Every afternoon during seventh grade basketball practice, I and everyone else on the team would make as many trips as allowed to the water fountain just outside the gym doors to gulp down enough water to keep us from passing out.
After school some days, we would ride our bikes to an old creek near the middle school and spend hours splashing around, catching crawdads and doing dumb things.
In the summer, if we were lucky, someone’s parents would take us swimming at the Aquadome — a city-owned swimming pool that is covered by an odd, greenhouse-like dome.
Turns out, all of that water was probably poison.
I grew up in Decatur, where 3M apparently poisoned every square inch of land it could find to dump industrial waste.
That might be a bit of hyperbole, but not by much.
They’re finding old dump sites that 3M “forgot” all over the place in Morgan and Lawrence counties, and Decatur has that poison seeping into everything. From drinking water to runoff, to the ground under an old middle school to local waterways and the Tennessee River.
The old middle school where they’ve recently found high concentrations of PFOA and PFOS contaminants — which were in chemicals that 3M used to create non-stick cookware in the 1970s and 80s — was named Brookhaven. It’s where I and a whole bunch of my lifelong friends spent our sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade years.
We knew way back then that the school, which closed a few years ago, was built on top of an old landfill. We knew this because there were rampant tales of the school sinking an inch or two every few years. I have no idea if this was true, or if it was just one of those old rumors that one group of kids told to a younger group of kids and no one had Google to check.
But we never heard a word about chemicals being dumped at the site.
Neither did Decatur City Schools.
We know that because DCS, tired of waiting on the City of Decatur to file suit and demand compensation for cleaning up this 3M mess, filed notice with 3M and the EPA last week that it intends to sue the company for cleanup costs.
That notice follows reports from an investigation of the old landfill site conducted earlier this year by GHD Services, and commissioned by 3M. That report found extremely high levels of PFOA and PFOS at the 40-acre landfill site.
Of the 40 acres, DCS owns about 15 around Brookhaven. The City of Decatur owns the rest, including the Aquadome and the land where several little league ball fields sit.
The team that filed the notice is the same legal team that negotiated a $35 million settlement out of 3M and another $4 million out of Daikin America last year for the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority.
The Water Authority sued over PFOA/PFOS contamination of the Tennessee River seeping into the county drinking water, making it unsafe.
And it is unsafe.
At even low levels, researchers have found links between the chemicals and cancer, thyroid disease, immunotoxicity and high cholesterol. The presence of the chemicals at the Brookhaven site was 11 times higher than recommended by the EPA.
The EPA is still working out just what acceptable levels should be for PFOS/PFOA chemicals, but significantly lowered the acceptable recommended amounts a few years ago after testing found the chemicals to cause health problems at much lower concentration levels.
In the meantime, it has become increasingly obvious that 3M was dumping this junk all over the place around Morgan and Lawrence. Reporting by WHNT’s Chelsea Brentzel has turned up a number of dump sites and forgotten illegal releases into local waterways.
Both the City of Decatur and Decatur Utilities, along with 3M, are defendants in two lawsuits over the chemicals seeping out of landfill areas and into waterways. A number of council members and prominent residents in Decatur have called on the city to file cross-claims against 3M and Daikin.
So far, that hasn’t occurred. In fact, the opposite of that has occurred.
Last week at a council meeting, council members were presented by the city’s attorney with non-disclosure agreements to sign concerning the ongoing legal matters with 3M. The matters the council members weren’t allowed to discuss if they signed the NDA included potential health risks to the public.
Get that? If 3M revealed in court documents in these legal matters that the Brookhaven site, for example, contained contaminants that could kill small children, the council members would have been legally bound to keep that info quiet.
They didn’t sign it.
And I’d like to thank them for that. Because it’s very likely that this poison has been making people — our friends, neighbors, family members and even our pets — sick for decades.
It’s time for people to know what’s what. To know where it was dumped and where it seeped into water. To know whether the unexplained cancer or thyroid issues might finally have an explanation.
