officials, as the government continues to resist the idea of offering compensation to individual householders near proposed fracking sites.

The report, called Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts, was written in March and a draft was released under environmental information laws with large portions of the text removed. In particular, the section looking at the effect of drilling on house prices has three missing chunks.

The published sections mention a 2010 report about Texas, which found that houses valued at more than £150,000 and within 1,000 feet of a well site had their values decreased by 3% to 14%. Unredacted parts also mention other economic studies showing anything between a small positive impact on property prices for homes within 2km of wells dependent on commercially-piped water in Pennsylvania, to a drop of between 4% and 7% for homes within 4km of sour gas wells and flaring oil batteries in Alberta, Canada.

The report only cited studies it considered “robust”, while noting that it was difficult to compare overseas locations to a UK setting and complicated to disentangle all the factors that cause house prices to go up and down.

The report was published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shortly after the government opened up two-thirds of England to a new round of bidding for shale gas drilling licences. David Cameron and the chancellor, George Osborne, have hailed the potential of shale gas to boost the economy and bring down energy bills, but many MPs are concerned about the potential for drilling to scar the landscape, cause environmental damage and harm house prices in their constituencies.

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, criticised the censoring of the report, saying it would increase people’s concerns.

“It appears that the government has a great deal to hide with regards to the risks of fracking for local communities,” she said. “The number of redactions would be almost comical if it weren’t so concerning. What are the economic, social and environment impacts and effects upon housing and local services, agriculture and tourism that the government is so keen to withhold from us? The implications of fracking for rural communities are vast. It is critical the public knows the facts: absolute transparency is essential – censorship should not be an option.”

The government has suggested £100,000 of “community benefits” to be shared among local people affected by fracking. However, Barbara Richardson, of the Roseacre Awareness Group opposing fracking in Roseacre, Lancashire, called the sum an “insult” as some people in her area are unable to sell their houses at all.

“One couple had agreed a house sale, but just as the plans were announced in February their buyers negotiated a reduction of 14.5% due to the uncertainty over fracking. Their agents urged them to take it and move out before more became known about the plans,” she said. “There are a couple of other properties on the market but not selling. Everyone asks about the fracking plans.

“At the other site, at Little Plumpton, an agent told one family they are unlikely to be able to sell so there is no point in valuing or trying to sell … The paltry £100,000 community benefit offered per well is an insult. People do not want community benefits, they want restitution.”

Barbara Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South, also said the government should consider the need for compensation for people whose homes lose value because of fracking.

“I know that people living near to the Barton Moss IGas drilling site are very concerned about loss of value in their house prices due to the drilling. They are also concerned that house insurance premiums may increase substantially,” she said. “One couple trying to sell their home told me that no one came to view the house at all since the drilling started. The government should consider the need for compensation for residents negatively affected by shale gas operations.”

Asked why the full report could not be published, a government spokesperson said: “There is no evidence that house prices have been affected in over half a century of oil and gas exploration in the UK or evidence that this would be the case with shale. This government believes that shale has a positive part to play in our future energy mix, providing energy security, driving growth and creating jobs.”

A letter published with the report said: “There is a strong public interest in withholding the information because it is important that officials can consider implications of potential impacts and scenarios around the development of the shale gas industry and to develop options without the risk that disclosure of early thinking could close down discussion.”

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Boss Who Ordered Employees to Dump Fracking Waste in River Hit With Prison Sentence

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The owner of a Youngstown, Ohio-based company was sentenced on Tuesday to over two years in prison for ordering his employees to repeatedly dump toxic fracking waste into a local waterway.

Between Nov. 1, 2012 and Jan. 31, 2013, employees of Hardrock Excavating LLC, which provided services to the oil and gas industry including storing fracking waste, made over 30 discharges of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River. Sixty-four-year old Benedict W. Lupo, then-owner of Hardrock Excavating, directed his employees to dump the waste, which included benzene and toluene, under the cover of night into the waterway.

