Monday, October 31, 2011

2011-10-31 "Sylvia McLaughlin, Save the Bay founder, fights on" by Peter Fimrite from "San Francisco Chronicle"
Sylvia McLaughlin sat in the study of her Berkeley hills home - books, maps and documents scattered, as always, on her desk - and gestured out of a large corner window toward the gleaming blue San Francisco Bay.
"It's beautiful," she said, admiring the sailboats, the brilliant sun shining on the water and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. "We should save these beautiful places."
 The 94-year-old co-founder of the nonprofit group Save the Bay knows a little something about the subject. She has spent a half century fighting to save the bay from the ravages of development, garbage dumping, toxic pollution, sewage and environmental degradation.
 Her accomplishments are now on display outside her study window, where people can jog, gaze at birds or exercise their dogs along a giant estuary that was once in danger of becoming a filthy channel amid industrial sites and tract home developments.
McLaughlin will be honored Thursday on the 50th anniversary of the day she and two other East Bay women founded Save the Bay under the then-crazy notion that they might be able to protect San Francisco Bay. McLaughlin will be given a lifetime achievement award and accept the honor on behalf of her now-deceased cohorts, Catherine "Kay" Kerr and Esther Gulick.
"The only reason they did succeed was because they didn't realize that they couldn't be successful," said David Lewis, the executive director of Save the Bay. Lewis was born in 1961, the year McLaughlin, Kerr and Gulick founded the organization. "These women were forces of nature. They just couldn't be denied, and they built a movement involving tens of thousands of people."
 McLaughlin grew up in Denver, where she developed a passion for wild landscapes and the outdoors. She eventually made her way to the East Coast, where she received a bachelor's degree in French from Vassar College in 1939.
 She married Donald McLaughlin in 1948, and the couple settled in Berkeley. They had two children.

Ugly sights, smells -
 McLaughlin, who moved into her hillside home in 1955, did not like the view out of the window back then. She saw garbage being dumped on the shoreline, marshlands being filled and raw sewage being piped into the bay. By 1961, a third of the bay had already been filled or diked off, and only 10 percent of the original wetlands remained.
"Cities had their dumps along the shoreline, and you could see dump trucks going down there continuously," McLaughlin said. "I remember seeing garbage burning out there. And people who lived here then remember the smell of sewage. It was not very nice."
At that time, less than 6 miles of shoreline was accessible to the public, and developers were planning to fill in 60 percent of what remained of the bay, including much of the Berkeley shore. The Army Corps of Engineers said the bay would be nothing more than a shipping canal by 2020 if development continued at the same rate.
McLaughlin, Kerr and Gulick, whose husbands were all UC Berkeley administrators or faculty, decided something had to be done. They gathered representatives of every environmental organization they knew about and presented them with the problem. The group concluded that a new organization should be formed to deal with the problem and, with that, McLaughlin said, "they all filed out and wished us luck."
 With no one else to carry the banner, the three women formed Save San Francisco Bay Association while sitting around their kitchen tables munching almond cookies and sipping tea. It was the first organization devoted exclusively to protecting San Francisco Bay and one of the first modern grassroots environmental movements in the country.

Raising awareness -
McLaughlin, a friendly, engaging woman, handled most of the public speaking.
"I made a point of becoming acquainted with as many people as I could no matter what their beliefs were," McLaughlin said. "I went around to a lot of places and spoke. We brought it to people's attention."
The women were up against powerful development interests and local politicians with tax dollar signs in their eyes, but they didn't back down. McLaughlin, Kerr and Gulick mobilized thousands of local residents to stop a plan to double the size of Berkeley by filling in 2,000 acres of the bay. The women then galvanized support around the Bay Area in an effort to stop similar projects.
McLaughlin said she hauled her children to meetings and organized busloads of activists to lobby politicians in Sacramento. Before long, the women attracted the attention of radio personality Don Sherwood, who rallied people to their cause. Save the Bay soon had members all over California and from other states, McLaughlin said.
In 1965, the state acknowledged that San Francisco Bay belonged to the public. The McAteer-Petris Act, which created the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, placed a moratorium on placing landfill in the bay.
 In 1968, Save the Bay and the BCDC challenged a wild scheme led by real estate mogul David Rockefeller to fill more than 10,000 acres along the San Mateo County coast with dirt shaved off of San Bruno Mountain, a 27-mile-long development dubbed "new Manhattan." The fight lasted for a decade, but the proposal finally was defeated.
"I was introduced to David Rockefeller" after the final decision, McLaughlin said, "and he held out his hand and said, 'You win.' "
Save the Bay helped establish the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest urban refuges in the United States. Garbage dumping, sewage discharge, chemical and toxic spillage, and pollution are now all regulated.
Save the Bay is the largest organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the bay. Some 35,000 people work on cleanup and restoration projects, monitoring development, keeping tabs on politicians and filing lawsuits against projects that they believe might harm the bay's ecosystem.

