Tag: flooding

Concrete Kills: Burdens Outweigh the Benefits

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 25, 2021 by Michael Wells

After water concrete is the most widely used substance in the world. But this does not mean it is safe. Concrete is responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissions. It outweighs the combined mass of every tree, bush, and shrub on Earth, and it hardens and degrades slowly. Joni Mitchell once wrote a song about paving paradise to put up a parking lot, and that has already happened. 

Companies and governments have stripped mountains, ripped sand out of beaches, and taken lake and ocean water to feed the massive demand for concrete, the substance that produces buildings for the modern world. Concrete takes so much from the environment, and, in return, the manufacturing of concrete belches CO2 into the atmosphere and spreads harmful particles in the air that causes cancer and respiratory ailments. And it exacerbates the carnage of hurricanes like Katrina and Harvey. It did so by preventing water from being absorbed into the concrete covered ground. In short, concrete is a menace that we all live and work in, on, around, and near.

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Heart of the matter. No material has made the building of the modern world more possible from the construction of the Pantheon in ancient Rome to the Empire State Building. None of it would have been possible without concrete. But that has come at a huge price to the environment, animals, and people. 

“Unfortunately, a cement plant makes for a horrible neighbor,” writes Fred Siegel in his book, Environmental Hazards: Are you Exposed? It is one of the least regulated industries on the planet, and it is largely run by organized crime. What a scheme: perhaps the world’s greatest polluter run by the worst criminals, which makes dead bodies entombed in concrete foundations seem almost quaint by comparison. From thousands of concrete plants that are everywhere it produces mercury, cement kiln dust, burns toxic waste (while lying about it), produces cancer causing particulate matter, and uses toxic gases and metals. 

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How this impacts you personally. Concrete is in your backyard, and under your feet as you read this article. You drive on it, play on it, and your house, office, and apartment sit on it. You cannot escape it. The problem is two-fold: the production of the concrete is extremely harmful, and the concrete itself is harmful. As the saying goes, they get you coming and going, they being the industry with a bottomless need for production that has the ear(s) of most politicians. 

Take Harris County where Houston, Texas sits: it has 188 concrete plants due to there being no zoning laws in Texas. In 2015, 5,200 premature deaths were caused by particulate matter from concrete according to a study done by Rice University. The study states concrete production is one of the deadliest forms of air pollution because it produces massive amounts of CO2 and other harmful chemicals, and the dust it produces causes cancer, bronchitis, COPD, and other breathing issues. 

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Unfortunately, concrete plants are located disproportionately in poor neighborhoods and communities of color. Another disturbing fact is ⅓ of concrete batch plants are a short walk from a school or a daycare. 

As if all of these facts were not disturbing enough, there is a company in Scotland that wants to sell you concrete made of toxic ash. No, this is not an Onion article. Given the prevalence of coal ash in the United States, this type of business could easily take off  because the EPA does very little to regulate the concrete industry. And why is that? Because it is everywhere, and it contributes to most people who are in Congress. Therefore, nothing is done about it.

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What you can do. Be loud. Be vocal in your opposition to using concrete. Tell everyone you can, we need to regulate this industry and do all that we can to find other viable building materials. Surely this dinosaur (no offense to dinosaurs) of a building material can be replaced by something more ecological. Besides, was that building in Miami that recently collapsed built of concrete in a city that is sinking?

Do you want more of that?

Next Steps

  • Call your government representatives at the local, state, and federal levels, and let them know you want something done about concrete;
  • Do research on the internet; and 
  • Boycott companies that pollute when they make concrete.

Concrete is everywhere, and it comprises most buildings in one way or another. It does not always have to be that way though. Concrete may dry quickly and take forever to diminish, but that does not mean the future is already set in stone or concrete, rather. Things can change if we want them to change. 


