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: Scott Dye at 8:02PM PST on March 21, 2011
ALL HAIL Michigan Water Sentinel Lynn Henning, 2010 Goldman Prize winner and 2010 O Magazine Power List, for racking up yet another honor—she was just chosen as one of 10 Eco-Heroines in the inaugural Planet Keeper Whole Living Awards by Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine, on newsstands now.
Lynn’s relentless and successful campaign against factory farms knows no boundaries, and her work and awards are a source of pride for all Sierra Club members. Congratulations, Lynn!!
From the article:
‘But the beauty of this rural landscape belies an ugly truth: Noxious chemicals are slowly tainting the region’s air and water. The pollution can be traced to the proliferation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)-feedlots that confine thousands of cattle or pigs in windowless, hangar-size barns. CAFOs make up only about 5 percent of all U.S. animal operations, but they contain half of the animals producing the nation’s meat and dairy products.
Crammed indoors on concrete floors, CAFO animals spend their days eating and, inevitably, eliminating. A large CAFO produces as much waste daily as a city of 411,000 does. And while municipalities are required to treat their waste before it’s discharged, CAFOs are allowed to store liquefied manure in open pits (called lagoons) until operators are ready to spray it on leased farm fields as fertilizer.
“We’ve got 12 of these operations within 10 miles of our house,” says Lynn Henning, who monitors CAFO discharges for Michigan’s Sierra Club, as I tag along on a surveillance mission in her hometown of Clayton. “When they’re spraying waste, the smell is so bad you can’t open your windows or sit outside.”
A grandmother with long white hair, Henning isn’t being prissy. She’s a farmer herself – she and her husband, Dean, grow corn and soybeans on a 300-acre plot that’s been in his family for four generations. But the more than 60 lagoons near the Henning’s home hold 400 million gallons of liquefied manure each year. This toxic farrago contains cleaning solutions, pesticides, blood, hormones, antibiotics, and other substances common to industrial agriculture. As this mixture decomposes, it generated methane, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide, gases that can cause burning sinuses and respiratory illness. Diagnosed with hydrogen sulfide poisoning, Henning’s mother-and father-in-law, who have lived within 1,000 feet of a CAFO operation since 1999, routinely experience short-term memory loss, balance problems, and delayed reactions.
Across the nation, rainfall has sluiced CAFO waste, transporting such pathogens as Cryptosporidium, E. coli, and Listeria from fields into waterways. Storms have ruptured lagoons and sent raw manure into creek into creeks, killing huge numbers of fish. It gets worse: CAFO’s overuse of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease contributes to the rise of superbugs.
Slowing to a crawl, Henning raises her camera and shoots a series of photographs. One is of a plume of liquid waster spraying 100 feet in the air to fertilize a CAFO field, directing a brown mist of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in our direction. Hemming closes her window against the stench and dust – “I’ll have a headache before the day is out,” she says – and steps on the gas.
In addition to documenting violations, Henning makes frequent speeches about the need for tighter monitoring and enforcement of CAFO regulations. Stricter controls paid for by CAFO owners will surely raise the cost of meat, but Henning cuts consumers little slack. “There’s no such thing as cheap meat,” she barks. “People need to be responsible.”
“At the grocery store, ask where your food is coming from,” Henning says, sprawled on her pond’s dock. “We need small family farms and need to teach our children to grow food.” She squints into the late afternoon sun. As predicted, her head aches after the day’s manure tour. But she shakes it off and stiffly rises. “Come on,” she says with a generous smile. “I want to show you my garden.”’
Whole Living Awards: Planet Keepers
April, 2011 Whole Living Magazine
(At newsstands now.)
We salute these 10 eco-heroines who pour their passion into turning our blue marble green. Be inspired by their stories and take notes on what’s trending in our first Whole Living Awards.
The Watch-Dog: Lynn Henning
Eco Achievement – Exposing the polluting practices of livestock factory farms
Posted by: Scott Dye at 7:46PM PST on March 21, 2011
ALL HAIL Missouri Sentinels Tom and Angel Kruzen for conducting a textbook organizing campaign to defeat a proposed biomass power plant in the Ozarks. Their fight brought together strange bedfellows—enviros, a rural pro-development city council, foresters, the oak barrel industry, the pallet industry and the charcoal industry. All agreed on one thing, that woody-biomass incineration to produce energy—the burning of woody “waste” debris and pulp from forestry—is not a sustainable option for the Show Me State.
First, there were no adequate protective regulations in place. And, before human settlement and the clear-cutting of the Ozarks, the mountains were dominated by fast growing pine species that were replaced with oak-hickory hardwood forests that take decades longer to mature.