Success stories -
San Francisco Bay is now roughly 40,000 acres larger than it was in 1961. More than half of the bay is ringed with public trails connecting a series of shoreline parks. Save the Bay volunteers are involved in numerous tidal wetland restoration projects, including the reclamation of salt ponds and former hay fields.
McLaughlin, who has served on the boards of virtually every environmental organization in the Bay Area, is still actively involved in efforts to create parks along the east shore. She also opposed the removal of a grove of oak trees in preparation for the construction of a new student athletic training center at UC Berkeley.
 "She has consistently defied expectations," Lewis said. "I got a call a few years ago and somebody asked, 'Did you know that Sylvia just climbed up one of the trees in front of Memorial Stadium?' Sure enough, there she was on television with her legs dangling from a branch in the tree."
McLaughlin's 2007 stint as a tree-sitter was unsuccessful. The trees were eventually cut down.
"You win some, you lose some," she said.

Friday, October 28, 2011

2011-10-28 "California Water Boards, U.S. EPA Launch Unique Effort to Eliminate “Nurdles” from San Francisco Bay; Government Ordered Cleanup of Illegally Discharged Plastic Pellets will Protect San Francisco Bay, Endangered Species"
Contact Information: Dave Clegern, SWRCB, (916) 327-8239 or Mary Simms, U.S. EPA, (415) 947-4270,
San Leandro, Calif. —The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board), State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have launched a first-in-the-nation enforcement effort to eliminate the discharge of pre-production plastic into the waters of California. The collaborative enforcement effort is being done under the authority of the State Water Board’s Statewide Industrial Stormwater Permit. The first environmental cleanup ordered as a result of this joint effort is underway in San Leandro.
 “This collaborative effort is part of a new front in the battle against plastic debris and trash,” said Bruce Wolfe, Executive Officer of the SF Bay Regional Water Board. “Stormwater runoff is becoming a large part of our enforcement focus, because it affects water quality in every part of our region, and the state.”
 "Nurdles may sound harmless, but these small plastic pellets can do great damage to waterbodies like San Francisco Bay," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "To protect our water resources, EPA is partnering with the State to require manufacturers to take steps to prevent pellet spills."
 Pre-production plastic pellets are often called “nurdles”. They are very small and contribute to the growing problem of plastic debris in inland and coastal waters of California and the U.S. Nurdles are often discharged into the environment while being unloaded from railcars at plastic manufacturing facilities, or being handled at those operations. They then wash into storm drains and out to open water with storm runoff. Spilled nurdles and other small pieces of plastic are eaten by fish, birds and other marine life. The plastic does not break down quickly, displaces food in the animals’ stomach, and can lead to starvation.
 Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline in San Leandro is the site of the first cleanup ordered because of the collaborative effort between state and federal environmental agencies. Surprise inspections at four plastic manufacturers resulted in the discovery of nurdles discharges from those facilities. Some of those discharges ended up in endangered species habitat at Oyster Bay.
 The cleanup area includes habitat for both the endangered California Clapper Rail and Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. The contracted cleanup crew will therefore do its work during the lunar high tide, when the animals will have moved to higher ground and the plastic debris will float to the surface. The nurdles and other debris will be swept up in large, floating pool skimmers, collected and hauled away. The work will be carried out under the guidance of a qualified Biological Monitor.
 The Oyster Bay cleanup has been ordered under a cleanup and abatement order issued by the Regional Water Board. It is being paid for by the four companies responsible for the plastic discharges.
 Similar inspections of plastic manufacturing facilities are being carried out around the Bay Area and in southern California.
A media availability is scheduled today at noon at the Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline in San Leandro, the site of the first cleanup resulting from this collaborative enforcement effort. The availability will begin at the main entrance to the Shoreline at the end of Neptune Drive. Members of the inspection team and cleanup effort will be available, as well as SF Bay Regional Water Board Executive Officer Bruce Wolfe and EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld. They can discuss the cleanup now underway and the future of the joint effort.

Following the event, photos will be posted to:

 A video “back story” on the inspection and cleanup effort can be viewed at:

Downloadable raw video and sound from the clean up is available at:

 The Cleanup and Abatement Order is available at:

