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Read a letter from GCM to the CSPC highlighting the comments of the public about the problems with Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring.
From Fortune The discount hardwood floor retailer found itself in even more turmoil as its CEO abruptly resigned amid a federal probe into product safety and dozens of lawsuits. Lumber Liquidators Holdings LL -16.50% Chief Executive Bob Lynch has abruptly resigned, creating even more turmoil at the discount hardwood flooring retailer as it faces a Continue Reading »
From the New York Times Lumber Liquidators, under scrutiny for months as it faces accusations that it sold products with dangerous levels of formaldehyde, said Thursday that its chief executive had left the company. The chief executive and president, Robert M. Lynch, resigned “unexpectedly,” the company said. Thomas D. Sullivan, the company’s founder, will serve Continue Reading »
From CBS News Lumber Liquidators (LL) said Thursday that CEO Robert Lynch is stepping down. Lynch’s surprise exit from the flooring retailer follows a plunge in the company’s financial performance triggered by a March report by CBS news show “60 Minutes” that found some of the Chinese-made laminate flooring sold at its store violated health Continue Reading »
Lumber Liquidators’ fight against claims its China-sourced laminate flooring contained unsafe levels of formaldehyde could get a lot tougher. Many of the retailer’s product liability insurance carriers are refusing to defend the company in class-action suits brought by unhappy customers — forcing the company to file suit against the insurers, court papers filed in a Continue Reading »
The floor gave way under Lumber Liquidators on Wednesday. The troubled hardwood flooring retailer, in a blizzard of bad news, revealed the feds have launched a criminal probe into its China-sourced laminate flooring; reported that first-quarter results swung to a loss from a profit last year; and announced that Chief Financial Officer Daniel Terrell is Continue Reading »
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GCM Announces New Testing Results of Lumber Liquidators Chinese‐made Laminates
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 2, 2015
GCM Announces New Testing Results of Lumber Liquidators Chinese‐made Laminates
All Chinese‐made Laminates Purchased for Testing Failed CARB Standards
Why These Tests Matter
As noted in the 60 Minutes report, which aired on March 1, 2015, probably tens of thousands of households in California and probably hundreds of thousands of households nationwide are being exposed to formaldehyde emissions from Lumber Liquidators Chinese‐made laminate flooring(i).
According to its website, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) “evaluated formaldehyde exposure in California and found that one of the major sources of exposure is from inhalation of formaldehyde emitted from composite wood products containing urea‐formaldehyde resins. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified formaldehyde from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to “carcinogenic to humans” in 2004, based on the increased risk of nasopharyngeal cancer. Formaldehyde was also designated as a toxic air contaminant (TAC) in California in 1992 with no safe level of exposure. State law requires ARB to take action to reduce human exposure to all TACs.” (emphasis added).(ii)
CARB’s emissions standards regulate the formaldehyde emissions from “composite wood products” such as particleboard, plywood, and medium density fiberboard (MDF). These composite wood products are used in finished goods such as laminate flooring, furniture, or shelving. The underlying particleboard, plywood, or MDF is sometimes referred to as the “core” of the finished good.
CARB’s emission standards make it unlawful to sell products, including laminate wood flooring, in California that contain composite wood cores that exceed certain formaldehyde levels set by CARB.
The Test Method & Results
The tests analyzed Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring purchased in California both in stores and online – the same flooring that consumers would purchase. Lumber Liquidators states that this laminate flooring complies with the CARB Phase 2 Formaldehyde standard. Three different laboratories conducted extensive testing on this flooring – these labs performed over 80 “deconstruction tests” (of which 76 were on Chinese‐made laminates) using the CARB‐approved finished goods methodology and over 200 other formaldehyde tests.
Every single U.S.‐made Lumber Liquidators laminate product purchased for testing passed the CARB standard. Every single Chinese‐made Lumber Liquidators laminate product purchased for testing failed the CARB standard – and by a large average margin. The average formaldehyde emissions of the Chinese‐made products tested was over 6x the CARB legal limit for the MDF core.
All Three Laboratories Used the CARB‐Approved Test Method
Each of the testing laboratories used the finished goods sample preparation method and test method developed by CARB and published on CARB’s website. This is the official CARB test method. CARB has only one published test method for testing for formaldehyde in finished products containing composite wood cores, and that is the test method the independent laboratories used.
