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November 2, 2015
Contacts: Community Health Watch (Margie Strite); Global Community Monitor (Bart Lounsbury); ATA Law Group (Matthew Maclear at 415-568-5200)
Federal Court Approves Clean Water Act and Proposition 65 Discharge Case
(Chester, CA) A Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water and Toxics Enforcement Act (Proposition 65) lawsuit, filed by Community Health Watch (CHW) and Global Community Monitor (CGM) against Collins Pine Company, was approved by Hon. Judge Troy L. Nunley in the federal Eastern District Court of California. Collins Pine Company operates a sawmill and biomass-fired boiler in Chester, CA, a small community of approximately 2,000 residents in the northern Sierra Nevada’s. The suit was filed by Aqua Terra Aeris (ATA) Law Group on behalf of the local group, Community Health Watch, and international toxics watchdog, Global Community Monitor.
The Parties, through collaboration and innovative problem-solving, agreed to resolve this case by having Collins Pine Company shift from a wet to a dry boiler air pollution control device. This court-approved settlement largely eliminates the possibility of problematic discharges going forward. In addition to the substantial mitigation measures resulting in cleaner emissions and discharges, Collins Pine Company agreed to fund local environmentally-beneficial projects through the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, perform monitoring and reporting on compliance, in addition to covering costs, fees and significant civil penalties.
“We see tremendous benefits to the community of Chester and its environment resulting from this settlement.” Margie Strite, Co-Executive Director of CHW.
CHW is an unincorporated citizen group located in Chester, California. The mission and focus of CHW is to protect the combined social, health, environmental and cultural conditions that influence individuals and the community in the Chester and Lake Almanor area of Plumas County, California
Global Community Monitor, trains and supports communities internationally in the use of environmental monitoring tools to understand and address industrial toxic pollution threats to their health and the environment. GCM collaborates with an established network of environmental health experts in the US and internationally to leverage resources for the communities.
ATA Law Group represents nonprofits, community groups, property owners, environmental justice communities and individuals impacted by pollution.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2015
Contact: Gustavo Aguirre Jr. 661-889-1917
Ingrid Brostrom 510-717-8482
Air Emissions from the Covanta Biomass Facility Result in Fines
Community complaints lead to over $30,000 in violation penalties
DELANO, CA—The San Joaquin Valley Air District recently found the Covanta biomass incinerator in Delano liable for seven air quality infractions, leading to over $30,000 in penalties. The latest in the series of violations was settled on September 10th, resulting in a $20,000 fine for Covanta’s “failure to comply with visible emissions limits.” The air district’s action is responding to a resident-led effort to monitor and report suspected violations from the Covanta facility.
According to reports from residents, the facility consistently fails to control smoke emitted from a pair of smoke stacks just two miles south of Delano. Over the last year, concerned residents living nearby the facility have filed over 20 complaints to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, through the community-based Kern Environmental Enforcement Network (KEEN) reporting platform. The air district used these complaints to investigate, ultimately finding the company liable for seven separate violations of its air permits.
“For communities in the San Joaquin Valley, this represents a public health victory,” said Cesar Campos, Director of Central California Environmental Justice Network. “In many cases these facilities are plagued with poor compliance, as we see with the facility in Delano, and serve to advance a scenario in which fence-line communities suffer while other areas of the state reap the benefits.”
These violations come at a time when the future of biomass facilities across the state is uncertain, as decreasing costs in renewable sources of energy are driving down profit margins for this industry. This year, the California State Legislature held a bill that would have used greenhouse gas reduction funding to subsidize biomass operations.
Ingrid Brostrom, an attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, suggests that given the poor air quality of the San Joaquin Valley, we should be looking for better alternatives to the burning of agricultural waste products. “This nutrient rich material should be returned to the soil to help the productivity of our agriculture, not burned to increase air pollution. Let’s go for the win-win solution, where we can promote better soil and healthier, cleaner communities.”
Gustavo Aguirre, Jr., Coordinator of the KEEN project said, “This case demonstrates that residents are, in fact, experts in their communities and they should be more closely supported by government agencies that are expected to protect public health and the environment.”
The Kern Environmental Enforcement Network (KEEN) is a community-based environmental justice project that empowers residents by allowing them to report environmental concerns easily, safely and anonymously. In Kern County, this network has helped bring environmental justice issues to the forefront since its inception in 2012. The project also involves working with regulatory agencies to find solutions to the reports via compliance and enforcement actions. To learn more about KEEN, please visit www.kernreport.org or to report by phone call: 1-661-379-0411.
