air & water pollution

Justice is (finally) coming for Flint residents

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Water is the source of life, or death:

After a criminal investigation that stretched close to two years, prosecutors in Michigan on Thursday announced 41 counts — 34 felonies and seven misdemeanors — against nine officials who once worked in the highest echelons of state government.

Prosecutors said the officials failed to protect the safety and health of the residents of Flint, who were sickened by increased levels of lead and by Legionnaires' disease after the city’s water supply was switched to the Flint River in April of 2014. At least nine people died of Legionnaires’ in the Flint region from June of 2014 through October of 2015; two of the officials on Thursday were charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The Flint River was already nasty decades before Michigan officials decided to make the switch. They knew it, and so did everybody else. But they did it anyway:

Is Biogas a net positive or negative?

In which we put anaerobic digesters on trial:

North Carolina’s Division of Air Quality wants to hear from people in Duplin and Sampson counties about a proposed biogas facility. It’s called Align RNG. It’s a partnership between Dominion Energy and Smithfield Foods. The project involves converting manure from 19 local hog farms into renewable energy.

“The methane product that is created, it gets inserted into this natural gas pipeline that’s then used for commercial and residential use,” said Zaynab Nasif, spokesperson for the NCDAQ.

This is one of those issues that has the environmental community split into opposing camps, with each side making some pretty solid arguments. I will endeavor to cover those equally, which means I'll probably piss everybody off. We'll start with taking a look at the science involved:

Trump will go down in history as the anti-environment President

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Endangering the health of citizens and ecosystems alike:

The bulk of the rollbacks identified by the Times have been carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has weakened Obama-era limits on planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and from cars and trucks; removed protections from more than half the nation's wetlands; and withdrawn the legal justification for restricting mercury emissions from power plants.

At the same time, the Interior Department has worked to open up more land for oil and gas leasing by limiting wildlife protections and weakening environmental requirements for projects.

Before we get into the details of Trump's transgressions against the environment, here's another angle to consider: NC's Republican Legislative leaders pushed hard to restrict DENR (now DEQ) from enacting rules that were tougher that EPA guidelines, arguing the Federal rules were "more than enough" to protect our air and water. But have you seen those Republicans taking any steps to counter all these Trump rollbacks? That's a rhetorical question, because of course not. They simply don't care about the environment, clean water, breathable air, etc. Not on their radar, period. Back to Trump:

Notes from the Kakistocracy: Andrew Wheeler just might be an idiot

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Asking Chemours to make a newer, safer forever chemical:

Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said on Monday the Chemours Co. chemical plant near Fayetteville should switch production to a newer, less dangerous form of the controversial PFAS chemical.

The roundtable is being held by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C. The meeting includes several local elected officials, a Cumberland County deputy manager, and members of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) were invited, officials said later Monday.

Guess what, Einstein? GenX is the newer and supposedly safer chemical. It was developed to replace C8, after DuPont lost a massive lawsuit related to the contamination of the Ohio River and the poisoning of local residents:

MVP Southgate pipeline has key permit denied by NC DEQ

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Fantastic news for Alamance and Rockingham Counties:

nother natural gas pipeline in North Carolina has been derailed, at least temporarily, as the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has denied a water quality permit for the MVP Southgate project that would route through Rockingham and Alamance counties.

In a letter released this afternoon, Division of Water Resources Director Danny Smith wrote, “Due to uncertainty surrounding the completion of the MVP Mainline project,” it has determined that “work on the Southgate extension could lead to unnecessary water quality impacts and disturbance of the environment in North Carolina.”

This project has been flying under the radar of most North Carolina areas, since it is a relatively short spur compared to the now defunct ACP. But it is a very real (and frightening) issue for many of us in Alamance County. The "landmen" have been poking around on people's properties since last year, and some property owners have been taken to court for not allowing those trespassers access:

Trump threatens to Veto HR 535 PFAS regulatory bill

Breaking his own promise to control these chemicals:

The Trump administration threatened to veto H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act, which would set deadlines for EPA to reduce ongoing PFAS releases and set a drinking water standard for two notorious PFAS chemicals. Last February, David Ross, the Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator for water, pledged to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate environment panel, that “by the end of this year,” the agency “will propose a regulatory determination, which is the next step in the Safe Drinking Water Act process” for establishing an enforceable legal limit.

