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Spring  2014 Newsletter

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Environmental Injustice in the Arctic: Toxic Flame Retardants Threaten Human Health, 11/29/13


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ACAT Seeks Civic Engagement Coordinator

ACAT seeks a full-time Civic Engagement Coordinator to facilitate our policy projects. The goal of all of ACAT’s projects is to assure justice by advocating for environmental and community health. Coordinators must be able to work independently as well as interdependently with ACAT’s staff and board to achieve ACAT’s mission: We believe everyone has a right to clean air, clean water, and toxic-free food. Driven by a core belief in environmental justice, ACAT empowers communities to eliminate exposure to toxics through collaborative research, shared science, education, organizing, and advocacy. Read more.


Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) Phone Canvasser

Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) seeks committed people in Anchorage who are passionate about environmental and social justice issues to work on our voter engagement campaign. As a canvasser for ACAT you’ll get an inside understanding of the fight for environmental justice. ACAT canvassers will work in our office located in Anchorage. Read more.


U.S. Supreme Court Decision a Victory for Seward’s Resurrection Bay
Court declines to hear appeal from companies that have dumped coal into bay for decades

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal made by Aurora Energy Services, LLC, and Alaska Railroad Corporation, making it possible for the companies to be held responsible for spilling coal into Resurrection Bay from their Seward-based loading facility. Aurora and Alaska Railroad filed the appeal after a unanimous September 2014 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that Aurora could not use its stormwater discharge permit to dump coal into the bay.

In response, Russ Maddox, longtime Seward resident and Sierra Club volunteer, said:

“It’s no surprise that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Aurora Energy and Alaska Railroad’s appeal. The Seward export terminal could have resolved these issues years ago by installing proper pollution controls. Instead, Aurora and Alaska Railroad have wasted millions of dollars—far more than the controls would have cost in the first place—in a pointless battle to avoid responsibility for dumping coal into Resurrection Bay. Now that they’ve exhausted their options, we hope the companies will be better neighbors and make smarter investments in Seward’s community by cleaning up their mess.”

Pamela Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics, said: “Now we would like to see Aurora Energy and Alaska Railroad focus their efforts on protecting community and environmental health by preventing pollution into Resurrection Bay  and harmful coal dust emissions.”

For decades, the Seward Coal Export Facility has allowed coal debris to fall unchecked from the conveyor system directly into Resurrection Bay, polluting the water and violating the Clean Water Act. Additionally, coal dust from the facility coats nearby fishing vessels and local neighborhoods, impacting the health of local Alaskans and their natural resources.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the Alaska Chapter of the Sierra Club brought the original action to stop decades of coal pollution that have plagued Seward. Last September, the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court decision and found that Aurora’s existing stormwater discharge permit prohibits dumping coal into the bay from the conveyor. The case was sent back to district court for further proceedings.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the Sierra Club will continue supporting efforts that protect Seward’s public health and water quality.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the Alaska Chapter of the Sierra Club are represented in this matter by attorneys with Trustees for Alaska and with the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program.


 

Toxic pesticide globally banned after unprecedented vote at UN meeting on chemicals: Alaska-based and international Indigenous organizations play key role in decision of Stockholm Convention in Geneva

stockholmDelegates from more than 90 countries took the unprecedented step of voting for a global ban on pentachlorophenol – a proven toxic pesticide and contaminant found in wildlife and human biomonitoring studies worldwide, including the Arctic. The historic vote came on May 16 at the combined meetings of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions – which usually make decisions by consensus – after India repeatedly blocked action.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the International Indian Treaty Council played a key role in this decision of the Stockholm Convention Conference of the Parties (COP7), making the scientific and human rights case for a global ban on pentachlorophenol and two other industrial chemicals. The delegates of the Stockholm Convention also supported international bans on two other industrial chemicals that harm the global environment and human health: chlorinated naphthalenes and hexachlorobutadiene.

“We commend the global community for this important decision which will help ensure that the Indigenous Peoples and the traditional foods on which they depend are protected against toxic pentachlorophenol and the other industrial chemicals,” said Pamela Miller of Alaska Community Action on Toxics.