The purpose of the deconstruction is to expose the composite wood core so that its emissions can be compared against CARB’s numeric limit. CARB has published a “Standard Operating Procedure” for finished goods testingiii. According to this SOP, this procedure “is to be used to prepare a finished good for laboratory testing to determine if the finished good complies with” CARB standards.(iv) Senior CARB personnel have confirmed that the SOP is the official CARB methodology for analyzing formaldehyde emissions from finished goods.
Lumber Liquidators has criticized the CARB test method, but that industry argument has long since been rejected by CARB. CARB’s official legislative history from 2007 states:
Yes it is correct that finished products must be deconstructed to test for compliance. But, we disagree that there is great uncertainty in the enforcement program. Deconstructive testing is needed for finished goods to verify compliance with the emission standards. We are currently developing the sample preparation and testing protocols that we will use to enforce the ATCM (see page 127 of the ISOR). The sample preparation and emission testing protocol we use to enforce the ATCM will be technically sound and will be more than adequate to identify non‐ compliant composite wood products found in finished goods for California.(v)
Although Lumber Liquidators says it has done testing, it does not say that it has performed deconstructive testing.
The company also posted a chart of “Fiberboard Core Testing” on its website. If these tests were performed by “Third Party Certifiers” (TPCs)vi in China, it would only indicate that the core manufacturer is capable of producing CARB‐compliant cores – not that the cores used in Lumber Liquidators’ products are actually CARB compliant. As noted by 60 Minutes, “[e]mployees at the mills openly admitted that they use core boards with higher levels of formaldehyde to make Lumber Liquidators laminates…they also admitted falsely labeling the company’s laminate flooring as CARB2”. In addition, TPCs sometimes conduct testing on pre‐scheduled dates (rather like announcing the location of highway “speed traps.”) Therefore, TPC tests do not, and cannot, prove that all of Lumber Liquidators’ Chinese‐made products sold in the United States comply with CARB standards. Lumber Liquidators has acknowledged as much in a public court filing:
“A [third‐party certification] is obtained from an approved, third‐party testing lab that tests samples of products – not every product – for formaldehyde levels. Thus, LL’s statement that it obtains [third‐party certifications] from its suppliers (mills) is in no way a representation that every single product meets CARB’s standards.”(vii)
Global Community Monitor is a nonprofit environmental health and justice organization empowering communities to prevent their exposure to toxic chemicals and promote healthy outcomes for all. Global Community Monitor is joined in the Proposition 65 lawsuit by Sunshine Park, a firm affiliated with private investment companies that have substantial short financial exposure to Lumber Liquidators. Sunshine Park and its affiliates have financed extensive testing and have conducted substantial on‐the‐ ground investigation regarding Chinese‐made laminate flooring production.
(i) Lumber Liquidators (LL) has stated that it had “over 620,000 customer transactions” in 2014 alone. LL also states that Laminate, Bamboo, Cork, and Vinyl Plank together accounted for 38% of net sales in 2014. In previous years, LL also disclosed that laminates were 22%, 23%, and 21% of net sales in 2012, 2011, and 2010, respectively. Source: Lumber Liquidators Holdings, Inc. SEC filings
(ii) See http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/compwood/compwood.htm
(iii) This SOP can be found in the “Test Methods” section of CARB’s website (http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/compwood/outreach/testmethods.htm)
(iv) See http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/compwood/outreach/compwood_sop_fg_decon_091313.pdf
v See http://www.arb.ca.gov/regact/2007/compwood07/fsorcompwood07.pdf [Agency Response [24‐Landry‐ 070423‐CWIC] (emphasis added).
(vi) CARB defines a Third Party Certifier as “an organization or entity approved by the Executive Officer that verifies the accuracy of the emission test procedures and facilities used by manufacturers to conduct formaldehyde emission tests, monitors manufacturer quality assurance programs, and provides independent audits and inspections.” See http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/compwood/certifiers.htm
(vii) See Donnie Williamson, et al., v Lumber Liquidators, Inc. Case #1:14‐00035‐GBL‐TCB. “Memorandum in Support of Defendant Lumber Liquidators, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss Under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).” Emphasis in original
~Save the Date~
60 Minutes Viewing Party
March 1, 2015 – 5pm – 8pm at the Ivy Room
GCM is going to be on 60 Minutes and we’re all meeting up at the Ivy Room to watch it! Pamela’s going to bring some salad and Denny’s making vegan chili & cornbread so BYO chili toppings and support our local watering hole by buying a cocktail from the bar.
