Rachel's Precaution Reporter #52

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006...........Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.

Table of Contents...

Citizens Want Precaution Inserted into Canada's Water Law
  Citizens' and environmental groups want Canada's proposed water law
  bill strengthened by the addition of the precautionary principle and
  the "meaningful involvement" of indigenous people in decisions.
Milwaukee Citizens Want to Keep Herbicides Out of Local Fish
  "The bottom line is that if you have an opportunity to reduce an
  obvious toxin that people are electively putting all over their yards,
  it would make a significant impact on the health of the environment...
  If there is risk associated with something, why take the chance?"
Maine Is Developing Policy for Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products
  Maine Goveror John Baldacci has appointed a 13-member task force
  that will develop recommendations for a comprehensive chemicals policy
  for Maine. The policy will reportedly require safer substitutes for
  hazardous chemicals found in consumer products and create incentives
  to develop safer alternatives on a state and regional basis.
Table of Contents for Rachel's Precaution Reporter Now Available
  As we complete our first year of publication, a Table of Contents
  for Rachel's Precaution Reporter is now available on the web.


From: Canada NewsWire, Aug. 21, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


TORONTO -- The Ontario government's proposed Clean Water Act is
essential for the long-term health of our communities and our
environment, according to 16 citizens' and environmental groups who
released a joint statement this morning at the start of legislative
committee hearings on the Act.

The Act lays out a formal process for identifying threats to the
sources of our drinking water, and establishes local committees to
address those threats. It also provides municipalities with much-
needed tools to better protect their waters.

Potential threats the Act will help address include bacterial
contamination from human or animal waste, industrial pollution, urban
runoff and water depletion from overuse.

"Protecting our sources of drinking water is pure common sense," said
Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. "This Act
is a big step forward for water protection in Ontario, and it should
be as strong as possible."

"This Act makes drinking water source protection a top priority in
local and regional planning decisions," said Jessica Ginsburg, Counsel
at the Canadian Environmental Law Association. "Its innate flexibility
will allow communities to identify their true priorities and design
solutions which are workable and effective."

In 2004, a coalition of citizens' and environmental groups endorsed
the Ontario Source Water Protection Statement of Expectations, which
laid out an initial set of recommendations for the province's source
water protection legislation. According to the statement released this
morning, the Clean Water Act will help the province live up to 12 of
those 16 recommendations. The Act also supports the implementation of
22 of Justice O'Connor's recommendations from the Walkerton Inquiry.

"I am optimistic that this Act will help improve the safety of our
drinking water and hopefully avoid another tragedy like the one at
Walkerton," said Bruce Davidson, Concerned Walkerton Citizens. "The
government has clearly heard our concerns and taken our
recommendations seriously."

Standing Committee hearings are being held this week in communities
across the province to allow the public to comment on the proposed
law. Today's groups will participate in those hearings with ideas on
how the Clean Water Act could be made even stronger, including:

** Adoption of the precautionary principle.

** Meaningful involvement of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples.

** Extensive and ongoing public participation and education.

** Sustainable funding for the program's implementation.

** Equal source water protection for central and northern Ontario and
for private water systems.

** Incorporation of strong conservation measures.

** Strong commitments to Great Lakes protections and integration with
Great Lakes agreements.

The Statement of Expectations, along with information about the
schedule of hearings, is available online at The WaterHole -
www.TheWaterHole.ca -- a grassroots water protection web site operated
by Environmental Defence and the Canadian Environmental Law

Joint Statement

We, the undersigned environmental and citizens' groups, believe the
proposed Clean Water Act is essential for the long-term health of our
communities and our environment. The following are our recommendations
on how the Act should be made even stronger, to ensure the best
possible protection for our sources of drinking water.

1. Adoption of the precautionary principle.

Despite numerous recommendations advocating the inclusion of the
precautionary principle, there is not a single reference to precaution
in the proposed Act. The precautionary principle should be inserted in
the purpose statement as a guiding principle. It should also be
included in the administration of the Act, for example, as an
operationalized component of the source protection plans.

2. Meaningful involvement of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples.

We strongly believe that First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples and
their governments have a critical role to play in the source water
protection framework. In its current form, the Act does not include
provisions related to drinking water systems on reserves, nor does it
in any way include First Nations peoples in the source protection
process. We continue to stress that the federal and provincial
governments should support the ability of First Nations, Metis, and
Inuit peoples to be full participants in source protection planning
and implementation, in addition to allocating appropriate resources to
facilitate meaningful involvement.

