Friday, March 30, 2012

2012-03-30 "Neurotoxic Pesticides Helping to Decimate Bee Populations, Studies Indicate; Two studies show that a class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids created disorientation among bees and caused colonies to lose weight, which may have contributed to a mysterious die-off" from "Common Dreams"
Two new studies released on Thursday show that industrial pesticides -- specifically chemical neurotoxins called 'neonicotinoids' -- have robust negative impact on the honey bees' ability to navigate and sufficiently reproduce.  Previous studies have shown that insecticides may play a role in 'colony collapse disorder,' a term that describes huge bee die-offs in recent years, the direct and specific cause of which has remained elusive to scientists, but these studies are unique for being conducted in the field as opposed to in laboratory conditions.
 A honeybee pollinates a flower in a citrus grove just coming into blossom. (Photograph: David Silverman/Getty Images)
"People had found pretty trivial effects in lab and greenhouse experiments, but we have shown they can translate into really big effects in the field. This has transformed our understanding," Prof David Goulson, at the University of Stirling and leader of one of the research teams told The Guardian. "If it's only one metre from where they forage in a lab to their nest, even an unwell bee can manage that."
One scientist, who lauded the study for its role in furthering understanding of the bees decline, also noted that the study should aware the public that these same chemical pesticides could be having similar impacts on other species as well. "There's a general phenomenon of pollinator decline — bats, bird, butterflies, all kinds of things," he said.
*  *  *
From Science Magazine: Field Research on Bees Raises Concern About Low-Dose Pesticides []:
Five years ago, bees made headlines when a mysterious condition called colony collapse disorder decimated honey bee colonies in parts of the United States. Now bees are poised to be in the news again, this time because of evidence that systemic insecticides, a common way to protect crops, indirectly harm these important pollinators. Two field studies reported online this week in Science document problems. In bumble bees, exposure to one such chemical leads to a dramatic loss of queens and could help explain the insects' decline. In honey bees, another insecticide interferes with the foragers' ability to find their way back to the hive. Researchers say these findings are cause for concern and will increase pressure to improve pesticide testing and regulation.
*  *  * reports []:
“It’s pretty damning,” said David Goulson, a bee biologist at Scotland’s University of Stirling. “It’s clear evidence that they’re likely to be having an effect on both honeybees and bumblebees.”
Neonicotinoids emerged in the mid-1990s as a relatively less-toxic alternative to human-damaging pesticides. They soon became wildly popular, and were the fastest-growing class of pesticides in modern history. Their effects on non-pest insects, however, were unknown.
In the mid-2000s, beekeepers in the United States and elsewhere started to report sharp and inexplicable declines in honeybee populations. Researchers called the phenomenon colony collapse disorder. It was also found in bumblebees, and in some regions now threatens to extirpate bees altogether.
Many possible causes were suggested, from viruses and mites to industrial beekeeping practices and climate change. Pesticides, in particular neonicotinoids, also came under scrutiny.
Leaked internal reports by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that industry-run studies used to demonstrate some neonicotinoids’ environmental safety were shoddy and unreliable. Other researchers found signs that neonicotinoids, while they didn’t kill bees outright, affected their ability to learn and navigate.
*  *  *
The Guardian report adds []:
The pesticides investigated in the new studies - insect neurotoxins called neonicotinoids - are applied to seeds and flow through the plants' whole system. The environmental advantage of this is it reduces pesticide spraying but chemicals end up in the nectar and pollen on which bees feed. Goulson's group studied an extremely widely used type called imidacloprid, primarily manufactured by Bayer CropScience, and registered for use on over 140 crops in 120 countries.
Bumblebees were fed the toxin at the same level found in treated rape plants and found that these colonies were about 10% smaller than those not exposed to the insecticide. Most strikingly, the exposed colonies lost almost all of their ability to produce queens, which are the only bee to survive the winter and establish new colonies. "There was a staggering magnitude of effect," said Goulson. "This is likely to have a substantial population-level impact."
The French team analysed the effect on honey bees of a new generation neonicotinoid, called thiamethoxam and manufactured by Syngenta. They fitted tiny electronic tags to over 650 bees and monitored their activity around the hive. Those exposed to "commonly encountered" levels of thiamethoxam suffered high mortality, with up to a third of the bees failing to return. "They disappeared in much higher numbers than expected," said Henry. Previous scientific work has shown insect neurotoxins may cause memory, learning, and navigation problems in bees.
*  *  *
The Los Angeles Times [,0,4969345.story]:
Jeff Pettis of the Department of Agriculture's bee research lab in Beltsville, Md., who wasn't involved in the studies, praised the bumblebee report in particular for highlighting that honeybees aren't the only ones that may suffer from sublethal doses of pesticides. He predicted that the effects on bee reproduction would raise red flags for regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency.
"There's a general phenomenon of pollinator decline — bats, bird, butterflies, all kinds of things," he said.

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012-03-26 "Solano Land Trust Through The Eyes Of Artists"

from "Benicia Magazine" []:
"Jepson Prairie fog" by Deanna Forbes

"Jepson" by Gregory Vasgerdsian

"King Ranch" by Linda Grebmeier

 "Lynch Canyon Summer#1" by Susan Schneider

 Twenty-five professional artists and photographers have independently organized themselves to support the mission of Solano Land Trust and made a commitment to produce a body of work inspired by the Trust’s open spaces and protected agricultural lands.
 A group show of their work, organized by artists Susan Schneider and Deanna Forbes, will be exhibited exhibit at the Marilyn C. O’Rourke Gallery at the Benicia Public Library April 1– May 6, 2012. A Reception for the Artists will be April 1, 2012 at 2–5pm. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.
An Earth Day Awareness program is scheduled for April 21, 2-5pm in the Dona Benicia Room at the Benicia Public Library. A film screening of Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and A Land Ethic for Our Time and a presentation by Solano Land Trust are planned. The event is free and open to the public though seating is limited. To reserve a seat, RSVP at or contact Solano Land Trust directly at 707-432-0150, ext. 200 or email
 In order to bring public awareness through exhibits and sales of their work to support to the Land Trust’s mission of preserving open space and creating agricultural easements protecting farmland in Solano County, each artist has agreed to produce a minimum of 6 original works in any medium. Each artist brings a distinctive and developed voice to the effort.
 The works of sixteen of the artists will be exhibiting: Adriana Arriaga, Ellen Dodd, Becky Dolcini, Deanna Forbes, Linda Grebmeier, Lisa Greenstein, Carlyle Johnson, Betsy Kendall, Diana Krevsky, Marc Pandone, Chris Ray, Brian Rothstein, Susan Schneider, Gregory Vasgerdsian, Irby Walton, and Doug Wirtz.
The artists have in common their professionalism and commitment to their craft, finding inspiration in local landscape and renewing a connection to the land, and their desire and commitment to bring awareness and support to Solano Land Trust and land conservation issues.
 Each artist brings years of professional study and practice to their efforts, working to express aspects of the visual splendor to be found in the flora and fauna of rolling oak grasslands, ancient vernal pools, lush tidal marshes, and the rich agricultural heritage of the Central Valley. Painters and photographers work solo or in small groups at Jepson Prairie, King-Swett Ranch, Lynch Canyon, Rush Ranch, and agricultural sites protected by Solano Land Trust easements. A few painters work in plein air––sometimes finishing a painting on site. Others do quick sketches and make small studies to take back to their studios for larger or abstracted works later in oils, pastels, acrylics, casein, or mono-prints.
Similarly, photographers working with a variety of format express their unique voices. Shooting in 35mm, large format, film or digital cameras, some work in black & white, others in color, while a few manipulate digitally to capture a moment, a mood, a sense of place, working in personal way to connect with spaces and habitats.
 The collection of work portrays a rich visual portrait of the beauty and diversity of the local natural world waiting to be discovered and cherished. We hope as artists that in the coming exhibits we can share with the public what has inspired us by Solano Land Trust’s remarkable efforts to conserve local open space. And we hope that through art we can encourage others to find or re-new their own connections with nature and to discover and support Solano Land Trust.