According to reporting by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “employees tried to talk Lupo out of it, but he refused. [The judge] also pointed out a prosecutor’s pictures that detailed six weeks of clean-up in an oil-soaked creek.”

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on-scene coordinator Kurt Kollar was among the witnesses. In his testimony he said, “There was no sign of aquatic life, whatsoever,” in tributary right after the fracking waste discharges, the Youngstown Vindicator reports.

According to previous reporting by The Vindicator, Lupo’s lawyers said he ordered his employees to carry out the illegal dumping in order to keep them working because the company’s wastewater wells had been shut over connections to earthquakes.

In addition to a 28-month prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent fined Lupo $25,000. The maximum sentence would have been three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Lupo had pleaded guilty in March to violating the Clean Water Act. Weeks later, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources permanently revoked operating permits for Hardrock Excavating. Two employees also previously admitted to a Clean Water Act violation. They were given three years probation.

“Ben Lupo put his own interests ahead of everyone else’s, and he deserved to face a severe penalty for his actions,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement. “The recent water crisis in Toledo is a grave reminder of how important it is to protect our waterways. Those who commit crimes against the environment jeopardize the health and safety of Ohioans, and our natural resources and wildlife. They must be held accountable.””

“Intentionally breaking environmental laws is not the cost of doing business, it’s going to cost business owners their freedom,” added Steven M. Dettelbach, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

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Crude Oil Trains Moving Across NY State Pose Unaddressed Risk to Children, Schools, and Communities

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The recent spike in oil train traffic in the Albany region presents unexamined and unaddressed risks to public safety, including potential impacts to 75 K-12 schools, according to new mapping by environmental and health groups. The recent accidents in Lac Megantic, Quebec and Casselton, ND that resulted in mass casualties and huge releases of air toxins illustrate how woefully unprepared New York State is to address derailments and other accidents.

Read more.

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Health experts question handling of songbird-killing Superfund site

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By Brian Bienkowski
Staff Writer
Environmental Health News

August 6, 2014

Health experts are questioning the Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan state officials for their decades-long delays in cleanup of a Superfund site that is killing songbirds in yards, possibly leaving people at risk, too.

After years of complaints from residents, researchers recently reported that robins and other birds are dropping dead from DDT poisoning in the mid-Michigan town of St. Louis, which was contaminated by an old chemical plant.

University at Albany
Dr. David Carpenter questions the EPA’s cleanup at the Superfund site in St. Louis.

“The more we know about DDT the more dangerous we find out it is for wildlife, yes, but humans, too,” said Dr. David Carpenter, director of the University at Albany – State University of New York’s School of Public Health and an expert in Superfund cleanups.

Velsicol Chemical Corp., formerly Michigan Chemical, manufactured pesticides at the plant until 1963. DDT, known for accumulating in food webs and persisting for decades in soil and river sediment, was banned in the United States in 1972.

The dead robins and other songbirds tested last month at Michigan State University had some of the highest levels of DDT ever recorded in wild birds. They were contaminated by eating worms in the neighborhood’s soil.

The EPA has been in control of the Superfund site since 1982, and the residents and songbirds have been living with the highly-tainted soil in their yards for decades. This summer, EPA contractors are excavating contaminated soil from 59 yards in the town of 7,000 people. Another 37 yards will be cleaned up next year.

EPA and state officials are not conducting any testing to determine how highly exposed the residents are, or whether they are experiencing any health effects. 

Carpenter said research elsewhere has linked DDT exposure to effects on fertility, immunity, hormones and brain development. Fetuses are particularly at risk. It also may induce asthma.

“Let’s say your backyard has DDT in it. If wind blows, and kicks up dust, you might [be exposed to] DDT. The sun shines, water evaporates, you might get a little DDT,” Carpenter said. “And who knows what other chemical exposure they’re getting from the site.”

Michele Marcus, an Emory University epidemiologist, said she and her team of health experts heard “shocking stories” when they visited the neighborhood near the dismantled chemical plant last December.