PLEASE NOTE: The Oyster Bay cleanup is taking place in the habitat of several endangered species. Their habitat is fragile and these creatures will be on the move because of both the high tide and presence of the cleanup crew.
It is essential that reporters and video crews stay on the paved trail to leave these animals as undisturbed as possible. The paved trail is adjacent to and above the cleanup area and will provide a good view of the activity.
RSVP: Please RSVP in advance with name, contact info (include email and phone) and media affiliation to Mary Simms at to participate and discuss the best opportunities for coverage.
Directions: The media availability will be at the Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline, at the end of Neptune Drive in San Leandro. To get there from 1-880 in San Leandro, exit at Marina Blvd. and drive west. Turn right onto Neptune Drive. Parking is at the end of Neptune Drive.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2011-10-26 "What’s that smell?" by CHANTAL LOVELL from "Napa Valley Register" newspaper
If you think Napa has been smelling a little foul as of late, you’re not alone.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District had received five calls as of Tuesday afternoon from people in or near the Napa Valley reporting a foul stench in the air, said spokesman Ralph Borrmann.
The source? The restoration of Cullinan Ranch, a tidal marsh near Mare Island, Borrmann said.
“They’re opening up some waterways,” Borrmann said. “What people are smelling is basically marsh gas.”
Wind carried the smell to Napa, American Canyon and Vallejo, he said. Complaints have been coming in since Friday.
2011-10-26 "Food Day celebrates Napa Valley farming" by MICHAL NISSENSON from "Napa Valley Register" newspaper
YOUNTVILLE — Local food enthusiasts gathered Monday at the Yountville Community Center to celebrate “Food Day” — a tribute to local food and farming.
Visitors met with local food growers, sampled local wines and tasted chef-created dishes made of local produce. The event focused on all that Napa Valley has to offer, and on the importance of expanding farming beyond wine grapes. 
“Local farming is healthier for the environment and your body. You support local farms and that supports the economy. Local farming allows youth to understand the source of their food. It comes from the ground, not from supermarkets,” said Karen Schuppert, chair of the Local Food Advisory Council.
The high value of Napa Valley wine makes growers focus mostly on raising grapes. The Local Food Advisory Council hopes to promote a change, with more land dedicated for other crops.
“It has been researched by one of our council members that tomatoes can be as lucrative as wine grapes,” Schuppert said. She would like to produce grown locally for such institutions as our schools and hospitals.
“I took out grapes to grow food. You got to eat, too,” said Barney Welsh of Forni-Brown Gardens.
Forni-Brown has been providing produce to local restaurants for three decades, but only recently started selling to the general public. They hold a plants sale once a year in April.
“Our plant sale brewed from the fine restaurants in the Napa Valley. People couldn't find what they could find at the restaurants,” Welsh said.
Participants at Food Day sampled colorful, fresh produce, including figs, peaches, apples, mini eggplants, heirloom tomatoes, round zucchinis and lettuces.
Next to scrumptious baskets of produce stood their proud growers, who teamed up with local chefs to create bite-size appetizers.
Yellow gazpacho shots and beet salad with walnuts and blue cheese welcomed visitors by the entrance. Chef Mauro Pando from Grace's Table used Big Ranch Farms produce to create these healthy, colorful dishes.
Visitors also enjoyed butternut squash bisque, pumpkin cream puffs, tomato caviar, arugula salad, bite size fish tacos and many other treats.
Presenters from community health agencies promoted healthier eating habits. Most of the visitors were local foodies, gardeners, students, members of Future Farmers of America and 4-H.
For Morgan Kiser and Hayley Davis, farming is the future. Both attend Vintage High School in Napa and are members of FFA’s Napa chapter.
Davis said FAA is encouraging her to pursue a career in agriculture. “Our population grows and there are not enough farmers. We are the ones who feed everyone. I definitely hope to see more agriculturists in our generation,” she said.
Davis would like to see more variety in the crops of Napa Valley, and Kiser agreed. “I definitely think it's important to have food farming in the valley. Napa is known for wine, but there's more than that,” Kiser said. 
Many families with younger children also attended the event, hoping to share a love for fresh food with the younger generation.
“We're interested in local food,” said Napa resident Mark Hiddleson, who came with his 8-year-old son, Drake. “It is important to me that Drake knows where food comes from. I think local farming would allow more kids to be involved on farming.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2011-10-19 "Ecozoic Art - Creativity is everyone's job" by Juliane Poirier from "Northbay Bohemian"
 When a cheeky artist once placed an old tire on the shoulders of a stuffed goat in the name of American art, critics raved and—to make a long story unfairly short—Robert Rauschenberg became a pop-art hero of the 1950s. He died rich and famous, his name synonymous with the neo-dada art movement.