Seeing Solano II: Solano Land Trust through the eyes of artists
Opening and Artists’ Reception April 1, 2012, 2-5pm
 Marilyn Citron O’Rourke Gallery
 Benicia Public Library

Earth Day Awareness Program
April 21, 2012, 2-5pm
Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time
 Dona Benicia Room
 Benicia Public Library

 Benicia Public Library
 150 East L Street, Benicia CA 94510
 Library hours: Mon–thurs 10am–9pm, Fri–Sun noon–6 pm PST
 (707) 746-4343

Friday, March 23, 2012

2012-03-23 "Monsanto, Lies, Kids and Science" by Ronnie Cummins from "AlterNet"
Ronnie Cummins is founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association. Cummins is author of numerous articles and books, including "Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers" (Second Revised Edition Marlowe & Company 2004).
It's not enough that the biotech industry - led by multinational corporations such as Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, BAS, and Dupont - is poisoning our food and our planet. It's also poisoning young minds.
In a blatant attempt at brainwashing, the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) has widely circulated what it calls a Biotechnology Basics Activity Book for kids, to be used by "Agriculture and Science Teachers." The book - called Look Closer at Biotechnology - looks like a science workbook, but reads more like a fairy tale. Available on the council's Web site, its colorful pages are full of friendly cartoon faces, puzzles, helpful hints for teachers - and a heavy dose of outright lies about the likely effects of genetic engineering on health, the environment, world hunger and the future of farming.
CBI's lies are designed specifically for children, and intended for use in classrooms.
At a critical time in history when our planet is veering toward a meltdown, when our youth are suffering the health consequences (obesity, diabetes, allergies) of Big Ag and Food Inc.'s over-processed, fat-and sugar-laden, chemical-, and GMO-tainted foods, a time when we should be educating tomorrow's adults about how to reverse climate change, how to create sustainable farming communities, how to promote better nutrition, the biotech industry's propagandists are infiltrating classrooms with misinformation in the guise of "educational" materials.
Brainwashing children. It's a new low, even for Monsanto.
You don't have to read beyond the first page of Look Closer at Biotechnology to realize that this is pure propaganda:
[begin excerpt]
Hi Kids! Welcome to the Biotechnology Basics Activity Book. This is an activity book for young people like you about biotechnology - a really neat topic. Why is it such a neat topic? Because biotechnology is helping to improve the health of the Earth and the people who call it home. In this book, you will take a closer look at biotechnology. You will see that biotechnology is being used to figure out how to: 1) grow more food; 2) help the environment; and 3) grow more nutritious food that improves our health. As you work through the puzzles in this book, you will learn more about biotechnology and all of the wonderful ways it can help people live better lives in a healthier world. Have fun!
[end excerpt]
Before we take a closer look at the lies laid out in Look Closer at Biotechnology - lies that are repeated over and over again, the better to imprint them on young minds - let's take a closer look at the book's publisher. The Council for Biotechnology Information describes itself  as "a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization that communicates science-based information about the benefits and safety of agricultural biotechnology and its contributions to sustainable development."
According to the Internal Revenue Service, a 501(c)(6) organization is a "business league" devoted to the improvement of business conditions of one or more lines of business. The mission of a 501(c)(6) organization "must focus on the advancement of the conditions of a particular trade or the interests of the community."
The bottom line is that CBI exists to advance the interests of the corporations that it was formed to promote - in this case, the biotech industry. While it purports to communicate "science-based information," in fact, that's not its mission at all. Its mission is to maximize the profits of Monsanto and the biotech industry.
Not surprisingly, CBI is funded largely by the biotech, chemical, pesticide, and seed industry giants: BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow Agro Sciences, Dupont, Monsanto, and Syngenta.
There's nothing new about corporations lying to the public. Corporations routinely lie to their employees. They lie in advertising. They lie in the lopsided so-called studies and research projects that they self-fund in order to guarantee the outcomes that support their often false, but self-serving premises. They buy off politicians, regulatory officials, scientists, and the media.
Although here we're focusing on the biotech industry trying to brainwash our kids, CBI certainly does not limit its propaganda to just children. CBI recently contributed $375,000 to the Coalition Against the Costly Labeling Law - a Sacramento-based industry front group working to defeat the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act of 2012. If passed in November, this citizens' ballot Initiative will require food manufacturers and retailers to label foods containing genetically engineered ingredients, as well as ban the routine industry practice of labeling or advertising GE-tainted foods as "natural" or "all natural." CBI, the Farm Bureau, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association are campaigning furiously to preserve their "right" to keep consumers in the dark about whether their food has been genetically engineered or not, and to preserve their "right" to mislabel gene-altered foods as "natural."
Clearly, the Council for Biotechnology Information has little or no regard for "science-based" information. But lies aimed directly at kids - under the guise of science education? In our schools?
Let's take a closer look at the claims made in Look Closer at Biotechnology.