When $100,000 is not enough: how citizen data (could) relate to government regulation
October 29, 2013: The headline on airhugger.wordpress.com reads: “Houston we have a problem: Six little inches of air will determine whether millions of dollars will be spent to clean up the air of millions of people in the Oil and Chemical Capital of the World.”
From the front porch of a single family home in Galena Park, Houston, the sights and sounds of industry come from all around: diesel trucks revving and idling, the clank of cranes setting down new sections of pipelines, the screeching brakes of trains loaded with Bakken Crude Oil, the low tones of container ship horns.
Below, Galena Park with industry in the background. Houston Chronicle, August 5, 2014:
Galena Park is a predominantly Hispanic, low-income area of approximately 3,000 households living in single family homes located along the Houston Ship Channel.
The community’s commercial strip, Clinton Drive, is also the thoroughfare for all truck traffic generated by the Port of Houston and the many facilities along that part of the Houston Ship Channel. On average, Clinton Drive see several thousand diesel trucks daily. The high traffic roadways and petrochemical refineries expose the under-resourced neighborhood to significant air quality impacts from fine particulate matter (PM2.5) even as economic tightening and technological advancements have reduced the number of jobs available to those who live nearest this industrial cluster.
Being that the Houston-Galveston region is such a heavily industrialized area, the EPA closely monitors air quality via an array of regulatory air monitoring stations. And although Galena Park has a PM2.5 regulatory monitor right on Clinton Drive, community members will quickly point out that it is outside of the city’s primary residential areas. Clinton Drive runs alongside the shipping channel by Galena Park about a mile to a mile and a half outside the residential area where the bulk of homes, the elementary, junior, and high schools, Early Head Start, and Recreation Center host most of the population. The sources of PM2.5 are closer to the neighborhood than the monitoring station is.
There are two Federal Regulatory Monitors at the Clinton Drive site, a pump which draws 16.67 liters of air per minute through a 3” intake continually over a 24 hour duration, and a filter which collects physical samples to be weighed. The City of Houston and the City of Galena Park have made specific landcover improvements in the vicinity of the regulatory monitor that were not made in the neighborhood, such as planting trees in the median of Clinton Drive and paving nearby parking lots, both of which have the effect of keeping the dust down. For these reasons, the Galena Park community has longstanding concerns that the regulatory monitor is not reflective of the airquality within the actual community.
EPA long term data for Galena Park shows annual averages of PM2.5 hovering at 11.6 micrograms per cubic meter, just below the annual threshold of 12 μg/m3, which would be a violation of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) (http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/criteria.html), as authorized by the Clean Air Acthttp://www.epa.gov/air/caa/.
Clinton Drive’s hourly real time data is published here (https://www.tceq.texas.gov/cgi-bin/compliance/monops/daily_summary.pl?cams=403) by the Texas Commision for Environmental Quality, accompanied with the following text:
PLEASE NOTE: This data has not been verified by the TCEQ and may change. This is the most current data, but it is not official until it has been certified by our technical staff. Data is collected from TCEQ ambient monitoring sites and may include data collected by other outside agencies. This data is updated hourly. All times shown are in local standard time unless otherwise indicated.
TCEQ data shows variability including peaks at times that seem to correspond with early AM diesel truck traffic and idling:
Notice PM 2.5 at the bottom row of parameters.
This hourly data shown here gives us a moment to consider that EPA 24 hour standards allow for much higher values of 35 μg/m3. This leads to a question often posed by fenceline communities, “Considering that some days the industrial campuses are not operating, and are releasing zero emissions, how many 0.0 μg/m3 and 35 μg/m3 days combine to create a 12 μg/m3 annual average? What is our actual health exposure to particulates?”
But back to the main story: If airborne PM2.5 were to have an average annual concentration above 12 μg/m3, then the federal EPA could assert authority, requiring Texas to draft a new plan to ensure that it will achieve the NAAQS standards, which would likely incorporate stricter emissions permits. Stricter emissions permits may require substantial technological upgrades or expensive operational changes, and therefore are generally met with resistance from industry groups; however, quoting Brian Butler, “Sometimes cost is the argument i hear from some industries about why they can’t do environmental improvements. But we have seen examples in the past where some industries have been able to recapture their investment in mitigation technologies through improved operational efficiency and reduction of loss of product.” Citizen groups also could take action to file against the Texas CEQ or the federal EPA for failure to take the actions available to each respective agency to uphold the Clean Air Act if the Houston air were not in attainment of the NAAQS (e.g. higher than 12 μg/m3 PM2.5 over a year).
