Blugirl Art owner/founder and Clean Water Action member Suzanne Meyer Pistorius pledges to donate 15% of online sales at Blugirlart.com to Clean Water Action. Suzanne's vibrant, eye-catching and eco-friendly sensibility is reflected in the site's offerings of brightly renewed and fanciful furniture pieces, dramatic designer fabrics, jewelry and photographic images specially selected for this cause.
Clean Water Action has teamed up with other environmental and conservation groups to launch the new MyGulfAction.org web site to our members and the public.
The site offers visitors a range of actions they can take to help offset the damage caused by BP's Gulf oil spill disaster. All of the action pledges documented by the site are tallied up and presented as "gallons of oil" offset by fossil fuel savings. There is a simple 4-step process, and anyone may participate:
Myth 1: America's Commitment to Clean Water Act (ACCWA) goes too far - even protecting birdbaths, mud puddles and ditches.
Fact: The Clean Water Act was never construed so broadly as to protect birdbaths and mud puddles.
guest posting by Jonathan A. Scott, for Clean Water Action
In 2010, should any company be allowed to produce a consumer product that is expressly designed to pollute?
Since the 1940s, the largest corporate purveyors of laundry detergents (and more recently automatic dishwasher detergents) have done just that by including phosphates as an integral part of their products. When used as directed, those products and that phosphate pollution go straight where intended: into appliances, down the drain and into our water.
The problem of phosphate pollution was already so bad in the early 1970s when Clean Water Action was getting its start that phosphates captured an entire chapter in organizational founder Dave Zwick's bestselling expose, Water Wasteland. The chapter was titled, Pollution for Sale: Detergents.
That is one reason why the news that the American Cleaning Council (a manufacturer's trade group representing most detergent companies, formerly known as the Soap and Detergent Association) will announce a voluntary ban on phosphates in dishwasher detergents effective July 1, 2010 is such a big deal.
More than four decades have passed since early Clean Water Action leaders and others first called for phosphates to be removed from laundry and dishwashing detergents. The fact that it took so long is a testament to the political power and insider lobbying prowess of the "big three" companies which dominated the industry for much of that time (Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Lever Brothers), fighting tooth and nail against phosphate bans at every level. That's a depressing thought.
But it is also a testament to the staying power and persistence of grassroots environmental organizing by Clean Water Action and others. This victory, even coming four decades later than hoped, shows promising new synergies evolving between environmental activism, newer companies and their leaders embracing a new environmental business ethic, and an increasingly enlightened consumer public willing to demand and purchase environmentally safer alternatives.
In the 1970 or 1980's it would have been unthinkable for almost any manufacturer of cleaning products for the consumer market to go on the record saying what Seventh Generation's Martin Wolf (aka Scienceman) has to offer in his company's June 29 news release on the ban: "If a negative environmental impact can be lessened or avoided, both industry and consumers have a responsibility to do so," said Martin Wolf, a leading authority on the environmental impact of household cleaning products. "This is a landmark moment, and as a company that's worked for years to make this desperately needed change a reality, we're celebrating a well-earned victory in the effort to build a healthier, cleaner world."
A mandatory federal ban passed decades ago would have done much to improve water quality over the years, but this new voluntary ban is still good news at a time when good news about the nation's water is all too scarce. For one thing, the ban means that more attention can now be paid to some of the bigger remaining problems, starting with phosphates and other nutrient pollution from industrial-intensive agriculture, over-fertilization of lawns and gardens, and outdated water systems that flush the pollution from farms and communities into our waterways.
The concept itself - the idea of going "upstream" to eliminate pollutants at the source, in this case, the phosphates in dishwasher detergents - is a commonsense approach whose time has surely come. In the face of today's most intractable water problems, "upstream" solutions that keep pollution out of the water in the first place, rather than waiting to act until after the contamination has already occurred may offer the most promising path forward.
Our situation today may be a bit more complicated and challenging than it was in the 1960s and 1970s, but the fundamental truth revealed in this exchange during a 1969 Congressional hearing on phosphates, as documented in Water Wasteland, endures. Here, U.S. Rep. Henry Reuss (D-WI) grills Assistant Secretary of the Interior Carl Klein on the issue:
Mr. Reuss: [Is it not a fact that] by and large the phosphate which shows up at sewage disposal plants comes from two main sources - household detergents and human waste?
Mr. Klein: Yes, sir.
Mr. Reuss: And household detergents are made by three major manufacturers?
Mr. Klein: That is correct.
Mr. Reuss: And human wastes are made by a couple hundred million manufacturers; is that correct?
Mr. Klein: Yes, sir.
Mr. Reuss: Well, doesn't it occur to you that it is easier to do something about three than about a couple hundred million?
In fact, competition from companies offering greener alternatives to the biggest players' phosphate laden products was an important factor in the eventual phosphate ban victory. But even though there are now many more than just the "three major manufacturers" the focus for solutions - whether regulatory, legislative or voluntary - can and should remain on the much smaller number of corporate manufacturing players on the "upstream" end of the spectrum.
Pollution from phosphates, an essential nutrient in minute quantities, can easily overwhelm waterways, causing algae blooms that decay and leave the water without oxygen and unable to sustain life. Clean Water Action has supported phosphate detergent bans starting before Congressional debates and hearings which led to the 1972 Clean Water Act. Clean Water Action played key roles in bans later adopted around the Chesapeake Bay, in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.