3. Extensive and ongoing public participation and education.

Planning and implementation of each source protection plan will occur
mostly at the local level, through measures carried out by individual
landowners, industries, and businesses. It is critical that we build
public support through education and outreach programs as well as
through public engagement in the planning and implementation process.
Public education must include easy access to information in order to
identify threats to source waters and participate in risk management
responses. At a minimum, meaningful engagement requires the public's
involvement on source protection committees, financial support for
participation outside of the committees, and the opportunity to
comment on proposed terms of reference, assessment reports, and source
protection plans before these documents are finalized.

4. Sustainable funding for the program's implementation.

It is essential that there be a sustainable and reliable approach to
securing funds for the implementation of source protection plans. The
province should consider all of the funding mechanisms identified in
the Implementation Committee's report, including water taking charges,
water rates, pollution charges, incentive programs, general revenues,
and stewardship approaches. Furthermore, the funding system should
allow for the equitable reallocation of funds and reaffirm the
principle that water is a public resource.

5. Equal source water protection for central and northern Ontario and
for private water systems.

The Act does not yet achieve sufficient protection for all of
Ontario's source waters, as Justice O'Connor recommended in Part II of
his report. In its current form, the Act is weighted towards
protection of municipal drinking water systems in southern Ontario. We
strongly recommend that the right to source water protection be
extended to people who rely on private water systems and water systems
in central and northern Ontario.

6. Incorporation of strong conservation measures and water quantity

It is important that this Act work effectively to protect both water
quality and quantity. To that end, it should promote the adoption of
water conservation measures and prevent the depletion of our water
resources. For example, groundwater aquifers could be better preserved
by setting clear guidelines limiting the spread of impervious surfaces
in key recharge areas. Also, when preparing water budgets for the
assessment reports, source protection committees should take into
account water conservation plans as a means of avoiding water

7. Strong commitments to the Great Lakes and integration with Great
Lakes agreements.

Given the critical importance of the Great Lakes as a source of
drinking water, it is essential that the province use this Act as a
starting point for renewed leadership in Great Lakes protection. We
believe that the Act should include strong commitments to protecting
the Great Lakes. Furthermore, source protection measures should be
effectively integrated with existing Great Lakes programs, data
collection, and inter-jurisdictional agreements, including the Great
Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Annex 2001 agreements.


Environmental Defence
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Concerned Walkerton Citizens
Canadian Federation of University Women/Ontario Council
Georgian Bay Association
Waterfront Regeneration Trust
Sierra Legal Defence Fund
Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods of Ontario
Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy
Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations
Friends of the Earth Canada
Riversides Stewardship Alliance
Ontario Headwaters Institute
Sierra Club of Canada, Ontario Chapter
Citizens' Environmental Alliance
Pollution Probe

For further information: or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jodi Frye, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 x 233; Jessica
Ginsburg, Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association, (416)
960-2284 ext. 226; Bruce Davidson, Concerned Walkerton Citizens, (519)

Copyright 2005 CNW Group Ltd.

Return to Table of Contents


From: GM [Greater Milwaukee, Wisc.] Today, Jul. 21, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By Howard Hinterthuer

In an era when natural and man-made environmental disasters are making
daily headlines, it can be difficult to decide whether to panic now or
later. Whitefish Bay's Amy Joyce, co-founder of the Healthy
Communities Project, has opted to channel concern into action.

Joyce and co-founder Melanie Ariens launched the Healthy Communities
Project in 2001 as a way to voice their concerns about herbicide use
and misuse in Whitefish Bay and beyond. The group currently counts 15
active members plus 15 to 20 others who lend ad-hoc support.

"Pesticides," Joyce says, "is the umbrella term for everything that
includes rodenticides, fungicides, insecticides and herbicides. Our
primary issue in terms of excessive use in the Northshore is
herbicides. We have one of the highest rates of commercial lawn care
application in the state," she says. "When you and several thousand
other residents are doing it two or three times a season, it adds up.
And there are serious health concerns."

Applicators are required to notify owners, take precautions and flag
the areas for a good reason, she says.

Joyce points out that herbicides have a valid purpose in terms of
extreme circumstances where there is a major weed infestation that
can't be controlled any other way. "There's a spectrum of the way we
feel about pesticides or any of these toxins that are used," she says.
"My personal opinion has always been that if everyone knew more about
them and used them judiciously, and only when absolutely necessary, we
wouldn't even have this issue.