Therefore, beginning in 2012, seeking to both understand and address air quality conditions in Galena Park, regional environmental advocates Air Alliance Houston (AAH) and international environmental health and justice non-profit Global Community Monitor (GCM) undertook a community health impact survey, a community mapping workshop, and a community air monitoring project.
To skip ahead, we’ll present what data was actually collected by what methods: GCM and AAH conducted air monitoring over the course of a year for fine particulate matter and elemental carbon (a surrogate for diesel pollution) at four community-selected sites inside the Galena Park residential neighborhood. In total, over $100,000 was spent. The equipment and methods involve two MiniVol11 Tactical Air Samplers (TAS)http://www.airmetrics.com/products/minivol/index.html and laboratory analysis of the MiniVol filters, 47 mm Teflon filter media which has been approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (link to 1999 study http://www.airmetrics.com/products/studies/1.html, and look out for FRM documentation links later in this post).
It is fair to ask, why would a community group invest so much money in MiniVols? Global Community Monitorreports that Quality Assurance Protocols for the MiniVol have been approved by the State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the State of Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. There is a monitoring project underway in Oregon with a DEQ approved plan, with one minor note that “because of the lower flow rate of the MiniVol, the minimum detection limits (MDLs) will be higher.” http://www.whatsinourair.org/2014/10/28/chapman-air-monitoring-plan/#.Vgw7oWRVikp Discussions are underway with some of the State of California’s Air Districts and EPA Region 9 that would mandate follow-up research to be conducted by the agencies if community submitted data from MiniVols or buckets indicated levels exceeding regulatory standards. Additionally, MiniVols are accessible because many state and county health departments own them and in some cases have loaned them to community projects, as in Albuquerque New Mexico to the South Western Organizing Project (SWOP).
Exhaustive details of the monitoring protocol excerpted from the final report issued by AAH can be found here:http://publiclab.org/wiki/galena-park-monitoring-report#B.+Monitoring+Equipment+and+Analysis+(Page+13+of+the+PDF)
Interestingly, in the Galena Park study, there was no statistical difference between community-collected MiniVol data and the TCEQ’s data. Stepping aside from the long standing debates between how government averages are calculated over periods of year(s) (for both pollution and human health response to exposure levels) versus how communities experience hotspots / peak events, the statistical similarity means that to some extent the MiniVols were on point. And yes, the community and several doctors continue to be concerned about the high peak levels of particulate matter. But here is where this post takes a different turn because those issues are not what the EPA addressed in their response to AAH’s submission:
The EPA wrote a response titled “Responses to Significant Comments 2012 Annual PM2.5 NAAQS December 17, 2014”, in their document “PM 2.5 Desig RTC EPA-HQ-OAR-2012-0918-0337-1.PDF,” Section 3.2.4. EPA Region VI. The following is reprinted from page 56 of 68:
Comment: The commenters questioned whether the monitoring data obtained at the [EPA] Clinton Drive Monitor site is representative for the Galena Park community and submitted monitoring data gathered from five monitoring sites operated by Air Alliance Houston at various locations within the community (see Figure 2 below). The commenters believe the Air Alliance monitoring data demonstrated that the Clinton Drive [EPA] monitor was not representative of area air quality and that the area could be in violation of the NAAQS.
EPA Response: We first note that we must consider all valid data within the relevant 3- year time frame that is collected in conformance with the Federal Reference Methods and siting requirements in our designation decision. As discussed below, the Clinton Drive monitoring site meets these requirements and therefore, must be considered. The location of the Clinton Drive monitor conforms to all applicable siting criteria, as set forth in 40 CFR Part 58, Appendix D and E, and has been approved by the EPA as part of TCEQ’s most recent Annual Monitoring Network Plan and 5-year Monitoring Network Assessment. The Clinton Drive monitor is approximately 1.5 miles from Galena Park, as shown in Figure 2. At Clinton Drive, TCEQ operates PM2.5 Federal Reference Method (FRM) and non-FRM continuous monitors.