Or to simply know that everything is safe.
And we’d really appreciate it if someone would clean up this mess.
Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition joins nationwide call for clean fuels, vehicles
Representatives from the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition will join clean transportation leaders from across the nation this week in Washington, D.C., to educate federal policy makers about the need to expand America’s use of transportation alternative fuels, including biofuels, electricity, natural gas, and propane autogas. Altec Industries will also participate in Energy Independence Summit 2020, the nation’s premier clean transportation policy event, on February 10-12.
“Despite the recent drop in gasoline prices, gas prices remain extremely volatile and we continue to send more than $200 billion per year to OPEC and other nations for oil,” said Mark Bentley, Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition Executive Director. “We are going to Washington to help our representatives understand that Alabama and the United States must aggressively expand our use of alternatives to petroleum-based fuel if we are to stabilize gas prices, decrease our reliance on foreign oil, and maintain and create domestic jobs in the transportation energy industry.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are about 1.8 million alternative fuel vehicles on the road in the United States and nearly 70,000 alternative fueling stations.
In Alabama a number of clean transportation projects are underway across the state, including:
• Partnering with Clean Cities coalitions in Georgia and South Carolina on a U.S. DOE competitive grant award of $4.6 million! In Alabama, the award will fund the addition of a compressed natural gas (CNG) public fueling station at Clean Energy’s liquid natural gas station in Birmingham, add CNG fueling for Waste Management’s refuse fleet in Tarrant and add UPS electric delivery vans in Montgomery.
Those are just a sampling of the clean transportation projects underway in Alabama.
Transportation Energy Partners (TEP), the Summit organizer, reports that Summit participants will have the opportunity to interact with top Administration officials, including leaders from the Departments of Energy, Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, Summit participants will take their message about the need for ongoing federal support for alternatives to petroleum-based fuels to more than 200 Congressional offices.
“American industry has demonstrated the ability to produce high performing technology to meet the demand for cleaner fuels and vehicles,” said Alleyn Harned, President of Transportation Energy Partners. “However, insufficient and inconsistent government incentives and support hinder companies’ ability to make the long-term investments required to sustain these clean transportation solutions. We need stable and predictable federal investments to enable fleets and technology developers to make sound long-term planning and investment decisions.”
About the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition: The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition (ACFC), is a nonprofit membership-based organization and is the state’s principal coordinating point for alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles. ACFC is a designated Clean Cities coalition by the U.S. Department of Energy. The promotion of clean, renewable, domestic energy sources helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil, improves local air quality, and increases economic development investments in our local communities. For more information, please visit www.alabamacleanfuels.org or call 205-402-2755.
About Transportation Energy Partners: Transportation Energy Partners (TEP) is national non-profit organization that brings Clean Cities coalition leaders together with the clean transportation industry to advance policies that will reduce American dependence on petroleum-based fuels. TEP works closely with and provides policy support to the nearly 90 Clean Cities coalitions and their 15,000 stakeholders in 45 states andthe District of Columbia. Since 1993, the Clean Cities coalitions have played a leading role in implementing local programs and projects to deploy alternative fuels, vehicles, and infrastructure. The Clean Cities coalitions and their stakeholders have displaced more than 9.5 billion gallons of petroleum through the use of alternative fuels and vehicles, hybrid-electric vehicles, idle reduction technologies, fuel economy, and low-level fuel blends.
Tickets available for Feb. 8 Birmingham climate change dialogue
Organizers of an upcoming event in Birmingham hope those who attend – climate scientists, business and faith leaders, energy sector representatives and the public alike – will engage one another on climate change and discuss what each can do to help.
“People have been reluctant to look carefully at solutions, because they’ve been too busy questioning the problem,” said Joyce Lanning, former assistant professor in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a founding member of the Birmingham chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Education, which is hosting the event. “But I think that it is so evident now that folks aren’t questioning whether or not we have a problem. Now we’re looking at what can we do about it.”