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Miami Destined to Be Under Water

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 21, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

By 2100 the ocean will cover one-third of Miami. This means at least eight-hundred thousand people or one-third of the population will be displaced, making a large portion of the city uninhabitable. With this in mind, in 2019,  the State of Florida passed a law, which removed the requirement that a property owner obtain a permit before chopping down a tree. Now trees can be cut down with impunity. Miami’s sea level rose one foot from the early 1900s until 1993, and it rose five inches since 1993. It is only a matter of time before the whole city is flooded.

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A September 29, 2020 article from Yale University’s School of the Environment argues Miami will eventually be swallowed by the ocean. The article attributes this to Miami’s location, the weather, climate change, and continued building and development in the Miami area.

The problem is exacerbated by Miami sitting atop a limestone aquifer, which allows sea water to seep in through the ground even before the rising sea levels overtake the city. This problem is exacerbated by the massive amount of multimillion dollar development done in Miami, primarily in the form of oceanfront highrises. Given the lack of tree planting, heavy buildings, and soft ground, it is a recipe for disaster. 

One effort to save Florida, and Miami in particular, is an initiative urging people to plant mangrove trees in their yards. Mangroves serve to hold the ground together, thus preventing erosion, but they also sop up water and other moisture. 

The world loses fifteen billion trees per year, and, since civilization began, forty-six percent of trees have been removed. To add a little context to this, Florida has seven billion trees. 

Time to face the music. In order to succeed at carbon drawdown, we have to return to the Garden of Eden. Very exciting! #ActNow Take a listen.

This is a complex problem, but the 2019 law removing the permitting requirement to cut down trees certainly hurt the situation in Miami. The law is called “Private Property Rights,” which is an absurd title because it makes the destruction of the environment a deprivation of liberty question. It is not, really, because the purpose of the original law was to preserve trees, and, ultimately, blunt the impact of climate change. Now, however, this will be more difficult. 

Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 showed what happened to cities below sea level when the right kind of storm hits. Something like this will happen in Miami eventually, and Miami will be largely under water. 

From not wearing masks to cutting down trees that do not need to be removed, Americans have a self-destructive desire that likes to masquerade as “individual rights.” In a perverse way, this misguided notion of freedom will ultimately lead to the destruction of the environment in the United States with Miami being only one example in this ongoing literal and metaphorical flood. 


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Worse than Snakes and Alligators: Florida’s Toxic Algae Blooms Spell Death

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 20, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

All this time people believed Florida’s snakes and alligators might kill them, when, in reality, the toxic algae blooms are the real threat. For two decades, Florida has struggled to control blue green algae that periodically covers the bottom of Lake Okeechobee, which threatens the state’s tourist industry as well as the once pristine coastline and waters. The blooms are fueled by phosphorus, a key ingredient in fertilizers used on nearby farms and ranches in Orlando and Kissimmee. The algae has killed millions of fish, hundreds of manatees, and it causes ALS and Alzheimers and even death in people. The algae is only getting worse, in particular since 2016, and climate change exacerbates the problem.  

The heart of the matter. The problem mostly comes from 50,000 metric tons of phosphorus carpeting the bottom of Lake Okeechobee. Phosphorus flows out of the lake through rivers and streams and into the Atlantic Ocean all along the coast killing wildlife and putting a damper on tourism with its guacamole like sludge.

While the problem did not originate in Lake Okeechobee, as it likely came from farms and ranches along the Kissimmee River, the lake is the eye of the storm that threatens everything living in Florida. Considering algae thrives in heat, Florida’s problem (ultimately everyone’s problem) will only grow worse if drastic steps are not taken soon. 

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How this impacts you personally? Cynics may see this as akin to “save the rainforest,” which we certainly should do, but they cannot deny that this affects them personally. It does if they are concerned about dying, or, should they be lucky enough to survive, getting Alzheimer’s or ALS. The problem has gotten so bad that the State of Florida has twice declared states of emergency in 2016 and 2018.  Even Governor Ron DeSantis (no big friend to the environment or mask wearing) is concerned, enough so that he made cleaning up the toxic algae a focal point of his campaign, and he created the South Florida Water Management District, which is charged with protecting the water in 16 South Florida counties.