“We heard from several people in the neighborhood that back in the day [decades ago] on several occasions alarms would go off and the neighborhood would be covered in white powder,” Marcus said. “It would take the paint off of people’s cars. Imagine what it was doing to people.”

When asked why it took three decades to address contamination in people’s yards next to the plant, Thomas Alcamo, remedial project manager for the Superfund site, said “hindsight is 20-20.” He said there were some “obvious problems” with the initial cleanup but he maintained it was “not an oversight.”

“This was just a natural progression of the Superfund. It’s just a continual investigation of the plant site itself,” Alcamo said. “Then we looked at the [Pine] river and focused efforts there. Then the state looked at residential areas.”

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality started sampling some yards in a nine-block area near the plant in 2006, after complaints from residents. Orange fences were installed around heavily contaminated areas. The EPA cleaned up those yards in 2012, Alcamo said. Further sampling, however, found that nearly the entire neighborhood needs cleanup so more excavations began this summer.

Jonathan Chevrier, an epidemiologist at McGill University, said research suggests that fetuses and young children are most vulnerable to DDT. The major worry is brain development in the womb, he said. “Research shows those with prenatal exposure scored lower on neurodevelopmental scales,” which can indicate lower IQs, he said.

There also is evidence that DDT is linked to low birth weights. In addition, a study last month found female mice exposed as a fetus were more likely to have diabetes and obesity later in life.

“The way it kills insects is by affecting the nervous system. It induces a rapid firing of neurons, exhausts them, and then the insect is killed,” Chevrier said. “It’s very plausible that it would attack humans’ nervous systems in the same way.” DDT also may disrupt thyroid hormones, which are critical for brain development, he said.

Nevertheless, EPA officials said St. Louis residents are not in danger. Alcamo said the levels in the soil are not high enough to pose an immediate risk to people.

“This [cleanup] is all for long-term risk so there’s no one that needs to leave during cleanup activities,” he said.

The EPA has not issued recommendations on gardening or other activities while the yards are cleaned up, other than keeping people away from the removed dirt. The agency is monitoring air and controlling dust, Alcamo said. “As long as they wash vegetables,” they should be fine because DDT doesn’t uptake into plants, he said.

However studies have found that some plants can take up DDT, including pumpkin and zucchiniand some corn.

Health experts disputed Alcamo’s contention that the DDT levels are not high enough to pose a risk to people. There is no such thing as a level of DDT that “we don’t need to worry about,” Carpenter said.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s a clear health threshold,” Chevrier added. “That doesn’t mean there isn’t one, but, if there is, scientists haven’t found it.”

Velsicol is infamous for one of the worst chemical disasters in U.S. history: In 1973 its flame retardant compound – polybrominated biphenyls, or PBBs – was mixed up with a cattle feed supplement, which led to widespread contamination in Michigan.

Marcus and her colleagues are studying people exposed during the PBB mix-up. They also have launched a new study to examine the levels of PBB, DDT and other chemicals in former Velsicol workers and their families.

Some of the chemical workers in Marcus’ study live adjacent to the plant, but the study does not cover the entire contaminated neighborhood.

Alcamo said community health studies are “outside the scope” of what the EPA does.

Most of the contamination is in the top six inches of the soil, probably from the chemicals drifting over from the plant, but some yards have DDT as deep as four feet, according to an EPA report from April.

All 59 houses tested had at least one soil sample that contained more than 4.1 parts per million of DDT that the EPA set as a cleanup standard. Two-thirds of the yards had at least one sample with more than double the 4.1 parts per million guideline.

The EPA uses a DDT cleanup standard of 5 parts per million based on studies to protect wildlife health, Alcamo said.

“We are using an excavation level of 4.1 ppm DDT to ensure that we are 95 percent confident that we are meeting the 5 ppm number,” he said.

Michigan’s cleanup criteria, based on protecting people from exposure, is 57 ppm for DDT. One home had levels more than twice that amount –140 parts per million in the top six inches of soil.

Alcamo said the EPA is now over-excavating many yards to be certain of cleanup. Contractors will remove about 30,000 tons of contaminated soil this summer.

