We discuss important environmental issues in the news and investigative reports by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Environmental Integrity Project.
Sailor Turns Sleuth In War For Nation's River
Brent Walls, the Upper Potomac Riverkeeper in Western Maryland, dedicated his life to fighting for clean water in the Nation’s River after he experienced a moment of clarity. He was serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Constellation when he witnessed a routine procedure during his first cruise in the Pacific Ocean. “Twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, the ship would slow down and a bell would ring, and everyone would gather their trash and take it to the back of the boat and just throw it over,” Walls recalled. “I remember one time, in particular, it was a sunset, and there was nothing but open ocean. The ship slowed down and I could see just miles and miles of huge garbage bags floating that we just unloaded into the ocean. That kind of made me sick, it really did.” He knew there had to be a better way. And so, when he got out of the Navy, Walls transformed himself into a clean water warrior and a high-tech sleuth. As the Upper Potomac Riverkeeper for the last 11 years, he has worked to document and report pollution with digital photos, water sampling equipment, and a drone he launches from a James Bond-like compartment on the back of his motorcycle. He’s working with the Environmental Integrity Project to stop toxic water pollution from a paper mill site in Luke, Maryland. There, local residents are struggling to imagine a new future for themselves after the plant's shutdown. Walls thinks he may have an answer.
Terrorism Charges Against Protester Part Of A National Pattern
Anne Rolfes is the Founding Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a nonprofit group that, for the last two decades, has been campaigning for public health protections for mostly lower-income families living just beyond the fences of chemical factories. Her advocacy for air pollution controls has long made her a target for Louisiana’s powerful chemical industry. But recently, her protests against what would be North America’s largest plastics factory, proposed by the Formosa Plastics company atop a site with an historic slave burial ground in the African American community of St. James, Louisiana, provoked more than just the irritation of the political establishment. The Baton Rouge Police Department charged Rolfes with terrorism – a felony – for placing, as part of a peaceful protest of plastics industry pollution, a box with plastic waste from a Formosa plastics plant on the porch of a plastics industry lobbyist. Civil liberties experts say the charges are part of a national pattern of law-enforcement agencies and even the Trump Administration attempting to criminalize dissent and peaceful protests.
Fleeing From The March Of Industrial Agriculture
The poultry industry is growing in the Chesapeake Bay region, with a new generation of mega-sized chicken houses and more ammonia air pollution. On Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Carlene Zach, a 60-year-old retired postmaster, and her husband Peter Zach, 62, a lineman for an electric company, were in good health until a poultry farm opened next door with 24 airplane hangar-sized buildings holding a million chickens. Since then, the ammonia and fecal dust blown from the exhaust fans has drifted their windows, triggering incessant coughing, sneezing, and sore throats. After struggling to find a solution, they decided they had no option but to abandon their dream house. They sold their home for a $40,000 loss and moved to the mountains, feeling betrayed and abused by the industry's march over America's farmland.
Living with Chemical Plant Death. One Family's Story.
Juan Flores grew up near Houston, the son of a refinery worker who repeatedly warned his children of the risks of going into his profession...and then died on the job. Juan became a community coordinator for nonprofit Air Alliance Houston, and now works to protect the people of Baytown and other neighborhoods from air pollution, fires, and explosions. A new report by the Environmental Integrity Project reveals that minority neighborhoods like this one are put at greater risk by severe budget cuts to pollution control programs at state environmental agencies in Texas and across the U.S.
What's in the Water? We Take a Deep Look
For years, fishing guide Rod Bates has been taking families out on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and letting kids swim and play in the water. Then he learned about something disturbing being piped into the river from the Governor's Mansion and State Office Complex in Harrisburg, the state capital. The Environmental Integrity Project and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper investigated the outfalls. We discovered information that -- when released at a packed press conference -- sparked an interstate furor and demands for an investigation.
Livestock Fencing and Water Pollution
One of the biggest sources of water pollution in the U.S. is runoff pollution from farms and livestock operations. But a new Environmental Integrity Project study found that only 19 percent of livestock farmers in Virginia's two largest agricultural counties are fencing their animals out of waterways, creating unhealthy bacteria levels and algal blooms in the Shenandoah River and Chesapeake Bay.