Sierra Club Water Sentinels
Sierra Club Water Sentinels are the first line of defense of America's waters. Water Sentinels work to protect, improve and restore our waters by fostering alliances to promote water quality monitoring, public education and citizen action.
Posted by: Carol Nau at 8:26AM PST on February 11, 2011
I'm writing from Maryland where the EPA has established a Total Maximum Load (of pollution) for all waters in the Chesapeake Bay Water Shed. The state of MD has completed their plan to achieve the TMDL in a document called Phase I WIP (Watershed Implementation Plan). Now it is up to each county in the state to use the EPA TMDL and MD Phase I WIP to prepare their own WIP, Phase II WIP. This is a huge initiative!
I'm wondering if there are other Sierra Club members here in the Chesapeake Bay Water Shed that want to form a Chesapeake Bay and/or Maryland Water Sentinels Group to help support the EPA and legislation to enforce and fund the bay restoration.
Posted by: Scott Dye at 7:46PM PST on February 4, 2011
ALL HAIL Kentucky Sentinels Rick Handshoe, Rick Clewett and Sentinels Deputy Director Tim Guilfoile for their turns in this article about how simple inexpensive conductivity meters in the hands of our volunteers are giving King Coal massive headaches, slowing down their permits, and slowly grinding their destruction of Appalachia to a crawl.
This story is a great example of illustrating how the Water Sentinels program empowers people with the training and tools they need to protect the waterways they love.
From the Lexington Herald Leader article:
‘HUEYSVILLE — Every Sunday, Rick Handshoe strolls from his mobile home across a two-lane paved highway, down the hill to Raccoon Creek, which is sometimes orange, sometimes silty, sometimes clear.
He notes whether any frogs or crawdads can be found, dead or alive, and he notes how much water is flowing from the pond built at the head of the Floyd County creek by a coal company about five years ago.
Handshoe has been watching his creek ebb and flow, die and come alive and die again, as the cycle of blasting, mining and reclamation has continued on land surrounding his retirement home. Until a year ago, his observations were just that; he couldn't afford to send periodic water samples to a laboratory to find out what minerals were leeching into his creek.
But for the past year, Handshoe has been armed with a new weapon: a conductivity meter given to him by the Sierra Club.
The small beige instrument, which looks like an oversize digital thermometer, measures the amount of dissolved minerals and ions by sending an electrical current through the water. It is cheap, compared to lab testing, and it can be used over and over.
And Handshoe has been using it every Sunday for a year, measuring the microSiemens of electricity passing through his water at 500, 600, 1,200, 1,600, and marking them on a calendar.
Since April, when the Environmental Protection Agency issued guidance that suggested the target specific conductivity for Appalachian streams like Raccoon Creek should be 200 or less and began objecting to state-issued mine permits, Handshoe's handheld meter has become a symbol of the Kentucky coal industry's biggest environmental headache.
Since the guidance, only two Kentucky mine operators have been issued Army Corps of Engineers water-pollution permits. Both companies rejected the permits and are appealing their conditions. It's taking 18 months or more to receive mine permits when 10 years ago, the worst case was six months, operators say.
A conductivity meter won't tell you what's in the water, just that there's stuff in it.
Coal industry advocates say that's the problem… they say the conductivity benchmark of 200 to 500 microSiemens is impossible to meet…
Handshoe recognizes the strangeness of the situation.
He says he's not pretending to know anything about water chemistry and biology, but he is learning. He has a GED and retired from the Kentucky State Police as a radio technician because of a back injury. He worked on transmission towers.
Handshoe says his goal is simply to know what's in Raccoon Creek's water, and he hopes to use that information to make sure it is safe and healthy for his neighbors' kids to play in and for fish to swim in.
Environmental scientists consider conductivity measurements "a good first-cut test" to determine where to spend money on more expensive testing, said Rick Clewett, political director for the Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Conductivity is an important measure when it applies to the right kind of shallow, intermittent or headwater stream common in Appalachia, said Kentucky Environmental Protection Commissioner Bruce Scott.
Because of uncertainty of regulations, companies aren't investing the capital in machines and equipment to maintain production and hiring levels that they've had during the past few years, [TECO Coal’s] Zik said.
"We have had situations where we have cut back on production, laid people off and idled equipment due to delays" in getting Army Corps of Engineers pollution permits that have been delayed by the EPA, [ICG Coal’s] Kitts said. "We have changed mining plans, scaled back plans to a certain extent, to work around the permitting situation."