Come join GCM Staff (we may even sign an autograph or two..) and learn more about the work we’re doing in California and worldwide to protect everyone from toxic exposure.
Whew, 2014 went by quickly and we were busy!
GCM’s 2014 PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS
GCM produced a landmark year, bringing long-term projects (2+ years) to a close in 2014. Working in partnership with Coming Clean Collaborative and community partners to simultaneously release Warning Signs, a national report, and journal article on gas operations/fracking in late October. The report and article featured GCM’s monitoring work around gas operations in six states and provided a snapshot of the impacts of the industry throughout the country.
Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) issued a statewide Air Quality Report, Breathe In New Mexico, featuring
Bucket Brigades in Albuquerque, Mesquite and the Navajo Reservation in November.
In partnership with Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment and the Committee for A Better Arvin, we gathered a trail of evidence exposing the local compost facility’s poisoning of the local community. The publication, Rotten Neighbor: The Story of Community Recycling and Resource Recovery and the South Kern Communities Held Hostage by Neglect was released on the 3rd anniversary of two young workers’ deaths in October.
GCM also closed out the East Bay Body Burden Study in August.
GCM worked with partners to analyze monitoring data and release reports on the movement of goods including:
- Argentine/Turner, Kansas: Focusing on a nearby rail yard, GCM and partners released a report that showed unhealthy levels of diesel exhaust, levels high enough on some days to send the elderly to the hospital or to raise the death rate among residents. The project was featured in a front-page story in the Kansas City Star.
- Seward, Alaska: In July, the Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance, Community Action Against Toxins and Global Community Monitor released the results of our collaborative air quality testing study. The report samples revealed that air around the Seward Coal Loading Facility expose neighbors to crystalline silica.
- Houston, Texas: After closing out a year of sampling, we issued a report suggesting that every day the 10,000 residents of Galena Park are being exposed to unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution from 5,000 diesel trucks entering and exiting Houston’s port.
- Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana: Working with local residents, the Gulf Restoration Network and the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition, GCM launched a coal export monitoring project in 2014.
GCM’s Long Term/In Depth Partnerships
- GCM has begun developing a model for improving the acceptance of community-based air monitoring and data into air district policy and decision making and enforcement of existing rules.
- GCM’s Central Valley Organizer responded to complaints about gas odors in residents’ homes in Arvin, CA. Sample results revealed over twenty toxic chemicals, including cancer-causing benzene. The County evacuated eight homes. It was determined that fracking waste gas was beneath the homes. After months of advocating, Governor Jerry Brown intervened on behalf of the State.
- We are completing a pilot one-year ozone monitoring program in Central Valley. GCM obtained funding to purchase various new air sensors and field test an ultrafine particulate monitor
- Chevron’s real time Air Monitoring system in Richmond, CA went online with GCM serving as the City of Richmond’s expert advising the staff and ensuring accountability. This system is the best state-of-the-art refinery air-monitoring project in the nation and establishes a national model.
- GCM has been participating in SF Bay Area Air Board meetings to advocate for the strongest Refinery Crude Slate and Tracking Rule in the nation.
- GCM provided guidance, planning and fundraising assistance to a newly formed Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition in the San Francisco Bay Area to help address crude by rail projects and refinery expansions.
2014 New Projects:
GCM launched two new air-monitoring collaborations with Jamaica Environment Trust in Clarendon & St. Anne
Parish, Jamaica and the Neighbors for Clean Air in Portland, OR.
GCM organized a national gathering, the Community-Based Science for Action Conference, in November in New Orleans. This three-day event was co-hosted by local partners, Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Public Lab.
The event included a toxic tour of coal trains and a coal terminal in Gretna and Ironton, LA. Over 50 people, primarily industrial occupation doctors and nurses associated with the American Public Health Association Conference, attended the tour. The following two days brought together approximately 150 attendees participating in 20 sessions featuring presenters from leading organizations and academic institutions. Feedback from presenters and attendees has been extremely positive and supportive. GCM was able to offer 35 scholarships to community members and presenters.
