Tag Archives: pollution

Contact Your Reps Now!

By Dominique Browning of the Moms Clean Air Force

MomsCleanAirForce

I don’t want to nag, though we all know moms are great at that. But I’m going to remind everyone that as of Monday, August 1, we have only FOUR MORE DAYS to write to the EPA  in support of their NEW Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. This regulation will cut down the poisonous emissions from coal-fired electric plants. Fetuses, infants and toddlers are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic coal pollution.

Pro-polluters have been working overtime to cut funding for the EPA and block anti-pollution regulations. They’re spending millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions–to protect their right to pollute!

Motherhood is powerful too.  We have to make our voices heard.

Someday your children will thank you. Right now, you have to fight for them. My A Number One Reason will always be the same: my two beloved sons, for whom I will always fight like a mama bear, Alex and Theo. I’ll bet you feel the same way about yours.

Here is a GREAT REASON to write to the EPA now.

1.  YOUR VOICE MATTERS. No politician wants to make a mom mad. The EPA needs to hear that you want it to protect your right to clean air. Sometimes being a great mom means being an active citizen.

2.  WE’VE MADE IT EASY–AND YOU CAN FIND THE TIME. It is faster to write to the EPA than it is to change a diaper. Sometimes being a great mom means being an active citizen. Make your voice heard!

3.   POLLUTION CONTROL MEANS MORE JOBS. Green jobs are rising dramatically. Retrofitting coal stacks with scrubbers means more jobs for people in the industry–and a stronger industry overall.

4.   HOW DARE THEY HARM OUR BABIES! Fetuses, infants and toddlers are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic pollution. Childhood cancers are on the rise. So are asthma attacks.  Pregnant women are warned against eating tuna fish because it is full of mercury. And polluters keep on fighting for their right to pollute.

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Mama Bear

Cross-posted at Moms Clean Air Force

I took this photo of a mama bear and her triplet cubs while on vacation in Alaska

I’m not a confrontational person.  Arguments make me really uncomfortable and I do my best to avoid them.  I don’t need to “win” and am happier to just smile and nod when I disagree with someone about something trivial.  It helps that I have a lot of patience and that I respect people’s right to their own opinion.  But when it comes to my son Joshua’s well being, that’s a different story.

I’ve actually seen mama bears defend their cubs in the wild.  Believe me, it is terrifying.  And now that I’m a mother, I understand.  I’m most likely never going to have to defend him physically, with tooth and claw, but I will stand up to the meanest, scariest, biggest grizzly bear if that’s what I have to do.

So when I think about all the great big scary polluters who threaten my son’s health and future, I have no problem standing up to them.  I’m not afraid to tell them it’s their turn to act. 

It can seem overwhelming to think of my one, tiny little voice telling Great Big Companies to clean up their act.  It’s worth it for my child’s future, and I am not alone.  We are not alone.  All around the world, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers are banding together to tell polluters that we’re not letting them off the hook.  We’re contacting our representatives and the EPA, organizing public demonstrations and events, launching online events on Facebook and Twitter, and teaching our children to stand up for themselves.  Our voices are united, and I believe we will triumph. 

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m a Mama Bear.  Are you?

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Clean Air Starts with Me

Years ago, when I began my formal learning on environmental topics, I thought I had all of the answers about pollution.  It was industry, manufacturing, agribusiness, and big corporations who were responsible for pollution.  They were the problem.  They needed to clean up their acts.

It didn’t take long for me to see the flaws in my thinking.  The more I studied, the more I realized that my own actions had a bigger negative impact than I thought.  My car released too many pollutants.  My appliances used more than my fair share of electricity.  I wasted more food and threw away more trash than I should.  For a short while, I felt guilty and sad.  It wasn’t them, it was me!  But here’s the good news: If I’m the problem, I can make a difference through my own actions!

I didn’t have to fight huge corporations; I could start by making changes at home.  Our family started on the path to a more sustainable life by growing and raising most of our own food, which is my heritage.  I quit my bottled water addiction, realizing along the way that stainless steel water bottles full of my own (free) well water were much more fashionable.  We lowered the thermostat in winter and did the opposite in summer.  I started timing my showers to reduce water usage.  We cut our food waste and learned to buy less stuff.  We learned to live simply, more sustainably, and along the way we found our lives to be more fulfilling.

And now, over 7 years later, I’ve come full circle.  I feel that I’ve made as many changes to my lifestyle as I’m able or willing to make.  I don’t feel like a hypocrite when I say that it’s industry’s turn, and I’m going to do my best to see it happen.

I need to be politically active if I want to see positive changes happen on a larger scale.  Though I’d much rather watch the Science Channel than C-SPAN, I’m making efforts to be more aware and involved in environmental legislation.  I need to be an educated citizen; I need to vote; I need to take political action. 

I’m joining the Moms Clean Air Force, who has the mission of joining together to fight for our kids’ right to clean air.  Come join in the fight!

