Green Delaware News #32
Justice for gay, lesbian, bisexual people
The "no flush" campaign to clean up Wilmington' sewers
Chemicals in our drinking water
Rehoboth Beach makes a good move
Motiva refinery to get clean-up?
DNREC's "Bogus Community Committee"
Port Penn, DE, March 30, 2001 Thanks to all who gave us feedback as sought in News #31. If you haven't yet done so, please share you thoughts with us. Needed: activists, volunteers, contributors.... Between now and June 30th, we will be making a big effort to pass a bill to stop raw sewage dumping by the City of Wilmington (more below). Join the "No Flush Committee." Among other things, Green Delaware volunteers will hand out flyers in Wilmington at noontime at least once a week. Let us know if you would like to join in this or another part of the "no flush" campaign.
Elfriede Berryhill-distinguished anti-nuke activist
Frieda Berryhill has resigned from the Green Delaware Steering Committee. Berryhill is a top anti-nuclear activist, known as the person who, more than any other, stopped Delmarva Power from building a nuclear power plant (or starting to build one) in Delaware, on the Southern bank of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. This is a service for which everyone in Delaware owes her a debt of gratitude. She wrote: "...I took a little time to reflect, to evaluate my activities for the past 30 years and to look at all the successes and failures and came to the conclusion that it was good, that the promise by President Nixon of 1,000 nuclear power plants by the year 2000 never came to fruition. [ In 2001, 24 operators run 103 nuclear reactors in the US, down from 54 operators running 112 nukes in 1989.] We were an army of little ants attacking this massive elephant and we won. However, they are not giving up...." Neither, we are sure, is Frieda Berryhill. Green Delaware is grateful to her for her wise counsel, and her generous hospitality for many of our meetings.
House Bill 99-towards justice for gay, lesbian and bisexual people
House Bill 99 would ban discrimination in employment against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (in Delaware). Rep. Bill Oberle has introduced such a bill several times, and this year it finally passed the House of Representatives by one vote. Now it is the Senate *small business* committee, made up of Senators Venables (chair), Bunting, Still, and McDowell. The self-proclaimed "Christian Coalition" launched an ugly attack, sending thousands of postcards to people all over Delaware equating homosexuality with immorality and disease. The coalition promoting this legislation has not sought support from Green Delaware. Nevertheless, Green Delaware Steering Committee members have discussed this issue, and feel that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is no more justified than racial, religious, or other discrimination.
"No Flush Campaign" to Stop Raw Sewage Dumping by City of Wilmington
Stopping raw sewage dumping by the City of Wilmington is a key Green Delaware issue. Last year House bill 671, which would have banned the dumping by Jan 1, 2008, was making good progress in the General Assembly. A bill will soon be re-introduced, possibly with some changes. Wilmington realities are (1) the infrastructure of the city has been severely neglected for decades, (2) the City has charged very low rates for sewer service, while skimming millions per year from its Water and Sewer Fund for other purposes, while claiming poverty, and (3) the City has filed an absurd "Long Term Control Plan that *would not* solve the problem. Former Mayor Sills of Wilmington never got interested in cleaning up the sewers. We have had many conversations with present Mayor Jim Baker about this problem, but he shows no interest in cooperating with Green Delaware. Baker talks a better line than Sills; he says he wants a 100 percent cleanup, not just the 85% cleanup Federal and state regulators say is good enough. But does he mean it? Baker has left untrustworthy and uncooperative Sid Sharma in charge of the issue, and cooperation from the Public Works Department remains poor. (The last time we visited the Dept. to review drawings of Wilmington sewers, Sharma kicked us out, saying he didn't like our "no flush" campaign.) So, we will keep trying to work with the City, but state legislation is needed more than ever.
Chemicals-- Do we Know What's in our Drinking Water?