In addition, we participated in the Rally Against Fracking in Sacramento and all four of the Healing Walks in the Bay Area, organized by Idle No More.
We also participated in numerous conferences and finally got a GCM Advisory Board organized to work on:
- Expanding GCM’s monitoring tool kit
- Build a place to provide resources for communities (online forums, website)
- Leverage & legitimize current methods
- Data presentation
- Alternatives to fossil fuels
So Happy New Year! And let’s see what we can accomplish in 2015.
Now that the dust has settled, we all got some much needed rest and the final close out paperwork is just about finalized, here are the top ten highlights from the Community Based Science for Action Conference.
- New Orleans!
What better city to host the Community Based Science for Action Conference! GCM has an exciting project nearby in Plaquemines Parish and co-hosts Public Lab and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade both have offices there. With great food, music and culture; it was never a dull moment.
2. The Toxic Tour of Myrtle Grove and Woodpark
Going all of the way to New Orleans without visiting our project partners in Plaquemines Parish would have been a huge disservice to all in attendance. These communities are living on the fenceline of a large coal export terminal and have been plagued with fine coal dust covering their homes, decks and backyards. Many of the residents all shared a similar story of moving out to the Louisiana bayou for a peaceful retirement. Now they’re golden years are filled with relentless Environmental Justice activism. Hearing their stories being shared with fellow activists, community organizers and even some folks from the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting was no less than inspiring.
3. Keynote Speakers, Hilton Kelley and Gen. Honore
Two Environmental Justice leaders lending inspirational stories of their own challenges and success, what a better way to kick off each day of the Conference!
4. All of the great new monitoring tools & techniques!
What happens when you bring a bunch of community scientist together? Well, for starters, they bring all of their monitoring tools to demo! We had Buckets, Mini Vols, FLIR cameras, Kites and a plethora of gadgets from the Public Lab community. This provided an amazing opportunity to learn about the pros and cons of each as well as learn which ones would work best in each individual community. Community monitoring tools have come a long way and there’s still room for improvement. We’re doing our best to make sure all of the presentations are available online, so if you missed it, check here to see if we’ve got it.
5. Wendy Colonna
We’re building a movement here and all strong social movements need music. Wendy kept us going!
6. The Hosts and Volunteers!
With the community based monitoring expertise of Global Community Monitor, the local knowledge of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and the resourcefulness of Public Lab the Community Based Science for Action Conference was no less than amazing. This was by far a powerhouse trio and without the support from all three organizations, the Conference just wouldn’t have been the same. Similarly, without the help from our volunteers, we’d probably still be trying to set up the place. Three cheers for the volunteers who kept that show running!
7. The Networking Opportunities
Where can a resident from San Antonio, Texas get more information about a community led fight against a diesel emitting railyard from the community member leading one in Kansas City? Well, the Community Based Science for Action Conference helped to connect those folks. This conference provided an invaluable opportunity for residents living on the fenceline of heavy industrial pollution to connect with one another and share their own experiences. What can a fact sheet do for my community? Do you know anyone at EPA Region 2? Can you help me organize my community? How the heck can I use social media for fundraising? All of these conversations were facilitated by the Community Based Science for Action Conference and that’s pretty rad!
8. The Venue and Accommodations
The Old U.S. Mint was perfectly located in New Orleans’ French Quarter, and who doesn’t need a beignets break in between sessions? The layout worked well, the auditorium was perfect for large sessions and there was plenty of room for one on one conversations. Similarly, the Hyatt was a great place to recharge at the end of the day. The plush pillows, multiple restaurants and gathering places, AND that breakfast buffet was delicious!!
9. Happy Hour at the Maison
Open bar, tasty New Orleans appetizers and live music? Yes, please!
10. The Attendees!
Even the best of the best planned conferences mean nothing without a wide range of attendees. The scholarship assistance ensured that no one was turned away for lack of funds, which is crucial in getting community leaders there. This movement is going to take people power and by the looks of it, we’ve got a pretty phenomenal bunch. If it weren’t for the attendees, us hosts would have gotten pretty lonely. So, thanks for coming out, thanks for your support and thanks for sharing your expertise!
If you live in a port city, chances are you’ve seen quite the increase in activity over the past few years. Drastic port expansions and dramatic increases in truck traffic are happening all over the U.S. which has raised a lot of concerns among residents, regarding air quality and traffic safety. And without missing a step, many community residents got organized and ready to fight for their right to clean air and healthy communities.