With regard to whether the data collected by Air Alliance Houston indicates a violation, Region 6 evaluated the monitoring data submitted by the commenter. Approximately 29 discrete samples were collected in the Galena Park community over a 16-month period from May 2012 through September 2013, thus the data is limited in scope compared to the data collected by regulatory monitors over a 3-year period and subject to data completion criteria. Additionally, these data were also not monitored and collected according to the requirements of the federal reference method for PM2.5 found in 40 CFR part 50, Appendix L. Our designations must be based on valid 3-year design values, and even if the monitoring data submitted by the commenters fully complied with the siting and data quality criteria, there are not sufficient data on which to derive a valid, 3-year design value.
Therefore, these data do not affect our decision to designate the area as Unclassifiable/ Attainment.
End Quote. Short story: despite the alignment in data, the EPA’s dismissal of the project because the tool and methods were not FEM/FRM (see below) appears to be undercutting the EPA’s own rhetoric of funding and working with EJ communities collecting citizen science data.
Oh and in case anyone’s looking for 40 CFR part 50, Appendix L, check page 84 of 91 inhttp://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/pm/data/fr20061017.pdf or herehttps://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/40/part-50/appendix-L
In response to the response given to the AAH Galena Park monitoring project by the EPA, Brian Butler of AAH presented the above poster at the July 2015 EPA Community Air Monitoring Training workshop, and says,
”I wrote the title “What’s the Use?” as a double entendre expressing the futility of collecting data that won’t have impact and to also pose a honest question to the EPA.”
As writers of this post, we are wondering out loud about this kind of response from the EPA. During a time where the EPA awards grants to conduct citizen science under their Environmental Justice program area. and much time and effort is then spent by communities collecting data on environmental quality, a dismissive response like this seems patronizing and like an opportunity was missed for more collaborative environmental management.
NB: Please see a quick background on the EPA prepared for this blog post here: http://publiclab.org/wiki/usepa
Where does citizen data fit in the realm of EPA assessment and enforcement?
Not an exhaustive list, but the biggies:
- Citizen Science In the Adirondacks has been directly funded by the EPA as part of its assessment plan:http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/eeffe922a687433c85257359003f5340/8c8f002317304c8f85257c3d0068ed08!opendocument
- Citizen Science in Tonawanda was independently conducted (using GCM Buckets), eventuating in an EPA enforcement action and a criminal conviction:http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/5CF8163B1864025E85257B720055A5BB
- Citizen Science in Newark’s Ironbound used truck counts to appeal to local authorities to change regulations around truck traffic and idling. The EPA is now bringing their own sensors in. http://www2.epa.gov/air-research/ironbound-community-citizen-science-toolbox-fact-sheet
- Less officially, Citizen Science in the Superfund CAG Gowanus was independently conducted by multiple groups who submitted multiple types of data to EPA through the CAG, with the result that the Superfund Phase 1 assessment was greatly informed by local expertise about existing outfalls, and the Superfund boundary was expanded to restore an additional city block of wetlands.
Federal Reference Method & Federal Equivalent Method
drumroll please…”And at last we come to FRMs and FEMs”
FRM: Federal Reference Method FEM: Federal Equivalent Method
Title 40, Part 53 of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR Part 53):http://www.epa.gov/ttnamti1/files/ambient/criteria/reference-equivalent-methods-list.pdf Title 40 CFR 53.1 – Definitions: https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/40/53.1
Definition of FRM: Federal reference method (FRM) means a method of sampling and analyzing the ambient air for an air pollutant that is specified as a reference method in an appendix to part 50 of this chapter, or a method that has been designated as a reference method in accordance with this part; it does not include a method for which a reference method designation has been canceled in accordance with § 53.11 or § 53.16.
Definition of FEM: Federal equivalent method (FEM) means a method for measuring the concentration of an air pollutant in the ambient air that has been designated as an equivalent method in accordance with this part; it does not include a method for which an equivalent method designation has been canceled in accordance with § 53.11 or § 53.16.
Definitions don’t quite capture “purpose”, so although it may seem obvious, let’s rhetorically ask why we have FRMs and FEMs? First and foremost, we have FRMs and FEMs because we want the highest quality data to inform us about our environment. The EPA also has liability to consider, and wants to ensure that the data underlying its assertions or actions are highly defensible. This is logical from a regulatory standpoint and an enforcement standpoint.