Of course, none of this will matter if something is not done to fix the pipes and sewer systems, which are rotting, and, from 2009-2019, released 1.6 million gallons of waste into the state’s estuaries. This waste also helped fuel the algae blooms, lest the state’s farmers and cattle ranchers think they are being unfairly picked on about this crisis.

Maybe you do not care about Florida, and you think the state only matters as a backdrop for Carl Hiaason novels. Yes, it is a great setting, but it is a HUGE state. And Florida’s problems usually become everyone’s problems.

What can you do about this? While you may not live in Florida, this still affects you. Perhaps you should consider not eating beef as much of it comes from Florida, and, as the algae shows, it is terrible for the environment. You may also want to consider donating money to organizations devoted to the clean up of the algae, or, you can Google “Florida’s toxic algae blooms” and see what else you can figure out.

Next Steps

  • Stop eating beef (or do not eat so much of it);
  • Consider your own carbon footprint and how this adds to climate change, which affects Florida and wherever anyone lives;
  • Donate to groups that help clean up the algae and the damage caused by it;
  • Contact your local, state, and federal representatives and urge them to pass environmental legislation and create regulations that actually protect and clean up the environment.

All of these problems seem so ominous because they are, but they are only going to get worse if people refuse to do anything.

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Hanford Superfund Site, Part 2: Worry About It for 24,100 Years

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 13, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Do you ever think about the vastness of space? Or do you ponder if the universe never ends and is expanding for eternity? On a more personal level, perhaps Earth will be destroyed by an exploding star one day. Maybe you worry about such things, but here on Earth there are known threats, namely the Hanford Superfund Site that will be a problem for possibly 24,100 years, which is the half-life of Plutonium contained on the site, the source of Plutonium used to make the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki that ended World War II. And the Hanford site is filled with Plutonium, which is buried in 177 storage tanks within sight of the Columbia River.

Heart of the Matter. Climate change has been exacerbated by the oil and coal industries. Nuclear energy appears to some a more viable alternative. Hardly. The Hanford Site shows this to be a faulty premise, especially when you consider what happens when the radioactive waste leaks into the ground and into the water. Because it happened in May 2017 when the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, which holds rail cars full of solid waste, collapsed releasing tons of radioactive waste into the water and soil. Then in December 2018 radioactive dust was released from the site into the air. These are but a few of the problems, and it does not take a complex understanding of climate change and nuclear waste to imagine the scale of the problem.

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How this impacts you personally? The chemical names are long, and the science is hard to follow. But the main reason people should care about the Hanford Site is a shot-glass of liquid out of one of the underground tanks is enough to instantly kill everyone within 100 yards. Of course the tanks have a history of leaking. In fact, whether or not this waste contained in 177 tanks leaks further may depend upon if the concrete that makes the tanks and the caulking that glues the tanks together can hold up long term.

As stated in the first article on this topic, there are 56 million gallons of high-level nuclear waste, made up of 1,800 chemicals. Right now 700,000 gallons of waste are classified as high-level, and that may leak into the Columbia River. And these chemicals will be around for thousands of years. If the tanks crack or otherwise fall apart, there is enough waste to wipe out civilization, a process that will surely be hastened by climate change if something is not done.

To bring this down to a more personal level, this waste causes and has caused bone cancer in many of the people, who live near the site. Imagine if this waste were spread on a wider scale, which could easily happen if it seeps into the groundwater, burns due to a forest fire, or some other calamity such as a flood occurs, all of which could be caused by climate change.

What can you do about this? Of course this problem is almost metaphysical because it will last for so long it is beyond comprehension, and it is on a physical scale that is difficult to grasp. But Congress controls the budget for the cleanup and containment efforts, so it really matters who is in Congress. It cannot be people against regulation, who care nothing for the environment. That will not work at all because it will only increase the risk for everyone. If you do nothing else, think about this when you vote next time.