The companies, Czar Coal Corp. and Sapphire Mining, a subsidiary of United Coal, did not return phone calls seeking comment, but Army Corps of Engineers regulator Lee Ann Devine said the companies are appealing the permit requirements partly based on issues surrounding conductivity. It's not that the permit requirements can't be met, Devine said, but that the companies think that achieving the requirements isn't economically feasible.’
Water quality, coal jobs at issue in mountains
at 12:00am on Jan 4, 2011 — firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by: Scott Dye at 7:37PM PST on February 4, 2011
ALL HAIL Kentucky Sentinel Aloma Dew for representing the Sierra Club at the international Terra Madre (Mother Earth) summit on sustainable food production and agricultural biodiversity in Torino, Italy. The “encounter” drew 7,000 delegates from 169 nations.
Among all of the significant conservation work and victories that Aloma has spirited, her work on sustainability in agriculture and food production has achieved both national and international recognition. A decade of her annual Healthy Foods, Local Farms Conference has drawn some of the world’s most recognized speakers on slow food, sustainability, and food justice. She has also helped achieve landmark legal victories that have influenced the management of factory farms nationally.
It was fitting that Aloma was the face of the Sierra Club at Terra Madre. She talks the talk, walks the walk, and eats her food…slow.
Aloma’s report follows…
Terra Madre—Mother Earth
By Aloma Dew
The goal of Slow Food USA is to bring people together and that was what Terra Madre was all about. Without a doubt, attending Terra Madre in Torino, Italy in October was a defining moment in my life. I was one of ten Kentucky Delegates to the Conference and as far as I know, the only Sierra Club staffer who was there. For more than a decade, I have worked for sustainable agriculture, clean water, food justice, and local food economies. With 7,000 other delegates from 169 countries, about 750 from 50 states in the U.S., I felt solidarity and a renewed sense of purpose. Food should mean pleasure, but it is much more than that—it is about regional identity, biodiversity, dignity, caring for the planet, independence, and saving ethnic communities, and public health.
Food is an elemental need, it is something we all share and the growing of it is creation. As I looked at the great variety of ethnic clothing and wares, heard the myriad languages much like the Tower of Babel, saw faces of every shade and color, I realized we are all more alike than we are different and that the carbon foot print of bringing us all to Italy was worth it, because we could talk, touch, communicate, share and go back to our homes inspired and rejuvenated. Some of the opening speeches were in indigenous languages because Carlos Petrini, founder of Slow Food, stated that we are losing languages, diverse cultures and foods and that industry does not want the diversity, but everyone should have a voice, their own voice. Nine languages were being translated through our headsets, but more than that were represented and spoken at this event.
One of the displays on biodiversity was a table with hundreds of kinds of apples—at my local orchard, I can only find four at any given time and two of those are the tasteless, mealy Delicious variety which was created to travel and keep well. Not delicious at all.
Carlos Petrini, recognized Wendell Berry several times as the voice that has been calling for biodiversity and food justice eloquently for so long. He said that Wendell Berry understood earlier than the rest of us that “eating is an agricultural act.” He called him “The Great Master” It was a proud Kentucky moment!
It was also a proud moment to know that two Kentuckians were on programs at this landmark “encounter”—Karyn Moskowitz and Bob Perry. Both of them were on this year’s Healthy Foods, Local Farms Conference program. Bob and fellow delegates Jim Embry and Mark Williams are on the HFLF Conference Planning Committee.
Alice Waters, who has spoken at our Healthy Foods, Local Farms Conference was there; Vandana Shiva the Indian activist who is fighting for seed diversity spoke. One goal expressed at the conference was to have more public school gardens than there are McDonalds. Josh Viertel, head of Slow Food USA who spoke at the HFLF Conference in 2009 said that power without love is tyranny and that it took us 60 years to get the food program broken, now we must heal it. We must work for food that is good, clean and fair. This is the same goal that the Sierra Club has pursued in our work against CAFOs and industrial controlled monocultures. Another speaker who has been at our HFLF Conference was Sam Levin, the New England teenager who works with Project Sprout. He promised that his generation would reconnect mankind with the earth. No small promise! He reminded us that the snail, the symbol of Slow Food, works slowly with patience and hard work. We Sierra Club members need to be reminded that our work may take a long time, there are set backs as well as victories, but if we continue with persistence and keep our goal in sight, we will prevail.
When I told people I worked for the Sierra Club, the response was always positive. People thanked me for the work we do. I spent a lot of time telling people what we are doing in Kentucky.
