Friday, December 21, 2007

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation Testifies at Congressional Hearing

Washington, DC – The House Subcommittee on Domestic Policy in Washington heard testimony on environmental impacts of water bottling and extractions on communities and the environment across the country. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation’s (“MCWC”) president Terry Swier forcefully rebutted Nestle's claims. She pointed out that three courts have concurred that through the finding of fact Nestlé’s pumping has harmed public water resources and riparian rights. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation has been battling Nestlé Waters North America and its Ice Mountain brand of spring water in Michigan for seven years.

In her testimony, Swier explained to the panel that Nestlé’s harm to a stream, two lakes, and wetlands was upheld in three courts in the case Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v Nestlé Waters North America. The finding of fact that Nestle caused substantial harm at levels lower than it is pumping now was made by the Mecosta County Circuit Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals, and affirmed by the Michigan Supreme Court when it rejected Nestlé's argument that the findings were in error.

Jim Olson, legal counsel for MCWC, said, "Nestle witnesses evaded questions from Congressional panel about harm caused by Nestle's pumping for bottling operation in Michigan. Nestlé told the committee it had not caused harm to a stream in Michigan. In fact, three courts in Michigan, trial to the Supreme Court, have limited pumping in Michigan because Nestle has and continues to cause harm there.

During 19 days of trial given sound science, Nestlé’s pumping was found to have reduced stream flow by over 27% for a large stream segment, dropped levels by 2 to 4 inches, and dropped the levels of two lakes by 4 to 6 inches. During natural seasonal or cyclical lows, this makes the difference between public use, fishing, and the integrity of the stream or harm or loss of aquatic organisms.

Dr. David Hyndman, an expert in the Michigan case, explained to the panel, how the exposed bottomlands and harm to the stream shown in a picture to Nestlé's representative and the Subcommittee panel was caused by Nestlé's pumping during low flow periods or the summer growing season.

“Nestlé purports to being a “good neighbor” company to our area, yet it continued to pump at high rates during a long period of low precipitation and lower recharge. Even when bottomland and other dramatic impacts and damage to the Dead Stream, Thompson Lake, and wetlands have occurred, Nestlé has continued to pump,“ explained Swier.

The hearings are a start for the federal government to begin to look at the issues of environmental risks of the water bottling industry’s extraction of water.

For background on MCWC and the various lawsuits, water law disputes, Jim Olson’s summary of key points and comment on testimony, and Terry Swier’s testimony, see MCWC’s web site at

Monday, December 17, 2007

Green Drinks Grand Rapids @ the Green Well!

Hey, Hey, Hey, it's the first ever Green Drinks, Grand Rapids gathering! Join other sustainability enthusiasts for casual networking and drinks organized by JF New, The Image Shoppe & West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum:

December 20th, 2007, 5p - 7p at the Green Well, 924 Cherry SE, in the East Hills Neighborhood.

Spread the word! We look forward to seeing you on the 20th.

More about Green Drinks International:

Every month people who work in the environmental field meet up for a beer at informal sessions known as Green Drinks.

We have a lively mixture of people from NGOs, academia, government and business. Come along and you'll be made welcome. Just say, "are you green?" and we will look after you and introduce you to whoever is there. It's a great way of catching up with people you know and also for making new contacts. Everyone invites someone else along, so there’s always a different crowd, making Green Drinks an organic, self-organising network.

These events are very simple and unstructured, but many people have found employment, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of serendipity. It's a force for the good and we'd like to help it spread to other cities. Contact your local node to get the latest info about coming along.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Benzie County School Board pushing Wind Energy for Schools

Benzie County Central Schools Board of Education will be addressing Wind Energy for Schools as an agenda topic at the February 11th, 2008, 7:30pm board meeting to be held at Benzie Central Middle School, 9300 Homestead Rd., Benzonia, MI. This is the first step in determining the feasibility of putting up windmills on school property. A brief presentation is planned, and your comments and participation are welcome.

Sustainability is not new to Benzie County Central Schools. For decades they have been selectively harvesting timber on their 150 acre high school campus using horse-drawn equipment, weaving it into the curriculum, and investing profits back into school programs and supplies, while preparing students for careers in forestry and conservation, check it out here: .

Harvesting the wind is, for them, a natural next step.

For more information Contact Lynette Grimes, or Superintendent Dave Micinski , with questions,comments,ideas, support or encouragement- Please forward to those who you think will be interested. Meeting reminders will be sent out in February.

Groundwater Contaminated with Gasoline in Rockford

The drinking water supply for homes not at risk, area served by a municipal
water system

Nearly half of Michigan's population relies on groundwater for their drinking water source, yet contamination from leaking underground storage tank sites remains a significant problem for the state. Michigan ranks third in the nation for the highest number of releases from leaking tank sites yet to be cleaned up, with more than 9,000 sites currently known.

The state Department of Environmental Quality is spending $650,000 for cleanup from leaky underground storage tanks at a former gas station site in Rockford, Michigan. So far they've removed the tanks and cleaned up some of the soil, but it turns out much more clean-up is needed to make the site safe again. The money is coming out of the state's Refined Petroleum Fund.