 I mention him as I would fill in a contrasting background for a painting about the present, in which there is neither time nor riches remaining to lift from obscurity all the artists now hard at work using garbage to create pop art. We will never read books about them, nor will they likely die wealthy, because they are not trying to sell themselves to art buyers as the next geniuses, nor are they interested in starting an art movement. They are trying to preserve sufficient habitat for the human species to survive.
 My aim here is twofold: to thank all artists whose efforts are dedicated to preserving life on earth and to assert that art can no longer be reserved for mere self-expression, because climate change makes a tribe of us all, just as strangers caught in a collapsed building bond like blood relatives in the minute or hours they share an uncertain life-or-death fate. Every second is precious.
 This Ecozoic Era is marked by urgency, and one consequence of rising temperatures is the end of a silly misunderstanding that art is the purview of professionals. Rather, these times return artistic expression to the entire tribe, as it was before excess intellectualism and market forces convinced us to admire the emperor's new clothes.
 Last night I admired a display of children's "pop art" at the Napa Library, derived of old plastic bags and fresh enthusiasm for bringing canvas bags to the grocery store (as our fellow tribesfolk have done for decades in the extended village across the Atlantic). Countless classrooms of children now making art with garbage will inherit the earth, including what's left of the oceans where all our plastic bags end up. I can't thank each child by name, nor can I thank individually those whose creative work brought about in California the country's toughest recycling goals, via AB 341. As a tribe, our creativity is not about individual fame and glory, yet always about gratitude. So lastly I thank that unnamed North Bay person who recently changed one small habit in the interest of human survival.
 Every global villager shares a responsibility to increase beauty and enhance life, because each selfless act of creativity enriches the whole tribe, the whole planet.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011-10-16 "EPA: California waters show widespread pollution; Less than half meeting EPA standards" by Peter Fimrite from "San Francisco Chronicle"
Those bracing dips in the local lake or river may not be as healthy as they were cracked up to be judging by a new list of polluted waterways released last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
 Recent tests have found more toxic material, bacteria and pollution in California rivers, streams, bays and lakes than has ever been documented before, according to the federal agency. The study shows a 170 percent increase in the number of waterways showing toxicity in 2010 compared with 2006, the last time the study was done. Less than half of the state's lakes, bays and estuaries are meeting water quality standards.  "Unfortunately, the grade is not getting better. It's getting worse. At the moment it is a failing grade," said Jared Blumenfeld, the administrator for the EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "The public needs to use the information to make sure state, local and regional governments fix these eminently fixable problems."
The Clean Water Act requires states to monitor and assess their waterways and submit a list of impaired waters to EPA for review. The list of impaired waterways included sloughs, tributaries and water diversion outlets along the Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers.
 The list was compiled using 22,000 data submissions from counties, cities and the various regional water quality control boards. That's substantially more information than was available in 2006, Blumenfeld said. The sheer amount of data is probably one reason for the increase, but "we all need to roll up our sleeves and get to work because the problem is worse than we thought it was."
 The study showed that EPA water quality standards are not being met on 1.6 million acres of California's 3 million acres of lakes, bays, wetlands and estuaries. Federally mandated cleanup plans have not been submitted for 1.4 million acres, according to the report.
 The EPA study also showed that 30,000 of the state's 215,000 miles of shoreline, streams and rivers do not meet the water quality goals. Cleanup plans still need to be prepared for 20,000 of those miles, according to the report.
 Pesticides and bacteria were the most common pollutants found in the waterways followed by metals and too many nutrients, mostly from runoff.
 Instances of excessive trash in the water increased 76 percent and the number of fish with levels of mercury and other toxins too high for human consumption increased 24 percent between 2006 and 2010.
 Pesticide pollution increased 36 percent and bacteria levels reached unsafe levels for swimming on more beaches, both inland and coastal, than in 2006. Most of the increases were attributed to higher levels of reporting.
 New portions of the San Joaquin River were added to this year's list after temperature and salinity increases were detected, potentially imperiling salmon and trout populations.
"Now that we have numbers, we can improve them," Blumenfeld said. "The goal is to use that information to make things better."
For more information
The EPA's full list of impaired waterways can be found at: [].
 For information on pollution and toxics measurements, or "Total Maximum Daily Loads", visit EPA website: [].