Pentachlorophenol is a toxic pesticide used in wood treatment of utility poles. Pentachlorophenol is a persistent and ubiquitous contaminant found in the breast milk, blood, amniotic fluid, adipose tissue, and seminal fluid of people throughout the world, including Indigenous peoples of the Arctic. This chemical is associated with adverse health effects including damage to the developing brain and nervous system, impairment of memory and learning, disruption to thyroid function, immune suppression, infertility, and increased risk of certain cancers such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“This is a significant victory for our communities that are already experiencing health disparities associated with chemical exposures,” states Vi Waghiyi, a Yupik mother and grandmother from Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island and Environmental Health and Justice Program Director with Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “We feel an extreme urgency to prevent harmful exposures to toxic chemicals such as pentachlorophenol because we have a cancer crisis in our communities. It is so important for us to be present and speak out where these decisions are being made and to inform delegates about the health and human rights implications of their decisions.”

The Global Indigenous Caucus included representatives from the Arctic, North American, Latin America and the Pacific regions. Rochelle Diver, who participated in the COPs representing the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and her own Nation, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa believes that Indigenous Peoples, Nations and organizations from the US and Canada played a pivotal role in achieving the global ban of pentachlorophenol and the other chemicals. Ms. Diver stated: “The resolutions and letters we received that called on the US and Canada to support the global ban of pentachlorophenol were key factors in achieving this victory. The US and Canada are the two largest users of pentachlorophenol, and they changed their original positions and did not oppose the listing of this toxic chemical for a global ban as a direct result of Indigenous Peoples’ active engagement leading up to and during the COPs.” The Indigenous Caucus presented resolutions and letters to the delegates of the Stockholm Convention from the Assembly of First Nations, Treaty 6 First Nations, Curyung Tribal Council, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Native Village of Diomede, Native Village of Elim, Native Village of Gambell, Native Village of Mekoryuk, Native Village of Wales, and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The meetings of the three international chemicals conventions, the Stockholm, Rotterdam, and Basel Conventions, convened in Geneva from May 4-16 with approximately 1,200 delegates from 171 countries. During the meeting, India surprisingly rejected the findings of the Stockholm Convention’s own scientific expert committee in which they participated. Switzerland triggered the voting procedure – the first in the history of the convention. Ninety-four countries voted in favor of global prohibition of pentachlorophenol; two opposed; and eight countries abstained.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics and International Indian Treaty Council are participating organizations in IPEN, a global network of over 700 public interest organizations in 100 countries working to eliminate toxic substances.


 

Coalition of North American Environmental Health and Human Rights Organizations Demand National Governments Support Global Elimination of Toxic Chemicals

Health, human rights, environmental justice, and conservation organizations across North America are calling on the governments of Mexico, Canada, and the United States (US) to join them in opposition to the continued use of pentachlorophenol (PCP). Coalitions in each of the three countries are sending letters in advance of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in May 2015 demanding support for a global ban on PCP, as well as two additional substances recommended for global elimination by a UN expert committee (aka POPs Review Committee).

Read the letter. 

PCP has been used throughout the world as an insecticide, fungicide, and defoliant. Currently, it is used primarily as a wood preservative pesticide for utility poles, with the majority of use in the U.S. and Canada. Due to its high toxicity and persistence in the environment, PCP has already been banned in many countries. “Pentachlorophenol has global health implications since it is found in the bodies of people throughout the world including Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic. Now governments must agree to finally eliminate this toxic chemical,” said Pamela Miller, Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics.

People are exposed through inhalation and ingestion of the chemical, skin contact, and contaminated ground water. PCP is a persistent toxic chemical found in the breast milk, blood, amniotic fluid, adipose tissue, and seminal fluid of people throughout the world. The chemical is associated with adverse health effects including damage to the developing brain and nervous system, impairment of memory and learning, disruption to thyroid function, immune suppression, infertility, and increased risk of certain cancers such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“As a coalition of NGOs and academics from throughout Mexico, we are calling on the Mexican government to support a global ban on PCP without exemptions, and demanding a thorough investigation of the environmental and health impacts at the maquiladora manufacturing facility that produces PCP for wood preservation and the only manufacturer of wood-preserving PCP in the world, according to the producer,“ states Fernando Bejarano with Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y Alternativas en México (RAPAM) and IPEN hub for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“We are urging the Canadian government to align itself with other countries around the world that have stopped using PCP. The POPs Review Committee has been tremendously thorough in its work and has demonstrated that safe alternatives to PCP exist that will allow present users to move away from PCP,” states Fe de Leon, Researcher with the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “Canada’s support for global elimination for the three new toxic substances is essential to continue the efforts for reducing POPs levels in Canada and around the world.”

Children may be exposed to this carcinogenic substance while they are playing in and around PCP-treated poles in residential areas and near schools and parks. Recent studies have confirmed that children in the U.S. are still being exposed to pentachlorophenol, even though PCP was banned for almost all uses in 1987 except for wood preservation of utility poles. PCP-treated poles are being re-used in landscaping, livestock enclosures, and gardening applications that can result in continued exposures. Occupational exposure to PCP is a concern in the manufacturing and application process.

