Rachel's Precaution Reporter #52
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

From: Canada NewsWire ....................................[This story printer-friendly]
August 21, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: 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.]

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 Association.

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 protection.

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 shortages.

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) 881-0884

Copyright 2005 CNW Group Ltd.


From: GM [Greater Milwaukee, Wisc.] Today ................[This story printer-friendly] Today [Printer-friendly version]
July 21, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: "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?"]

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 says.

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.


From: Alliance For A Clean & Healthy Maine ...........[This story printer-friendly]
August 16, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: 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.]

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 Protection

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 Prevention

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 Center

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


From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #52 ...................[This story printer-friendly]
August 23, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: As we complete our first year of publication, a Table of Contents for Rachel's Precaution Reporter is now available on the web.]

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


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:

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