"The bottom line is that if you have an opportunity to reduce an
obvious toxin that people are electively putting all over their yards,
it would make a significant impact on the health of the environment,"
Joyce says. "It also reduces the chance that you or your family or
your pets are going to have any kind of inadvertent exposure. While
one dose of this group of chemicals may not hurt you, they don't know
the effects of repeated, long-term, low-dose exposure, the kind you
might get when you're walking your dog, when you smell it in the air
or you walk across someone's lawn and you have no idea it's there."

The group has been guided by this precautionary principle, Joyce says:
"If there is risk associated with something, why take the chance?"

Though alternatives to expanses of manicured lawns are gaining in
popularity, such as created prairies, rain gardens and enlarged flower
and vegetable beds, grass is here to stay. Ball diamonds and soccer
pitches are grass-dependent. So are cemeteries and golf courses. Are
there alternative strategies to control lawn weeds?

"Yes," says Darrell Smith, proprietor of Natural Oasis Landscaping.
"It requires a different mind-set," says Smith. "Weeds invade because
they out-compete the grass. The chemicals contribute to the problem."

Melanie Ariens (left) and Amy Joyce, with sons Liam Peregrine and Joe
Joyce, are co-founders of the Healthy Communities Project. The group's
goal is to reduce the public's exposure to toxins.

Chemical lawn treatments can cause a quick green-up in spring, he
says, but all the roots develop on the surface. "The chemicals can
harm the vibrant soil ecology so that worms, for example, aren't there
to loosen the soil. Then the roots have difficulty penetrating
deeply," Smith says. If there's a drought later on in the season, the
chemical lawn may actually die, while a healthy lawn will simply slow
down and go dormant, he says. Meanwhile, the root system is still
finding moisture and nutrients.

Smith uses a three-pronged approach to weed control. He applies
organic fertilizer, a deodored fish emulsion with extra biological
components, to improve the soil and its ability to break down and
deliver nutrients. He applies corn gluten meal during the spring and
fall during periods of peak weed growth. Corn gluten meal has been
found to be effective against 23 different types of common weeds such
as crabgrass, quack grass and dandelions. Corn gluten naturally
interferes with seed germination. "There's no bad news for pets,
children or the environment," Smith says. "Corn gluten meal is also a
slow-release nitrogen fertilizer and a common ingredient in pet food."

Smith also "over-seeds" with high-quality grass seed so that any gaps
are filled with new grass instead of new weeds.

Independently, Joyce has been applying corn gluten meal to her lawn
for about three years. "You have to create the right underlying soil
conditions to allow grass to thrive and out-compete the weeds. If you
have a ton of weeds in your lawn it's probably indicative of an
underlying issue.

"They are more of a symptom than the problem itself," she says.

Joyce recommends doing simple things like mowing higher, keeping your
lawn mower blades sharp, applying better watering practices, pulling
the weeds and over-seeding with good-quality grass seed.

Currently the Healthy Communities Project is working for modifications
to herbicide use policies and procedures in public parks and other
places where children and pets romp. "We tried to get the village to
look at alternatives, but it came down to money," Joyce says.

She credits Gary Siegman, buildings and grounds supervisor for the
Whitefish Bay School District, for his efforts in reducing the amount
of herbicides on school grounds. "He's willing to try new things," she

Other efforts to reduce herbicides on public grounds include a
multiyear pilot project that started this spring at School House Park
in Whitefish Bay and efforts at Buckley Park on Lake Drive.

River Hills resident Darlene Lochbihler, another corn gluten advocate
and founding member of the Northshore Environmental Roundtable, says
this about the Healthy Communities Project: "I think they are taking a
very balanced approach to this issue, uncovering the facts and being
thoughtful about proposing workable alternatives."

The Environmental Roundtable brings together groups like the Healthy
Communities Project, the Sierra Club, Milwaukee Audubon Society and
others to share information on initiatives while offering support and
coordination. Like the Healthy Communities Project, a key goal of the
Environmental Roundtable is to provide reliable environmental
information to area municipalities and decision-makers.

Return to Table of Contents


From: Alliance For A Clean & Healthy Maine, Aug. 16, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, a coalition of health-
affected groups and public health, labor, environmental, grassroots,
and professional organizations, applauded Governor John Baldacci on
convening for the first time today the Governor's Task Force to
Promote Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products.