Lie #1: "Biotechnology is one method being used to help farmers grow more food." (page 7)
This statement is patently false.
In 2009, in the wake of similar studies, the Union of Concerned Scientists examined the data on genetically engineered crops, including USDA statistics. Their report - Failure to Yield [] - was the first major effort to evaluate in detail the overall yields of GE crops after more than 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization in the United States. According to the definitive UCS study, "GE has done little to increase overall crop yields." A number of studies indicate in fact that GE soybeans, for example, actually produce lower yields than non-genetically engineered varieties.
Research conducted by the India research group, Navdanya, and reported in The GMO Emperor Has No Clothes turns up the same results []:
[begin excerpt]
Contrary to the claim of feeding the world, genetic engineering has not increased the yield of a single crop. Navdanya's research in India has shown that contrary to Monsanto's claim of Bt cotton yield of 1500 kg per acre, the reality is that the yield is an average of 400-500 kg per acre. Although Monsanto's Indian advertising campaign reports a 50-percent increase in yields for its Bollgard cotton, a survey conducted by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology found that the yields in all trial plots were lower than what the company promised. (Page 11).
[end excerpt]
The claim that GE crops increase agricultural yields is a blatant lie. Equally untrue is the industry's claim that it is motivated by the desire to feed the hungry of the world. As the Union of Concerned Scientists points out: "For the most part, genetic engineering techniques are being applied to crops important to the industrialized world, not crops on which the world's hungry depend." Where does all the genetically engineered soy and corn - two of the largest GE crops - end up? In animal feed, processed junk foods - and school lunchrooms. Precious little goes to feed the hungry in impoverished regions.
One of the sub-arguments related to increasing yields is the biotech industry's claim that GMO crops are more resistant to pests - hence more of the crops survive. In Look Closer at Biotechnology kids are told that agricultural biotechnology is a "precise way to make seeds with special qualities. These seeds will allow farmers to grow plants that are . . . more resistant to pests . . ." In fact widespread commercialization of herbicide-resistant and Bt-spliced GE crops has engendered a growing army of superweeds and superpests, oblivious to all but the most powerful and toxic pesticides.
What we should be teaching kids in science class is what scientists have been warning for years - that any attempt to increase resistance to pests through genetic engineering will ultimately fail. Insects - and diseases - will build up a tolerance over time, and evolve into stronger and stronger strains. That's how nature works - and even Monsanto can't fool Mother Nature. Organic agriculture, on the other hand, utilizing crop rotation, biodiversity, natural fertilizers, and beneficial insects, reduces crop loss from pests and weeds, without the collateral damage of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.
Recently, 22 leading scientists told [] the US Environmental Protection Agency that it should act with "a sense of urgency" to urge farmers to stop planting Monsanto's genetically engineered Bt corn because it will no longer protect them from the corn rootworm. Bt corn is genetically engineered with bacterial DNA that produces an insecticide in every cell of the plant, aimed at preventing corn rootworm. Except that corn rootworms have now developed resistance to these GE mutants.
Just as scientists had predicted years ago, a new generation of insect larvae has evolved, and is eating away at the roots of Monsanto's Bt corn - a crop farmers paid a high price for on Monsanto's promise that they would never have to worry about corn rootworm again. Scientists are now warning of massive yield loss and surging corn costs if the EPA doesn't act quickly to drastically reduce Bt crops' acreage and ensure that Monsanto makes non-GMO varieties of corn available to farmers.
"Massive yield loss" doesn't sound like "more food" - whether you're 12 years old or 112.
What we should be telling kids is what responsible scientists and farmers - experts at the United Nations - have been saying all along: Eco-farming can double food output []. According to a UN study:
* Eco-farming projects in 57 nations showed average crop yield gains of 80 percent by tapping natural methods for enhancing soil and protecting against pests.
* Projects in 20 African countries resulted in a doubling of crop yields within three to 10 years.
* Sound ecological farming can significantly boost production and in the long term be more effective than conventional farming.

Lie #2: "Biotechnology can help farmers and the environment in many ways." (page 8)
Two lies for the price of one.
Biotechnology - specifically genetic engineering - helps neither farmers nor the environment, according to the majority of legitimate scientists and economists. In fact, the opposite is true. Genetic engineering of seeds has wreaked havoc on the environment and brought misery to hundreds of thousands of small farmers all over the world.
The majority of farmers in developing countries struggle to afford even the most basic requirements of seeds and fertilizers. Their survival depends on the age-old practice of selecting, saving and sharing seeds from one year to the next. When multinational corporations move into areas previously dominated by small farmers, they force those farmers to buy their patented seeds and fertilizers - under pretense of higher yields, and under threats of lawsuits if they save or share the seeds. Every year, they're forced to buy more seeds and more chemicals from corporations - and when the promises of higher yields and higher incomes prove empty, farmers go bankrupt.
Compounding their corporate crimes, when Monsanto's patented seeds contaminate the non-GMO crops of small farmers (because the seeds drift across property lines) Monsanto routinely sues farmers for growing their patented seeds illegally, even though the seeds were actually unwanted trespassers. Further, the company has ruined the livelihoods of small farmers by harassing them for illegally growing patented seeds, even in cases where no patented seeds have been grown, either knowingly or by accident [].
As Monsanto and others have expanded worldwide, into India, China [], Pakistan, and other countries, the effect on small farmers has been devastating. In India, for instance, after World Trade Organization policies forced the country in 1998 to open its seed sector to companies like Cargill, Monsanto and Syngenta, farmers quickly found themselves in debt to the biotech companies that forced them to buy corporate seeds and fertilizers and pesticides, destroying local economies. Hundreds of thousands of India's cotton farmers have committed suicide [].
And according to a Greenpeace report [], poorer farmers in the Philippines were sold Monsanto's Bt corn as a "practical and ecologically sustainable solution for poor corn farmers everywhere to increase their yields" only to find the opposite was true: Bt corn did not control pests and was "not ecologically sustainable."
Which brings us to one more of the Council for Biotechnology Information's lies to kids: That agricultural biotechnology is good for the environment.
Study after study, over more than a decade, has warned us of just the opposite. Even the pro-biotech USDA has admitted that GE crops use more pesticides, not less than non-GE varieties. Genetic engineering results in evermore pesticides being dumped into the environment, destroying soil and water, human and animal health, and threatening the biodiversity of the planet.
How about telling kids instead that numerous reports, including one from the German Beekeepers Association [,1518,473166,00.html], have linked genetically engineered Bt corn to the widespread disappearance of bees, or what is now referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder? And while we're at it, maybe we should remind kids of the Albert Einstein's quote: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
Maybe we should also tell them that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide, Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world, kills Monarch butterflies, fish, and frogs, destroys soil fertility, and pollutes our waterways and drinking water.
The fact is, widespread use of Monsanto's Roundup in all agricultural and urban areas of the United States is destroying the environment, pure and simple. US Geological Survey studies released this month show that Roundup is now commonly found in rain and rivers in agricultural areas in the Mississippi River watershed [], where most applications are for weed control on GE corn, soybeans and cotton. Here's the real truth, from an article published this past week []: Monsanto's Roundup is actually threatening the crop-yielding potential of the entire biosphere. According to the article, new research published in the journal Current Microbiology highlights the extent to which "glyphosate is altering, and in some cases destroying, the very microorganisms upon which the health of the soil, and - amazingly - the benefits of raw and fermented foods as a whole, depend."

