Flint water e-mails written to stay secret


LANSING — “In mid-October, as the massive scope of the Flint drinking water scandal and public health crisis was beginning to sink in, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality engineer Adam Rosenthal wrote an e-mail to two of his then supervisors in the department’s drinking water section.

The contents of the e-mail were purely factual: A Flint resident’s name and address, along with two lead readings for water samples taken from faucets at the home.

But typed just beneath the message were the words: “Preliminary and Deliberative not subject to FOIA.”

The Rosenthal e-mail is just one of thousands the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder has made public related to the lead contamination of Flint’s drinking water after calls from the public, elected officials, advocates for open government and the media for information as to who knew what about the public health crisis and when, and what was done in response. Thousands of others have been released voluntarily by the governor, whose office is not subject to Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.

Besides answers to some questions, a review of the e-mails also revealed a potentially troubling trend: Many of the e-mails display what appears to be an active effort by state employees to avoid disclosure of public records under FOIA…”


Is pollution poisoning Charleston’s African-American and low-income communities?


“Nancy Button says you can’t fight progress.

But that hasn’t stopped her from trying.

In 2009, the 63-year-old president of the Rosemont Neighborhood Association was part of an environmental justice complaint filed with the United States Department of Justice opposing plans for the construction of a port access road from Interstate 26, arguing that the neighborhood’s voice had not been heard during the discussion of the expansion. For Button and members of the small, aging community located toward the northern part of the Charleston peninsula, this latest project was a harsh reminder of when the construction of I-26 split Rosemont in two in the 1960s.

“The Rosemont neighborhood is comprised of African-American citizens who have lived in the community for generations, oftentimes inheriting their homes from parents and/or grandparents,” said the official complaint. “This neighborhood is tightly knit and has dealt with an abundance of toxic neighbors, including polluting industry and the placement of I-26.”

In the suit, Rosemont’s attorney chronicled the Neck area’s long history of industrial concerns dating back to the late 19th century when Charleston was a national hub for the production of phosphate fertilizer. These plants left behind toxic levels of lead, arsenic, and mercury in the soil and tainted the groundwater…”

Read more from the Charleston City Paper


There’s a Cancer-Causing Chemical in My Drinking Water, But California Isn’t Regulating It


“I have to admit, after the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, I’m a little freaked out about what’s in my tap water. So when I opened my water bill from the city of Fresno recently, I decided to actually read the “consumer confidence report” for drinking water. And I found this footnote in tiny print:

Consumer Confidence Report Footnote

123 Trichloropropane has been detected in 29 wells in Fresno…. Some people who use water containing it over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer, based on studies in laboratory animals.

Wait…what? I have two little kids, and my family drinks the tap water. And it might cause cancer? I decided to fork out $200 to get mine tested. And to start digging into how 1,2,3-TCP got into the water.

Turns out, it’s not just Fresno. According to the State Water Resources Control Board, 1,2,3-TCP has been found in about a hundred public water systems across California, mostly in the Central Valley but also in counties like Santa Cruz, Monterey, Sacramento, and Los Angeles…”

Get the whole story from San Francisco Public Radio

As wells go deeper, radium levels rise in state tap water


In 2014, the village of Sussex in southeast Wisconsin made a dismaying discovery. The radioactive element radium, a contaminant that occurs naturally in bedrock throughout the region, had seeped into two of its seven water wells.

It was not exactly a surprise. Radium has long been a problem in drinking water for dozens of Wisconsin communities from Green Bay to the Illinois border.

Read More…

Berta Caceres 2015 Goldman Environmental Award Recipient

Indigenous Leader Assassinated


We were shocked and saddened by the news that Berta Cáceres was murdered in the middle of the night.  For decades, indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres put her life at risk to defend the forests and rivers of the indigenous Lenca peoples in Intibucá, Honduras. She led a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of a major hydroelectric project on indigenous land—activism that helped protect her community, but that led to constant threats of violence and death.

Last year, I met her as she was honored with the Goldman Environmental Prize.  Her fearless bravery and courage protecting the land of the Lenca people shows us the power of grassroots environmental activism. Consider adding your name to a letter drafted by Global Witness to President Hernández of Honduras, asking for an immediate and thorough investigation and guaranteed protection for her family and colleagues.  If your organization would like to sign on to this letter, please send your confirmation, logo, and director’s e-mail signatures directly to Billy Kyte ( and Alice Harrison (

Berta’s murder is a terrible reminder of the increasing threats faced by environmental and land defenders worldwide for their courage to protect their homes.  Let us all work together and redouble our efforts to protect these amazing heroes and make protecting our environment a cause for celebration, not attack.


EPA Proposes Chemical Safety Rule Changes


“The EPA is proposing changes to its chemical safety rules that will require companies in three industries — paper manufacturing, petroleum and coal products, and chemical manufacturing — to assess whether safer technologies and chemicals are feasible.