“Pentachlorophenol (PCP) is almost entirely used in Canada and US on utility poles. Non-chemical alternatives for these uses are readily available, require less maintenance, have a longer service life and have already been implemented in both U.S. and Canada. In Canada PCP has been almost completely phased out. Therefore, there is no reason for continued use of this highly toxic substance. IPEN strongly recommends listing PCP in Annex A of the Stockholm convention with no specific exemptions,” stated Dr. Olga Speranskaya, Co-Chair of IPEN, an international network of 700 participating organizations working for a toxics-free future.

Next month, the international community of 179 nations that have ratified the Convention is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss a global ban of PCP. Mexico and Canada are Parties to the Convention. The United States has not ratified and is not a Party to Convention but can play an instrumental role protecting the health of the global community by supporting a ban on PCP. The UN expert committee of the Stockholm Convention recommended the global elimination of pentachlorophenol in October 2014. In its recommendation for the Stockholm Convention, the Committee cited pentachlorophenol’s persistence, bioaccumulation, long-range transport, and its toxic impacts. The Committee found wide availability of non-chemical alternatives that were much safer than pentachlorophenol. The Committee also recommends the global elimination of two additional substances, hexachlorobutadiene, produced as a byproduct in the manufacture of chlorinated solvents; and chlorinated naphthalenes, unintentionally produced through such processes as waste incineration, metals smelting, and cement production. Governments around the world will decide on the recommendations for global elimination of these three toxic substances in May 2015, but Parties to the Stockholm Convention on POPs typically accept the recommendations of its expert committee.

 


Ninth Circuit Court finds Seward coal export facility violating Clean Water Act

Coal September 3, 2014: A federal appeals court unanimously ruled that Aurora Energy Services, LLC, and Alaska Railroad Corporation are violating the Clean Water Act by dumping coal pollution into Resurrection Bay from their coal export facility in Seward, Alaska. In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit reversed a prior district court decision that the facility’s storm water permit shielded them from liability for the pollution. The Ninth Circuit found that the terms of that permit prohibit dumping coal into the bay, and the court sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings.

“This coal export facility has been spewing pollution into Resurrection Bay for many, many years. Today’s court decision that the facility’s permit prohibits those discharges will hopefully force this facility, at long last, to clean up their act and install modern pollution controls that would make the air safer for Seward residents to breathe and prevent further harm to the bay,” said Russ Maddox, a longtime Seward resident and Sierra Club volunteer. Maddox contributed significantly to the citizen action by documenting and reporting violations at the Seward Coal Loading Facility for many years.

The plaintiffs are represented by Brian Litmans with Trustees for Alaska and Peter Morgan and Aaron Isherwood with the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program.

For decades, the Seward Coal Export Facility has allowed coal to fall unchecked from the conveyor system directly into Resurrection Bay, polluting the water and violating the Clean Water Act. Coal dust from the facility coats nearby fishing vessels and local neighborhoods with dust and debris, impacting the health of local Alaskans and their natural resources.

“The latest developments in this case raise the larger question of why coal companies continue to push their dirty product overseas from Alaska,” said Pam Miller, executive director for Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “Globally, coal prices are in decline and demand is dropping. It makes no sense to be a bad neighbor to Seward and threaten Alaskan waters for short-term gains.”

“The court decision is just the latest in a series of community victories, in which decision-makers are siding with local residents against the impacts coal exports in the Pacific Northwest,” said Cesia Kearns, senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club. “Alaskans are standing up to protect their fisheries and resources, and the Northwest is standing with them: Last month, the state of Oregon denied a permit for a proposed coal export facility to protect fisheries and water quality. Northwestern residents know that coal exports are a train wreck financially and for natural resources the states depend on, and we aren’t signing away our states for Big Coal’s benefit.”

Alaska Community Actions on Toxics and the Sierra Club will continue supporting efforts that ensure a healthy community and clean water in Seward.

Read the full court decision.


House Party InviteTake a break from cooking and join Alaska Community Action on Toxics for an evening of good food, a screening of the documentary Toxic Hot Seat, and toxic -free activities for kids of all ages

ACAT will serve you and your family a feast of wild caught Alaska Salmon with all the trimmings of a summer BBQ

To RSVP, call Maricarmen at 222-7714 or send her an email.During the house party, you will also learn how to test your couch to find out if there are toxic flame retardants and if so, which ones.