Lie #3: "Scientists are using biotechnology to grow foods that could help make people healthier." (page 11)
This is the perhaps the most outrageous lie of all. Telling kids that GE foods are more nutritious is tantamount to telling them Hostess cupcakes and Coca-Cola are health foods.
Genetic engineering - of human food and food for animals that humans eat - has been linked to a host of diseases and health issues, including auto-immune disorders, liver and kidney damage, nutritional deficiencies, allergies, accelerated aging, infertility, and birth defects.
There's a growing and alarming body of research indicating that GMO foods are unsafe, and absolutely no research whatsoever proving that they are safe. And yet the USDA and FDA continue to approve, and just this past month even agreed to speed up approval of these crops that scientists and physicians increasingly link to poor health [].
Instead of force-feeding kids lies in bogus activity books, how about having them read some truthful articles?
The study Bt Toxin Kills Human Kidney Cells says Bt toxins are not "inert" on human cells, and may indeed be toxic, causing kidney damage and allergies observed in farmers and factory workers handling Bt crops. The article supports previous studies done on rats, showing that animals fed on three strains of GE corn made by Monsanto suffered signs of organ damage after only three months [].
 Or how about this: "19 Studies Find That GMOs Aren't Up to Consumer Safety Protection Standards" which reports []:
[begin excerpt]
It is abundantly clear that both GMOs made to be resistant to herbicides (aka "Roundup Ready") and those made to produce insecticides have damaging impacts on the health of mammals who consume them, particularly in the liver and kidneys. We already know that from the trials of 90 days and less. In looking a little deeper into the info, we found a number of issues that point to a probable increased level of toxicity when these foods are consumed over the long term, including likely multi-generational effects.
[end excerpt]
Multi-generational effects. Eating GMO foods harms not only our health, and our kids' health - but quite possibly their kids, too - even if we stop eating them today.
In a recent report to the United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Council by Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter [], Schutter outlines the case for sustainable agricultural practices (the antithesis of industrial agribusiness, with its GE crops and heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides). He also addresses the links between health and malnutrition. In the report, Schutter shows why undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency and overnutrition are different dimensions of malnutrition that must be addressed together through a life-course approach. From the report's summary:
[begin excerpt]
Existing food systems have failed to address hunger, and at the same time encourage diets that are a source of overweight and obesity that cause even more deaths worldwide than does underweight. A transition towards sustainable diets will succeed only by supporting diverse farming systems that ensure that adequate diets are accessible to all, that simultaneously support the livelihoods of poor farmers and that are ecologically sustainable.
[end excerpt]
Corporate greed plus a complicit government have allowed for the rampant poisoning of our food and environment, and the demise of sustainable agriculture practices - practices sorely needed if we are going to feed the world's population, and avoid a world health crisis. And we've exported the same misery and destruction to foreign countries far and wide.
Propaganda like the CBI's Look Closer at Biotechnology has brainwashed many of our kids into thinking that the biotech industry has people - not profits - in its best interests. The book's claims are laughable. But framing blatant lies as "science" for children in schools borders on criminal.
For parents and teachers out there, here's an alternate lesson plan. Because world hunger is a concern, because saving our planet does matter, and because better health is a worthy and achievable goal, let's ask our kids to think critically, instead of accepting at face value "information" attractively packaged by multinational corporations.
Don M. Huber, emeritus soil scientist of Purdue University puts it in terms everyone, kids included, can understand []. Huber talks about a range of key factors involved in plant growth, including sunlight, water, temperature, genetics, and nutrients taken up from the soil. "Any change in any of these factors impacts all the factors," he said. "No one element acts alone, but all are part of a system." "When you change one thing," he said, "everything else in the web of life changes in relationship."
This is what we should be teaching the future stewards of our planet.
2012-03-23 "Polluters Dump 226 Million Pounds of Toxins into U.S. Rivers" by Jennifer Mueller
Industrial polluters dumped 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals in to U.S. waterways in 2010, according to a new report by Environment America. The group analyzed government data on industrial facilities to reveal total discharges by state and which U.S. rivers bear the heaviest toxic chemical burden.
Food and beverage manufacturing, which includes slaughterhouses and rendering plants, heavy metals manufacturing, chemical plants, and petroleum refineries were among the largest polluters. The biggest single polluter, according self-reported data to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, was AK Steel with nearly 30 million pounds of toxins into waterways in Indiana and Ohio.

Polluters in just the top 5 states were responsible for 40% of all toxins released into U.S. waterways in 2010.
New to the 2010 Toxics Release Inventory data is watershed discharge information, allowing Americans to know for the first time exactly how much pollution is being dumped into the rivers that provide drinking water and recreation for their communities.

The report, Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act [], did not compare actual discharges to legally permitted pollution discharges. Environment America explains: “States (who are primarily responsible for enforcing the law in most of the country)  have often been unwilling to tighten pollution limits on industrial dischargers and have often let illegal polluters get away with exceeding their permitted pollution levels without penalty or with only a slap on the wrist.”
Calling America’s waterways a “polluter’s paradise,” Environment America and its network of state-based environmental organizations are calling for:
* industrial facilities to reduce pollution by switching to less hazardous production processes, for
* the Obama administration to clearly extend Clean Water Act protections to all waterways, and for
* EPA and state agencies to tighten pollution permits and reduce legal discharges of toxic chemicals.
“The Clean Water Act’s original objective was to clean up all of America’s waterways by 1985–27 years ago,” said Rob Kerth, analyst for Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “Many people born in 1985 have kids of their own now, yet still millions of pounds of toxic chemicals are being dumped into our waterways.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

2012-03-20 "SFO warns trespassers in frogs' protected wetland" by Peter Fimrite from "San Francisco Chronicle"
The dog walkers, teens and transients who gallivant around in the greenery near San Francisco International Airport are going to be cited for trespassing if they venture out again into the protected grassland, San Francisco police and airport security announced Monday.
 The fenced-off piece of land, owned by the city of San Francisco and squeezed between Highway 101, the Caltrain tracks and Interstate 380 in San Mateo County, is sensitive habitat for the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog, both listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Airport spokesman Michael McCarron said homeowners whose property abuts the wetland were recently sent a letter warning them that trespassers would be subject to arrest and an unspecified fine.
 "It's a protected wetlands area that we are responsible for maintaining," he said. "We don't want the habitat to be destroyed."
 The 200-or-so-acre strip - which is crisscrossed with power lines, meters, and power and pumping stations - has been trod upon for decades by the locals. Except for a few small city parks, the wetland is the only open space in the mostly working-class area of San Bruno and Millbrae, west of Bayshore Boulevard.
A 2007 study found a large, healthy population of garter snakes and red-legged frogs in the area. The frog is estimated to have disappeared from 70 percent of its range in California. The local subspecies of the garter snake has been endangered since 1967.
Despite signs declaring the area "sensitive habitat" where "no trespassing" would be allowed, holes have been cut in the security fence and rudimentary forts, plank bridges, homeless camps, beer cans, motorbike tracks and canine deposits have been discovered around the sloughs and amid the brush, airport officials said.
 Some residents have built gates in their backyard fences and one family extended a concrete patio into the protected area, officials said.
"There is just generally the unintentional mayhem people can bestow on an environment," said Karen Swaim, a herpetologist hired by the city to monitor the site.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