Number of chemicals known: 17,311,404 (American Chemical Society)
"Commercially available chemicals" 1,055,238 (ACS)
"Inventoried/regulated substances" 223,331 (ACS)
covered by "Toxics Release Inventory" 576 (+ 28 "categories")
("reportable list of toxic chemicals")
known or suspected, etc, carcinogens 667 ("Waste Not")
monitored under Safe Drinking Water Act 86 (approximate)
(The American Chemical Society maintains a widely-used list of chemical substances. Check its web site, www.cas.org/cgi-bin/regreport.pl for the latest chemical totals)
Is your drinking water safe? Don't count on it in Delaware >p>Most people can agree that nothing is more important to health than pure drinking water. But it's harder to agree on what constitutes "pure," and how that should be achieved. The process in Delaware is complex, lacks public participation, and is not entirely effective. All over Delaware people are drinking water contaminated with chemicals known to cause cancer and other serious diseases. In most but not all cases these chemicals are below the federal "maximum contaminant levels," but that does *not* mean the water is safe. Water suppliers are supposed to provide so-called "consumer confidence reports" that provide limited information and contain wording similar to this: "Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly, and infants can be particularly at risk from infections.
These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers." This means that even water complying with the Federal "maximum contaminant levels" may cause problems for these "vulnerable sub-populations" making up 20-30 percent of us. The Delaware House of Representatives recently formed a "task force," chaired by Rep. Dick Cathcart, to look at drinking water problems,. But, the membership is skewed towards water providers rather than health advocates. We don't know what will come of it.
Arsenic in your drinking water?
Arsenic causes all sorts of health problems, ranging from skin lesions to various types of cancer (lung, kidney, bladder, nose....) It occurs naturally in water in some places, but people may also be exposed from industrial pollution, mining activities, and working with treated wood. The present Federal "maximum contaminant level" (MCL) of 50 parts per billion (ppb) arsenic was set 59 years ago, in 1942, before the cancer-causing nature of arsenic was well understood. The Environmental Protection Agency aims to keep cancer risk from drinking water to less than one in a million. The 50 ppb level may cause a cancer risk of one-in-a-hundred-many times higher. After years of discussion and politicking, the EPA recently adopted a new standard of 10 ppb. (This standard has also been adopted by the European Union and the World Health Organization). 10 ppb would still not meet the one-in-a-million goal (EPA originally proposed 5 ppb) but would be far safer. President Bush, selling out to the mining and wood-treating industries, has rescinded the new standard, claiming that it has not been sufficiently justified. This matters to Delaware because several water systems (Clayton, Wind Song, Woodfield, and Felton)have shown arsenic levels above ten ppb. The State of Delaware needs to adopt at least the 10 ppb level as soon as possible. ACTION: If you live in Delaware, contact your Senator and Representative, and Governor Minner's office. (Gov. Minner's spokesperson Greg Patterson says her administration IS considering a lower standard.)
Rehoboth Beach-handling storm water responsibly
Stormwater runoff from developed areas causes pollution. Especially after a dry spell, streets and roofs are polluted with bird and animal droppings, oil and grease dripped from vehicles, discarded food scraps, and so on. When this mess is washed into storm sewers, serious pollution emerges from the outlet pipes. (This is one reason why separation of "storm" from "sanitary" sewers doesn't solve all the problems caused by sewer systems.) Beach resorts are very aware of this because they usually discharge their stormwater into the ocean, and beaches are often closed (or ought to be closed) because of high bacteria levels from stormwater pollution. Recently, Rehoboth Beach on the Atlantic coast of Delaware rebuilt the storm sewers under it's main drag, Rehoboth Avenue. Under the existing weak regulations, the town could have piped the water directly into the ocean. Instead, it installed a holding tank and pump system so that the initial "flush" will be collected and pumped to the sewage treatment plant. The cost of this was a small part of the overall cost of the project. John A. Hughes, Director of the Division of Soil and Water in the Department of Natural Resources, worked with Rehoboth officials to get this done. Hopefully the state will now consider writing such requirements into its regulations.