Issues arise, however, as we return to Appendix L and read that FRMs specify branded and trademarked technologies and list individual manufacturers of the devices needed to assess air quality.https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/40/part-50/appendix-L
Restating this, the current status is that to collect regulatory quality environmental data, one must use blackboxed, patented products. Many patented technologies are commercialized to sell at prices that are inaccessible to most citizens, and thus there is a huge financial barrier disabling the public from gathering data and producing “valid” information. But this is the type of tech development (closed source, patented, expensive) funded by the EPA and established as the standard for environmental assessment. Requiring FRMs or FEMs for even the lowest screening-level assessments unnecessarily impede the ability of citizens to collaborate with environmental agencies in the monitoring of their local environments because FRMs and FEMs are too costly and time-consuming for persons other than official government personnel to perform.
Before even getting to phase where products are named and sold, there is a research and development phase yielding results on how technology works that could be published openly. There are many open source innovators eager to collaborate with the EPA that are hindered simply by closed publishing. In one anecdote from 2013 and 2014, the EPA excitingly came very close to supporting this space when they ran an assessment of low cost, air quality sensors being used in the DIY and citizen science communities, and published the summary results in the Air Sensor Guidebook http://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_file_download.cfm?p_download_id=519616. But, under the http://www2.epa.gov/ftta/collaborating-epa-through-federal-technology-transfer-act, the EPA was able to request that companies send in their devices for testing, perform an incredible amount of very valuable comparative testing, yet not release any of the actual data that could help citizen innovators learn how technology in this space was performing and spur open source innovation.
Why does the EPA distribute and use funds for closed source development? In some ways, it is a result of a worldview that holds that patents spur technological development through the future profits available to those who invest in research and development. http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/ip-factsheet.pdf. But open source, commons-based peer production offers another path for spurring innovation.
Consequences result from this patent regime: as things currently stand, there’s simply no way for citizens and government to speak the same language on air quality. In an age of open data, we argue that “gov can dish it but can’t take it” (Barry, 2012). But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Air Alliance Houston is concerned that their time and money, and that of other grassroots groups, is being wasted because there is no pathway for community-collected data to have impact at the enforcement level. As Brian Butler writes, this is a serious issue of the EPA contradicting itself, or worse, patronizing EJ communities through offering citizen science grants just to go through the motions of a potemkin process. Clearly, technology is a fast moving space, and we are in an awkward period where the EPA’s proverbial door is opened to citizen data, but it can’t come in.
We need pathways for citizen and community collected data to connect to agency regulatory action
Perhaps modeled after QAPP levels, evidence levels could be established, and a place for screening to prompt further action. A suggestion along these lines has already been made in the EPA’s 2014 Air Sensor Guidebook report, though it is incomplete as it mostly discusses relative standard deviations that could be appropriate and does not include a pathway for driving action or response from the government at any level.
Here are some larger ideas around supporting innovation and citizen <-> government collaboration that have been informed by positions articulated by Mathew Lippincot @mathew :
- results from federally funded research must be published in journals that do not require paid subscriptions to access, and the data from the study be published in open formats
- federally funded tool development should not be patentable
- additional federal funds for commercializing patented tech should not be awarded
Imagine with us for a moment how this might play out … the EPA might become a steward of open source reference designs for environmental assessment technology. EPA-stewarded designs might specify performance criteria rather than branded and patented technologies. Data captured by these new “Open Federal Reference Methods” might be stored in open formats, with no specialized or closed source technology required to access it. Technology for environmental monitoring gets better, cheaper, and more accessible. Communities and agencies begin to speak the same language, cease wasting time arguing and move forward together on understanding and improving environmental quality.
In the US alone, thousands of individuals and communities are exploring open source environmental monitoring and are hungry to collaborate with the EPA. In the final tally, what’s at stake is human health and our combined abilities as community plus government to ensure environmental quality.
From our partners at Care2.
Lumber Liquidators, one of the largest flooring retailers in the U.S., appears to be selling laminate that contains unacceptable levels of formaldehyde. The levels are so high, pediatricians worry that children who breathe in air contaminated by formaldehyde emissions could develop asthma or other respiratory ailments.
Global Community Monitor, a non-profit organization that helps citizens monitor air pollution in the U.S. and around the world, has launched a petition on Care2 to get Lumber Liquidators to stop selling unsafe laminate, recall what it has already sold, and replace the toxic laminate with a safe and healthy alternative. You can get the full details of the petition here.
What is Formaldehyde and Why Should You Care?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, formaldehyde is a colorless, reactive, strong-smelling gas at room temperature. A volatile organic compound (VOC), formaldehyde is an industrial chemical that is used in home furnishings, household cleaners, pesticides, paints and flooring, like the laminate being sold by Lumber Liquidators.