2012-03-13 "California Drinking Water Pollution Traced to Fertilizers and Animal Waste; EWG calls on state and agriculture to act on nitrate contamination" from "Environmental Working Group (EWG)"
 The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.
Oakland, Calif. - March 13 - Animal waste and fertilizer from farming operations in California’s Salinas Valley and Tulare Lake Basin are the source of 96 percent of the nitrate contamination in the area’s groundwater, a new study commissioned by the State Water Resources Control Board found.
Researchers at the University of California at Davis concluded that 254,000 people in the area, which includes Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern counties, “are currently at risk for nitrate contamination of their drinking water,” including 34,000 people who rely on private wells or local small water systems.
 The UC/Davis study is being delivered today (March 13) to California legislators considering ways to “improve understanding of the causes of [nitrate] groundwater contamination, identify potential remediation solutions and funding sources to recover costs expended by the state…” The legislature voted in 2008 to have the water resources board commission the study.
“This report must spur the Central Coast water board to issue its long delayed order requiring farmers to address severe pollution of ground and surface water without delay,” said Kari Hamerschlag, senior analyst at Environmental Working Group who focuses on California agriculture. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is scheduled to release its proposed order at a hearing on Wednesday (March 14). For nearly 20 years, EWG has been calling attention to the health dangers of nitrate contamination in drinking water, which is especially dangerous to infants and has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems in adults.
“The study’s findings point to the urgent need for more resources to cleanup and protect drinking water and reduce the amount fertilizer percolating into groundwater from irrigated fields. Otherwise, millions of Californians will continue to drink contaminated water,” said Hamerschlag. “We hope the state will move quickly to impose a fee on fertilizer sales, which is one of the report’s major recommendations.”
“This report should also be a wake-up call to the state’s Congressional delegation to fight hard in the farm bill deliberations to maintain current spending on federal conservation programs, which are in serious jeopardy,” Hamerschlag added. “These funds must be targeted to the regions in California that are suffering from the most significant water contamination threats.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs are a vital source of funding and technical assistance that helps farmers implement practices that use nitrogen fertilizers efficiently and reduce nitrogen runoff into groundwater. In 2010, California spent $134.7 million to support farmers in protecting vital water, soil, air and wildlife resources.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