Tom’s further insider analysis:
‘Was it my ill-fated trip to Salem (got lost in the fog) and the certified packets I sent to the mayor and aldermen? Was it Pioneer Forest's opposition? Was it Royal Oak Charcoal's CEO coming all the way from Georgia to say that if biomass is voted in, Royal Oak will go elsewhere, taking its jobs with them? Was it ProEnergy's own stupidity telling everyone they'd burn used creosote-soaked railroad ties if they couldn't get enough "waste wood," and then dump their operations’ wastewater and ash into a "dry creek" (a losing stream in Karst terrain directly connected to the aquifer where people get their drinking water)? Was it quite a few negative letters to the editor? Well, perhaps it was all of these. 125 people did attend last week's meeting and 2/3 of them had serious questions.’
From the article:
‘After nearly a year of negotiations Salem aldermen voted unanimously Dec. 6 to cease negotiations and decline all proposals from ProEnergy Services to locate a biomass plant in Salem.
Those attending the meeting stood and applauded the board's decision. The board's decision comes after months of meetings, studies and a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and ProEnergy.
Mayor Gary Brown read a lengthy statement regarding the biomass issue before the aldermanic vote.
The mayor said city leaders have had many economic and environmental concerns with the biomass project.’
Posted by: Scott Dye at 7:35PM PST on March 21, 2011
ALL HAIL Arizona Sentinels Sandy Bahr and Steve Pawlowski and allies with the University of Arizona and BLM for expanding our water-quality protection efforts to include the San Pedro River, one of the most vibrant but endangered rivers in the state.
From the article:
‘More than 20 area volunteers spent Saturday learning the basic techniques they will need over the course of this year as they take part in an effort to test the San Pedro River’s water quality, help clean and restore vegetation around the river and to monitor area wells.
“The Sierra Club started the Water Sentinels Program to protect, improve and restore the nation’s waters,” said Sandy Bahr, conservation outreach director for the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club. When she moved to Arizona 24 years ago, the first river Bahr saw was the Salt River and she wondered why it was called a river.
The more she learned about Arizona, the more Bahr came to appreciate the importance even a little water plays in a desert, and learned that many of the state’s rivers were once much more impressive, she said. “I did learn that they were indeed rivers and they were important rivers, but that many of them had really been worked to death. There’s probably no other landscape where we call upon rivers to do as much as in the desert. I came to appreciate that even the smallest trickle in our arid land was really important, because in those trickles is life. They really are the life blood of this land.”
[The San Pedro is] also really important and essential to the survival of a number of imperiled species,” Bahr said. Across the state, about 60 percent of Arizona’s native wildlife relies on riparian areas associated with rivers and streams, while 70 percent of threatened or endangered vertebrates rely on them.
Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter Water Sentinels Program Coordinator Steve Pawlowski presented a tentative plan for the coming year that will involve taking samples of river water at five different points at four different times in 2011.
All the water quality data will be shared with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, which has an obligation to statewide water quality assessments, Pawlowski said.
“We’ve demonstrated that we’re capable of effectively killing rivers in Arizona, but we have not yet demonstrated that we can save them,” Bahr said. “That’s part of what you all are doing and what we need to do.”’
Posted by: Scott Dye at 7:30PM PST on March 21, 2011
ALL HAIL Illinois Sentinel Cindy Skrukrud and allies with Prairie Rivers Network for training citizen scientists to monitor water quality before a proposed coal strip mine is built in the watershed of their drinking water supply, and to check if closed mines in the area are polluting waterways.
From the article:
'To help keep their guard up against a proposed strip coal mine northeast of the city, an environmental group will host a seminar Saturday on how property owners can test water quality on their land.
Objections filed by a group of residents to the surface mine planned for 1,084 acres near Canton Lake, the city’s main water supply, still await administrative review by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
The seminar “will help us keep on top” of the potential impact of that mine, but the public can also learn whether other mines in Fulton County are producing pollutants in area streams, ponds and lakes even after they’ve been closed, Brenda Dilts said Friday.’_________________________________
Posted by: Scott Dye at 7:26PM PST on March 21, 2011
ALL HAIL Sentinels Deputy Director Tim Guilfoile and the Club’s Environmental Law Program for giving the people of Appalachia the training and tools they need to fight back against the plague of mountaintop-removal mining.
From an article by Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards…
Community Takes Action on Water Quality into Own Hands
By Susanna Ronalds-Hannon
In response to community concern regarding the water quality in Appalachia, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards has recently launched a water monitoring program targeting some of the coal camps in and around Appalachia. With skills and knowledge acquired from the Deputy Director of the Sierra Club’s Water Sentinels, Tim Guilfoile, we set out in September to begin our monitoring of pH, conductivity, and temperature in Exeter’s Pigeon creek. In a new guidance by the EPA, conductivity levels beyond 300 microsiemens have been declared dangerous and beyond 500, (five times above normal levels), irreversibly damaging to streams and aquatic life. Given these guidelines, our data has been disheartening and frightening, although not surprising. With conductivity levels measured downstream of mountaintop removal sites averaging over 700 microsiemens and often exceeding 1000, our streams carry extremely dangerous amounts of heavy metals. In one location we measured 1390 microsiemens, almost three times the amount designated by the EPA as the absolute upper limit for safe water.
