Living Downstream

Penny Davidson Eglin2In this podcast, “'Living Downstream' Exposes Agent Orange Plight in Florida,” you heard about the health effects of Agent Orange on civilian workers and nearby residents exposed to the chemical and the class action lawsuit pursuing justice for these victims. This podcast is a continuation of a story we brought to you last year

[Photo: Penny Davidson. At 82 she has fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis and a host of other ills she traces back to her time in the lab at Eglin working with Agent Orange. Credit: Jon Kalish]

Although veterans of the Vietnam War receive veterans’ pensions and unlimited medical care and treatment, civilian workers and the residents in surrounding regions of Eglin Air Force Base do not receive these same benefits. As a result, Northwest Florida Daily News reported in April of this year that a local attorney will file a federal lawsuit on behalf of these exposed civilian workers. Then, in August of this year, Northwest Florida Daily News reported the filing of this lawsuit which targets contractors involved in the herbicide testing, including BAE Systems PLC. The Department of Veterans Affairs is paying disability benefits to more than 377,000 veterans suffering conditions presumed to be the result of exposure to Agent Orange. The lawsuit calls on these same disability benefits to be extended to the civilian workers and residents featured in this podcast like Penny Davidson, who was regularly exposed to Agent Orange when washing glassware from the Eglin chemical biological laboratory. 

Jon Kalish’s original story about the affected civilian workers of Eglin Air Force Base was featured on NPR’s Here & Now, which drew law firms to the potential class action lawsuit. 

The Department of Defense provides a list of of the dates and locations outside of Vietnam where herbicides like Agent Orange have been tested

A quick guide to the resources linked on this page:

living lead calumet lives matter ropeik smallIn this podcast, “Living with Lead: Public Housing on a Superfund Site,” you heard about environmental injustice in East Chicago, Ind. as people living in the West Calumet housing complex were forced to move out with little notice due to lead contamination in the soil. 

What is environmental injustice? In this podcast, environmental injustice is described as affecting the lives of people who bear the greatest risks and harms from pollution; these same community members benefit the least from the economy in terms of profits, better-paying jobs and political clout. 

In contrast, environmental justice in East Chicago would mean people finding themselves equally benefited and burdened by pollution, no matter what their racial or economic status. 

Curious if there’s a Superfund site where you live? The EPA provides a list of Superfund sites by state. This resource includes a background of the Superfund site, site contacts and the site location. 

[Photo: Calumet Lives Matter president Sherry Hunter, left, sports her group's signature shirt at the independent Community Strategy Group's Calumet Day table with Rev. Cheryl Rivera. Photo credit: Annie Ropeik for Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations.]

Lead and arsenic contamination in the soil of public housing complexes put residents at risk. In West Calumet, where the lead and arsenic contamination was over 100 times the legal limit in the soil. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on the health problems caused by lead. In addition, the World Health Organization describes the sources of exposure, health effects, prevention and control of arsenic contamination

In 2015, the crisis in Flint, Mich. of lead contamination in the water resulted in global outcry. America has a lead problem beyond Flint, Mich. and East Chicago, Ind. Reuters describes other areas in the U.S. afflicted with lead poisoning in drinking water, paint, plumbing or industrial waste. 

In August, 2019, dangerous concentrations of lead were found in the water in some neighborhoods of Newark, N.J.

Indiana Public Media addresses the fact that more than 30 states haven’t updated child blood lead standards to match the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new standard. This new threshold is meant to be more proactive in recognizing lead hazards in order to avoid childhood blood poisoning. 

In this podcast, reporters Annie Ropeik and Nick Janzen interview several students who were learning how to test their soil for lead contamination.They also created a broadcast story about these students for Northeast Indiana Public Radio. 

The original set of stories on East Chicago’s lead contamination, for which Ropeik and Janzen won several awards, were reported for the Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations. The project, called Blood, Lead & Soil, includes the original letter sent to residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex, full interviews with residents of the East Chicago superfund site and other resources describing lead contamination and efforts to cleanup the superfund site.  