The proposed changes to the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations would require some facilities that use and distribute hazardous chemicals to:

  • Consider safer technologies and alternatives by including the assessment of Inherently Safer Technologies and Designs in the Process Hazard Assessment;
  • Conduct third-party audits and root cause analysis to identify process safety improvements for accident prevention;
  • Enhance emergency planning and preparedness requirements to help ensure coordination between facilities and local communities;
  • Strength emergency response planning to help ensure emergency response capabilities are available to mitigate the effect of a chemical accident;
  • Improve the ability of LEPCs (Local Emergency Planning Committees) and local emergency response officials to better prepare for emergencies both individually and with one another; and
  • Improve access to information to help the public understand the risks at RMP facilities…”

Read more:


EPA targeting pesticide used on strawberries, lettuce


“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced its intent to ban sales in the United States of commercial insecticides made with flubendiamide, used on wine grapes, strawberries and lettuce.

The pesticides are manufactured by Nichino America, Inc. and Bayer CropScience, LP.

Bayer lists the chemical on its website as an ingredient in its “Belt” pesticide brand as the “first representative of a new chemical insecticide class — the diamides,” which doesn’t attack insects’ nervous systems, as other pesticides do, but instead attacks receptors in insect muscles, causing immediate cessation of feeding, preventing them from inflicting further crop damage.

“Required studies showed flubendiamide breaks down into a more highly toxic material that is harmful to species that are an important part of aquatic food chains, especially for fish, and is persistent in the environment,” EPA officials state in a news release issued Tuesday…”

Read more from the Californian


A million times more harmful than outdoor air: Hong Kong study raises e-cigarette cancer alarm


“Electronic cigarettes were found to contain one million times more cancer-causing substances than outdoor air in a study by Baptist University.

Researchers also discovered a type of flame retardant that affected the reproductive system and could lead to cancer – the first such discovery in e-cigarettes.

The Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health, which commissioned the study, called for a ban on e-cigarettes as soon as possible before they become more popular.

In analysing 13 types of e-cigarettes bought on the market, researchers found that the level of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – a by-product of burning petroleum that is commonly detected in roadside air – ranged from 2.9 to 504.5 nanograms per millilitre.

The substance, which contains highly carcinogenic chemicals such as benzo(a)pryene, also carries various kinds of chemicals that promote growth of cancer cells.

“[Level of PAHs] in e-cigarettes is at least one million times more than roadside air in Hong Kong,” said Dr Chung Shan-shan, assistant professor in the university’s biology department.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers(PBDEs), a flame retardant used extensively in furniture and electronic products, were detected in a range of 1.7 to 1,490ng/ml in the 13 brands of e-cigarettes…”

Read more from South China Morning Post


A New Study Suggests Even the Toughest Pesticide Regulations Aren’t Nearly Tough Enough


“California officials have long touted their pesticide regulations as the toughest in the nation. But a new report from the University of California, Los Angeles, reveals a major flaw in the state’s approach to evaluating safety, one that has broad implications for the way pesticides are regulated nationally: Regulators assess pesticide safety one product at a time, but growers often apply pesticides as mixtures. That’s a serious problem, the authors argue, because pesticide interactions can ratchet up toxic effects, greatly enhancing the risk of cancer and other serious health conditions.

“The federal EPA and California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) have not adequately dealt with interactive effects,” says John Froines, a report coauthor and a chemist with decades of experience assessing health risks of toxic chemicals as a scientist and regulator. “People are exposed to a large number of chemicals. You can’t simply look chemical by chemical to adequately address the toxicity of these compounds.”

Fumigants, used to combat a range of pests and diseases, are among the most toxic chemicals used in agriculture. They are a staple of high-value crops like tomatoes and strawberries. Studies in humans and animals have linked them to acute respiratory and skin damage and serious chronic health problems, including cancer and neurological and reproductive disorders.

To get around the state’s failure to collect data on cumulative exposures to these fumigants, Froines and his colleagues drew on what’s known about the chemical and biological properties of three of the most heavily used fumigants in California: chloropicrin, Telone (the trade name for 1,3-dichloropropene), and metam sodium.

Read more from the Nation


Christie’s budget continues depletion of lead abatement fund


“Gov. Chris Christie’s latest budget proposal honors a decade-old practice in New Jersey: It diverts millions of dollars intended for a lead exposure prevention program to the state’s general fund.

Christie’s Democratic predecessor made similar budget transfers. And administration officials say New Jersey is a success story for addressing lead contamination. But the Republican governor is drawing increasing criticism from lawmakers and community groups who claim he isn’t doing enough to reduce it.

They’ve focused their concern on the lack of money in Christie’s budget for the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund.

Created in 2004, the fund was designed to provide financial assistance to property owners who want to remove lead paint, which can peel and crumble, placing children at risk for developmental disabilities.

A tax on paint cans was supposed to pay for the fund, providing at least $7 million a year.

But starting with Gov. Jon Corzine, the state has diverted some or nearly all of that money to the general budget almost every year.

Christie’s proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2017, unveiled last week, allocates $180,000, the same as this year. New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs said the program effectively ended in 2012…”

Read more from the Trentonian