In surface mining, overburden is stripped from on top of a coal seam and deposited elsewhere. Although responsible mining requires this “waste material” to be contained in some way so as to prevent pollutants from leaching into the groundwater and surface run-off systems, irresponsible practices leave the loose, unconsolidated overburden uncovered where it is susceptible to leaching and eroding into the off-site environment (Mineral Policy Center, April 1995). In effect, conductivity is a measurement of inorganic dissolved solids; heavy metals such as selenium, manganese, lead and arsenic are all toxic to human health in concentrations above the minute.
The public comments period for EPA’s new guidance on conductivity levels, ended on December 1st. We now await a decision from the EPA, based in part on public response, on whether to modify the guidance or keep it as is. SAMS recently submitted a comment of our own, backed up by conductivity data collected by our citizen’s water monitoring team. We recognize that we need to show the EPA, with our data and first-hand experience with our own watershed, that the clear benchmarks set by this new guidance is necessary for “preventing significant and irreversible damage to Appalachian watersheds at risk from mining activity” (EPA press release, 4/01/10). We are in communication with the EPA regarding the health of our watershed, and we will continue to monitor the streams in and around Appalachia. We invite you to join our “stream team” – we meet at the office at 11 am on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, and we seek more community members concerned with our water to get involved. We hope to eventually develop the capacity for multiple monitoring teams regularly testing streams in various communities and gathering data to be made available to the public. We at SAMS feel, as articulated by Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, that “the people of Appalachia shouldn’t have to choose between a clean, healthy environment in which to raise their families and the jobs they need to support them.”
Posted by: Scott Dye at 7:22PM PST on March 21, 2011
ALL HAIL Sentinels Chair Hank Graddy for this great op-ed on the creation of Kentucky’s statewide Watershed Watch program, and how its success—and concurrent success with Sierra Club volunteer monitoring in IL and MO—help spur on the creation of the Sierra Club’s Water Sentinels program a decade ago. And the rest is history—that continues to be written every day.
From Hank’s op-ed:
‘In early 1997, members of the Sierra Club, the Kentucky Waterways Alliance and the Kentucky Water Watch program were discussing ways to improve Kentucky's water. We wanted to teach ordinary citizens how to gather useful water quality data. We knew this activity would help inform participants, and we hoped that government agencies would pay attention to the findings. But we did not know how to get anybody to show up.
We also knew that [Andy] Mead had written stories about Kentucky's environment and about the Kentucky River. Fortunately, he found our plan newsworthy.
Mead's story was headlined, "Volunteers needed to monitor water quality in the Kentucky River." The story described a program to teach volunteers field chemistry, habitat assessments and macro-invertebrate assessments and how to get our samples to the lab on time. We held our breath — would anybody show up? They did. Thirty strangers spent that Saturday in a Sunday school building and in a tributary of the Kentucky River.
From that first article by Mead and that first training event, the Kentucky River Watershed Watch was born.
On Jan. 22, we will hold our 14th Annual Watershed Protection Conference at Midway College.
This year we will review the water quality data from last year, as we have done at the prior 13 conferences. Each year, our 100 to 150 volunteers sample from 100 to 200 sites within the Kentucky River watershed and we add between 3,000 and 4,000 new pieces of water quality data to the statewide data repository.
In 1998, we expanded the Watershed Watch program into the Salt River and Licking River watersheds and over the next three years we were able to extend the Watershed Watch program statewide. Visit the statewide Web site maintained by the Kentucky Division of Water at http://water.ky.gov/wsw/Pages/default.aspx .
In 2000, Sierra Club members affiliated with the Watershed Watch program in Kentucky urged the Sierra Club to develop a citizen water monitoring program: the Sierra Sentinel program. Tim Guilfoile, deputy director, will be the keynote speaker at the Kentucky River Watershed Protection conference. Visit the national Sierra Club Water Sentinels web page at www.sierraclub.org/watersentinels/
Watershed Watch in Kentucky offers Kentuckians an opportunity to look around and see where we are — what we have lost, what remains, and what we must do.’ ______________________________:
Check out this short video of Water Sentinels Director Scott Dye getting "hands-on and knee-deep" in the Current River, one of the scenic rivers the Water Sentinels have helped protect in the Missouri Ozarks.
Want to learn more about the Water Sentinels? Join Dye and Deputy Director Tim Guilfoile in a conference call on Monday, March 21, at 5pm Pacific / 6pm Mountain / 7pm Central / 8pm Eastern, as they discuss the program and answer your questions. 1-866-501-6174 -- 1892-005