Oakland's Lake Merritt is on the EPA's polluted waters list.
Credit: Tomas Ovalle / Special to The Chronicle

Friday, October 14, 2011

Nuclear Power is anti-Life!

2011-10-14 "Citizens’ Testing Finds 20 Hot Spots Around Tokyo" by HIROKO TABUCHI, Matthew L. Wald from Washington, and Kantaro Suzuki from Tokyo.
 TOKYO — Takeo Hayashida signed on with a citizens’ group to test for radiation near his son’s baseball field in Tokyo after government officials told him they had no plans to check for fallout from the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Like Japan’s central government, local officials said there was nothing to fear in the capital, 160 miles from the disaster zone.
 Then came the test result: the level of radioactive cesium in a patch of dirt just yards from where his 11-year-old son, Koshiro, played baseball was equal to those in some contaminated areas around Chernobyl.
 The patch of ground was one of more than 20 spots in and around the nation’s capital that the citizens’ group, and the respected nuclear research center they worked with, found were contaminated with potentially harmful levels of radioactive cesium.
 It has been clear since the early days of the nuclear accident, the world’s second worst after Chernobyl, that that the vagaries of wind and rain had scattered worrisome amounts of radioactive materials in unexpected patterns far outside the evacuation zone 12 miles around the stricken plant. But reports that substantial amounts of cesium had accumulated as far away as Tokyo have raised new concerns about how far the contamination had spread, possibly settling in areas where the government has not even considered looking.
 The government’s failure to act quickly, a growing chorus of scientists say, may be exposing many more people than originally believed to potentially harmful radiation. It is also part of a pattern: Japan’s leaders have continually insisted that the fallout from Fukushima will not spread far, or pose a health threat to residents, or contaminate the food chain. And officials have repeatedly been proved wrong by independent experts and citizens’ groups that conduct testing on their own.
 “Radioactive substances are entering people’s bodies from the air, from the food. It’s everywhere,” said Kiyoshi Toda, a radiation expert at Nagasaki University’s faculty of environmental studies and a medical doctor. “But the government doesn’t even try to inform the public how much radiation they’re exposed to.”
 The reports of hot spots do not indicate how widespread contamination is in the capital; more sampling would be needed to determine that. But they raise the prospect that people living near concentrated amounts of cesium are being exposed to levels of radiation above accepted international standards meant to protect people from cancer and other illnesses.
 Japanese nuclear experts and activists have begun agitating for more comprehensive testing in Tokyo and elsewhere, and a cleanup if necessary. Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert and a former special assistant to the United States secretary of energy, echoed those calls, saying the citizens’ groups’ measurements “raise major and unprecedented concerns about the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.”
 The government has not ignored citizens’ pleas entirely; it recently completed aerial testing in eastern Japan, including Tokyo. But several experts and activists say the tests are unlikely to be sensitive enough to be useful in finding micro hot spots such as those found by the citizens’ group.
 Kaoru Noguchi, head of Tokyo’s health and safety section, however, argues that the testing already done is sufficient. Because Tokyo is so developed, she says, radioactive material was much more likely to have fallen on concrete, then washed away. She also said exposure was likely to be limited.
 “Nobody stands in one spot all day,” she said. “And nobody eats dirt.”
 Tokyo residents knew soon after the March 11 accident, when a tsunami knocked out the crucial cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, that they were being exposed to radioactive materials. Researchers detected a spike in radiation levels on March 15. Then as rain drizzled down on the evening of March 21, radioactive material again fell on the city.
 In the following week, however, radioactivity in the air and water dropped rapidly. Most in the city put aside their jitters, some openly scornful of those — mostly foreigners — who had fled Tokyo in the early days of the disaster.
 But not everyone was convinced. Some Tokyo residents bought dosimeters. The Tokyo citizens’ group, the Radiation Defense Project, which grew out of a Facebook discussion page, decided to be more proactive. In consultation with the Yokohama-based Isotope Research Institute, members collected soil samples from near their own homes and submitted them for testing.
 Some of the results were shocking: the sample that Mr. Hayashida collected under shrubs near his neighborhood baseball field in the Edogawa ward measured nearly 138,000 becquerels per square meter of radioactive cesium 137, which can damage cells and lead to an increased risk of cancer.
 Of the 132 areas tested, 22 were above 37,000 becquerels per square meter, the level at which zones were considered contaminated at Chernobyl.
 Edwin Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, said most residents near Chernobyl were undoubtedly much worse off, surrounded by widespread contamination rather than isolated hot spots. But he said the 37,000 figure remained a good reference point for mandatory cleanup because regular exposure to such contamination could result in a dosage of more than one millisievert per year, the maximum recommended for the public by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
 The most contaminated spot in the Radiation Defense survey, near a church, was well above the level of the 1.5 million becquerels per square meter that required mandatory resettlement at Chernobyl. The level is so much higher than other results in the study that it raises the possibility of testing error, but micro hot spots are not unheard of after nuclear disasters.
 Japan’s relatively tame mainstream media, which is more likely to report on government pronouncements than grass-roots movements, mainly ignored the citizens’ group’s findings.
 “Everybody just wants to believe that this is Fukushima’s problem,” said Kota Kinoshita, one of the group’s leaders and a former television journalist. “But if the government is not serious about finding out, how can we trust them?”
 Hideo Yamazaki, an expert in environmental analysis at Kinki University in western Japan, did his own survey of the city and said he, too, discovered high levels in the area where the baseball field is located.
 “These results are highly localized, so there is no cause for panic,” he said. “Still, there are steps the government could be taking, like decontaminating the highest spots.”
 Since then, there have been other suggestions that hot spots were more widespread than originally imagined.
 Last month, a local government in a Tokyo ward found a pile of composted leaves at a school that measured 849 becquerels per kilogram of cesium 137, over two times Japan’s legally permissible level for compost.
 And on Wednesday, civilians who tested the roof of an apartment building in the nearby city of Yokohama — farther from Fukushima than Tokyo — found high quantities of radioactive strontium. (There was also one false alarm this week when sky-high readings were reported in the Setagaya ward in Tokyo; the government later said they were probably caused by bottles of radium, once widely used to make paint.)
 The government’s own aerial testing showed that although almost all of Tokyo had relatively little contamination, two areas showed elevated readings. One was in a mountainous area at the western edge of the Tokyo metropolitan region, and the other was over three wards of the city — including the one where the baseball field is situated.
 The metropolitan government said it had started preparations to begin monitoring food products from the nearby mountains, but acknowledged that food had been shipped from that area for months.
 Mr. Hayashida, who discovered the high level at the baseball field, said that he was not waiting any longer for government assurances. He moved his family to Okayama, about 370 miles to the southwest.
 “Perhaps we could have stayed in Tokyo with no problems,” he said. “But I choose a future with no radiation fears.”
City of Napa
Cash for grass -
The city of Napa offers a rebate for water customers who replace eligible lawns with landscaping that uses less water.
The program offers 50 cents per square foot of lawn replaced with:
* Low-water use, climate-appropriate plants, and/or
* Permeable hardscape, and/or
* Artificial grass (polyethylene and nylon products only)
The program is open to all properties that are served by a city of Napa water account.
The following per-site maximum rebate amounts apply:
* $500 for single-family residential (equivalent to 1,000 square feet of lawn removed)
* $2,500 for multi-family/commercial/industrial/institutional (equivalent to 5,000 square feet of lawn removed).