Next Steps

  • Learn more about this problem. Check out the Hanford Challenge.
  • Educate yourself on nuclear waste.
  • Learn more about climate change.
  • As always, contact your local, state, and federal officials, in particular, Congress people, who may vote on legislation that affects Hanford and other sites like it.

The Hanford Site will likely always be a problem, but people can take steps to make sure the problem is contained. If it is not contained, it will be a disaster of cataclysmic proportions.

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Hanford Superfund Site: An American Chernobyl Waiting to Happen

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 4, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Before COVID-19 hit some Americans probably believed a magic forcefield shielded the country from events other less fortunate nations endured. Not anymore. In the fall of 2019, critics scoffed after watching the hit Netflix show, Cherynobyl, that Cherynobyl could not happen in the United States because Americans would be too well prepared. The Hanford Superfund nuclear site in Washington state has 56 million gallons of waste from plutonium, will take 50 years to clean up, and has caused cancer, dementia, and death. Ronan Farrow called it in a 2016 article, “an American Chernobyl.”

Heart of the Matter. The American government built the Hanford site in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project. It later produced the plutonium that was used in the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, which ended World War II. At one point, it produced two-thirds of the plutonium in the United States, which resulted in 56 million of gallons of waste, waste that still exists and has leaked into the ground and water for decades, earning it the description, “the most toxic place in America.”

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How this impacts you personally? Since 2010, 640 gallons per year of radioactive nuclear waste have been leaked from the Hanford site. Of course, this is just an estimate, and the U.S. Department of Energy improperly recorded or did not record many radioactive waste spills. Some of the waste reached the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia River 200 miles away, killing all of the fish in the river along the way.

In fact, in 2013, the governor of Washington admitted one tank was leaking up to 300 gallons of radioactive waste per year. The company in control of cleaning it up knew about the leaks and did nothing. This means thousands of gallons of radioactive nuclear waste are still out there spreading all over the country, which affects all of us. 

If you still are not convinced, the pollution is airborne as well.

The waste produced “air toxins,” which have spread to Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Colorado. These toxins along with others in the area surrounding Hanford have caused cancer, dementia, thyroid disorders, and other handicaps. 

Again, these are the things that we know about, and much is not known since private contractors and the United States government lied about it and covered it up for decades. Sadly, sites that take fifty years to clean up do not stay self-contained.

What can you do about this? So much damage has already been done, but that does not mean it needs to continue. The Trump administration created a rule that deemed 90% of the waste at the Hanford site low-level, a rule the Biden administration is trying to change.

What you can do is think before you vote. Learn the candidate’s stance on the environment, in particular clean-up issues and regulatory issues. Try and learn as much as you can about these issues. This is one of 4,000 superfund sites in the United States. Learn about the ones around you, and see if there are any groups you can join. These problems are not going away by themselves:

Next Steps

While, contrary to what Jay Gatsby said, we cannot change the past, at least we can try and clean it up.

  • Join groups advocating for cleaning up your local Superfund site(s);
  • Educate yourself about climate change and other environmental issues;
  • Contact local, state, and federal officials about environmental issues; 
  • Be skeptical of what the government does or does not tell you.

Hanford is terrible, but that does not mean it has to stay that way even if it takes 50 years to clean it up.

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Fairfax Ninth Grader Places Second in Well-Timed Science Experiment

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 20, 2021 by author and journalist Noreen Wise

Gallant Gold Media is very excited to report that Julia Victor, a ninth grader at W.T. Woodson High in Fairfax, Va, placed second in her unique and timely science experiment, which is part of the build up to the annual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. We’ve been following Julia’s progress since October 2020 as she’s made her way through this intricate labyrinth of competing in a science fair during a global pandemic with schools closed and students distance learning. Julia was determined to find out which NoVA natives store the most carbon, and whether shrubs can stores as much carbon as trees, so she decided to conduct her own science experiment to discover the answer. We were impressed with Julia’s original idea that ties closely with the international greenup movement, that of planting lots of trees and nature to restore our habitat. Julia has taken it to a new level, though. She challenges us to be strategic about what we plant as we all strive to find more ways to store more carbon to reduce global warming.