San Onofre Nuclear Plant: Nuclear Power is Anti-Life

2012-03-07 "Don't Restart It, Dismantle it; It’s Time to Get Realistic About the Dangers of the San Onofre Nuclear Plant" by RUSSELL D. HOFFMAN
Russell D. Hoffman lives in Carlsbad, California. He is an educational software developer and bladder cancer survivor, as well as a collector of military and nuclear historical documents and books. He is the author and programmer of the award-winning Animated Periodic Table of the Elements. He can be reached at:
Both units of the San Onofre Nuclear Plant are currently shut down.  Let’s keep them that way, to prevent a Fukushima USA from happening here.  We love our community and don’t want to lose it.
While it may be comforting to some that Southern California Edison says they are unwilling to restart either reactor until THEY are satisfied that it is safe to do so, the history of San Onofre itself, and of the nuclear industry in general, strongly suggests THEY will consider the “million dollars a day” they are losing in revenue per reactor each day while the reactors are offline, more than they will consider the risks and problems that restarting these old jalopies might cause to the population at large.
The local community is unprepared for the sort of catastrophic event a nuclear reactor meltdown would be for Southern California.
We know this from seeing what happened — and is happening — in Fukushima, Japan, nearly one year ago.  We know this from seeing what happened — and is happening — in Chernobyl, Ukraine, 25 years ago.  We know this from the blackout last fall right here in Southern California, when both reactors went offline just when they were needed most, and were, as usual, the last things to come back online after the trouble was sorted out.
But the fact that they are never “there” when you need them is hardly their biggest problem.  We know what a meltdown will mean now, not only from Fukushima, and Chernobyl, but merely from observing rush hour here twice every day and on weekends too!  We know we can’t escape!  We know this from Northridge, and Loma Prieta, and a thousand other rattles.  No one that’s lived here long hasn’t felt a “shaker” and we know humans are truly powerless against such forces.  We know we’re powerless against tsunamis too, and that puny little sea wall at San Onofre is too small and would probably cave in anyway (especially when a massive boat is pushed through it)!  Some earthquake faults run right underneath, or very close to, San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station (merely called SONGS because the waste it produces is ignored).
They can’t rebuild their houses after the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima because of the meltdowns.
They could not evacuate properly:  Instead, citizens were told to “shelter in place” and to wear masks, but such measures are of nearly trivial effectiveness.  Their citizens will be suffering the consequences — well known to science — for decades to come.
Here in Southern California we do not have enough hospital beds for an earthquake, let alone a meltdown.
Here in SoCal, we do not have enough exit routes away from the area around San Onofre.  Not enough for a ten mile evacuation, let alone, a more reasonable 50 mile or 100 mile evacuation.
We don’t even have enough duct tape, with which we are somehow supposed to seal up the (broken) windows from the earthquake, the one that’s coming, “The Big One”, the one which will knock down the bridges and crack the reactor, and made us GUESS that we should “shelter in place” for the next two weeks, or thirty years, because there will be no radio stations to tell us what’s going on because they won’t know — and we won’t have any power to hear them, and there will be no internet, and no phone service, and none of the local governments had even been monitoring radiation levels so they could tell their citizens what’s happening.  The only one’s who might know are the scattered few who had purchased battery-powered radiation detectors — and they would be blocking their windows and not going out!
Let’s not have to face THAT sort of disaster here in Southern California.  It’s clear the owners and operators of the San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station have no idea why the tube burst in Unit III’s new steam generator nearly a month ago, resulting in a five-inch (13 cm.) gash, causing a primary-to-secondary coolant leak, forcing the operators to SCRAM the reactor and release radiation to the environment.
Unit II’s steam generator tubes are also falling apart, and perhaps were — or are — only a short time away from rupturing too.  Or perhaps Unit II will suffer something even worse:  A cascade of tube ruptures, which could send fragments of metal throughout the primary and secondary coolant systems, blocking pumps, pipes, valves, flow channels, and ripping apart the zirconium rods that hold the uranium fuel pellets — and the fission products.
The wear in Unit II has resulted in plugging about 1% of the tubes, and although that might be within SCE’s expectations for “wearing in” these new parts, Edison is downplaying the more serious aspect:  How worn some of those tubes that were plugged turned out to be.  Tube wear was reported to be at least 30% of the thickness of the (incredibly thin) tubes on two tubes, and at least 20% on nearly 70 tubes.  And, considering that nearly 10% of the tubes in Unit II had 10% wear or greater, how come many of them are NOT being plugged up?  The answer is obvious:  If you plug up too many tubes, you can’t make as much money!
Put another way, SCE isn’t plugging the “lightly” worn tubes because they are HOPING that the wear was entirely due to “settling in” (whatever that means) and NOT due to excessive wear from contaminants rushing through the system, including (but not limited to) chemical imbalances in their mixture, or microscopic particles of very dense material (such as uranium or plutonium) that have broken off the ceramic nuclear reactor fuel itself, and are now traveling at tremendous speed throughout the primary coolant loop, as well into the other loops and then into the environment.
Long ago, Dr. John Gofman, the first person to isolate working quantities of plutonium for the Manhattan Project, described the building of nuclear reactor power plants as “premeditated murder.”  After Fukushima and Chernobyl, there can be no doubt.
The burst and worn steam generator tubes at San Onofre were “new” a little over a year ago.   But thousands of pipes, pumps, valves, control cables, and other parts of San Onofre are very old.  Replacing them all would be costly and time-consuming for the utility, with the possibility of incorrect installation always present.  Waiting for parts to fail is the standard policy instead.  But the replacement parts have been just as faulty as the parts they are replacing! But either way, the public is put at risk.
Why do they keep rebuilding these old reactors?  Because new ones are A) Prohibitively expensive and B) Prohibited by law in California.  So instead, San Onofre has been permitted to replace major parts that were never meant to be replaced, and to let uninspected parts continue to operate until they fail.
They had an ammonia gas leak at San Onofre last fall, and had to evacuate hundreds of workers from a portion of the reactor site.  It could have been a lot worse but the root cause is obvious:  Old parts fail, new parts fail, and the radiation, heat, vibration, salty sea breeze, and years of neglect and a policy of “fix on fail” have all taken their toll.  And even if every part were perfect, the operators aren’t.   And if they ARE perfect, then why do they keep getting caught lying?
At a million dollars a day in revenue per reactor, giving up has never seemed like a good option to the utility.  But if you lose your home because one of their reactors melts down, they know they won’t have to pay you!  They are protected by something called the Price Anderson Act, first passed in 1957 and renewed periodically ever since.
When the new steam generators arrived a few years ago, there was already trouble.  Southern California Edison, in cooperation with the lapdog Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and with the help of the manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, did extensive work to re-inspect and repair them before they were installed.  Supposedly they were in extra-good shape after that fiasco.  So much for promises, assurances, and expectations.
During Unit II’s current refueling outage, now extended indefinitely, SCE also replaced the reactor pressure vessel head — a huge operation: RPVH’s for Pressurized Water Reactors like SanO weigh tens of thousands of pounds and have dozens and dozens of bolt-down points and dozens and dozens of holes in the top for the control rods.  Replacing them is a big job, and was never supposed to have to happen in the whole life of the reactor.
A lot of heavy and yet very precise lifting is involved in replacing the RPVH.  But it wasn’t all that long ago that they dropped a crane at San Onofre, that they were moving with a gantry.  The 80,000-lb crane was dropped because they didn’t use a “spreader bar” to even the load.
A few weeks ago, someone dropped a flashlight into the reactor coolant, and — violating every rule in the book to try to retrieve it — fell in!
Who knows if the new RPVH was annealed properly when it was forged?  Was it properly x-rayed and inspected afterwards?  Did SCE inspect it properly when it got here?  Why didn’t the old one last the life of the reactor?  Were the holes for the control rods drilled properly, each and every one, or did they drill too fast or pour cooling oil on the drill bit too slow, so that something overheated and changed the structure of the metals?  Was everything aligned properly so the control rods won’t jam when they are forced down into the reactor?  Were the bolts tightened down in the proper sequence and to the proper torque?
Do we really want to find out the hard way that any of this went wrong?
There are two steam generators in each reactor.   When one fails, the other is the backup, and there has to be a backup because that’s how the heat is removed from the reactor — through the steam generators.  Some pressurized water reactor designs have three or even four steam generators, but San Onofre’s reactors have only two.
Each reactor has only ONE reactor pressure vessel head, and if a hole develops in THAT, there will be little or nothing that can be done to prevent a Fukushima USA from occurring.  Do we trust the new RPVH after what’s happened with the steam generators?  And if so, why?  Are we nuts?
We must demand an immediate PUBLIC inquiry into why these new tubes burst, and why the old problems of mismanagement, worker intimidation, lying, and fraud are not considered CONTRIBUTING FACTORS to what’s wrong now.  We must demand that the reactors remain shut not just until these problems are sorted out, but FOREVER.
What we get if we start them up again is the worst of everything:  Electricity for a moment, and radioactive waste for millions of years.
Nuclear power is a failure.  Fukushima proved it — and those were American-designed reactors.  Chernobyl proved it — that was human failure coupled with bad design.  Davis-Besse, Three Mile Island, Brown’s Ferry — all these nearly-catastrophic failures in America also proved it.
It’s time to get very realistic about San Onofre.
It’s time to dismantle it.

2012-04-06 "NRC Chief: San Onofre Won't Restart Until Leak Cause Found; Rolling Blackouts Possible; After touring the plant, official says problems with heat exchanger tubes at nuclear power plant are still under analysis" by Adam Townsend
After touring San Onofre's troubled nuclear power plant Friday, Nuclear Regulatory Chairman Gregory Jazcko attempted to reassure the public with a news conference that detailed inspections done in the wake of a radioactive steam leak that shut the station down in January.
The nation's top nuclear regulator toured the troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Friday along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Darryl Issa.
Jazcko said that heat exchanger tubes in SONGS Unit 3 show a large amount of wear, unprecedented after functioning for only a couple years. The tubes, when working properly, carry superheated radioactive water at several thousand pounds-per-square-inch of pressure. The heat passes through the tube walls to boil pure water, creating steam to turn the turbines that generate electricity.
The tube wear in Unit 2 isn't as bad. That unit was offline for maintenence when the Unit 3 tube leaked. Unit 2's wear is common, although slightly higher than usual, Jazcko said.
The steam generators are made by Mitsubishi, and their design is unique to the San Onofre plant, Jaczko said.
Neither unit will be allowed to restart until the exact cause or causes of the wear and leak are determined, Jaczko said.
The fact that the NRC is treating the tube wear in both units as separate issues outraged Gary Headrick, head of the anti-nuclear group San Clemente Green.
"My biggest concern is that I get the impression that what they are saying is that even though the generators are identical, they're treating them differently," he said. "I can't find it in my logic that they would shut down Unit 3 and allow Unit 2 to operate."
The whole plant has been shut off for more than two months, and the Independent System Operator that allocates electricity throughout the state issued a report saying a continued shutdown through the summer could cause brown and blackouts.
The damage was caused by the tubes--of which there are thousands--rubbing against each other and against the apparatus that holds them apart from one another, according to an NRC release.
Jaczko wouldn't speculate further as to the root cause of the damage, but said testing had been done on the tubes and several will be plugged and removed from service--NRC officials have said steam generators can still operate safely with up to 30 percent of their tubes plugged. Now, he said, inspectors are analyzing the data they've collected.
An report commissioned by the national anti-nuclear group Friends of the Earth asserted that Southern California Edison officials used a bureaucratic procedural loophole to improperly hide from the NRC changes in the design of the tube support structures and the alloy from which the tubes themselves were made.
These design changes likely led to the damage, the independent report states.
Jaczko said the NRC hasn't determined whether Edison acted improperly in filing its required inspection documents, but he said analysis of all the paperwork related to the recent installation of the tubes is part of the NRC's investigation.
If the NRC finds Edison acted improperly, the agency will take regulatory action, he said.