As additional states passed mandatory bans and facing mounting pressure from environmental groups and consumers, the industry finally relented by phasing phosphates out of laundry detergents in the 1990's, while continuing to insist that the polluting ingredient remained essential for automatic dishwashing. Meanwhile emerging industry leaders, including Seventh Generation and others, advanced phosphate-free formulas and joined environmentalists in pressing for further action by states and other manufacturers. States that previously banned or improved regulation of phosphates in dishwasher detergent include Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont and Washington.
Washington, DC - On July 1, 2010 a voluntary ban on phosphates in dishwasher detergents will be implemented by many members of the American Cleaning Council (formerly the Soap and Detergent Association), a manufacturer's trade group representing most detergent companies.
"Industry's announcement on phosphates in dishwasher detergents is welcome news, indeed, if somewhat overdue," said Jonathan Scott, a spokesman for Clean Water Action, founded in the early 1970's to fight for clean, safe water. "Even small amounts of phosphates can wreak havoc when they get into our water," Scott says, "so it's the last thing you want as an ingredient in detergents, which are specifically designed to end up in the water by way of household appliances and drain pipes."
"Good news is all too scarce these days, when it comes to our water. Between the BP Gulf oil disaster, and a host of other problems, it is clear that the nation's commitment to clean and safe water has faltered.
"The unfolding tragedy in the Gulf underscores the need for a U.S. Energy policy that ends our dependence on oil and the other dirty, polluting technologies of the past," said Clean Water Action President John, DeCock. "Job one is clearly dealing aggressively with this spill and its aftermath, but steps are also needed now to make sure that this disaster is not repeated in the future, on any scale."
"The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume." -- Tony Hayward, CEO, British Petroleum
Picture yourself standing at the 50 yard line of a football field. Now picture the football field as a building three miles high. Now stretch that three mile high, 100 yard wide building out to ten miles long. Now imagine it is made of crude oil and floating in the Gulf of Mexico. Is this a visual representation of the full damage of the BP Deep Horizon oil spill? Not even close. It is only one of several enormous plumes of oil that have been found in deep water.
These unbelievably giant plumes of pollution were only recently discovered and the damage they will do to the underwater environment in the gulf is hard to grasp. For one thing, they are leaching oxygen out of the water, greatly diminishing the volume of life that can be sustained. The current estimate of oxygeon reduction in the vicinity of the largest plume is 30%.
British Petroleum has consistently downplayed the scale of destruction and devastation which the marine environment and shorelines are experiencing. It is literally incalculable since so much is unknown about the volume of flow, the impact of dispersants and the surface and subsurface spread of the oil. But as more information comes out about the lapses in the safety and integrity of their drilling platform, the costs go way beyond the mind-boggling environmental toll and start to add up in other ways. Start with the 11 people whose lives were violently ended by the explosion. That, in and of itself, is too high a price to pay. Then move on to the costs in United States taxpayer resources. According to the White House's Deep Horizon Incident Joint Information Center we have mounted an effort that, as of May 16th included:
- Personnel were quickly deployed and more than 19,000 are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife.
- More than 650 vessels are responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.
- More than 1.25 million feet of containment boom and 440,000 feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill—and approximately 285,000 feet of containment boom and 900,000 feet of sorbent boom are available.
- Approximately 6.3 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered.
- Approximately 600,000 gallons of dispersant have been deployed. More than 280,000 gallons are available.
- 17 staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines, including: Dauphin Island, Ala., Orange Beach, Ala., Theodore, Ala., Panama City, Fla., Pensacola, Fla., Port St. Joe, Fla., St. Marks, Fla., Amelia, La., Cocodrie, La., Grand Isle, La., Shell Beach, La., Slidell, La., St. Mary, La.; Venice, La., Biloxi, Miss., Pascagoula, Miss., and Pass Christian, Miss.
The costs for an operation on this scale are staggering. The chances that the United States will fully recover these costs from BP are remote. This is only the beginning, only a fractional representation of resources devoted so far.
Consider, also, the cost to individuals and small businesses. There are thousands of people paying for this disaster with their very livelihoods. People who make their living in the tourism, fishing and seafood industries will suffer huge, personal financial losses. If the disgraceful precedent of the Exxon Valdez is any indication of what to expect in terms of restitution, the people of the Gulf will wait a very long time and receive almost nothing in return for the loss of their way of life. Many people could grow old and die waiting for compensation.
BP, TransOcean and Halliburton, the three corporations who brought us this mess ares working furiously to invoke limits of liability and to distance themselves from the financial and ethical ramifications of their disaster. They have their champions in Congress too. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is offering them aid and comfort by blocking a bill to increase their liability from $75,000,000 to $1,000,000,000.
Finally, think of the cost to overall human health. The chemical composition of what will ultimately be millions of gallons of dispersent is "proprietary". This means it has not been disclosed to the public. We have no real idea of what BP is pumping into our water and how it will affect the marine environment, the food chain and human health. Air quality is now a serious, and quickly growing, problem throughout the region
"It is impossible to say and we will mount, as part of the aftermath, a very detailed environmental assessment but everything we can see at the moment suggests that the overall environmental impact will be very, very modest." -- Tony Hayward, CEO, British Petroleum
Dr. Hayward, you're being too modest.
The food in your pantry might not be as safe as you think, or as safe as it should be. Meals involving one or more cans of food can cause an individual to ingest levels of BPA (bisphenol A) that have been shown to cause health effects in laboratory animal studies, according to a new study released today by The National Workgroup for Safe Markets, a coalition of public health and environmental health groups, and Clean Water Action.
The study, No Silver Lining, is co-authored by Clean Water Action's Mia Davis and tested food from 50 cans from 19 US states and one Canadian province for BPA contamination.