Gov. Baldacci appointed 13 Mainers to the Task Force which will
develop recommendations for a comprehensive chemicals policy for Maine
(see list of members below). The policy will require safer substitutes
for hazardous chemicals found in consumer products and create
incentives to develop safer alternatives on a state and regional
basis. The Task Force was created through an Executive Order issued
in February 2006 that also requires state government to avoid
purchasing of products that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or
that build up in the environment and people's bodies.

Three members of the Alliance are on the task force. Nick Bennett,
staff scientist of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, will
represent environmental groups. Mike Belliveau, director of the
Environmental Health Strategy Center, will represent public health
groups. Sharon Tisher, who teaches environmental law at the University
of Maine, will represent the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine.

Says Bennett, "Data from countless studies show persistent, toxic
chemicals in places they shouldn't be: in human breast milk, the blood
of newborn babies, whales, eagles, and peregrine falcons, to name a
few. This task force can help Maine stop using these types of
chemicals and push the chemical industry to make safer products that
won't contaminate our citizens and wildlife."

The task force will also work on increasing research and development
of safer alternatives to priority chemicals in consumer products,
including investment in "green chemistry." This initiative could mean
a new natural resource-based industry for the state, such as plastics
made from Maine potatoes and other agricultural and forest products.

Tisher pointed to current work in this area. "The University of
Maine's new $10.35 million forest biorefinery research rogram is well
positioned to produce alternatives to petroleum products -- including
safer plastics -- from our renewable forests," she said. "Maine
researchers are also developing proposals to research the feasibility
of producing plastics from Maine waste potatoes. These projects will
help us get off the oil treadmill, and mean growth for the Maine
economy. The task force will explore ways to give economic and policy
support for these projects, emphasizing the development of both safer
and more sustainable technologies."

The executive order also directs state agencies to educate consumers
about safer alternatives to using hazardous chemicals at home. It
highlights important regional and statewide programs to phase out the
use of mercury, lead and other toxic substances.

Belliveau applauded Baldacci "for recognizing that our chemical safety
system is broken, threatening the health of children and workers from
daily exposure to industrial chemicals used in everyday products like
TVs and toys."

Belliveau noted that thirty years after passage of the federal Toxics
Substances Control Act, only six hazardous chemicals have been
restricted, and the vast majority has never been tested for health and
safety hazards.

"We need a new chemicals policy that acts on early warnings and
requires safer alternatives to unnecessary toxic chemicals," he said.
"The Governor's Task Force will take the important first step of
developing recommended legislation and incentives to promote safer
chemicals to protect Maine families."


Members Appointed by Maine Governor John Baldacci to the Governor's
Task Force on Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products:


David Littell, Commissioner, Maine Department of Environmental

Janet Yancey-Wrona, Director, Maine Office of Innovation, Department
of Economic and Community Development; and State Science Advisor

Deborah Rice, Toxicologist, Maine Center for Disease Control and

Kathy Murray, Integrated Pest Management Coordinator, Maine Department
of Agriculture


Stacie Beyer, Environmental Manager, Interface Inc. (Interface
Fabrics/Guilford of Maine)

Mark Dobrovolny, Operations Director, Tom's of Maine

Steven Pinette, SW Cole Engineering, representing Energy &
Environmental Technology Council


Mike Belliveau, Executive Director, Environmental Health Strategy

Nick Bennett, Staff Scientist, Natural Resources Council of Maine

Sharon Tisher, professor of environmental law, University of Maine,
representing Alliance for a Clean & Healthy Maine

OTHER (Labor, Academic, Public):

Dana Graham, President, Maine State Employees Association

John Wise, Director, Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health,
University of Southern Maine

Melinda Davis, public member

Return to Table of Contents


From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #52, Aug. 23, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


A complete table of contents for Rachel's Precaution Reporter is now
available on the web.

Return to Table of Contents


  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
  examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
  action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
  decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
  answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
  principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

  We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we  
  believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
  their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
  to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

  Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to
  provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

  As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary 
  principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- 
  please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

  Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
  Tim Montague   -   tim@rachel.org

  To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Precaution
  Reporter send a blank Email to one of these addresses:

  Full HTML edition: join-rpr-html@gselist.org
  Table of Contents edition: join-rpr-toc@gselist.org

  In response, you will receive an Email asking you to confirm that
  you want to subscribe.

Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 160, New Brunswick, N.J. 08903