Motiva-a very promising clean-up but the deal is not really done
In the July 1957 issue of Reader's Digest appeared a 2-page add touting the new Tidewater Oil Company, oil refinery in Delaware: "This is the refinery of the future ... a precision instrument whose operation is guided by a giant electronic brain ... the largest refinery every built from the ground up .... This is one industrial complex that will create only beauty around it ... This care for the refinery's surroundings extends into the atmosphere, too. No pall of industrial smoke hangs over it. The farthest advances of science-and many millions of dollars-have achieved new wonders in assuring country-sweet air to its neighbors." Need we say it didn't turn out that way? Recent research by reporter Jeff Montgomery showed that the refinery, now known as Motiva (a joint venture of Shell, Texaco, and Saudi-Aramco) pumps out 2,572 tons per year of dust ("particulates"), and 47,000 tons/year of sulfur oxides, more than any of the other 163 refineries in the US. Emissions of very toxic carbon monoxide were 9,881 tons per year, 4th highest of all 163 refineries. At public hearings, refinery officials could be observed blatantly lying to, and mocking, state officials and members of the public. Now, the refinery may, at long last, be significantly cleaned up. Extensive publicity has been given to agreements involving Delaware and the Federal government that would put scrubbers on major emission sources at Motiva, reducing emissions by thousands of tons per year. Sulfur compound emissions would be reduced by over ninety percent. Good news for Delaware and South Jersey if it really happens.. But, the deals aren't yet signed and sealed. We have seen one Delaware document, not yet signed by the Chancery Court. Two Federal Court documents, not made available to Green Delaware, are to be filed in Houston, TX. Then they have to be published in the Federal Register, and a public comment period will ensure. EPA will consider the comments and prepare a response document. Only then can the Federal Court approve the settlement. Then, the improvements are to be installed over a period of several years. Let's hope all this comes to pass.
Senate Bill 33 and DNREC's "Bogus Community Committee"
One of Gov. Minner's campaign issues was better disclosure of environmental spills and leaks ("releases"), and actual proposals are in SB 33, written by DNREC and sponsored by Sen. Dave McBride. McBride held a hearing on March 28 and plans another on April 4th at 2:30. (There wasn't time for everyone who wanted to testify on the 28th). Industry (Chemical Industry Council, DuPont, Ciba, SPI Polyols) reps complained that the reporting requirements were too stringent In some respects we agree, but the actual wording of the bill conflicted with what DNREC secretary Nick DiPasquale said it meant. DiPasquale claimed DNREC had worked with two chambers of commerce on the bill-and not, of course, with Green Delaware. We made these points (not reported in the press): (1) Disclosing the occasional "environmental releases" is important, but it's the belching of "normal" emissions, allowed by DNREC permits, that's the bigger problem, and (2) the proposed Community Involvement Advisory Council seems intended to make it *easier* for DNREC to give out permits, and *harder* for communities to protect themselves. DNREC's top managers have always made clear that they considered the defeat of the Philpower incinerator to be a defeat for DNREC. They *wanted* to give a permit for an incinerator. And we think they want incinerator promoters and other pollution sources to prevail in the future. They want Green Delaware's campaigns to *fail.* Thus a "Bogus Community Committee," dominated by industrial interests and their stooges, intended to tranquilize rather than empower communities. More on this in a separate Alert.
Follow-up from News 31 ....
The Bill Moyers chemical industry expose, "Trade Secrets," has "jump started a wave of grassroots activism across the country." See www.alternet.org/chemicals.html.
The University of Delaware is opposing Sen. Dave McBride's bill to control the peddling of credit cards on Delaware campuses. University lobbyist Rick Armstrong told Green Delaware the U. thinks the practice helps students develop a credit record.
A story in the April 1, "Stooge" Journal says "Delaware has bowed to the objections of an environmental coalition and said it will weigh the economic benefits to the state of a plan to deepen the Delaware River main channel." This is good, but is *not* the same thing as a new Federal cost-benefit analysis for the project as a whole. We still think the issuance of permits by DNREC is inevitable, absent public protest. (Green Delaware didn't receive any information from the supposed "environmental coalition.")
Upcoming -"Developing Delaware to death:" Communities sue New Castle County over Odessa National sprawl development; Feds proceed with Rehoboth hotel subsidy; Appoquinimink County; Delaware Nutrient Management Commission promotes incineration; MBNA censors Earth Day in Delaware; lobotomedia-does Delaware's press fairly report independent voices?
Let us know what you think.
Email us at
Alan J. Muller, Exec. Director
P.O. Box 69
Port Penn, DE 19731
This page was last updated on March 25, 2001.
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