But although the EPA has sent a regulatory determination to the White House, administration officials have blocked efforts to require drinking water utilities to filter PFAS from tap water.

It's an election year, so you'll have to excuse me for moving politics to the forefront of this conversation. But this issue is in the top five of things that directly affect North Carolinians, and those voters need to know just how little Trump cares about the health and well-being of their families. Every day that passes in the absence of EPA oversight is a gift to polluters like Chemours, and a curse to the rest of the state. But it isn't just a NC problem, some 100 million Americans may be dealing with these chemicals in their drinking water:

Officials refuse to name company that discharged 1,4 Dioxane

Greensboro has some questions that need answering:

State regulators and Greensboro officials refuse to identify an industry they say accidentally released a large amount of a likely carcinogen into the Cape Fear River basin, temporarily fouling drinking water for Pittsboro, Fayetteville and perhaps other cities downstream. Greensboro officials and the state Department of Environmental Quality also won’t say how the release of 1,4 dioxane happened and how much of the chemical was discharged.

Both entities called the release “a mistake,” one that caused the level of 1,4 dioxane in Pittsboro’s drinking water to temporarily spike in August to more than 300 times the lifetime cancer risk level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Mistake" or not, withholding the name of the company is simply not acceptable. It shields them from exposure to the media, which in many cases do a better job at holding polluters accountable than regulatory agencies do. It also raises many questions about potential conflicts of interest, from campaign donations to government incentives, and many of those questions would simply disappear with a little sunlight shining on the scene. And this timeline is nothing short of infuriating:

GenX concentration in Wilmington's water a lot worse than previously reported

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Sometimes breakthroughs in technology are depressing as hell:

According to a new analysis of preserved samples from 2014 to 2016, PFAS that contain an ether molecule were found at concentrations of at least as high as 130,000 parts per trillion near Lock and Dam No. 1, near the drinking water intake for the City of Wilmington. The contamination originated at the Chemours/DuPont facility more than 80 miles upstream.

The samples at Lock and Dam No. 1 were taken in 2015 by NC State and EPA researchers. But only now, with advanced technology, can scientists more accurately measure the concentrations of PFAS in water.

Don't be fooled by the short time range of the samples; those levels have likely been that high for decades:

Congress probing DuPont/Chemours over PFAS-related illnesses

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz rakes them over the coals:

For more than two and a half hours on Tuesday, Wasserman Schultz and many of her colleagues on the House Oversight and Reform Committee grilled and castigated company officials over their refusal to accept responsibility for the widespread contamination of drinking water by perfluorinated compounds.

Corporate representatives blamed one another for the nationwide contamination. They dodged questions. 3M’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, Denise Rutherford, despite being under oath, falsely claimed — or lied — that there were no human illnesses linked to exposure to these compounds.

That's the same thing they said about C8, the predecessor to GenX. Just before DuPont paid $670 Million to settle a class-action lawsuit from all the people made ill by the compound. Go get 'em Debbie:

Nearly half of Char-Meck schools have Lead in drinking water

Time to rip out all those pipes and replace them:

Researchers have found elevated levels of lead in the drinking water of schools in Charlotte. Lead is highly toxic and impairs neurological function, especially in children. The report, conducted by researchers at the Environment America Research and Policy Center, found that 41 out of 89 schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district had taps with lead exceeding 15 parts per billion, the Environmental Protection Agency's limit for lead in drinking water.

However, most medical and public-health experts say there is no safe level of lead for children. Drew Ball, director of the nonprofit organization Environment North Carolina, says this is a problem state officials and lawmakers can work together to fix. "When we find lead in tap water, we can put filters on, we can replace piping, we can make that change to ensure that our children's health is safe," says Ball.

What's even more stunning than these test results is the fact NC doesn't (and hasn't) required testing for lead in school water fountains. Is this a side-effect of how our schools are funded, with the state paying teacher salaries but counties being responsible for construction and maintenance of the facilities? Whatever the case, that should have been straightened out decades ago. And for those penny-pinching county commissioners out there who (always) seek the cheapest solution possible, that's just another false economy:

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