Entitled “Faith Meets Business: Climate Solutions for the Common Good,” the event will take place on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m (with the option to remain and network until 4 p.m.), at the McWayne Science Center in Birmingham.
Speakers include atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe, a political science professor and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech and lead author of the second, third and fourth U.S. National Climate Assessments, and James McClintock, professor of polar and marine biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who has spent decades researching sea life and climate change impacts in the Antarctic.
There is also to be a panel discussion on climate solutions to include:
- John Northrop, Birmingham leader of Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Education
- Jack West, vice president and counsel at EnPower Solutions
- Bambi Ingram, interim director of Sustainability at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
- Seth Hammett, chair of Energy Institute of Alabama.
- Jonathan Belcher, president of Signature Homes.
An additional panel titled “For the Common Good” will feature:
- Michael Malcom, founder and executive director of Alabama Interfaith Power & Light and People’s Justice Council.
- Ivan Holloway, executive director of Urban Impact, a revitalization effort of the Birmingham Civil Rights District.
- Laszlo Juhasz, operations manager of the Vehicle Innovation Center at New Flyer in Anniston.
“What we really want is to get people to the table who come from different angles,” Lanning said. “What does it look like to me? What do I think would be a good solution? What can we do more of? What’s missing? What would I like to know more about? Just begin that kind of problem solving conversation.”
The event would be a success, Lanning said, if everyone who attended came away with new information and a personal decision about their next steps.
John Northrop, head of the Birmingham chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Education, retired director of the Alabama School of Fine Arts and a former environmental reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald, told APR on Tuesday that organizers plan to continue holding these events into the future.
“We hope that this particular event will kind of catalyze an ongoing conversation and growing attention locally to this issue, and to the need for action,” Northrop said. “We see the climate issue as something that touches everybody, one way or the other.”
Tickets are $25 for the public, $15 for students, and attendees must register in advance by Feb. 4 by visiting climatesolutionsforall.org.
“We encourage and urge people to come join us, Lanning said of the upcoming event. “Because the more points of view we’ve got the better off we are.”
Alabama taxpayers will pay to defend Trump administration rollback of Endangered Species Act
Alabama taxpayers will pay as much as $30,000 to a Los Angeles law firm to defend President Donald Trump’s substantial weakening of the Endangered Species Act, according to state records.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall led a coalition of 13 states in the Dec. 9 filing in a California district court in defense of the Trump Administration’s changes to protections for endangered species.
California and 16 other states in September filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the Trump administration over rollbacks of the provisions in the Endangered Species Act.
Alabama is to pay attorney Paul Beard II at the Los Angeles firm FisherBroyles, LLP an hourly rate of $195 up to $30,000 to represent the state through Jan. 1, 2022, according to a legal contract that was to be reviewed by the Alabama Legislature’s Contract Review Committee on Wednesday.
Those changes to the Endangered Species Act, enacted in August 2019, include ending wide protections for species newly deemed threatened and a rule mandating that federal agencies take into consideration the financial cost of protecting certain species before being placed on the list of endangered animals, a factor that has never been part of the government’s equation in protecting vulnerable species.
The Trump administration’s rollbacks also make it harder for regulators to factor in climate change when determining protections for at-risk wildlife.
“California is home to hundreds of endangered and threatened species, and wildlife that owes its continued existence to the Endangered Species Act, including the iconic bald eagle,” said California Attorney General Becerra in a statement on the lawsuit. “As we face the unprecedented threat of a climate emergency, now is the time to strengthen our planet’s biodiversity, not to destroy it. The only thing we want to see extinct are the beastly policies of the Trump Administration putting our ecosystems in critical danger. We’re coming out swinging to defend this consequential law – humankind and the species with whom we share this planet depend on it.”
