Saturday, December 29, 2012

The corporate poisoning of Columbia, Mississippi

"Jesus People Against Pollution (JPAP) Global Ministries"
PO Box 464, Colombia, MS 39429
[] [], (601) 736-7099, (601) 818-0137
Evangelist Charlotte L. Keys, Founder and Executive Director,
with the "New Jerusalem Apostolic Pentecostal Church" & "Divine Destiny Apostolic Church".
Jesus People Against Pollution (JPAP) is a grassroots environmental justice organization located in Columbia, Mississippi. The organization was created in response to an explosion at a local chemical plant that resulted in severe exposure of the community to toxic substances. JPAP has set out to educate and inform the impacted communities about the availability of toxicology and environmental health information so that the community can better understand the relationship between environmental exposure and disease.
Dr. Charlotte Keys lost her county job and her life was threatened when, as a county clerk, she discovered and publicly discussed lawsuits filed by several workers against Reichold Chemical. After she learned about the severe health problems plaguing the old and young in her community, traced to 1977 explosion at Reichold’s plant, Keys created Jesus People Against Pollution to mobilize her community to demand health and environmental justice.
Please read "Bringing Climate Justice to Rural Mississippi", by Pastor Dr. Charlotte L. Keys (2013-07-11) [].

"The corporate poisoning of Columbia, Mississippi"
Posted 2012-12-29 by "BlackTalkRadio" [], at []:
The story of the poisoning of the community of Columbia, Mississippi, (Marion County).
According to EPA filings, "In January 1975, Reichhold Chemicals, Inc., (Reichlfold) purchased the property. Reichhold's operation included mixing pentachlorophenol (PCP) with diesel oil. The PCP and diesel oil were mixed and heated using Dowtherm as a heat transfer medium. In other operations, boron trifluoride was mixed with phenol and di-isobutylene to form octal phenol resin. Xylenes were also used in a number of processed. Reichhold continued operations at the property until March 1977, when an explosion and fire in one of the boiler units destroyed most of the processing facility. No operations were conducted at the Site from 1977 to 1980. During this time the Site was secured behind a locked gate."
The contamination of the community was brought to the attention of Al Gore and in 1993 he promised to visit the site but did not keep his word. He was invited by Jesus People against Pollution executive director Dr. Charlotte Keys.

Excerpt from “Mississippi–Human Rights Struggle Continues”, 2013-01-09 posted at [link]:
[ ... ]  In fact, the sloth of the government to force a cleanup of an environmental holocaust in Columbia, Mississippi points to the truth of H. Rap Brown’s statement in the 1960s that “When government becomes the lawbreaker then people must become the law enforcers.”
Charlotte Keys of Jesus People Against Pollution (JPAP) and my friend and colleague Benetta Johnson of the Alameda Corridor Jobs Coalition (I serve on the board of ACJC) who alerted me to her struggle, has led a knock down, drag out struggle for justice for all the people of Columbia, black and white, young and old, for years.  Charlotte and Benetta are among the many contemporary activists keeping the struggle for human rights alive.
This video contains the incredible but true story of the trials and tribulations Charlotte and JPAP have gone through trying to get justice in the wake of one of the worst cases of toxic chemical dumping in history in Colubmia (my thanks to my friends and colleagues Michael Jones of Digital Evidence and Scotty Reid of Black Talk Radio Network for assisting with the conversion of the DVD and You Tube Posting).