The city of Napa presents free water-wise landscaping workshops annually in cooperation with UC Master Gardeners, the California Native Plant Society Napa Valley chapter and local professionals.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Nuclear Power is Anti-Life

2011-10-12 "Panel: Japan-level nuclear crisis possible at San Onofre" by Fred Swegles from "Orange County Register"
San Clemente City Council hosts a nearly five-hour community meeting featuring speakers organized by San Clemente Green on lessons learned from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.
A nuclear calamity of the intensity that struck Japan on March 11 could happen at San Onofre, a series of speakers told San Clemente's elected leaders at a nearly five-hour community meeting Tuesday night.
It might never happen or it might happen tomorrow, said Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer on Nuclear Policy at UC Santa Cruz. "If that happened tomorrow," he said, "most of us would not be surprised."
More than 200 people from all over Southern California gathered in the San Clemente Community Center for the second of three meetings in which the San Clemente City Council is addressing lessons learned from Japan's Fukushima disaster. At a community meeting two weeks ago, the council heard from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Southern California Edison and an Interjurisdictional Planning Committee that would coordinate an evacuation of San Clemente if that were ever necessary.
On Oct. 18 at a regular 6 p.m. City Council meeting at City Hall, the council will consider whether to take any actions in response to what it has heard.
At Tuesday's community meeting, Arnold Gunderson, an energy advisor and former licensed nuclear operator, said epidemiologists have told him that as many as 1 million Japanese will develop cancers over the next 20 years as a result of Fukushima's radioactive releases.
Dr. William Perkins, a retired pediatrician with Physicians for Social Responsibility, cited a 1982 Nuclear Regulatory Commission report that he said stated that a San Onofre meltdown could result in 130,000 prompt fatalities, 300,000 latent cancers and 600,000 cases of genetic defects within 35 miles.
Southern California Edison's spokesman Gil Alexander sat through Tuesday's presentations but said that Edison would make no comment, having had its chance to speak to the City Council two weeks earlier. On Sept. 27, Edison said San Onofre is much better designed to withstand an earthquake and tsunami than Fukushima [], and the emergency planning committee said it believes it's possible to evacuate a 10-mile radius around San Onofre with coordinated plans in place.
Dr. Helen Caldicott, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said via a live video feed that "it was gross malfeasance" to build two nuclear reactors next to an earthquake fault. She said that in a worst-case nuclear plant scenario – which she sees as possible at San Onofre – 10 million people could be at risk in a nuclear release, depending on the wind direction.
She said that the Rasmussen report (1970s), updated by the Union of Concerned Scientists, stated that 3,300 people could die within several days, and 10,000 to 100,000 could develop acute radiation sickness within weeks. Hypothyroidism could afflict 250,000 people and 350,000 males could go temporarily sterile, and there could be 3,000 spontaneous abortions. Over the years, she said 250,000 could develop cancers.
"You're sitting next to a cancer factory," Dr. Caldicott said. "You are running a cancer factory that generates electricity."
When George Allen, a local resident, asked why no one has died at Fukushima, Caldicott said the wind blew initially out to sea so there were no early high doses. She said cancer deaths will develop over the next five to 70 years.
Hirsch said 8.5 million people live within 50 miles of San Onofre, the distance that U.S. federal regulators recommended that Americans around Fukushima should flee after March 11. Yet here the NRC's emergency planning zone is 10 miles around San Onofre, a nuclear plant he said was approved without a workable evacuation plan.
Roger Johnson, local resident, said the two community meetings have left him convinced that "we are really unprepared" and that the emergency planning committee seems to be "a public relations arm of San Onofre." He asked the City Council to re-examine the Interjurisdictional Planning Committee and establish a radiation monitor in San Clemente.
Gary Headrick, leader of San Clemente Green [], who organized the speakers, described them as world-class experts whose testimony indicated "how serious they think our problem is." He said the plant at San Onofre has a "finite lifespan, and to keep pushing it and risking it ... it's a reality that we need to come to."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Nuclear Power is Anti-Life