The Moving Forward Network emerged as a great resource for community members living on the fenceline of numerous multi-million dollar port expansions. Through the Network, residents can connect with other communities, living hundreds of miles away, to discuss what worked and what didn’t. Often times communities can share tools, like air monitors, to document the problem and everyone can stand in solidarity for each other. It’s a great idea and it works!
Here’s the thing though: while the Moving Forward Network is connecting to port communities within the United States, the increase in ports and goods movement affects communities all over the globe.
A similar international network has not yet formed.
Meanwhile, communities in isolation are doing their best to respond to this growing international crisis.
Desmond D’Sa, this year’s Goldman Prize winner from Africa, has led rigorous campaigns in South Durban, South Africa for his community’s right to breathe clean air. Currently, Desmond and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDECA) are fighting a $10 billion port expansion. This port expansion stands to displace thousands of people without compensation and exacerbate problems such as waste management, pollution, and traffic.
You can help Desmond by signing the petition against the port expansion here.
This area, because of its coral reefs and mangroves, has been declared a protected area under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act (NRCA), and two fish sanctuaries have been declared under the Fisheries Industry Act to protect the fish nursery there. These would be destroyed forever by the proposed port construction. In addition thousands of fishermen would no longer be able to support themselves and their families.
Sign their petition here.
Building on the work of the US-based Moving Forward Network, we need to stand in solidarity with port communities throughout the world. We need to share resources and information on the same level that 21st century goods are moved: on a global level (and we need the leadership of funders to facilitate this international movement building).
The Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA) and the Basel Action Network (BAN) are great examples of networks that are working with communities addressing issues within countries and across international borders. Recognizing the global trade economy, both work towards sustainable waste solutions within the international community.
Let’s use that energy and momentum for an international network for sustainable ports and minimizing the impacts of the global movement of goods.
Each year in April, near Earth Day, Bay Area environmental health and justice advocates converge on San Francisco’s Opera House and City Hall to celebrate the Goldman Environmental Prize. The anticipation starts days in advance with media and parties celebrating the year’s winners. The award includes $175,000 cash prize, and inclusion in a group that lists some of the most tenacious, hardest working, and strategic grassroots activists in the world.
Six individuals are awarded each year from six continents. Prizes are awarded to grassroots activists that have achieved “sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.”
This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Goldman Prize.
This year we are excited to join in the celebration with Desmond D’Sa fromDurban, South Africa. Desmond’s work over the past two decades with the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) has been relentless in their efforts for clean air and a healthy community.
Desmond, with SDCEA and local, regional and international partners, has won clean air agreements from large refinery neighbors, closed a local dump, was a point person for COP 17 protests and is now leading the charge against the Durban Port expansion. Desmond is full of stories of struggle and victory, and none is more shocking than when a pipe bomb was thrown and exploded at his home during intense campaigning against the refineries.
Desmond was active with Global Community Monitor in the international (anti-) Shell Coalition. As part of this coalition, Des visited County Mayo, Ireland to support Willie Corduff and the Rossport community in the struggle to keep Shell off their farm and community lands. Desmond also visited Richmond, CA in 2011 in support of the community living in the shadow of Chevron.
As a nominator, Global Community Monitor is proud to be associated with the prize winners and the communities they represent. GCM has led and participated in several nominations of Goldman Prize Winners. The Prize is a rare moment for everyday leaders to get the recognition that their sacrifice and persistence deserves.
GCM continues to celebrate Bucket Brigade Leaders Bobby Peek, Durban, South Africa (1998); Margie Richard, Norco, Louisiana (2004); Willie Corduff, County Mayo, Ireland (2007); Hilton Kelley, Port Arthur, Texas (2011) and Dimitry Lisitsyn, Russia (2011).
While the Prize is an amazing recognition, it does not stop the environmental crimes and problems in these communities around the world. Like Desmond, Bobby, Margie, Willie, Hilton and Dimitry, they go on to live another day and fight another fight.
Given their track record, a fight they just might win.
Guest Blog by Gustavo Aguirre Jr.
8 AM: Tuesday, March 18th 2014
A resident in Arvin, CA gets a knock at the door.