Unfortunately, state cleanup funds are running out, and unless a new funding source is identified soon, cleanups at sites like this will no longer be a possibility.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Lead, Cadmium, and Other Harmful Chemicals Found in Popular Holiday Toys

Environmental Health Groups Release Testing Results Today at
Holiday Favorites, Including Hannah Montana
& Circo Contaminated with High Levels of Toxic Chemicals

The Ecology Center, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization, today released the results of their testing of 1,200 popular children’s toys for toxic chemicals at

"The government is not testing for toxic chemicals in toys, and too many manufacturers are not self-regulating, so several nonprofit organizations created the nation’s first toy database to help inform and empower consumers,” said Tracey Easthope, MPH, Director of the Ecology Center’s Environmental Health Project. “Ultimately consumers need to take action to compel the federal government and toy manufacturers to eliminate dangerous chemicals from toys."

While some toys had high levels of chemicals such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic, others were free of these harmful additives. Parents and other holiday shoppers can now easily search by product name, brand, or toy type (i.e. dolls, teethers, jewelry, bibs, etc.) to learn how the products rate in terms of harmful chemical content. Babies and young children are the most vulnerable since their brains and bodies are still developing and because they frequently put toys into their mouths.

Researchers chose to test these particular chemicals because they have been identified by many regulatory agencies as problematic, they have been associated with reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems and cancer, and because they are found in children’s products. The testing was conducted with a screening technology -- the portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer -- which identifies the elemental composition of materials on the surface of products.

"Toxic chemicals have no place in children’s toys, period," said Ted Schettler, MD, Science Director at the Science and Environmental Health Network. “Even low-level toxic chemical exposures can have lifelong impacts. Getting toxic chemicals out of children’s toys is a moral and medical imperative." tested 1,200 children's products and more than 3,000 components of those products. findings:

Lead: When children are exposed to lead, the developmental and nervous system consequences are irreversible. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended a level of 40 parts per million (ppm) of lead as the maximum that should be allowed in children's products. Nevertheless, there are no federal regulations for lead in vinyl or plastic toys or children’s jewelry. The only existing standard is for lead in paint. found lead in 35% of all the products tested. Seventeen percent (17%) of the products had levels above the 600 ppm federal recall standard used for lead paint! The testing detected more than 6,700 ppm in Dollar Store animal figurines; 3,056 ppm in a Hannah Montana Pop Star Card Pack; and 1,700 ppm lead in a pair of Circo baby shoes.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC / Vinyl): determined products were made with PVC plastic by measuring their chlorine content. PVC is a problematic plastic from an environmental health perspective because it creates major hazards throughout its life cycle and contains additives that can be dangerous to human health. Phthalates are chemicals that are very commonly added to PVC to make it soft and flexible, however, they can leach out of the plastic. Exposure to phthalates is linked to birth defects of the genitals and altered levels of reproductive hormones in baby boys. There are currently no federal regulations limiting phthalates in children's products. California recently passed a ban of several phthalates in children’s products, and Europe has restricted the use of phthalates in children’s toys and child care items. 47% percent of toys (excluding jewelry) tested by were PVC.

Cadmium: Cadmium is a heavy metal that is used in coatings and pigments in plastic and paint. It is a known human carcinogen and exposure can cause adverse effects on the kidneys, lungs, liver, and testes. Currently there are no mandatory restrictions on cadmium in children’s products in the U.S. found cadmium at levels greater than 100 ppm in 2.9% of products -- 22 of the 764 products tested for cadmium-- including painted toys, PVC toys, backpacks, lunch boxes and bibs. also tested toys for arsenic, mercury, bromine, chromium, tin and antimony -- chemicals that have all been linked to health problems and have been subject to either regulatory restrictions or voluntary limits set by industry associations or third party environmental organizations.

The Good News: Twenty-eight percent (28%) of the products tested did not contain any lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury or PVC, including many made in China. Examples of healthier toys include: Amazing Animals Hippo by Fisher-Price (made in China); Caterpillar Grasping Toy, Melissa and Doug (made in Vietnam); and B.R. Bruin Stacking Cups (made in China). provides specific guidelines for how to petition federal and state government agencies and toy manufacturers to urge them to phase out toxic chemicals from toys immediately. Visitors to can nominate other products to be tested. The most commonly requested items will be tested each week leading up to the Holidays.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Book Review: Self-Sufficency Handbook

The Self-Sufficency Handbook
A Complete Guide to Greener Living
Alan and Gill Bridgewater

If anyone in your family is considering a shift to a greener way of living, you should pick up this guide for the holidays. With easy-to-read layouts and simple text, it runs the full gamut, from geothermal heating to crop rotation to soap making. The Bridgewaters help readers answer questions such as how much land they really require, whether or not to depend entirely on natural forms of energy, and which farm animals will best meet their needs. There's practical information on building an insulated flue-pipe chimney, identifying edible wild plants, and composting with worms. There is also a recipe for sauerkrat that I'm trying right now. In addition to recipes for jams, rhubarb wine, and other delicious foods, three A-Z sections offer planting and harvesting instructions for vegetables and salad crops, fruits, and herbs.

One of the biggest problems we have in our society, I think, is that we've lost the knowledge to grow and store our own food. We are at the mercy of the big agriculture corporations and big box stores that shovel us full of poisonous crap. Do yourself and your family a favor and spend a little time with this great book.

Order it now from Powells