Monday, March 5, 2012

2012-03-05 "Lessons Not Learned: New Map Shows 120 Million Americans at Nuclear Fallout Risk; Red flags for heightened risk factors of a severe nuclear accident abound in the United States" from Common Dreams online journal
In the one year since the Fukushima nuclear disaster began, the Nuclear Regulator Commission (NRC) has failed to enact any safety mandate for U.S. reactors, an oversight the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says is making 120 million Americans at an increased risk of radioactive impacts. The group's new U.S. nuclear fallout map shows the risk factors associated with the nation's plants and the radioactive plumes that would have occurred had an area been hit with a Fukushima-like disaster.
“There are clear lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster, yet our government allows the risks to remain,” said NRDC Scientist Jordan Weaver, PhD. “It doesn’t have to take an earthquake and a tsunami to trigger a severe nuclear meltdown. In addition to human error and hostile acts, more common occurrences like hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding – all of which took place around the country last year – could cause the same type of power failure in U.S. plants.”
The NRDC reports:
[begin extract]
With 6 million Americans living within 10 miles of a U.S. nuclear power plant – the evacuation zone defined by the federal government – and more than 120 million Americans living within 50 miles of a U.S. nuclear power plant – the distance the U.S. government told Americans to evacuate from the area around the Fukushima plant – we cannot afford to stand by and hope the worst won't happen here, especially with extreme weather intensifying around the globe.
Red flags for heightened risk factors of a severe nuclear accident abound in the United States. Currently 23 U.S. nuclear reactors are the same type of reactor, a boiling water reactor (BWRs), which was involved in the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Some BWRs are operating near major American cities like Philadlephia. Nearly all of the 104 nuclear reactors operating in the United States were designed and built three to four decades ago. Despite being originally engineered for a 40-year lifespan, the NRC has approved 71 reactors at 32 nuclear power plants to operate for 60 years. And 90 percent of U.S. nuclear reactors have had their operating power increased beyond the original design engineered for them.
Yet the NRC hasn't yet made a single U.S. nuclear power plant any safer than it was since the Fukushima accident about one year ago. After the Fukushima disaster, a task force assembled by the commission's chairman identified a list of safety improvements including top tier items to be "started without unnecessary delay." But these important safety upgrades are still years away from being implemented, if ever. In fact, some of these safety improvements have been on the commission's to-do list since the 1990s.
[end extract]

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2012-03 "EcoCenter Brings Environmental Justice to Bayview-Hunters Point; The Bay Area’s first environmental justice education facility, the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, recently received a visit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency" by Bill Picture 
The Bay Area’s first environmental justice education facility, the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, recently received a visit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Government officials were excited to see with their own eyes how stimulus dollars helped reinvigorate a disadvantaged community by demonstrating to its residents the short- and long-term benefits of sustainability.
Nancy Stoner, the EPA’s acting assistant administrator for water, led the recent press tour and said she was "blown away" by what the lead organizers of the project—Literacy for Environmental Justice, the Port of San Francisco, the San Francisco Department of the Environment, and the State Coastal Conservancy—have accomplished.
Stimulus funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2009, covered the lion’s share of the totally green facility’s construction costs. "What I saw was a great amenity created with the best interests of the people who live and work in that part of the City in mind," Stoner said.

Location, location, location -
The EcoCenter’s location in one of the City’s most challenged neighborhoods is no coincidence. Over the last several decades, San Francisco’s southeast sector has been plagued by the still-lasting effects of its deindustrialization in the 1970s and 1980s—unemployment, poverty and a lack of needed infrastructure. Gang- and drug-related activity has also ravaged the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, the health of its residents (and the neighborhood’s overall environmental health) continues to be impacted by industrial pollution left over from its industrial heyday.
Bayview-Hunters Point’s most infamous polluters—the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard (whose high levels of radiological contamination earned it Superfund status) and a PG&E power plant—may be gone, but their presence continues to be felt. According to the group Hunters Point Family, Bayview-Hunters Point has the highest infant mortality rates in the City, and one of the highest rates of heart disease, breast cancer, strokes and asthma in the nation.
The EcoCenter overlooks the site of the former PG&E plant, from whose smokestacks toxic pollutants billowed for 75 years until community groups forced its closure in 2006. "The EcoCenter is valuable to this community in a lot of ways, and part of that value is symbolic," said Milton Reynolds, chair of Literacy for Environmental Justice’s (LEJ) Board of Directors. LEJ manages the EcoCenter.
"We fought so hard to shut that plant down," he said. "But tearing things down isn’t enough. To rebuild this community, we have to create new opportunities and build assets."