Meanwhile, President Biden, on behalf of the United States of America, officially reentered the 2015 Paris Agreement yesterday, Friday February 19, 2021. The ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement is to become carbon neutral. Carbon neutrality will be accomplished through the global framework established within the Paris Agreement — an international treaty on climate change signed by more than 196 countries. The Paris Agreement outlines a combination of aggressively cutting carbon emissions on one side of the coin, while simultaneously boosting carbon sequestration on the other. Substantially increasing carbon sequestration will be accomplished most notably by a significant increase in soil health as well as the restoration of our habitat, particularly trees and shrubs… and as Julia has proven with her science experiment, the right native trees and shrubs make a difference.

What’s the heart of the matter? The hard truth is that in order for us to hit the targets outlined for the US in the Paris Agreement, we each have to do our own little bit, by lowering our individual and household carbon footprint, as well as by storing more carbon in our yards (ie, planting more trees, shrubs, flowers and ground cover, and improving soil health through the diversification of the species we plant, as well as composting and biochar). To make this simple, the easiest way to process our individual contribution in reaching the US target, is by living a sustainable lifestyle and planting smart.

Gallant Gold Media is planting a forest in North Dakota to remember those we lost to covid, thanks to the generosity of ranch owner Byron Richard. Join us in GreeningUp to help US hit our Paris Agreement targets. CLICK to see details.

The Paris Agreement measures the contribution each country is making in its effort to curb global warming. It checks to see if countries are doing their “fair share.” The expectation is that large countries like the United States, one of the largest contributors to global warming, will reach the highest level of effort, that of “Role Model.” Currently, the United States is ranked at the very bottom, Critically Insufficient. The following are the Paris Agreement levels of contribution:

  • Role Model
  • 1.5° Paris Agreement Compatible
  • 2° Compatible
  • Insufficient
  • Highly Insufficient
  • Critically Insufficient

The term “role model” is what immediately comes to mind when I think of Julia and her science experiment. Julia’s findings highlight that quality matters, especially when available land to plant is constrained. Although, if possible, a high quantity of high quality plants, sure would help the US make up for lost time. (Click here to read the details of Julia’s experiment.)

I asked Julia if she would be so kind to walk us through the science fair process. In her own words:

“The virtual science fair included only students from my school as a preliminary level. It was all grades, so most of the participants were older than me. There were 7 categories ranging from micro-biology to computer science. I was in the environmental science category and placed second. Environmental science was the largest category with around 25 students in it. The top three projects in each category move on to the regional fair. The school-wide science fair was set up so each student could present their pre-recorded video to three judges and then answer questions. As it started, it became clear that coordinating around110 students and all the judges would be difficult. The links for the judging rooms were broken and it was too much for the coordinators to fix. Eventually, they gave up on the judging rooms, and the judges reviewed the projects and videos by themselves. Overall, the setbacks didn’t affect the quality of the science fair too greatly.” 

Ninth grader, Julia Victor’s 25 seedlings planted and tested to find out which NoVa native species stores the most carbon.

Now that you’ve placed second, Julia, what’s the next round all about?

“The next round will be very similar to the school-wide science fair, except it will be better coordinated. It uses an online program made for science fairs and programs like this. It has the same process as my school’s fair. It has a video presentation stage and then a synchronous time for questions. The fair will include all of Fairfax County Public Schools so it will cover much of Northern Virginia. I’m not sure the exact number of students participating, but I know there will be hundreds of them. Due to the virtual setting, the fair is not hosted by a specific school, but by the school district. There are many different types of awards at the regional fair. Depending on the award, students may move to the state-wide science fair, or even straight to the international science fair (Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair).”