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This Fine Piece of Water, Reflections Part V

Sewage

            The focus of this chapter was on the importance of removing nitrogen from the Sound.  It was clear that it would be important to remove nitrogen from sewage with a focus on treatment plant improvements, separating storm water from waste water to prevent overflow, reducing acid rain, re-evaluating appropriate land-use procedures, and reducing the use of nitrogen-containing fertilizers.

            Having visited wastewater treatment plants more times than I’d like to count (it is an annual field trip with multiple classes), I have seen the process first-hand and spoken with the engineers that design the plants.  Primary treatment and secondary treatment when performed in the traditional capacity only remove a small fraction of the nitrogen in wastewater.  Since nitrogen is a limiting factor for plant growth, if we are continually pumping nitrogen into the Sound it will act as a fertilizer, contributing to the hypoxia observed in the summer.  One major solution to the problem of hypoxia is to improve wastewater treatment to remove more nigtrogen.

            At Stamford’s Wastewater Treatment system, engineer Jeannette Semon has shown that nitrogen removal can be greatly improved without a huge cost expenditure.  “Semon wrings about 70 percent of the nitrogen from the wastewater…  Achieving the reduction required no huge capital expenditures, no construction tanks, no extensions of the network or pipes and sluiceways.”  What it did require was additional time in treatment, which means that extra space was needed to contain the wastewater in order for this practice to take place.  The bacteria that breakdown the ammonia in wastewater through nitrification will convert it to nitrite, and then to nitrate.  Allowing additional bacteria the extra time needed to go through the denitrification process to convert that nitrate to nitrogen gas, which is released to the atmosphere, requires additional time.  For wastewater treatment plants that are already operating at or above capacity, this process could not happen unless the plants were upgraded.

 

The Cleanup

            In this chapter, we are introduced to the political wrangling that must go on in order for a cleanup of the Sound to take place.  It became clear that the biggest threat to the Sound was overdevelopment.  As Susan Bellinson, president of SoundWatch puts it: “More population means more sewage, more floatable garbage, more fertilizers, more auto exhaust, more oil leakage, more boats in the marinas, more blacktopping, more hardening of shoreline areas, which reduces the biological filtration properties of the land.”

            Builders battled with environmentalists, saying that putting a cap on wastewater treatment plants’ nitrogen release would essentially mean a moratorium on development, since more people means more sewage.  The arguments went on and on, until it was decided that sewage would be capped at 1990 levels, and the builders and environmentalists realized that they could be on the same side.  After all, upgrading wastewater treatment plants would create jobs for builders.  The estimated cost of reducing nitrogen by 58.5% over fifteen years would be $650 million dollars, which would reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the Sound from 39,000 tons to 16,185 tons.  The environmental benefits would be huge, and it was estimated that oxygen would fall no lower than 3 milligrams per liter, and “hypoxia would have virtually no effect on the abundance of winter flounder of lobsters; its effect on the abundance of scup would be reduced by 61 percent; and its effect on fish abundance in general would be cut by 97 percent.”

 

The New Sound

            Andersen begins the chapter by reminiscing about a fishing trip that he took in July of 1987.  At that time, the hypoxia was in full swing.  “And yet if we could have had some sense of it… if we could have heard the roar of the rivers of sewage, tasted the sour drops of acid rain, watched the uncountable discharges of storm sewers; if we could have seen the algae growing and dying, felt whatever the flounder and blackfish felt as oxygen disappeared; if somehow we could have seen into the future, seen that the Sound had become little more than a stagnant, weed-choked sink—perhaps then we would have been hit with a gut revulsion, a raw emotion to move us to act.  Perhaps it would not have taken another four years merely to get a policy that mandated sewage plants to cap their nitrogen flow at 1990 levels and almost eleven years to get an agreement to begin reducing nitrogen.”  Isn’t that the case with all environmental problems? If we could see and feel the destruction we’re doing, see into the future, would we delay our actions?

            Anderson then goes on to show Norwalk as an example of a local community that has done a good job restoring its oyster beds.  Soundkeeper Terry Backer says of oystering: “It’s an appropriate use of the water.  It’s an industry that’s very sensitive to the environment, and has to be.  It’s what the Sound should be used for.”  Shellfishing is highly monitored by the state, and the biggest problems come from wastewater.  When it rains, many shellfish beds are closed because we know that will lead to an increase in untreated sewage released into the Sound.  Many beds have been closed until further notice.  I would take the recent reopening of shellfish beds in Greenwich as a sign that the cleanup and the efforts to reduce nitrogen in the Sound are making progress.

 

Dead Oysters, Dead Lobsters

            In the Afterword, Andersen discusses oyster and lobster die-offs in the late 1990’s.  While sewage is characterized as the predominant threat to the Sound throughout the book, the Afterword portrays another possible threat to Long Island Sound: global warming.  Andersen calls this idea “one that seems equally plausible: that the die-off of oysters and lobsters was linked to increased water temperatures, which were linked to global warming.  If that turns out to be the case, the prospect is even gloomier than that of oystermen and lobstermen losing their means of making a living.”  In the future, will we see that climate change will take the place of wastewater as the biggest environmental threat to the water quality, ecosystems, and people of Long Island Sound?

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