We look forward to seeing you.

Watch the trailer for Toxic Hot Seat here

 


 

Seward Residents Prove Their Air is Polluted and Unhealthy from Coal Dust and Known Cancer Causing Toxin

Seward Coal Dust Report CoverACAT along with a coalition of Seward residents and environmental health organizations are releasing a report detailing a year’s worth of air quality data. Residents in Seward, trained by Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), Global Community Monitor, and Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance, collected air samples around the Seward Coal Loading Facility. Samples were analyzed by three independent laboratories. The analyzed samples contain unhealthy levels of pollution. The two culprits polluting the air: coal dust and carcinogenic crystalline silica. A forensic laboratory fingerprinted the dust collected by the community monitoring devices and compared it to samples of coal near the Seward Coal Loading facility and confirmed the fingerprints matched.

Read the full report.


 

Monday, June 9th in AnchorageStories, Struggles & Songs - YWCA Event 6/9/14

Stories, Struggles & Songs – Defending Our Rights, Our Bodies, & Our Future Generations

Please join us to hear indigenous women from impacted communities discuss the links between environmental violence and reproductive health and justice.

Panel speakers include indigenous women representing Yaqui Nation, Fond du Lac Band (Anishinaabe Nation), Gwich’in of Arctic Village, Athabascan of Chickaloon Traditional Village Council, and Yupik of Gambell and Savoonga, St. Lawrence Island.

Co-sponsored by International Indian Treaty CouncilChickaloon Village Traditional CouncilREDOILAlaska Community Action on Toxics, and YWCA-Alaska

Questions? Call 907-222-7714 or email [email protected]


National Congress of American Indians Midyear Conference Afternoon Breakout Session:NCAIBreakoutSession2014-06-10

‘Bringing US Toxics and Environmental Policies and Practices in Line with Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Reproductive Health, Subsistence and the protection of Future Generations’

Tuesday June 10th, 2014, from 1:30 – 4:00 PM, at the Egan Center Space 12-14
(Dena’ina Civic & Convention Center, 600 W 7th Ave., Anchorage) Event Flyer

  • Speakers will address environmental contaminants and their impacts on Tribal communities in Alaska, the US and Globally and beyond including the severe effects on women’s reproductive health, the health of their children and of future generations.
  •  Presenters will address the failures of US government environmental laws, standards and permitting practices to protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights to Free Prior and Informed Consent, Subsistence, Culture and Health, and will highlight current efforts to change US laws including the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
  • Presenters will include representatives of the Kenaitze Tribe, Native Village of Venetie, Native Village of Savoonga (St. Lawrence Island Alaska), Chickaloon Native Village and the International Indian Treaty Council.
  • For more information, please contact ACAT at 907-222-7714 or [email protected]

 

BREAST CANCER PREVENTION: From the Personal to the Political (Science, Tips, and Action)

 

Anchorage: Breast Cancer Prevention event on June, 4th, 2014Please join us for a discussion with national experts with a teleconference call on May 28th, and at events in Anchorage on June 4th, and on Thursday, June 5th in BethelFairbanks, and Homer.

The environmental causes of breast cancer and what you can do to protect yourself and the women you love.

A discussion with . . .

Your opportunity to learn about –

  • The science linking toxic chemicals and breast cancer
  • Environmental risk factors and the precautionary principle
  • Prioritizing prevention through individual and collective action 

Our goal is to inspire you to make choices that eliminate contaminants linked to cancer from your home and community. We also hope you will join the many breast cancer advocates across the country who are working for public policies that will…reduce the risks of breast cancer.

Questions? Call (907) 222-7714 or email [email protected]

Presented by Alaska Community Action on ToxicsAlaska Run for Women, and YWCA – Alaska


 

News story on CBS Channel 11 KTVA Alaska

NEWS ADVISORY FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 4/16/14

Anchorage consumers return products containing toxic chemicals to Walgreens stores

 Customers across the nation demand Walgreens “Gets Tough on Toxics” 

Anchorage, AK (April 16, 2014) – Concerned parents and consumers converged on an Anchorage Walgreens today saying that the company has failed to take action to reduce the sale of products containing toxic chemicals. The shoppers pointed to a new study showing that some Walgreens products contain harmful chemicals linked to cancer, learning disabilities, infertility and other serious health conditions. The event was part of a national “Mind the Store” day of action to raise awareness of toxic chemicals in consumer products. Similar events took place at over 45 Walgreens stores nationwide. Read more.

 


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