Build it green, and they will come -
For the most part, sustainable living has yet to permeate the psyches of Americans living below (or straddling) the poverty line. For them, being green has had to take a backseat to survival, and decisions continue to be made largely based on shortest-term benefits and outcomes, whereas sustainability relies more on bigger-picture thinking and longer-term investments.
Still, Reynolds believes that by simply exposing residents in underserved communities to the possibilities afforded by sustainable living—namely, the jobs created by evolving green technologies, as well as health benefits and long-run savings—they can be inspired to think and act greener.
"We want to engage them, particularly young people," he said. "I heard that Bayview-Hunters Point has more young people than any other part of the City. I see many opportunities there, one of them being to catalyze the next generation of environmentalists."
To that end, every aspect of the EcoCenter’s design and construction is intended to be a "wow" moment that opens young eyes (and older ones) to exciting innovations in sustainability, and hopefully inspires new ideas. In addition to a living roof that reduces heating and cooling needs, retains stormwater for reuse onsite and serves as a wildlife habitat, the facility also features reconstituted glass countertops and a foundation made of recycled concrete, which has been mixed with a byproduct of the steel-making process to create the strongest concrete known to man.
The EcoCenter is the "off-grid" building in an urban center, meaning it produces its own power and treats its own wastewater. The only resource that the facility pulls from municipal sources is water for the fire sprinkler system. Even toilets use collected rainwater for flushing.
Perhaps its biggest "wow" moment, however, is the EcoCenter’s "living machine." To put it in easy-to-understand terminology, the living machine employs a multi-step process involving ultraviolet sterilization lamps, matter-digesting microbes and various natural filtration methods to turn wastewater into usable water.
"And for the most part, it happens right there in front of you," said Reynolds. "It’s a tangible way for people to make a connection to the way they use water."
"And as a water person, that’s really exciting to me,’" said the EPA’s Stoner. Wastewater is a touchy subject for residents of the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood. San Francisco has a combined sewer system that feeds wastewater and stormwater to treatment facilities via the same pipe system. Bayview-Hunters Point is home to a major treatment facility, and during heavy rains that overtax the outdated sewer system, partially treated sewage sometimes overflows from the treatment facility into surrounding streets. Furthermore, the facility is to blame for the putrid smell that permeates the air in neighboring blocks year-round.
"Some would point to that as another example of inequity," said Reynolds. And he sees the building of the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park as an attempt to balance that inequity.
"Bringing these resources into underserved communities is an affirmative step toward acknowledging some inequitable treatment in the past and bringing it up to par with the resources dedicated to other communities," he said. "Crissy Field is a fantastic facility, and a very important one. We needed something like that here."
Stoner agrees with Reynolds that easy access to facilities like Crissy Field and the EcoCenter is important for all Americans: "In fact, I’d say, if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, it’s even more important that you be able to step out your front door and enjoy the environment."

More jobs, happier Americans -
Since its soft-opening in 2010—some corrective action had to be made before the facility was officially issued its occupancy permits late last year—the EcoCenter has focused on connecting for visitors the dots between evolving green technologies and job creation. You might say the line between those dots was filled in with a permanent black marker when the EcoCenter joined forces recently with City College of San Francisco (CCSF) to offer courses at the EcoCenter as part of CCSF’s sustainability certification program.
"Job skills and training are an important piece of this project," said Stoner. "I think it’s important to take it out of the traditional classroom and let students see this technology in action."
"I’d compare it to learning a language," said Reynolds. "Sure, you can do it in isolation, from a textbook. But you learn so much more if you get out in the world and use it."
For more information on The EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park, visit

Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently toured the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park to see stimulus dollars in action. The 1,500-square-foot facility showcases the latest innovations in green building design and construction, and provides a variety of eco-focused programs, including green jobs training. Rainwater collected by the EcoCenter’s living roof is collected in large containers and reused for a variety of purposes, including In the facility’s flush toilets. Photo by Bill Picture
2012-03 "Marinas, Boaters Need to Take Leadership on Bay Pollution" by Deb Self from "Bay Crossings" newspaper
Can one boater make a difference? Consider this: A weekend boater flushing untreated sewage into San Francisco Bay produces the same bacterial pollution as 10,000 people whose sewage passes through a treatment plant.
One marina operator can make a big difference, too. At Sausalito’s Galilee Harbor, a co-op affordable-housing marina owned by its tenants, every boat is connected into the city sewer system. The co-op paid for the dockside sewer hookups and pipes connecting to the main sewer line. Each boat owner paid for the plumbing connections from boat to dockside hookup.
"It took a lot of specialized work, because each boat is configured differently inside," said Doreen Gounard, harbor manager at Galilee. The harbor’s resident plumber helped solve those problems. A revolving loan fund, established with grant money, made the hookups available to tenants unable to afford the expense up-front.
Most Galilee boaters are live-aboards—their boats never leave the harbor. But more than a dozen boats go out regularly, including the Gounard family sailboat. Their sewage lines are fitted with valves that allow them to disconnect and reconnect, easily and without polluting.
Gounard, who is also a San Francisco Baykeeper board member, said the residents are glad they no longer have to walk their waste to a dockside dump station. Plus, the harbor is cleaner. Peer pressure was already keeping anyone at Galilee from flushing human waste directly into the water. But now, gray water from showers and dishwashing also goes to the sewer system, instead of into the marina’s waters.
Salt water does not sterilize the bacteria, viruses and other pathogens contained in sewage. When windsurfers, swimmers, fishermen and others come in contact with water contaminated with sewage, it can cause persistent skin infections and painful stomach disorders. Sewage can also deplete oxygen in the Bay, threatening fish, seals, other sea creatures and plant life.
Now we need a new level of leadership from marina operators and boaters—especially with the America’s Cup races soon to bring boats to the Bay from near and far. It’s illegal for small boats or large ships to discharge treated or untreated sewage in the Bay. But the law is seldom enforced.
Here’s another example of how marina operators can take leadership: At Avalon Harbor on southern California’s Catalina Island, arriving boaters get a brochure explaining that no sewage, treated or untreated, can be discharged. Harbor staff put a dye tablet in every head on the boat, making violations instantly visible. Violators are fined $500 and banned for a year. Since this policy took effect, human-waste bacteria counts at Avalon have declined from 16,000 per 100 ml to 23 per 100 ml!
Marina operators have other options. They can make sure their pump-out stations work properly. Even better, because some boaters don’t want the hassle of going to the pump-out station, operators can require boats to use a mobile pump-out service, and a marina contract with a mobile pump-out service can be a very effective and inexpensive way to get all boats to do the right thing. Moreover, because releasing sewage in a marina is against the law, it’s also a violation of the boater’s lease. The marina operator can tell the boater to stop, assess fines, and even kick out the boater.
There’s another group that can play a leadership role here—responsible boaters. When responsible boaters know another boater is illegally discharging sewage, they don’t mind their own business. The Bay is all of our business. Peer pressure worked at Galilee Harbor, back before they hooked up to main sewage lines. Another approach is urging the marina operator to stop the polluter. Anchor-outs certainly can contribute to the problem as well, and we’re working with various enforcement agencies to ratchet down illegal discharges.
Our state government needs to step up, too. Publications like the California Coastal Commission’s brochure "Environmental Boating Laws: What Every Recreational Boater Should Know" should clearly explain that boaters are required not to dump sewage. Baykeeper will be working with agencies to make those changes before the America’s Cup series begin.
If the maritime community takes leadership now, we can keep sewage out of San Francisco Bay during the America’s Cup races, and leave the Bay Area a lasting legacy of cleaner Bay waters. Follow Baykeeper’s work at and report pollution by calling 1-800-KEEP-BAY.