Much of the emphasis was on “who owns seeds?” The European Union has declared 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity. The “We’re All in This Together” campaign is to educate people about biodiversity. Seeds open agriculture of everyone. Owning seeds is what makes the farmer free. Adversely, when companies like Monsanto own the seeds, farmers become victims to the industrial system. One speaker said the main way to change agriculture is to tell farmers what we want to eat and give them the seeds. Our health and the health of the planet depends upon it. . Having a few types of seed and product are much easier and more easily controlled. He demanded that economic structures must change, we must have cultural diversity. Another speaker called us to re-invent the Commons—air, water. We must consume seasonally, locally, and have a healthy relationship with nature—both plants and animals.
Raj Patel commented that indigenous people have preserved the commons and that “food sovereignty” is about a democratic food system and that “democracy is slow”—it is “slow politics” and about building relationships. That is part of the beauty of slow food—relationships, communion, and community. He also said that 1 in 6 people are undernourished. We produce more than enough, waste more than enough—access is the problem and it called this a “subtle form of violence” and a “right to life issue”.
Something we have said time and again is that “laws are a start, at best”—education is the key. The link between food and energy was made clear with the statement that energy must be good, clean, and fair—just like food; that we must be more compatible with nature—there is no pleasure in pollution. It was stated that energy is not fair and has created an unequal society and that energy monopolies see only greed, not the spiritual side of life. “Energy is not a commodity, it is a human right”. What we have now is energy colonization and we need more local energy, just as we need more local food, we need both “food and energy in a decentralized way”. We can not work for sustainable energy without working for sustainable food—they are connected.
There were lots of young people at Terra Madre—they were loud and enthusiastic and seem dedicated to changing the future. But there were lots of boomers and elders, too. Vandana Shiva asked that we “celebrate this Terra Madre as the beginning of the end of Monsanto”. Amen. In 2012, Terra Madre will convene in Washington, D.C. I hope to be there and honor progress in our food system. We can all begin that work by acquainting ourselves with the 2012 Farm Bill and working to bring justice and a good, clean, and fair food system to everyone.
Posted by: Scott Dye at 7:30PM PST on February 4, 2011
ALL HAIL Missouri Sentinel Ken Midkiff for stirring up quite a kerfuffle over bad governance in Columbia that impacts Hinkson Creek, the city’s major waterway. A dubious stormwater variance, and a mayor who forgets there is a city council.
From the first article:
A water-quality variance request that was granted for a new IBM facility in June was not the result of corporate arm-twisting and did not cut corners on public safety, some city and economic development officials said this week. But that view in a fresh debate over the variance issue is hardly unanimous.
“I think clearly this is setting a very bad example to the development community,” said First Ward City Councilman Paul Sturtz.
Sierra Club spokesman Ken Midkiff was even more adamant, saying the variance “absolutely” set a precedent for future variance requests relating to the city’s three-year-old ordinance that regulates the amount and quality of stormwater runoff. The area where IBM is located is in the Hinkson Creek watershed.
Midkiff also has complained about the variance to state regulators, asking the Department of Natural Resources in an e-mail whether Public Works Director John Glascock’s granting of the variance might actually constitute a violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
DNR environmental specialist John Hoke replied this week to Midkiff, telling him in an e-mail, “Your question is valid and I have to admit that we presently don’t have an answer.” Hoke said he forwarded the question to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 7 office in Kansas City for that staff’s review. He also sent Midkiff’s question to DNR stormwater permit regulators.
For Sturtz, the stormwater quality variance brought back the uncomfortable feeling he had over the speedy agreement with IBM that did not come to the city council’s attention until after the fact.
“It goes back to the fairly well-documented controversial treatment of the council in leading up to a welcoming ceremony one week before the council was going to review the contract that was part of the agreement,” he said.’
From the second article:
‘A Sunshine Law request to the city of Columbia by Ken Midkiff uncovered an unusual document — a letter from Mayor Bob McDavid to the EPA claiming that the city opposes rules to control stormwater runoff into Hinkson Creek.
In the Nov. 29 letter, on city stationery from the “Office of Mayor and Council,” McDavid said the rules were “impossible to implement and based on outdated data that does not reflect improvements in the watershed from the implementation of control equipment, best management practices, and elimination of discharges in the Hinkson watershed.” He also challenged the legal basis for listing Hinkson Creek as an impaired waterway.
But First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz, when alerted to the letter by Midkiff, conservation chairman of the Osage Group of the Sierra Club and a Tribune columnist, said the council had not discussed whether to send such a letter and that McDavid should not have portrayed his stance as the official city position. “I am definitely interested in finding out how a major initiative like this didn’t come to the council,” Sturtz said.
The mayor is just one member of the council, not the city’s chief executive like in some cities, Sturtz noted.