2006-08-18 "Groundwater Reveals Radiation Leak at San Onofre; Cancer-causing tritium is found under the nuclear plant. Drinking water supplies are tested" by Seema Mehta and Dave McKibben from "Los Angeles Times"
Radioactive, cancer-causing tritium has leaked into the groundwater beneath the San Onofre nuclear power plant, prompting the closure of one drinking-water well in southern Orange County, authorities said.
Officials have not found evidence that the leak from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, California's largest, has contaminated the drinking water supply.
As a precaution, San Clemente officials shut down and are testing a city well near the contaminated area.
"We owe it to our residents and business folks to properly test the water," said Dave Lund, San Clemente's public works director.
In recent years, tritium leaks have been found at more than a dozen nuclear plants across the nation, prompting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to form a task force this year to study the cause of the contamination. The findings are scheduled to be released this month.
Sandwiched between Camp Pendleton and the Pacific Ocean in northwestern San Diego County, the San Onofre power plant has had a controversial presence on the coast since its construction in the 1960s.
In the years since, sea lions and endangered sea turtles have been killed when caught in the plant's seawater intake pipes for its cooling system. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearby residents also have grown wary of the plant as a potential terrorist target that stores highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel.
One of two nuclear power plants in California, San Onofre provides 2,150 megawatts of power, enough for 2.2 million homes throughout Southern California.
The plant is operated by Southern California Edison and houses two working reactors. A third, 450-megawatt reactor was shut down in 1992 and is being dismantled.
While workers were taking apart the containment dome that housed the inactive reactor, they discovered that groundwater beneath the reactor complex was tainted with tritium, said Ray Golden, spokesman for the power plant. The source of the leak has not been determined, he said.
Tritium occurs naturally in the environment but is also a byproduct of nuclear fission, said Victor Bricks, spokesman for the NRC's regional office in Arlington, Texas. It has a half-life of 12 years, meaning its radioactivity is reduced by half every 12 years.
Tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that can cause not only cancer but also miscarriages and birth defects, is increasingly stoking fears in communities near nuclear plants across the country.
A tritium leak that contaminated millions of gallons of groundwater near the Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station in northeast Illinois led that state to sue the owner of the plant in March.
"So far, the spills ... haven't resulted in people off-site being exposed to excessive amounts of radiation," said David Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety project for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on environmental problems. "But the law is supposed to be that nothing radioactive leaves the site, either in water or in air, unless it's monitored or controlled. They have had a series of failures."
Samples of the groundwater beneath San Onofre's decommissioned unit contained 50,000 to 330,000 picocuries per liter, Bricks said.
In drinking water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's safety limit for tritium is 20,000 picocuries per liter, a measurement of radioactivity based on one-trillionth of a unit. The state of California has recommended a "public health goal" of no more than 400 picocuries per liter, a level the agency determined could still cause one cancer case per million people exposed.
San Onofre has extracted more than 10,000 gallons of the contaminated groundwater and piped it into the Pacific about 8,600 feet offshore, where it is instantly diluted in seawater, Golden said.
Since groundwater will continue to seep into the contaminated area, plant officials will continue removing contaminated water and discharging it into the ocean until they can remove all traces of the contamination.
It's unknown how much tritium has seeped into the ground, where it came from, or when the leak occurred, Golden said. It's likely that it leaked from the reactor, the spent-fuel pool, various water storage tanks or pipes. The leak probably occurred sometime between 1968 and 2004, Golden said.
Edison officials have tested nearby soil, water and sand all around the plant over nearly four decades and have never seen unusual radiation levels, so there is nothing to indicate that the contaminated groundwater has left the site, he added.
John Robertus, executive officer of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, which governs the area, also said that because of the area's hydrology, it's unlikely that local groundwater sources were contaminated. Groundwater is likely to migrate toward the ocean and away from drinking water wells, he said.
There are two drinking water wells about two miles from the site, one on Camp Pendleton and one in San Clemente.
A Camp Pendleton spokeswoman said the base draws its water from 20 on-base wells regularly checked for pollutants, including radioactive ones.
In San Clemente, Lund said, the city gets 3% of its drinking water from the well two miles north of the plant. Much of that is used to irrigate San Clemente's city golf course, but some serves homes in the southernmost part of town, he said.
The city gets the rest of its water supply from the Colorado River and Northern California.
"There's concern, but I don't think it should be heightened concern," said Mayor Wayne Eggleston. "We just have to wait for the results."
Some residents and visitors were worried Thursday evening.
"I have a lot of concerns. It's radioactive, isn't it?" Craig Ervin, a San Clemente resident playing golf at the municipal course. "I don't know why they put that plant next to a city."
Lucio Tiberio, a San Diego resident who had just finished surfing at nearby Trestles, was more concerned about the tritium's effect on the ocean. "There's pollution everywhere, but this is scary because there's no way you can see it," he said.
The regional water board regulates all discharges from the plant but has no jurisdiction over nuclear waste, which is handled by the federal government.
Robertus, the board's chief, said he was unhappy to learn of San Onofre's disposal methods for the contaminated water.
"My hands are tied; we don't regulate radioactive waste," he said. "I'm not particularly pleased with hearing ... that they're dumping nuclear radioactive waste" into the ocean.
NRC spokesman Bricks said the ocean dumping meets his agency's standards.
But Daniel Hirsch, director of the nuclear watchdog group Committee to Bridge the Gap and former director of a nuclear policy program at UC Santa Cruz, said it was foolhardy to make the ocean the dumping ground.
"It's extremely hard to clean up water that's contaminated with tritium," he said. "There's this incredible illusion that you can dump radioactive waste in the ocean and it won't come back to you in the fish you eat. That's troubling. Dilution is irrelevant."

