Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM WORKS


I've been fortunate to correspond with a variety of people on a range of environmental issues.

I would like to incorporate some of their analyses and findings into my blog tor demonstrate both the ubiquitous of environmental contamination and the role of citizen activism in instituting stricter regulations.
Public activism is responsible for nearly all of our environmental regulations. It is useful to see how people acting on their own can help push environmental safety forward. 
The first effort in this regard is to post part of a letter written by Clyde H. Stagner. Mr. Stagner has a very distinguished work history with the US military. He has served as Chairman of the Nuclear and Radiological Defense Committee of the US Army Chemical Corp School, Dept of Defense Radiological Safety Officer at the Nevada Test Site, and a Consultant to the US Bureau of Radiological Health, among other offices.

He has also been an environmental activist. His activism has involved researching and tracking contaminants. He has contacted public officials and government environmental regulatory agencies, alerting them of environmental violations and concerns using hard data. His letters demonstrate that contamination levels exceed governmentally designated limits for chemicals like perchlorate.

Unfortunately, his email trails demonstrate a culture of complicity that exists within many environmental regulatory agencies. Yet, the emails also demonstrate that perseverence can produce success over the long term.

Before I begin, let me provide some background. 
Perchlorate is a known cancer-causing chemical. It seems to be ubiquitous in public water supplies. It was not federally regulated until 2005 when the EPA set a standard of 24.5 parts per billion. The EPA had recommended a lower standard of 1 pert per billion, but the Pentagon resisted, largely because their rockets and explosives are the source of much human-caused perchlorate contamination.

Environmental groups have argued also that the standard should be set at 1 part per billion. CA adopted that as a public health goal in 2011. The state's standard was 6 parts per billion. 
Perchlorate has been found in medical research to disrupt children's thyroid functions (see article by Vastag cited at bottom of this post).


Activism by environmental groups and individuals such as Mr. Stagner are responsible for getting federal regulation. I do not know whether or not the Pentagon has been required to decontaminate perchlorate contaminated areas caused by their munitions.

I'm going to provide excerpts from a 2008 letter Mr. Stagner sent concerning the lack of monitoring of pollutants in Tucson water and the likelihood that Tucson's water is contaminated with perchlorate.
Mr. Stagner's letter demonstrates the degree of contamination of our water supplies and the lax monitoring by local officials in the absence of a strong regulatory climate. It also demonstrates, in the end, how individual and group activism can change government policy.
TO:  mailto:info@tucsonpimawaterstudy.com
info@tucsonpimawaterstudy.com
CC: LINK: mailto:mcweb@tucson.gov] mcweb@tucson.gov
SENT: Monday, August 25, 2008 4:03 PM
SUBJECT: The Future of Perchlorate and Tucson
 
Dear Tucson Pima Water Study Members,
 
The Center for Disease Control(CDC) found perchlorate in the urine of every person tested(Ref:Organic Consumers Association). The US EPA has established a reference dose of 0.7 ug/L-an MCL for perchlorate may be designated by US EPA in 2008. FDA has designated perchlorate intake doses from food for different ages of US citizens. The perchlorate sum of daily oral water and food intake is the total daily human perchlorate dose.
[when explaining the source of perchlorate in Tucson water...]
Relative perchlorate history for Tucson:
1999: Lake Mead water in 1999 contained 480 ppb o perchlorate(Ref:ADEQ).
2000: Saddle Island in Lake Mead contained 9.87 ppb of perchlorate(ADEQ).
[when explaining how perchlorate gets from Lake Mead into Tucson water]
NOTE:FLOW PATH OF PERCHLORATE IS: LAKE MEAD, LOWER COLORADO RIVER,CAP CANAL, AVRA VALLEY CAP WATER INTO TUCSON POTABLE WATER, THROUGH TUCSON CITIZENS INTO PIMA COUNTY WASTEWATER, INTO SANTA CRUZ RIVER. 

The Tucson Water Dept is presently serving the citizens of Tucson diluted tertiary treated,recharged water from Las Vegas and  Lake Mead via the lower Colorado River and CAP Canal. 

A sustainability of total annual input water to Tucson Water Dept. providing for growth must consider the ultimate fate of two contaminants:total dissolved solids(TDS) and perchlorate(pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupters are being evaluated). Both contaminants shall increase their concentrations with time unless wastewater is transported out of Tucson Water`s inventory.

...  Perchlorate monitoring data is needed to determine: 1.whether Tucson water is within the US EPA Referense Dose of 0.7 ug/L.,and 2.design and treatment requirements for removal of perchlorates from tertiary treated,recharged,potable water from Pima County wastewater effluent....
   
MAJIA HERE: In 2008, Mr. Stagner published a book titled Tucson Water that incorporated and summarized all of his findings on Tucson water contamination.

Although perchlorate is still a problem, in 2011 the EPA regulated it at 1 part per billion
The article below details this success story and its worth noting that the article mentions that 39,000 public comments were received on the matter.


Efforts by individual citizens and environmental organizations can be successful. 


We can CLEAN UP OUR ENVIRONMENT if MORE PEOPLE GET INVOLVED.

WE CAN SHUT DOWN DANGEROUS NUCLEAR PLANTS IF MORE PEOPLE GET INVOLVED.


Mr. Stagner's lone efforts were clearly part of a mass movement. Yet activism on the local level, particularly when backed by data, can make a big difference in ensuring responsivity and compliance.

BACKGROUND

EPA reverses Bush-era water safety standards, will regulate contaminants By Brian Vastag Washington Post Thursday, February 3, 2011 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/02/AR2011020205267.html?wpisrc=nl_headline

"The Environmental Protection Agency reversed Bush administration drinking water policies Wednesday, announcing that it will regulate perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel, and 16 other chemicals - called volatile organic compounds - that can cause cancer at high enough doses.

The perchlorate decision "is about protecting the health of between 5 [million] and 17 million Americans that are exposed to perchlorate in the water they drink," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in remarks to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

"In a statement, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who has sought to regulate perchlorate since 2002, said, "I will do everything I can to make sure this new protection moves forward."


The EPA said it would take an additional two years to propose a perchlorate regulation, a pace that angered some environmental groups. "The science is already out there," said Jennifer Sass, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group. "Anything that anybody needed to say about this process is already done." The EPA has collected 39,000 public comments regarding perchlorate regulations.





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