Excerpt from "Environmental Justice Group exposes polluted chemical sites at Capitol hearing", 2011-01-28 from the "Jackson Advocate" newspaper []:
[ ... ] Evangelist Charlotte Keys of Columbia has worked for more than two decades to obtain “environmental justice” in her community that was declared free of chemical pollution 20 years before after a purported Superfund cleanup.
Keys, the executive director of Jesus People Against Pollution, was one of the local fighters whose efforts reached all the way to the White House during the Bill Clinton Presidency. It was Clinton who took note of the disparity between white, black and Hispanic communities affected by chemical pollution. Clinton issued his executive order that called for  “Environmental Justice” in all communities plagued by deadly chemicals in the air, the soil and water.
Keys said that once she got into the routine of challenging both the EPA and the polluting companies, she began receiving death threats and her late nights were frequently plagued with harassing phone calls.
“I had an OSHA report that said that if a cloud of Phosphene had blown over Columbia High School, the children would have drowned in their own body fluids.”
The report also pointed out the many cancer-causing agents that lay exposed in the community, she said.
“We have many people who died in Columbia, Mississippi without a real, full health study. And we do not have justice because people needed access to environmental primary health care services and housing. People lived right up on the polluted soil with only a cyclone fence separating their homes from the Superfund cleanup site.”
Keys challenged the Superfund site located in Columbia to give fair treatment to poor African Americans and poor whites whose properties had been skirted by EPA agents, after many residents were not even considered for compensation for their medical and health problems caused by the pollution.
“What has happened over a long period of time is that many new communities have been awakened to the fact of environmental injustice in their own communities,” Keys said.
The Columbia Superfund site has been de-listed, Keys said, which in theory gives the area a clean bill of health, although she contends that the area is as chemically polluted as it was 20 years ago.
[ ... ]

"Cleaning Reichhold Chemical Plant Pollution Through Vision-To-Action Plan"
2010-07 from "River Network" []:

In Mississippi, our early work focused on the Reichhold Chemical plant in Columbia, which had illegally buried thousands of drums of chemical waste and discharged wastewater containing numerous toxic chemicals into a nearby creek, a tributary to the Pearl River, without a permit. Columbia is a low-income community with a sizable African-American population. The creek experienced fish kills, and more than 200 cattle that used the creek became sick and died.
Then, in 1977, the plant, located in the heart of Columbia, caught fire and literally blew up. The more than 4,500 drums on site began to leak into the soil. Subsequent floods spread the toxins into surrounding farmlands, rivers and residential neighborhoods.
EPA testing of sediments revealed the presence of numerous toxic contaminants, including xylene, PCB, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cyanide, and, mercury. Area residents began to get sick. Residents reported high numbers of cancers, respiratory problems, immune deficiency disorders, miscarriages, and skin disorders of various kinds. Residents also complained that clean-up efforts have been woefully inadequate, and in some cases may have resulted in simply distributing the problem to other parts of the city.
River Network assisted the local community group, Jesus People Against Pollution plan and conducted a health survey of area residents. The health survey examined various exposure routes and adverse health outcomes. Trained volunteers surveyed residences surrounding the Superfund site and the residents of a comparison community selected by the Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center, based on similar demographic features. River Network and JPAP hosted a number of gatherings of area residents who identified their health concerns. College students were paired with local residents and together they conducted more than 200, ½-hour interviews.
While conducting the health survey, River Network also helped JPAP on a collaborative problem solving effort to reach out to key area stakeholders and to create a blueprint for change. At the time the site was declared a Superfund site, the community was divided over the issue and many stakeholders did not see eye-to-eye. There was considerable animosity on the part of the White business community towards some in the African-American neighborhoods surrounding the plant. Many felt that declaring the site a Superfund site and threatening lawsuits was just a case of poor people trying to take money that did not belong to them.
River Network worked with JPAP and some helpful city leaders to establish a list of all of the key stakeholders. Together we went door-to-door to speak with business owners, bankers, construction firms, city officials, religious leaders, hospital executives and others. Through numerous one-to-one meetings and intervening group gatherings of stakeholders, some quite contentious, the community began to pull together. We helped the community an dkey stakeholders come together a sign a united Vision-to-Action plan calling for a complete site clean-up and relocation of residents.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Nuclear Power is anti-life, examples of world-threatening negligence

2012-12-07 "Company owner pleads guilty to false statements regarding Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station repair work; Peach Bottom never installed the equipment that was meant for another plant"
by SEAN ADKINS from "Daily Record" newspaper []:
Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in Peach Bottom Township. (FILE)