A staff person with the Kern County Public Health Department greets the homeowner and states to her that there is very high level (later known to be explosive levels) of gas leaking into her home from a broken pipeline underneath the home. The county worker suggests to the homeowner that it might be a good idea to leave the residence, but only on a voluntary basis, for her own health benefit. Then the county worker walks to the next house, and so on for a total of eight homes.
The county worker did not state it was an emergency, so the family stayed home and continued on with their daily routine.
This resident and her family had been smelling a very strong odor of gas for about three months, mainly coming in from electricity outlets; however she never reported it because she did not know where to report it.
Arvin residents in that area of Nelson Court, had seen PG&E drilling holes in and around their homes and yards the week before, thinking nothing of it. The homeowners assumed that PG&E was fixing the gas leak.
3 PM: March 18, 2014
As a community organizer, I Gustavo Aguirre Jr, working with GCM visited a total of five homes in Nelson Court. ALL OF the residents that I visited confirmed that they had smelled the gas for about 2 to 3 months and were growing concerned with the situation. Why did it take 2 to 3 months to detect a major gas leak?! Why were residents not warned IMMEDIATELY that the levels of gas in their homes had reached explosive levels?!
6 PM: March 18, 2014
Arvin City Council held their regular meeting, however this meeting was much less routine. With a heavy media presence, Kern County Supervisor, Leticia Perez, and the Director of Public Health, Matt Constantine, stated and pleaded to the Council that an emergency evacuation for the eight homes on Nelson Court was of the highest priority.
6:50 PM: March 18, 2014
With the homeowner’s permission, I took an a Bucket sample (air sample) at a residence on Nelson Court.
7 PM: March 18, 2014
Once they made their concerns public, both Mrs. Perez and Mr. Constantine left the meeting to witness the emergency evacuation of all eight homes, including those where the explosive levels of gas were detected. It was then when a resident of one of the homes invited me in to take a Bucket sample (air quality sample) of a room with a very heavy gas odor.
However, only the residents of those eight homes were told of the emergency evacuation. Many of the folks living just across the street are under the impression that there is little danger to their health and safety.
What the community members still don’t understand is, why did the County wait until 7pm to decide that this was an emergency situation? Especially, if they knew that levels of gas were already at explosive levels at 8am that morning!
In the same home where I took the Bucket air sample, one resident stated, “My pregnant daughter is the one who sleeps in the room with the highest smell of gas, last week she got up to use the restroom and while she was walking to the restroom she passed out on the floor.” This same resident stated that she had been feeling sick these past weeks and now she might believe it has to do with the contestant exposure to the gases from the broken pipeline. However, aside from “high levels of gas” no other information was given to the residents on what they may have been exposed over that time.
According to news reports, Kern County Environmental Health said the line is a field gas line, not natural gas. This basically means it’s a waste oil field gas going to flared, or burned off.
According to the county, until the leak, Petro Capital Resources had no idea the line existed even though it was in use.
The County is unclear how long the leak has been going on. It took several days to track down the owner, a problem it said is common because there is no one agency that keeps track of all underground pipelines.
In two of the eight homes evacuated, two households have pregnant women and are concerned for the health of their families and themselves.
The following day, after the families were evacuated, myself, Gustavo Aguirre and Juan Florez from Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, visited the families at the hotel (paid for by Petro Capital Resources), they all relayed the urgency to return home and have the county provide a health impact assessment.
We’re expecting the results of the air sample to be back from the laboratory in a few days. Stay tuned, results will be released Monday, March 24, 2014…………
In late February, GCM made its maiden voyage to Jamaica to train two very different communities on our tried and true Bucket Brigade, as well as launching a few new monitoring tools from our toolkit – water & soil monitoring.
Well, the sunburn has faded and the nasty head-cold, that seemed to be passing on island time, has finally run its course. So, here’s what we learned:
1. Jamaicans are awesome.
From the time we arrived to the day we left, everyone that we worked with was very well organized and ready to take the Bucket Brigade project head on. Our training packed churches and schoolhouses, and everyone was interested in participating.
For this project, GCM partnered with the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), an an environmental education and advocacy organization that has been working with communities all over the country.
The two JET staff members that are
coordinating the project are not only lawyers, but also fierce community organizers. Together we identified two heavily impacted communities, planned the project out with the community leaders, tied up (almost all of) the logistics and set out on a walking tour of the neighborhoods to get a better idea of sampling locations.