A quick guide to the resources linked on this page:

Val Lopez webIn this podcast, “Environmental Justice for Non-Recognized Tribes,” you heard about the challenges faced by federally non-recognized tribes such as the North Fork Mono Tribe, the ytt Northern Chumash Tribe and the Amah Mutsun Tribe. These tribes are among 55 other indigenous communities in California that are not recognized by the local or federal government since the United States Senate declined to ratify 18 treaties in 1851 and 1852. Reporter Debra Utacia Krol also points out that California has the largest number of unrecognized tribes of any state in the U.S. For listeners who want to read more about these tribes and their importance to restoring and sustaining biodiversity in California, we have included additional resources on this page. 

What tribes are federally non-recognized in California? The Office of Historic Preservation in California lists non-recognized tribes in California and other states in the U.S. In contrast, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) lists federal and state recognized tribes by state

[Photo: Valentin Lopez. Credit: Debra Utacia Krol]

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is one of the non-recognized tribes in California working on environmental and cultural restoration as well as protecting their ancestral sites. Amah Mutsun created a land trust to restore, conserve and protect the Popeloutchom lands. Their website also includes a map of the Amah Mutsun’s traditional territory spanning areas in San Benito, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Año Nuevo State Park in Santa Cruz County is one such restoration project undertaken by the Amah Mutsun through their land trust. 

The ytt Northern Chumash Tribe in San Luis Obispo County has similar cultural protection goals as Amah Mutsun. They outline these goals on their website. The North Fork Mono Tribe website describes their tribe’s history and environmental protection projects. 

Several state laws and policies providing protection to non-recognized tribes in California include executive order b-10-11, signed by Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. in 2011. The executive order outlines several policies such as the inclusion of tribal members in state policy discussions that may affect the tribes. In addition, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) provides cultural protections for federally non-recognized tribes since its amendment in 2014. Assembly Bill 52 also provides legal standing to non-recognized tribes if a project under CEQA occurs on the tribe’s lands. 

State agencies have also made other efforts to ensure the rights of California tribes. The California Coastal Commission adopted a Tribal Consultation Policy to enhance outreach and collaboration with Native American Tribes. The California Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) also makes efforts to protect tribes’ cultural resources and ancestral sites.

A quick guide to the resources linked on this page:

1024px John C Boyle Dam Gates OpenIn this podcast, “The Klamath Water Wars,” you heard about the battle over Klamath River dam removal. Although the dams were once an important energy source in the region, Native Americans want the dams gone so the salmon populations don’t continue to decline. Jim Carleton describes the conflict as fishermen fighting with farmers, farmers fighting with tribes, tribes fighting with everybody and everybody blaming everybody else for their problems. Although racism was an issue, the main conflict was the fight for water, as periodic droughts leave little water for both endangered fish species and agriculture. 

Record Searchlight, based in Redding, Calif., writes about the Trump administration’s recent withdrawal of support for the Klamath River dam removal. Originally, support for dam removal was agreed to by consensus during the Obama administration, but a spokesman for Klamath River Renewal Corp. emphasizes that it’s no longer important whether or not the current administration is enthusiastically supportive of removal, plans to remove the Klamath dams are still underway. 

[Image: John C. Boyle Dam on the Klamath River in southern Oregon. This is one of the dams scheduled for demolition within the next few years. Credit: Wikipedia/Bobjgalindo]

The Public Policy Institute of California wrote in June 2019 about the status of dam removal. Here, board president of the Klamath River Renewal Corporation Lester Snow answers questions about the Klamath River Dam removal and river restoration project. 

The Lost Coast Outpost, a news outlet in Humboldt County, describes the fight between Humboldt stakeholders over the Klamath dam removal. In addition, they provide a map showing the location of the Klamath River watershed along with several links to court rulings for the 15-year-long dispute over the Klamath River Hydroelectric Project

Another map of the Klamath River watershed demonstrating the Klamath River Renewal Corporation’s (KRRC) project vicinity map is provided by Klamath Falls News. The article also describes KRRC’s choice of construction firm Kiewit to execute dam removal and river restoration. 

The Klamath River Renewal Corporation provides a guide to the Klamath settlement agreements including the 2016 Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement (KPFA), Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBCA). This podcast discusses the KBRA, which didn’t pass in Congress, and why it didn’t pass. However, the amended KHSA didn’t require Congressional approval. 

The California State Water Board provides the notice of availability and draft environmental impact report. The Water Board also provides information about the Lower Klamath Project water quality certification and California Environmental Quality Act process.

A quick guide to the resources linked on this page:

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