York, PA -
 The owner of a company that repairs and provides equipment for nuclear power plants has pleaded guilty to federal charges of making false statements after the company shipped a steam leak detection monitor to Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station.
 The monitor Pentas Controls shipped to Peach Bottom belonged to another power plant, according to court documents.
 In 2010, Kevin A. Doyle, owner of Pentas Controls in Arizona, directed one of his employees to switch a broken display on a Peach Bottom monitor with a working unit from the Brunswick Nuclear plant in North Carolina, said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
 Before the monitor left Arizona for Peach Bottom, a Pentas Controls employee filed down the serial number on the substitute display to conceal its identity -- an NRC violation, according to a commission investigation and U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo in Arizona.
 Efforts to reach Doyle on Thursday were unsuccessful.
 On March 15, 2011, Doyle made false statements to federal officials by repeatedly denying that the un-repairable Peach Bottom display had been substituted with a working unit from the Brunswick Nuclear Plant, Leonardo's office said in news release.
 Sheehan said it was a matter of timing that led to Doyle's decision to swap the monitors.
 Pentas was required to return the monitor that it received for Peach Bottom back to the plant in a specific period of time, Sheehan said.
 The repair company determined that the monitor had been damaged beyond repair by a lightning strike. At that point, Pentas sought to make its deadline with Peach Bottom and shipped the Brunswick monitor to Peach Bottom, Sheehan said.
 Peach Bottom officials never installed the Brunswick monitor, a safety-related piece of equipment, Sheehan said.
 They earmarked the monitor as a spare and stored the unit in a warehouse, said Lacey Dean, a spokeswoman for the power station.
 "While this isolated issue did not present a safety risk to our plant or our workers at any time, Exelon worked closely with federal investigators and performed a comprehensive equipment review to confirm that no additional concerns related to equipment serviced by Pentas Controls exist at any of Exelon's ten nuclear stations," she said.
 The NRC's investigation found that Doyle's conduct created a culture which encouraged other workers to provide inaccurate and incomplete information to federal officials, according to court documents.
 In addition, the commission's investigation said a worker believed he had been fired for raising concerns about the replacement of the Peach Bottom monitor, according to court documents.
 After the NRC completed its investigation, it informed the U.S. Department of Justice of the results.
 Doyle will be sentenced on Feb. 11, 2013. A conviction for false statements carries a maximum penalty of 5 years, a $250,000 fine or both, Leonardo's office said in news release.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It is possible: Saving the San Francisco bay

"SAVING SAN FRANCISCO BAY", an Historical Essay by Chris Carlsson
1960s map identifying potential landfill areas. Image: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

In 1962, the city of Berkeley announced plans to double the physical size of the town by beginning to fill the 4,000 acres of Bay owned by Berkeley. Three university wives--Mrs. Clark Kerr, Mrs. Donald McLaughlin, and Mrs. Charles Gurlick--held a meeting in the Berkeley hills with local environmentalists where they founded the Save San Francisco Bay Association.
Political organizing in Berkeley derailed the landfill plans and even caused Santa Fe railroad to withdraw its plans to fill their shoreline holdings in the East Bay. But all around the San Francisco Bay in the mid-1960s plans were moving ahead to drastically alter the shoreline and make land--thousands of acres were slated to be filled. The San Francisco and Oakland airports were expanding, the city of Richmond planned to fill in thousands of tidal acres for further expansion of its industrial base, developers in Sausalito sought permission to extend the city several hundred yards into the Bay, eliminating the existing shoreline and obscuring the views with multiple-story apartments and offices. Perhaps the most dramatic threat to the Bay was along the Peninsula in San Mateo County. California highway engineers planned a second freeway paralleling today's Highway 101, and proposed to build it two miles out in the water of the Bay, skirting the eastern edge of the SF Airport. Once built, the area between the two freeways would become prime development acreage, needing only to be reclaimed from mud and tides. Where was the vast quantity of dirt to come from? San Bruno Mountain! Planners projected that 1 billion cubic yards of rock and soil could be chopped off the top of the mountain and deposited in the Bay, unleashing an unprecedented development/real estate boom, extending San Mateo County's size and creating billions in taxpaying property full of businesses and new residential neighborhoods.
Filling the Bay became a hot political issue all around San Francisco Bay. The Save San Francisco Bay Association, well-financed and politically connected, drew the attention of legislators representing the region in the California State Legislature. San Francisco's state senator Eugene McAteer worked with Assemblyman Nicholas Petris of the East Bay to usher a bill through the state legislature. In June 1965, the McAteer-Petris Act passed, establishing the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission in September 1965. Its purpose initially was to make "a detailed study of all the characteristics of the Bay, including the quality, quantity, and movement of Bay waters, . . . the ecological balance of the Bay, and the economic interests in the Bay, including the needs of the Bay Area population for industry and for employment. . . The study should examine all present and proposed uses of the Bay and its shoreline and . . . should lead to the preparation of a comprehensive and enforceable plan for the conservation of the water of the Bay and the development of its shoreline."
Various projects that were in the pipeline prior to the passage of the McAteer-Petris Act were grandfathered in and allowed to proceed. Bay Farm Island between Alameda and the Oakland Airport is a product of this political deal, without which it would still be a substantial wetland and haven for birds and bay wildlife. In general, however, and much to the chagrin of proponents of unrestrained growth, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission has stopped most efforts to fill the Bay, including the insane plans of San Mateo County and the city of Richmond. The state of the Bay today is much better thanks to the early environmental legislation that halted 120 years of piecemeal and unchecked filling of the Bay.