AND – these folks are most definitely experts of their community! They told us all about the sediment slide, caused by Caribbean Cement Company and their gypsum mine in the Ten Miles community, in 2002 as they were shepherding me down to
eroded river bed. They remembered every detail from 2002 while alerting me to every loose rock where I could lose my footing. The dust in this community is so bad that you can see it rising up through the trees from the bottom of the mountain, right in front of an elementary school.
The other community tour was no different with the community leaders expressing deep concern regarding the overflow of wastewater from Jamalco’s aluminium mine, while pulling me out of the way of an angry (and kicking!) donkey.
Bottom line: These folks have what it takes to be successful – knowledge, persistence and determination. They are ready to take on community monitoring with the Bucket Brigade; they just need the tools to do it.
3. The Red Stripe tastes better.
Unfortunately, Lagunitas Brewing Company has yet to expand their distribution market to Jamaica. DO NOT PANIC! The Red Stripe beer actually tastes much better in Kingston than anywhere I’ve tried it in the States.
Also worth noting, if given a choice between eating Saltfish and Ackee or a Lobster Patty, go with the Lobster Patty! Although Saltfish and Ackee is delicious, the Lobster Patties are by far the best thing I’ve ever consumed in my life; and honestly you’ll have multiple opportunities to try the Saltfish and Ackee, but never pass up goat curry cooked by the native villagers.
4. Industry will be industry.
Over the years, we at GCM have seen lots of different industry, but more often than not, the company’s main focus is “dollars and cents, instead of common sense”. And, unfortunately, this careless company principle crosses many borders. From toxic waste water overflow in New Town from the aluminium refinery, to toxic waste sediment in Bull Bay from the gypsum mine; environmental injustice is worldwide.
BUT – so is the crazy idea that community organizing can change that and recreate a truly sustainable environment for the next generation.
Remember, a little over a year ago, when the State of California proposed new fracking regulations? Remember how they do not regulate air pollution associated with fracking? Well they are currently in the public comment period and we want to make sure Governor Jerry Brown hears our concerns about the air pollution associated with fracking.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014: GCM staff traveled to California’s Central Valley to unite with the residents living on the front lines of the fracking boom, to express concerns regarding the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources’ (DOGGR) proposed regulations at a public hearing held at the Kern County Administrative Building. What a trip!!
Residents traveled from all over the Central Valley, showed up early with signs and anti-fracking chants. We staged a rally out front and cheered as motorists honked in support. Then, one by one, we filed in and filled out our cards to make public comment. Everyone could agree that these proposed regulations were not going to protect the health and safety of Valley residents from the potential pollution associated with fracking.
Governor Brown’s new fracking regulations are flawed, especially related to air pollution by:
a lack of air monitoring;
inadequate control of emissions from fracking and related production operations;
Back in December, GCM Staff connected with concerned residents in Shafter, CA where there is nearly constant flaring going on at a fracking site. The flare is just upwind of a school and community garden, where residents have reported acute health effects, like burning eyes and sore throats.
Central Valley residents, active with the Bucket Brigade, were able to collect an air sample, near this site, in Shafter.
The results show a presence of five different chemicals, known to be associated with fracking operations as well as increased levels of methane, also common near fracking sites.
The level of acrylonitrile detected at this location, 5.9 µg/m3, is 590 times the reference level set by the US EPA, to be associated with an increased risk of cancer for a lifetime of exposure. Additionally, it also exceeds the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) chronic reference exposure level, and could pose an increased risk for negative health effects on the respiratory system.
The sample results also detected a mix of toxic chemicals, including styrene, chlorobenzene, toluene and ethanol, as well as a methane level of 2.7 ppm, which is higher than normal background levels, indicating that this sample location may be impacted by localized emissions of methane.
Considering that California’s Central Valley has some of the worst air quality in the Country, air pollution from fracking could serve to overburden residents living in the Central Valley. Especially among vulnerable populations like children, pregnant women, seniors and those with already compromised immune systems.
Residents of the Central Valley, and all other parts of California, deserve clean air not fracking wells. Not able to express your concerns at a public hearing? No problem. Comments can be submitted online. Take action for clean air and let Governor Brown know that you oppose fracking in California!