The CDC says formaldehyde is dangerous because exposure to it can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, coughing, wheezing, and allergic reactions. “Long-term exposure to high levels of formaldehyde has been associated with cancer in people and lab animals,” says the CDC here.
Why is Formaldehyde in Lumber Liquidators Laminate a Problem?
Global Community Monitor had a large sample of the laminates Lumber Liquidators produces in China tested for formaldehyde emissions. Amazingly, the results showed that some laminated flooring contains almost 20 times more than what is legally allowed to be sold. “The test labs thought the machine (used to test for formaldehyde) was broken,” Denny Larson, the group’s CEO, told 60 Minutes when they investigated the story.
In that 60 Minutes report, Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician who specializes in environmental pollution at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, told reporter Anderson Cooper, “It’s not a safe level. It’s at a level that the U.S. EPA calls polluted indoor conditions.”
Asked “Would you want that in your home?” Dr. Landrigan answered an emphatic “No!”
Lumber Liquidators has challenged the recent negative press, saying the tests used to gauge the formaldehyde levels are unfair. The tests (designed by the California Air Resources Board, or CARB) rip apart the laminate in the flooring, which helps seal-in the formaldehyde, according to Liquid Lumbers.
That may help a little, but the formaldehyde still poses a risk, says environmental attorney Richard Drury to NPR. “This piece of plastic that’s on top of the board is not an emissions control device, it’s a piece of plastic.”
Dr. Landrigan explained that it might not produce symptoms in everybody, but children are the most vulnerable and likely to show symptoms.
“It would be risky because it increases the risk of chronic respiratory irritations, change in a person’s lung function, and increased risk of asthma.”
Global Community Monitor is directing its petition at Tom Sullivan, CEO and Founder of Lumber Liquidators. It is asking Sullivan to “take action today to stop selling any unsafe Chinese laminate.” It also urges the company to “pay to remove and replace the flooring for those who unsuspectingly bought their products containing this toxic chemical.”
You can get more information and sign the petition here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 12, 2015 CONTACTS: Denny Larson, GCM, 415-845-4705; Richard Drury, Esq., Lozeau Drury LLP, 510-836-4200
Today, Lumber Liquidators acknowledged that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has tested Lumber Liquidators’ products and preliminary results show that some of the products exceed the CARB formaldehyde standard. The admission was made by the company’s CEO, Robert Lynch during a conference call. Lumber Liquidators also announced, for the first time, that it is offering free formaldehyde tests and potentially the replacement of floors which may be found to exceed acceptable levels of formaldehyde.
The transcript from today’s briefing states: “CARB has ‘deconstructed’ our products in routine inspections, as well as we believe others in the industry, in order to try to determine if the core materials complied. In CARB’s preliminary findings, some of our samples they deconstructed and tested (due to the variability of the test) exceeded the limits for raw cores.”
“CARB testing is the standard to which Lumber Liquidators’ laminate products must be held,” said Denny Larson, Executive Director of GCM. “They admitted today that CARB has made a preliminary finding that some of their products have failed to pass the formaldehyde test conducted by CARB. Lumber Liquidators must go farther to make sure that all of their laminate products comply with the standard and provide increased protection for the consumers.” GCM has asked Lumber Liquidators to disclose which products failed the CARB testing and by how much above the CARB formaldehyde standard. Lumber Liquidators’ laminate products have now failed to pass the CARB formaldehyde test conducted dozens of times by 60 Minutes, at least three independent laboratories, and apparently by CARB itself. While Lumber Liquidators continues to dispute the test method, the test method has been adopted, published and applied by CARB itself.
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.
Thank you to everyone who watched 60 Minutes last night and supported us. Today, our phone lines are ringing off of the hook and we’re doing our best to respond to all of the e-mails and messages. We’ve updated our website with more information.
Global Community Monitor’s work to protect the public from health threats will be featured on 60 Minutes on Sunday March 1st.
According to 60 Minutes’ own show notes:
After a seven-month investigation, 60 MINUTES found that Chinese-made laminate flooring sold in Lumber Liquidator outlets across the country contains amounts of toxic formaldehyde that may not meet health and safety standards. Anderson Cooper reports.
In July 2014, Global Community Monitor released independent lab tests showing that Chinese-made laminate flooring sold by the Lumber Liquidators chain emits formaldehyde at levels far above the level requiring cancer warnings under California law.