The Bay Today -
Saving the Bay from ill-advised reclamation projects has been important, but the health of the Bay is still seriously compromised. Hydraulic gold mining in the 1860-1880 period washed billions of cubic yards of Sierra mountains down through the Central Valley and into the Bay. In that sediment are extraordinarily high levels of mercury, used widely in the 19th century to separate gold from its surrounding minerals. Other toxic heavy metals still persist in bay mud, resulting from decades of industrial pollution. Anti-pollution laws have reduced the flow of poison into the Bay, but it will be a hundred years before the existing toxics work their way out of the Bay.
An addition problem results from the Bay's function as the sewer for the agricultural runoff of the Central Valley. Selenium occurs naturally in Central Valley soils, but it gets concentrated in irrigation runoff, which is fed into the Bay's water at various locations in the Sacramento River delta. The selenium concentration is magnified when combined with the influx of exotic species that have rapidly occupied the Bay in the past decade.
Perhaps the most voracious invading species, and one that has done the most to alter the ecological balance of the Bay in recent years, is the Potamocorbula clam, better known as the Asian clam. They are rather tiny, only a half inch across the shell, but they are rapid reproducers. Apparently they have found their way into the Bay through the discharge of untreated ballast water from tankers calling on Bay ports. They were discovered in 1986 in the bottom of Suisun Bay in the northern part of SF Bay. In just one year they were the most common clam in the North Bay, and by 1991 they were the most common clam in all parts of the Bay. In some portions of the North Bay they have established beds that support between 20,000 to 30,000 claims per square meter, levels far above that reached by native species. According to Michael Lozeau of San Francisco BayKeeper, there are now so many in the North Bay that its estimated they circulate 1.5 times the volume of water (flowing through the North Bay) each day. They feed by sucking water through their siphons and extracting plankton and other sources of nutrition in the water. They have now wiped out blooms of phytoplankton, the tiny plants that are the foundation for all aquatic food webs. This denies food to native mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish, and ultimately will lead to a crash in species diversity in the San Francisco Bay, a process well underway.
Like many instances of exotic invasive species, they find a role in their new ecological niche. In the Bay, the Asian clams have become a favorite food source for white and green sturgeon, as well as diving ducks. But because they concentrate selenium in their tissue, selenium levels have risen by three times in these predator species, a worrisome development in light of the mid-1980s disaster at the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge in the Central Valley, where selenium-related deformities and defects caused a collapse in several bird species.

Map showing the Reber Plan, a post-World War II proposal.
Thanks to Eric Fischer for making this image, and many more, all in high resolution, available at his flickr account [].
John Reber proposed in the post-WWII era that earthen dams be built across the bay in the north and south in order to create fresh water lakes. His idea was rejected in part because there were no mechanisms for regional planning at the time of his proposal, and the balkanized Bay Area communities could not come together on such a sweeping plan. Fresh water supplies were in any case secured from the rivers rushing out of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the extreme ecological havoc that would have been caused by the Reber Plan never had a chance to get off the ground. The blackened areas on his map indicate areas of massive fill and industrial development. The ecological consequences of such a drastic alteration of the Bay's natural state are incalculable. Today we can only scratch our heads and be thankful that it never came to fruition.

