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Clean Water Action Waves | In The News, October 2023


Our work to protect clean water across the country often makes the news. Clean Water Waves highlights recent articles featuring our staff speaking on their areas of activism and expertise.

National, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts

Federal money will boost greening and lead paint safety in Philly

Sophia Schmidt | WHYY | October 31st, 2023

The national nonprofit Clean Water Fund will receive $500,000 to continue its education around how to protect children from toxic lead in Philly and to expand the program to Massachusetts.

“You’ve got to let people understand how they’re impacted so they can protect themselves,” said Maurice Sampson, Eastern Pennsylvania director at Clean Water Action. Clean Water Fund’s programs complement those of Clean Water Action.

In Philadelphia, children are most often exposed to lead through lead paint and dust, according to the city’s Department of Public Health. Elevated blood lead levels are most common among Black children and children living in North and West Philadelphia.

Clean Water Fund plans to use part of the grant to hire and train four residents of underserved neighborhoods in Philly to host lead awareness activities, with tips such as taking off your shoes when you enter your home and regularly washing kids’ toys.  

“The beauty of this [is] most of the things you need to do to avoid being poisoned by lead are very inexpensive or don’t cost anything at all,” Sampson said.



Centering Environmental Justice in Climate Solutions

Laura Ferguson | Tufts Now | October 10th, 2023

Climate change threatens everyone, but the most vulnerable populations are the least likely to be at the table when reforms and responses—including the shift to clean energy—are being shaped, says the Rev. Vernon Walker, AG24.

This summer, he joined the fight to right that imbalance as the new Massachusetts climate justice program director at Clean Water Action, where he focuses on policies and legislation that will give such residents a voice in the climate transition.

His work contributes to the growing movement of environmental justice, or climate justice, which tackles issues at the intersection of systemic racism, the environment, and public health.

“You can't legislate morality,” he said, but “you can push for policies that are equitable and inclusive. Those who experience disproportionate harm should have a voice at the table and their voices should be appreciated.”


National, Michigan

Michigan Republicans push to start Line 5 tunnel project

Colin Jackson | WKAR | October 19th, 2023

Republicans in the Michigan Senate are sending a letter to federal and state officials urging the start of a pipeline tunnel project under the Straits of Mackinac.

The proposed Great Lakes Tunnel project would house the Line 5 oil and gas pipeline that currently runs exposed along the lakebed.

Sean McBrearty, the state's director for the Clean Water Action advocacy group, maintains that much of Line 5's fuel does not go to Michigan households.

“That oil... goes from Superior, Wisconsin, where Line 5 starts, to Sarnia, Ontario, where Line 5 ends," McBrearty said. "Michigan is being used as a pass-thru for Canadian oil. We do not benefit."

Clean Water Action makes the case that there are other pipelines and energy sources that can serve the U.P. without risking an oil spill in the Great Lakes.

“A lot of the local distributors in the Upper Peninsula, who are the people who actually sell Upper Peninsula residents' propane, it’s not Enbridge, have started transitioning away from the pipeline years ago,” McBrearty said.

Groups like Clean Water Action have been calling for the total shut down of Line 5 for years.



PFAS in Connecticut: What to know about the 'forever chemicals' that might be in your water

Alex Putterman | CT Insider | October 23rd, 2023

Two class-action lawsuits filed Wednesday allege Connecticut's two largest water suppliers, Aquarion and Connecticut Water Co., knowingly provided water containing toxic chemicals to state residents.

"Instead of removing these harmful chemicals, Connecticut Water and Aquarion have chosen to pass on PFAS-contaminated water to their customers, putting the health of hundreds of thousands of people at risk and contaminating their bodies and their property," said Stamford lawyer Ian Sloss, who brought the lawsuits.

The suit seeks financial and punitive damages and asks that the water companies install treatment systems to filter out PFAS chemicals and that they establish a diagnostic medical testing program.

An Aquarion spokesperson said the company "takes the quality of its water very seriously" to ensure it meets all state and federal standards, while a Connecticut Water spokesperson said its water "is in compliance with all current and state and federal regulations for drinking water, including PFAS."

Anne Hulick, Connecticut state director of the nonprofit Clean Water Action, said she wasn't surprised to hear about the suits.

"I think frankly, we're going to see more and more as people are made aware that they might have PFAS chemicals in their water," she said.


Rhode Island

Tons of recyclables end up in the landfill. What experts say is needed to fix the problem.

Alex Kuffner | The Providence Journal | October 25th, 2023

A recent University of Rhode Island study estimated that the top two inches of sediment at the bottom of Narragansett Bay contains 1,000 tons of microplastics.

Jed Thorp, Rhode Island director of Clean Water Action and a member of the legislative commission, said the numbers presented by Rhodes at Monday’s meeting don’t include littered beverage containers, including nips, the tiny alcohol bottles that have been the focus of so much ire from environmental groups.

“It’s not capturing what doesn’t get into the waste stream.”



Polluter pay bills aim to give Michigan regulators more authority, tools for environmental cleanup

Kyle Davidson | Michigan Advance | October 7th, 2023

In the early to mid-90s, Michigan had some of the strongest pollution laws in the nation, environmental advocates say. The program included provisions like joint several liability, where all current and past owners of a property were assumed to be responsible for contamination and determined amongst themselves who held responsibility to pay for the cleanup, said Sean McBrearty, legislation and policy director for Clean Water Action.

This was a fairly straightforward program, placing responsibility for cleanup and cleanup costs on the people who owned the land, McBrearty said.

However in 1995 the administration of Republican Gov. John Engler eliminated this “polluter pay” program, leaving the state with a patchwork of environmental cleanups that are ultimately paid for by residents of the state rather than the entities responsible, McBrearty said.

“Even with taxpayer money going to fund these, we’re seeing the number of contaminated sites, ballooning across the state, and nowhere near enough funding to address them,” McBrearty said.

After the program was eliminated in 1995 there was limited appetite to bring it back. While there have been a number of bills introduced aimed at restoring the polluter pay program, McBrearty said the most recent effort from Irwin and Morgan represents the first real possibility of reinstating a strong political accountability program.

However, while lawmakers work to draft a new program, problems with the current laws remain. One of the largest is a seven-year statute of limitations from the date of a spill.

“Many of these sites sit there for years before they’re discovered,” McBrearty said.

Changing the statute of limitations to when a spill is discovered and laying out a clear path for the state to hold polluting corporations accountable is vital when crafting new policies, McBrearty said.


In Our Own Words: California

Empty Wells, Poisoned Aquifers and Radioactive Crops: Big Oil in CA

Jesus Alonso and Ngodoo Atume speak about Big Oil and groundwater/wastewater impacts to crops and workers on the new West Coast Water Justice Podcast on October 24th, 2023.