Alcamo said the EPA has made “great progress,” including a Pine River cleanup. There’s been a “98 percent reduction in fish tissue concentrations of DDT,” he said.

In addition, the EPA is providing 90 percent of the funding to overhaul St. Louis’ drinking water supply because low levels of a DDT byproduct, pCBSA, have been found in the city’s water system.

But Gary Smith, a lifelong resident of St. Louis, said the EPA failed St. Louis on the first round of cleanup, and it cannot happen again.

“We just want the doggone neighborhood cleaned up so we can put an end to this,” said Smith, 63, who is treasurer of the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force. “We don’t want to be called a toxic town. We want people to say ‘hey, they cleaned it up.’

“Let’s go the extra mile and not have this be an embarrassment for the EPA again,” he said. “’We have no money’ may be true, but it’s a poor excuse.”

Carpenter said it’s unfortunate that people were probably exposed to DDT for many years.

“The EPA is simply overwhelmed with hazardous sites,” Carpenter said.

EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author’s name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN’s version.

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Diversity Of Groups Is Too Narrow A View

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“Numbers don’t lie,” said Dorceta E. Taylor, Ph.D the author of, The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations & Government Agencies. “People of color only represent 12% of staff at foundations, 15.5% of staff at government agencies and 12.4% of staff in mainstream environmental NGOs, and none of the largest organizations had a president, vice president or assistant/associate director who was an ethnic or racial minority.  Even more troubling, although most survey respondents expressed interest in bridging this glaring diversity gap, they admit that their organizations are unlikely to take the necessary steps to do so.”

This conversation about lack of diversity on staff of large organizations has been on-going for decades. However, I believe the issue is bigger than whether green organizations are lacking in black and brown. That perspective I feel is too narrow; too simplistic.  This marks my 33rd year of work with grassroots environmental groups since my evacuation from Love Canal in Niagara Falls. I know from experience that a diverse staff and board will not necessarily change the organizations focus— unless it is accompanied by a radical shift in mission, goals and resource allocations.

In a National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) report they detailed how environmental funders mainly support large, professionalized environmental organizations instead of the grassroots, community-based groups that are most heavily affected by environmental harm. Organizations with annual budgets greater than $5 million make up only 2 percent of all environmental groups, yet they receive more than 50 percent of all grants and donations. The report makes a profound argument that the current funding strategy is not working and that, without targeting philanthropy at the community level, the movement will continue to fail.

In movements throughout history, the core of leadership came from a nucleus of directly affected or oppressed communities even as the cause engaged a much broader range of justice-seeking supporters. In other words, successful movements for social change – anti-slavery, women’s suffrage, labor rights and civil rights – have always been inspired, energized and led by those most directly affected. Yet these are the very groups within the environmental movement that are starved for resources. As Robert Garcia of the City Project in Los Angeles told The Post, “The values of the mainstream environmental movement don’t focus on the needs of people. They focus on clean air, water and climate.”

Rather than only counting heads, the conversation about large environmental organizations and environmental justice should also be about allocating resources and providing assistance to the front lines. Someday, maybe all of the large environmental groups would be diverse. But that alone will not translate into playing an active role in bringing real aid and justice to communities in need.

So how does CHEJ measure up?

CHEJ has ten employees – five are women and six are non-white (three African Americans, one Asian, two Latinos).  CHEJ’s second in command, below me, is an African American woman, our Grants Director is also African American and one of our two organizers/technical trainers is Latino.

CHEJ’s resources are almost entirely focused on the core of leadership from a nucleus of directly affected or oppressed communities across the country.

The short version of our mission:  To mentor a movement, empowering people to build healthy communities, and preventing harm to human health caused by exposure to environmental threats. Through training, coalition-building and one-on-one technical and organizing assistance, CHEJ works to level the playing field so that people can have a say in the environmental policies and decisions that affect their health and well-being. At the same time, we are uniting community voices and facilitating collective action by building nationwide collaborative initiatives.