Northeast San Pablo Bay (Solano & Contra Costa Counties)

Jepson Prairie

Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta

Searching for rare plants in the Delta [link]

2011-01-08 "Vallejo native in charge of Delta agency" by Mike Taugher from "Contra Costa Times":Critics of a troubled plan to address increasingly serious problems in the Delta said this week they hoped a change in direction was imminent after a staunch supporter of environmental causes was appointed the state's top official overseeing natural resources.  Environmental groups and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta representatives warmly greeted the selection of Vallejo native John Laird, a former Santa Cruz legislator with East Bay connections. 
Leaders of water agencies that depend on pumping from the Delta more circumspectly promised to work with the new administration of the state Natural Resources Agency.  Laird was named this week to head the Resources Agency, which oversees coastal issues, water and forestry.  Although budget issues loom at the top of any to-do list in state government, one of Laird's top policy issues will be resolving the conflict in the Delta between water demands and the grave decline of the West Coast's largest estuary.  He will probably also be involved in energy issues, including ensuring that solar energy projects are permitted, and plans for marine reserves, where fishing is severely restricted, are completed, said Ann Notthoff, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's advocacy in California.  State parks, which have been hit hard in recent budgets, are also under his charge. 
As a legislator, Laird in 2008 proposed increasing vehicle license fees by $10 to fund state parks. The proposal, which was defeated, Advertisement D & D Plumbing would have granted California motorists free entry to the parks.  "We have a lot of confidence in John Laird's ability to think creatively," said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation. "We are hopeful, not that state parks will avoid cuts, but that there will be some deep thinking to minimize cuts ... in this budget cycle."  No issue is likely to be as complex or contentious as the one looming in the Delta.  Asked how much of his time would be devoted to water and the Delta, Laird said, "I'm not sure yet, but I am sure it will be significant."  Laird, 60, said it was too soon to discuss policy specifics. But he has a history of interest in state water issues. 
His undergraduate thesis at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was on California water development, and in 1972 he went on to work for two years in the East Bay offices of the late Rep. Jerry Waldie, who opposed plans to send water around the Delta instead of through it. 
Laird arrives at his new post with Delta planning at a precarious point. Consultants are busily trying to complete a key study that could determine the Bay Delta Conservation Plan's fate. A couple of major water agencies have threatened to walk if they can't get more water.  Laird's predecessor, Lester Snow, was heavily involved in pushing the plan, first as the director of the Department of Water Resources and then as resources secretary.  Snow's direction often frustrated environmentalists and Delta-area residents, but it is not clear whether the new boss will change direction, and, if so, how dramatically.  "My sense would be the Brown administration is not going to walk away from BDCP, and it's also not going to pretend there are not problems with it," said Gary Bobker, program director at the Bay Institute, a Novato-based environmental advocacy group, and a member of the BDCP's steering committee.  The plan lacks firm goals for fish populations, has not adequately incorporated information about the ecosystem's need for more water and has not developed plans for other water sources or water conservation, Bobker said. 
Representatives of water agencies that rely on the Delta said they would find ways to work with the new administration. 
"Laird is from a different political persuasion than most of our growers," said Sarah Woolf, spokeswoman for the Westlands Water District, which recently said it would no longer fund the Bay-Delta study because, it said, Obama administration officials were insisting on better environmental protection.  "To date, our concerns have been on the federal level, not the state level," Woolf said. 
Another San Joaquin Valley farm group, Families Protecting the Valley, was more skeptical.  "What little hope we had for solving water problems in California just went down a couple of notches with this appointment," the group said in a statement.  Environmentalists and Delta residents said Laird's selection was a hopeful sign.  "I think he's a superb choice and will bring both environmental and fiscal fairness and expertise to the job," said Warner Chabot, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters, which gave Laird a 100 percent rating for votes cast during his six years in the Assembly.