Reached yesterday afternoon, McDavid said his stance “was not discussed at the city council, but I was speaking for myself.” Asked whether he should have stated it as an official city position, McDavid replied: “Your point is valid.”’
Mayor called out on letter critical of EPA
Sturtz: View not official position.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Posted by: Scott Dye at 7:17PM PST on February 4, 2011
ALL HAIL Missouri Sentinel Tom Kruzen for sounding the alarm about a proposed organic dairy that wants to site in the Ozark’s porous karst topography (think Swiss cheese), in the recharge areas of massive springs that feed the two of America’s cleanest scenic rivers.
From Tom’s LTE:
‘Jordan Rubin's "Beyond Health and Wellness" certified organic dairy wants to come to Missouri. Anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 "organic" cows will eat, breathe, give milk and poop in the recharge areas of Big Spring and Greer Spring that feed the Current and Eleven Point rivers, two of America's cleanest rivers.
The karst topography that made lead mining dangerous remains. Whether it's lead concentrate or concentrated animal waste, if it's on the land, it will find its way into our wells, springs and rivers.
This facility is a serious threat to water quality, quality of life and our existing tourist economy.’ ______________________________
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Letters to the editor, January 3, 2011
On the land, in the water
Posted by: Scott Dye at 7:11PM PST on February 4, 2011
ALL HAIL Arizona Chapter Director Sandy Bahr who was named one of 10 Inspiring Women of Arizona by The Arizona Republic newspaper of Phoenix. Her cheerful demeanor, tireless work ethic, never quit attitude, spirit and passion for her work is especially remarkable while trying to protect the beauty and precious resources in a state not known for its progressive politics.
If you’ve met Sandy, you’ve been inspired. She has that effect on people. If you haven’t had the pleasure, please let me introduce you.
10 women share stories of challenge and triumph that will inspire you
At some point in a woman's life, there comes an event or a moment that tests her - who she is, who she wants to be, where she will go next or what she's made of. She has to decide whether to get up, dust herself off and keep going. She has to choose between keeping quiet or speaking up. She has to work through heartache. She has to do what she knows is right, no matter the consequences. She has to choose to lead. Or she has to take a chance. We have gathered 10 inspiring women who will awe you with their determination, grace and dignity.
These are their stories, told by Arizona Republic reporters.
Environmentalist is a thorn in Legislature's side "In Arizona, there's so much to protect and yet the elected officials seem to be so uninterested in keeping what is so cool about this state."
On a small poster taped to a filing cabinet in Sandy Bahr's central-Phoenix office is a well-worn aphorism widely attributed to the Dalai Lama: "If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to sleep with a mosquito."
For the purposes of this story, think of Bahr, director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter, as the mosquito and the Arizona Legislature - or at least certain members - as the wide-eyed wielders of bug spray.
As she has for about a dozen years, Bahr buzzed through the first six months of 2010 at the state Capitol, working the hallways and committee rooms in what she describes as one of the worst sessions ever for environmental causes.
The devoted readers of her much-forwarded front-line reports could hear the frustrated sighs as she chronicled bill after bill, often herself amazed at what won votes. Yet she never seemed resigned and almost always found some iota of hope.
"If you're not there, you can't make a difference," Bahr said, an answer to a question - "Why do this to yourself?" - that others clearly have asked. "Sometimes you can amend a bill that might improve it or make it tolerable or even make it less damaging."
At the Legislature, the 50-year-old Bahr is the face and voice of the environment on issues as diverse as air quality, global warming and the preservation of Arizona's rivers and forests.
Lawmakers know her. Some flee from her. One or two have been known to fiddle with hearing agendas to shorten the time available for her to speak. But until the past year or two, most legislators were willing to consider - and occasionally accept - Bahr's suggestions.
Not anymore. Last year was especially tough on the bipartisan front.
"There's less interest in trying to work on a bill," Bahr said. "A lot of the committee chairs are just dismissive of anyone they disagree with."
For the record, Bahr is a registered independent. She first enlisted in the environmental movement because she cared about the issues, not the politics. That the issues are now so politicized saddens her.
"In Arizona, there's so much to protect," she said, "and yet the elected officials seem to be so uninterested in keeping what is so cool about this state."
When she can escape the Capitol, Bahr heads out to the mountains or to favorite hiking trails or . . . to work. She sweated through one July afternoon on a project to remove invasive buffelgrass from the Salt River.
This month, she'll return to West Washington Street as persistent as ever. It's all about being there, because you never know when someone might bite.
"You don't give up on a bill," she said, "until it's signed."
- Shaun McKinnon
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