Protect your family
If you live in California and have purchased laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators in the past several years, you can find more information here.
Join the fight to protect our health
In case you missed it, some great activists are coming together in Oakland, CA this weekend to demand real leadership on climate change and strategize on how to achieve it. The heavyweight (activist) contenders include 350.org, Californians Against Fracking, EarthJustice, Idle No More, and you know Global Community Monitor will be there!
Here’s why YOU need to be there:
- Activists from all over the State are planning on attending. This means you’ll have an opportunity to connect with the farmer in Kern County, concerned about groundwater contamination from fracking as well as the community leaders who are winning the fight in the Monterey Shale
- There WILL be stickers!
- By attending you’ll be able to learn about and contribute to statewide strategies to protect our communities for 2015
- Oakland’s a great city and the march should take you past the famous Grand Lake Farmers Market where you can pick up a quick snack and relish in the support from the Grand Lake Theater.
- As always, the more of us show up, the louder the message is to Gov. Jerry Brown!
And, here’s the line-up:
- Saturday, February 7th starts out with a march at 11:30am, meeting at Frank Ogawa Plaza.
- Later that day, Californians Against Fracking (CAF) are hosting a statewide convergence at 4pm at Laney College. Activists who are working to stop fracking in their communities will convene to hear more about CAF and to discuss how their local community or organization can engage with others across the state.
- Sunday, February 8th, ForestEthics is closing out an amazing weekend with California’s first-ever statewide strategy summit on oil by rail from 9:30am – 4pm at Laney College.
Don’t miss this special piece from our allies over at Earthjustice! – GCM
Last month, while sitting around the conference tables of Washington, D.C.’s biggest movers and shakers, I saw looks of shock come across the faces of those listening to local community activists explain why oil and gas drilling makes it dangerous to breathe.
They would know. After all, these concerned community members are the ones who took air quality data that appeared in a recently-released report and the first peer-reviewed study of hazardous air pollutants near oil and gas development sites across the U.S.
Taught by experts from the Global Community Monitor, the activists went out into their communities and took air samples in areas where they observed certain symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness or breathing problems. In total, community members from six states—Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Wyoming—collected 76 samples that were then analyzed by scientists.
The findings were worse than many community representatives could have imagined. They found carcinogens such as formaldehyde and benzene, some in concentrations above EPA’s most hazardous cancer risk level. Hydrogen sulfide, a nerve and organ toxin, was also found in concentrations that often exceeded health and safety standards. In Wyoming, one sample revealed that hydrogen sulfide concentrations were 660 times higher than the level the EPA classifies as immediately dangerous to human life. In addition, almost 40 percent of the samples collected contained volatile compounds in concentrations above federal standards for cancer level risk.
When I met the community members the night before their busy day of meetings in D.C., I saw a group of concerned citizens who didn’t choose this line of work—it chose them.
Frank Finan of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, who traveled to D.C. with his daughter, Kelly, was set to retire when he began to see the impacts of natural gas development near his home. Instead of retiring, he spent much of his savings to buy a specialized camera that allowed him to detect gases and other emissions that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Emily Lane, one of the co-leaders of the local group Arkansasfracking.org, became involved because she suspected that the increased seismic activity occurring in her home state of Arkansas was due to the rise in hydraulic fracturing in the area. After learning more about gas development and witnessing her neighbors experience hair loss, memory loss, nosebleeds and fainting, she became concerned with the effect of this extractive process on air quality.
Deb Thomas is a resident of rural Wyoming, the executive director of Shale Test, and co-author of the report. She has dedicated her life to addressing the negative effects of oil and gas development, first on water quality and now air. She believes that this report is vital because it gives people information that they can take to their health providers. Prior to this study, these communities had no idea what they were being exposed to and how it could adversely affect their health and well-being.
Frank, Emily and Deb, along with representatives from the groups that worked on the report, met with numerous NGO partners and decision makers to inform them about the impacts that communities are facing from oil and gas development. Each of the individuals involved in this study faced much adversity in getting this information out to the general public, including being ostracized by their own communities and ignored by local officials. However, in D.C., they had a welcome audience. Throughout the day, community members were thanked for their dedication and sacrifice, with some even hailing them as heroes advocating for clean air and a healthy environment for their families, neighbors and fellow citizens.
“Drilling works perfectly on paper, but things don’t go right in real life,” says Frank.