Friday, October 7, 2011

2011-10-06 "‘Conservative’ means standing with science on climate change" by Bob Inglis of "Bloomberg News", published in the "Napa Valley Register" newspaper
 Normally, the country can count on conservatives to deal in facts. We base policies on science, not sentiment; we insist on people being accountable for their actions; and we maintain that markets, not mandates, are the path to prosperity.
When it comes to energy and climate, these are not normal times.
The National Academy of Sciences says, “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks.” Several recent studies have found that 95 percent of climate scientists are convinced that the planet is rapidly warming as a result of human activity. But a George Mason University-Yale University poll in May found that only 13 percent of the public realizes that scientists have come to that conclusion.
You would expect conservatives to stand with 95 percent of the scientific community and to grow the 13 percent into a working majority. Normally, we deal in facts, we accept science and we counter sentiment — as we do when we stand for free-trade agreements, for entitlement reform and against minimum-wage increases. Each of those positions gets us in trouble with sizable constituencies, and yet we stand for the truth as we know it — that free trade increases our nation’s wealth, that entitlements are consuming the federal budget and that minimum wages create unemployment.
Conservatives seem to think that climate change is for elitists, enviros and Democrats, not hard-working, God-fearing Republicans.
Thankfully, some are beginning to take a conservative approach rather than a populist approach. Gov. Chris Christie, the effective, deficit-cutting governor of New Jersey, has joined presidential candidates Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney in saying that climate change is real and is caused, in part, by human activity. That Christie said those things while removing his state from a cap-and-trade compact is no contradiction. Most of us conservatives think that cap-and-trade is the wrong answer. Some of us support an alternative that involves changing what we tax (reducing taxes on income; shifting an equal amount of tax to carbon dioxide emissions).
Normally, conservatives are also people who believe in accountability. We start with the proposition that humans are responsible moral actors, and we believe that behavior has consequences. So why don’t we hold power plants accountable for their emissions?
According to a study by Abt Associates in 2004, small particulates from coal-fired plants cause 23,600 premature deaths in the United States annually, 21,850 hospital admissions, 26,000 emergency room visits for asthma, 38,200 heart attacks that are not fatal, and 3,186,000 lost work days.
Because conservatives know that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, we know that we’re paying for those deaths and illnesses. We pay for them through government programs for the poor and elderly, and when the costs of the uninsured are shifted onto the insured. We pay all right, but just not at the electric meter.
We pay the full cost of petroleum in hidden ways, too. We pay to protect the supply lines coming out of the Middle East through the blood of the country’s best and through the treasure that comes from our taxes or, worse, from deficit financing. We pay in the risk to our national security. We pay the cost of lung impairments when the small-particulate pollution comes from tailpipes just like we pay when the small particulates come from power plants. We just don’t pay at the pump.
What if we attached all of the costs — especially the hidden costs — to all fuels? What if we believed in accountability? What if we believed in the power of free markets?
If we did, the price of gasoline and coal-fired electricity would rise significantly, but hidden costs paid in hidden ways would decline commensurately. If we simultaneously eliminated all subsidies, we’d unleash real competition among all fuels. New power turbines would come to market that remove the sulfur and the mercury from coal before combustion, burning only the hydrogen. Emission-free nuclear power plants would be built. Electric cars would rapidly penetrate the market — not because of clumsy government mandates or incentives, but because sharp entrepreneurs would be selling useful products to willing customers awakened by accountable pricing.
The solution to our energy and climate challenge can be found in the conservative concept of accountability and in a well-functioning free-enterprise system. We conservatives just need to believe that.
(Bob Inglis writes for the Bloomberg News Service.)
2011-10-07 "EPA finds a few minor violations at Vallejo ship recycler" by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald" newspaper
An Environmental Protect Agency visit to one of Mare Island's newest large industrial employers earlier this year uncovered only housekeeping violations.
Allied Defense Recycling, which dismantles ships, remedied the majority of EPA's concerns, which were spotted during a May site investigation and fixed by subsequent site visits in June. Other issues were also remedied, according to an EPA inspection report released in September and acquired by the Times-Herald this month.
The investigation was launched when the company's disposal of toxin-laden paint from a ship it dismantled, the Solon Turman, was called into question by competing, Texas-based ship dismantler International Shipbreaking, Limited, Ltd. (ISL), according to the agency report.
Though EPA investigators found several areas of noncompliance, like barrel alignment, labeling and disposed material coverage, none rose to the level of imposed fines, according to the report. The EPA report cited one area of ongoing concern, however.
"During the inspection, EPA intended to collect paint samples from the areas specified by (International Shipbreaking, Limited) to confirm the presence of PCBs (toxic chemicals) in certain areas of the ship's hull. However, (Allied Defense Recycling) had already removed a majority of the ship's hull by the date of EPA's inspection," the report states.
Allied Defense Recycling managing director Jay Anast said Thursday that he felt EPA's report was "irresponsible" for making unproven insinuations, and that the company retested paint samples when concerns first arose, going above and beyond EPA-regulated protocol.
"You can't prove a negative," Anast said. "It's impossible for us to respond to that. If we have to start responding to, that so-and-so said something we can't prove otherwise, that's really unfair."
Christopher Rollins, a Region 9 EPA enforcement officer and co-author of Allied Defense Recycling's inspection report, said Allied Defense Recycling was advised to meet with EPA officials prior to further ship dismantling, so agency officials might be involved with the future sampling plans.