And the winners are…

We have our work cut up for us that’s for sure. Biden committed to being at net-zero no later than 2050. But many of our allies have been working at a brisk pace these last 4 years while we’ve been slumped on the sidelines. Our allies have submitted new pledges that will hopefully bring out the best in the US as we reach higher and rush faster. Julia’s experiment gives us a new lens to use. Let’s be smarter about what we put in the ground, so we can build that all important ladder to pull ourselves out of this hole we jumped into back in 2017 when we exited the Paris Agreement.

  • EU has now pledged to cut emissions from the 1990 level by 55 percent by 2030. Insufficient.
  • UK is striving for a 68 percent reduction from the 1990 level by 2030. Insufficient.
  • Canada has pledged to come in at 30 percent below 2005 level by 2030. Insufficient.
  • Costa Rica and Bhutan are both ranked highest on the main list. Compatible.

Congratulations, Julia! Best of luck in the next round.

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Bigger Than a Texas-sized Mess: Can the EPA Recover From Trump?

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 18, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Every American realizes, or should realize, Trump made every effort to destroy the environment during his infamous term as president. From Scott Pruitt, the first Administrator  of the EPA under Trump, who called withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, “courageous,” to Andrew Wheeler, second Administrator  of the EPA and former coal lobbyist, both wrought so much damage to the environment that the majority of new Administrator Michael Regan’s job will be cleaning up the damage done by the previous administration. In short, the Biden Administration’s priorities will be addressing massive pollution issues, working on climate change, and handling environmental justice issues.

Heart of the Matter. We need look no further than Texas to see the damage caused by climate change where millions are without power in frigid temperatures that have killed people. But this is just the most recent and obvious example. Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, cut regulations for polluters, allowed a myriad of environmental injustices to be perpetrated, and, as a result, created so many problems that the majority of the Biden Administration’s time will be assessing what happened and how to fix it.

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How does this impact you personally? If you breathe air, drink water, eat food, like heat and air conditioning, and do not want to die of being poisoned through pollution, you should care a great deal about the EPA’s agenda.

In reality, the EPA and what it does (or did not do under Trump) affects you, especially if you want to prevent another Flynt, Michigan, North Carolina coal ash, or Texas blizzard and blackout.

Biden’s climate change agenda is considered the most ambitious in U.S. history because he aims to make the country’s electricity carbon free by 2035. In other words, America will not be reliant on fossil fuels that damage the environment and contribute to climate change thereby driving absurd climate events such as Texas. Certainly, not renewing the Keystone Pipeline lease and dismantling the pipeline itself will help this.

Biden also created a White House climate advisory team that includes former Secretary of State, John Kerry, and former EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy.

The remedial work required under the new EPA is extensive. Under Trump, the EPA rolled back regulations such as the Obama-era Clean Water Act and Clean Water Rule as well as started dismantling portions of the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by power plants.

 The EPA launched 30 percent fewer cases and levied 60 percent less in fines that under the Obama EPA, and it stayed quiet about polluters that failed to meet the agency’s standards. Pollution became worse; infrastructure crumbled; and climate change got a shot in the arm.

What can you do about this? People often wonder what one person can do when the problems feel so large, much bigger than one person. But these problems did not happen by themselves. Human behavior caused them. For example, Scott Pruitt, who was later asked to leave his position for rampant corruption, claimed the EPA was a “bastion of liberals.” This type of corrosive mindset infects many people, and it drives bad behavior and microaggressions such as littering that cumulatively have a massive impact on the environment.

People can modify their small, simple every day behavior, and it will make a difference, especially when the majority do it.

Embracing science makes a huge difference, too, because the science surrounding climate change is irrefutable and necessary.

Next Steps

  • Modify your behavior by recycling or using a bamboo toothbrush for example;
  • Learn about the science behind climate change; 
  • Speak up and educate others;
  • Call your elected officials because they listen.

President Biden cannot do it on his own. The sooner everyone buys into the agenda, the better off America and the world will be.