This report allows communities the access to information regarding the air they breathe. The time is ripe for more meaningful change in the regulations for oil and gas development.
This study was organized by Coming Clean and Global Community Monitor. Coming Clean is a national environmental health and justice network of more than 200 organizations working together to reduce harmful exposure to toxic chemicals. Global Community Monitor works worldwide to empower communities at risk with the technology and expertise to document toxic exposures.
For more information on the report, read the guest blog post from Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health: Putting a Number on Dirty Energy Pollution.
By Tom Griffith, Martinez Environmental Group
The Community-Based Science for Action Conference begins this coming weekend! Co-hosted by Global Community Monitor, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and Public Lab, it will be an opportunity for learning, sharing and networking with the goal of giving citizen scientists the tools to win cleaner communities.
The keynote speakers will be: Goldman Prize winner Hilton Kelley, and General Russel Honoré, commander of the Joint Task Force Katrina. In addition to a packed schedule of sessions, there will be a toxic tour on Saturday and a jazz dinner on Sunday.
On Saturday, November 15, a Toxic Tour centered on Coal Dust Testing in Plaquemines Parish, LA, will be led by Plaquemines Parish Community Monitors, Louisiana Sierra Club, and Gulf Restoration Network. The tour will include three communities in Plaquemines Parish:
- Ironton– Stop will include meeting with community leaders for local history. Discussion of the proposed coal export facility, RAM, directly adjacent to Ironton. View of the proposed Wetlands restoration project. Hear results of the current air monitoring project
- Myrtle Grove– Meet with community leaders & discuss issues about nearby coal export UNITED BULK terminal & lawsuit.
- Woodpark– Visit adjacent community of Woodpark, 250 feet from coal export operation.
Then it’s Saturday night in the Big Easy! Let the good times roll!
The conference proper begins on Sunday, November 16 at the historic Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans. Denny Larson of Global Community Monitor and Anne Rolfes from the Louisiana Bucket Brigade will open the event. Sunday’s keynote speaker will be Goldman environmental Prize winner Hilton Kelley.
The day will include a Community Success Stories panel with:
- Jackie James-Creedon, Citizen Science & Community Resources: Tonawanda Coke Campaign,
- Luis Olmedo, Comite Civico del Valle: IVAN Online,
- Jesse Marquez, Coalition for a Safe Environment: LA & Long Beach Ports, and
- Laura Cortez & Maria Reyes, Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma: LA & Long Beach Ports.
The panel will be followed by the day’s break out sessions. After the day’s work, participants can enjoy a leisurely walk to a hosted dinner in the French Quarter!
On Monday, November 17, the conference continues with a sampling tools demonstration, and welcome by Public Lab’s Shannon Dosemagen. Monday’s keynote speaker will be General Russel L. Honoré. His remarks will be followed by Monday’s break out sessions.
The timely and useful session themes for Sunday and Monday include:
- Community Science: Scientific research conducted by everyday people as part of a collective effort to improve environmental conditions in the area.
- Extreme Energy:Increasingly risky environmental and public health trade-offs are accepted as the status quo in the ravenous pursuit of energy.
- Partnerships: Successful collaborations amongst Community Based Organizations, Community Members, Non-profit Organizations, Academic Institutions, Foundations and/or Government Agencies.
- Advances in Technology: Developing innovative monitoring tools.
- Sharing: Communicating data and results to and with the public to educate and activate.
These break out sessions will be hosted by an impressive group of environmental and health activists:
Calvin Tillman, Shale Test; Ryan Grode, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project; Becki Chall, Public Lab; Erica Gulseth, EarthJustice; Laura Cortez and Maria Reyes, Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma; David Fukuzawa, Kresge Foundation; Jesse Marquez, Coalition for A Safe Environment; Denny Larson, Ruth Breech, and Jessica Hendricks, Global Community Monitor; Jackie James-Creedon, Citizen Science & Community Resources; Joe Gardella, University at Buffalo (via WEB); Evan Marie Alison, Louisiana Bucket Brigade; Wilma Subra, Subra Company/Louisiana Environmental Action Network; Gwen Ottinger, Drexel University; Jill Kriesky; Scott Eustis, Gulf Restoration Network; Stephen Lester, Center for Health, Environment & Justice; Jeff Warren, Public Lab; Hilton Kelley, CIDA; Will Rostov, EarthJustice.
Check out the full schedule. Lots of exciting sessions and inspirational speakers. Don’t miss it!