Of concern to the coalition of states suing the Trump administration are actions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to: (List from statement by California Attorney General Becerra)
- Inject economic considerations into the Endangered Species Act’s science-driven, species-focused analyses;
- Restrict the circumstances under which species can be listed as threatened;
- Expand the Act’s narrow exemptions for designating critical habitats and limit the circumstances under which a habitat would be designated, especially where climate change poses a threat;
- Reduce consultation and analyses required before federal agency action;
- Radically depart from the longstanding, conservation-based agency policy and practice of providing the same level of protection to threatened species afforded to endangered species, which is necessary to prevent a species from becoming endangered;
- Push the responsibility for protecting imperiled species and habitats onto the state, detracting from the states’ efforts to carry out their own programs and imposing significant costs; and
- Exclude analysis of and public input on the rules’ significant environmental impacts.
David J. Hayes, director of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law and former deputy interior secretary under President Barack Obama, told The New York Times that the changes would “straitjacket the scientists to take climate change out of consideration” when determining how to best protect wildlife.
Alabama’s latest entry into the fight follows several others since 2016 that challenged aspects of the Endangered Species Act and sought to roll back protections.
“While the federal government, states, and landowners all wish to safeguard our environment, over the last decade we have witnessed an expansion of federal regulation that was both unlawful and unnecessary. Agencies claimed powers Congress never gave them and imposed burdens on landowners that did not benefit the environment,” Alabama Attorney General Marshall said in a statement Dec. 9 on his decision to intervene in the California lawsuit on behalf of the Trump administration.
“This federal overreach triggered a number of successful lawsuits by states and landowners. Alabama has led in several of these legal challenges, and we continue to advocate in court for a transparent and commonsense implementation of the Endangered Species Act through our support of the Trump administration’s reforms,’ Marshall’s statement read.
Alabama is joined in defense of the changes by Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Alabama in November 2016 led another coalition of 20 states in a lawsuit against the Trump administration challenging previous aspects of the Endangered Species Act. Marshall and the other plaintiff’s dropped that suit in March 2018 after the federal government agreed to rules changes.
Marshall in August 2017 joined attorneys general in 18 other states in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a previous ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare as critical habitat portions of Mississippi forest land for the endangered dusky gopher frog.
The timber company Weyerhaeuser sued, arguing that the frog didn’t live on the land and couldn’t, without changes. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed, ruling that to be considered “critical habitat” for a species that species must live on the land in question at that time.
Hunters reminded to report deer they kill
This week thousands of Alabama deer hunters will be in the woods seeking to put meat in the freezer or that trophy that will be mounted on the wall of the family home for the next fifty years. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is reminding hunters to report the deer that they take.
Game Check is an important management tool ADCNR said. “Harvest data collection is an extremely valuable part of managing Alabama’s deer herd.”
ADCNR says that Game Check provides state game managers with data regarding timing of harvest, harvest number, and distribution of harvest throughout the state.
“This invaluable information is used to inform management decisions regarding hunting season frameworks, such as setting timing of seasons, bag limits and zones, as well as population management,” the ADCNR said in a recent newsletter. “Having an incomplete representation of harvest and harvest distribution for deer leads to misinformed management decisions that could negatively impact species populations and ultimately hunter dissatisfaction with harvest opportunities. That is why reporting your deer harvests through Alabama’s Game Check system is so important. Help us better manage for you! Game Check your deer today.”
The ADCNR is also asking for hunters to drop off samples for Chronic Wasting Disease testing.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is increasing Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) sampling surveillance efforts in northwest Alabama after deer in nearby Mississippi and Tennessee have tested CWD-positive. CWD has killed tens of thousands of deer across the U.S. and Canada and wildlife managers are anxious to prevent its spread in Alabama.
The test used to determine the presence of CWD requires a portion of the deer’s brainstem or lymph nodes.
The ADCNR’s Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) is asking hunters to submit harvested deer for testing at check stations, freezer drop-off locations, or WFF offices. In all cases, the hunter will receive test results within three to four weeks.
To see the expanded list of check stations go here:
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