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Don’t Drink Poisonous Water | The Shocking Hack

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 12, 2020 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Drinking poisonous water leads to cancer and other things that will kill you. Everyone knows that, but what if you do not know you are drinking water contaminated with poison? Surely such a thing cannot happen. Laws and regulations exist, and the government protects people. Unless the government knew about the poisonous water and covered it up for decades. If you doubt this, then ask the possibly one-million people who drank the poisonous water surrounding the Camp LeJeune superfund site. Or at least you can ask the ones who were not killed.

Heart of the Matter. The Camp LeJeune superfund site is the worst water contamination site in United States history, and it has poisoned an estimated one million people. While water contamination cases become rather wonky with many jargony terms thrown around, from the 1950s through at least 1985, the water in and surrounding Camp LeJune tested between 240 and 3,400 times over what is permitted by safety standards. In fact, a 1980 handwritten report that showed the water was heavily contaminated was sent to Marine command at the base. They ignored it. 

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From that flowed a comedy of errors, lies, and conveniently omitted facts. For example, a 1984 report found the contamination rate to be 38 per billion, but it was really 380 parts per billion. Apparently, zeroes do not matter to the government when it suits them. While there were a dizzying number of chemicals involved, benzyne, one of the worst, which causes myeloid leukemia, was omitted altogether from a 1994 report. Quite frankly, the matter was not fully addressed legislatively until President Obama signed a 2012 law that allowed victims of the poisoning to recover their medical expenses. A federal court previously blocked many of the cases as barred by the statute of limitations, and it also halted the North Carolina General Assembly’s effort to extend the statute of limitations.

How does this impact you personally? What if you live somewhere else far away from North Carolina? Why should you care? Ever read the book A Civil Action or seen the movie? That was a water contamination case that occurred in Massachusetts decades ago where people were poisoned and died. In other words, it can happen to anyone because we all need water, which is vulnerable to pollution. 

Just look at the so-called “water hack” that occurred in Florida earlier this week where a hacker broke into economical (cheap) remote software used to manage the local water supply. This is still being sorted out, but it shows how vulnerable the water system is and how cheap infrastructure endangers everyone in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”

What can you do about this? Camp LeJeune’s water contamination rate of 380 parts per billion happened, but that does not mean it has to happen again. But it will continue to happen if people ignore the problem and stay ignorant. Read about the environment. Join groups dedicated to protecting the environment. Refuse to purchase products and services from businesses that do not use environmentally safe procedures and practices. Most importantly, vote for candidates who will help pass legislation that protects drinking water and the environment in general.

Next Steps

  • Read a book about water contamination (A Civil Action is a good one to start);
  • Learn about companies and nonprofits (especially those who advocate for planting trees) that are environmentally friendly;
  • Pay attention to stories and news about the environment; 
  • Only vote for people who value laws and regulations that protect the environment;
  • If something doesn’t look or taste right with your own tap water, report it to your town or county water facility immediately.

Water should not be poisonous, but some of it is. That does not mean, however, all water must be toxic. People can make a difference, and they must before it is too late.

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Superfund ‘Timebombs’ Threaten to Explode

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 29, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

All organic life requires air, water, a place to exist, and a food source. But all of these things must be clean or there cannot be life, at least not long term. Throughout the United States, thousands of ticking environmental “timebombs” called Superfund sites are ready to explode. The poisons and other pollutants contained in these sites threaten all organic life in the United States and throughout the Earth. 

Heart of the Matter. Superfund sites number about 4,000 and were created by federal legislation in 1980. Congress set up a trust fund to finance the cleanup of these hazardous sites; the fund used to be financed by a tax on petroleum, but Congress let the tax expire twenty-five years ago. The sites are deemed so contaminated that they require long term responses to clean up these messes. And they are not self-contained. Hurricanes, floods, rising sea levels, increased precipitation, and wildfires spread their pollution, and they pose serious problems to 945 sites according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study from 2019. 

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How does this impact you personally? The Trump administration ignored many of these sites and cut funding for the continued cleanup, which caused the sites to further deteriorate. Incoming Biden Administration Climate Change Czar Gina McCarthy certainly has her work cut out for her.

Everyone should care about Superfund sites. On July 19, 2018, in Libby, California, a wildfire broke out and burned an asbestos site, which could have released millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the groundwater and air if the fire had not been contained. It served as a cautionary tale, and it emphasizes the risk posed by Superfund sites that run along the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and East Coast. All of these sites are vulnerable to floods, wildfires, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and other climate change associated risks. And the risks will only increase with climate change. 

What can you do about this? The sites differ in their severity as well as the types of pollution, but people can do one key thing to improve the environment: plant trees. Although trees are vulnerable to pollution and are often destroyed by the toxins in the Superfund sites, trees are also part of the solution because they can help expel many of the harmful pollutants by producing healthier byproducts. In 2017, one study showed using bioaugmentation (certain kinds of bacteria) protected poplar trees and allowed them to suck up polluted groundwater and expel it in the form of healthier byproducts.

 In other words, the trees cleaned up the site more cheaply and in a more beneficial way for the environment.

Next Steps

These are complex problems, but there are things we can all do to make it better:

  • Recognize that this is a problem that affects everyone
  • Plant trees
  • Learn more about solutions such as bioaugmentation
  • Learn about how people pose risks to the environment, and what you can do to minimize both your “carbon footprint” and other risks you pose individually
  • Most importantly, call your Congressperson or Senator and tell them you are terrified about the climate’s impact on the Superfund sites. If enough people call, they will listen

Yes, there are absolutely timebombs out there (just ask the residents of Flynt, Michigan), but this does not mean we must fail to act and do things to improve the situation. If we do not, then the world will be uninhabitable, perhaps in our lifetime, but more than likely in our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ lifetimes. 

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Miami Destined to Be Under Water

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 23, 2020 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

By 2100 the ocean will cover one-third of Miami. This means at least eight-hundred thousand people or one-third of the population will be displaced, making a large portion of the city uninhabitable. With this in mind, in 2019,  the State of Florida passed a law, which removed the requirement that a property owner obtain a permit before chopping down a tree. Now trees can be cut down with impunity. Miami’s sea level rose one foot from the early 1900s until 1993, and it rose five inches since 1993. It is only a matter of time before the whole city is flooded.

A September 29, 2020 article from Yale University’s School of the Environment argues Miami will eventually be swallowed by the ocean. The article attributes this to Miami’s location, the weather, climate change, and continued building and development in the Miami area.

The problem is exacerbated by Miami sitting atop a limestone aquifer, which allows sea water to seep in through the ground even before the rising sea levels overtake the city. This problem is exacerbated by the massive amount of multimillion dollar development done in Miami, primarily in the form of oceanfront highrises. Given the lack of tree planting, heavy buildings, and soft ground, it is a recipe for disaster. 

One effort to save Florida, and Miami in particular, is an initiative urging people to plant mangrove trees in their yards. Mangroves serve to hold the ground together, thus preventing erosion, but they also sop up water and other moisture. 

The world loses fifteen billion trees per year, and, since civilization began, forty-six percent of trees have been removed. To add a little context to this, Florida has seven billion trees. 

This is a complex problem, but the 2019 law removing the permitting requirement to cut down trees certainly hurt the situation in Miami. The law is called “Private Property Rights,” which is an absurd title because it makes the destruction of the environment a deprivation of liberty question. It is not, really, because the purpose of the original law was to preserve trees, and, ultimately, blunt the impact of climate change. Now, however, this will be more difficult. 

Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 showed what happened to cities below sea level when the right kind of storm hits. Something like this will happen in Miami eventually, and Miami will be largely under water. 

From not wearing masks to cutting down trees that do not need to be removed, Americans have a self-destructive desire that likes to masquerade as “individual rights.” In a perverse way, this misguided notion of freedom will ultimately lead to the destruction of the environment in the United States with Miami being only one example in this ongoing literal and metaphorical flood. 


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