Environmentalists are hoping people’s Christmas trees end up in parks or gardens after the holidays, rather than the dump. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:
Environmentalists are hoping peoples’ Christmas trees end up in parks or
gardens after the holidays, rather than the dump. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, between 25 and
30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. every year, and the
majority of those trees are recycled after the holidays.
Jim Corliss is with the National Christmas Tree Association. He says the
group made a big recycling push about 15 years ago.
“We gave a recycling award each year to a municipality or entity which
did a good job of recycling Christmas trees, and according to our surveys
that we did as the years went by we raised the number of recycled trees
in this country from somewhere in the 30 to up to the 70 percentile.”
Corliss says municipalities use wood chips from Christmas trees on park
pathways, in planters or sell the chips as compost.
Most Americans have a trace amount of the chemical C-8 in their blood, and no one knows where it comes from. But the DuPont Company is going to conduct studies that could solve the mystery as part of a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Fred Kight has the story:
Most Americans have a trace amount of the chemical C-8 in their blood,
and no one knows where it comes from, but the DuPont Company is
going to conduct studies that could solve the mystery as part of a
settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Fred Kight has the story:
DuPont spokesman Cliff Webb says the company will spend five million
dollars to investigate the potential breakdown in the environment of C-8,
a key ingredient in Teflon and other non-stick materials.
“We’ll hire independent third parties to serve as a panel administrator for
peer review and consultation, and then the panel will address any specific
activities and findings they see as a result of the study, and the public
will have an opportunity to nominate also a panel member.”
Webb says the three year study will focus on nine chemicals or products
that could release C-8, but he won’t divulge what they are, explaining
they’re confidential business information.
An EPA advisory group has concluded that C-8 is a “likely carcinogen,”
but DuPont disputes that.
Under the settlement agreement, DuPont also must pay a record fine of
more than 10-million dollars for failing to disclose C-8 data to regulators.
A proposed national clean water trust fund will be debated in Congress over the next year, with help from a leading House Republican. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach has the story:
A proposed national clean water trust fund will be debated in Congress
over the next year, with help from a leading House Republican. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach has the story:
Sewage treatment agencies and some environmental groups have been
pushing for a dedicated national fund to help control sewer overflows
and protect regional waters like the Great Lakes.
Recently, House Water Resources Sub-Committee Chair John Duncan,
Junior introduced the Clean Water Trust Act. The Tennessee Republican
says the nation’s water infrastructure needs more federal money, but it
isn’t clear where Congress would find the 38 billion dollars over five
Ken Kirk of National Association of Clean Water Agencies says he
doesn’t know yet who would pay.
“But I think if you would poll the American people, I think you would
find at least two things. One, clean water is a high priority, and
two, they are willing to pay more.”
Kirk contends a clean water trust fund would be similar to programs
financing highways and airports.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new rules on how sewage treatment plants clean water after heavy storms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee reports:
The US Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new rules on
how sewage treatment plants clean water after heavy storms. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee reports:
When rainstorms overwhelm sewage treatment plants, cities sometimes
blend raw sewage with clean water that can contaminate local rivers and
lakes with bacteria. To stop this, the EPA’s proposing a compromise
with local governments. Cities may blend waste when there’s no
alternative, but they must improve their waste treatment systems.
Alexandra Dapolito Dunn represents an alliance of city treatment
facilities. She says local governments need this flexibility.
“There are going to be some communities around the country where, due
to the low income and the distressed nature of an urban population, they
may have a difficult time affording the most cutting edge technologies
It’s not clear how much money cities will save under the proposed
guidelines. Upgrades can cost millions of dollars, and right now,
treatment centers compete for limited federal assistance.
A lot of studies have linked air pollution with heart and lung problems. A new study suggests your diet can worsen air pollution’s effects on you. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has more:
A lot of studies have linked air pollution with heart and lung
problems. A new study suggests your diet can worsen air pollution’s
effects on you. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland
Every time you inhale, you’re breathing in tiny particles from dust, soot
and smoke. They can increase both the plaque buildup in your arteries,
and the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Now, a study led by Dr. Lung Chi Chen at New York University’s
School of Medicine says a high fat diet combined with bad air led to a
faster buildup of plaque in the arteries of mice. He says that’s because
air pollution affects lipids – fats – in the blood. It changes their
characteristics, or oxidizes them, which leads to more plaque on artery
“If the mice are fed with high-fat, then the level of the oxidized
lipid will be higher, because they have more lipid in their blood.”
Dr. Chen says arteries of mice on a high-fat diet and breathing dirty air
were 42-percent blocked. Mice breathing clean air had arteries that were
He hopes the study not only encourages people to eat better, but also
persuades the government to toughen air quality standards.
Environmentalists say the Bush administration is ignoring the government’s own scientists in new proposed air pollution rules. The rules reject advice to further restrict soot and other fine particle pollution. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Environmentalists say the Bush administration is ignoring the
government’s own scientists in new proposed air pollution rules. The
rules reject advice to further restrict soot and other fine particle pollution.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Environmental Protection Agency’s own staff scientists and the
independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee both found the
EPA needed to issue more restrictive rules regarding fine particulate
matter, that’s soot emitted from sources such as diesel trucks and coal-
burning power plants.
After reviewing 2000 studies linking particulate matter to asthma, heart
attacks, and early death for people with heart and lung disease, the
scientists concluded that standards set by the Clinton administration in
1997 did not go far enough to help reduce health risks. Despite that, the
Bush EPA appointees basically plan to keep restrictions where they are.
The power plant industry indicates further restrictions would be a
financial burden to it, and provide only marginal public health benefits.
Environmentalists say the Bush administration’s proposed rules ignore
mountains of medical research showing this kind of air pollution causes
serious health problems.
Burning trash smells bad and it can create the conditions
necessary to produce dioxin. If livestock are exposed to that dioxin, it
can get into the meat and milk we consume, creating health risks. (Photo
courtesy of the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance)
For most of us, getting rid of the garbage is as simple as setting it at the curb. But not everyone can get garbage pick-up. So, instead, they burn their trash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… that choice could be affecting your health:
For most of us, getting rid of the garbage is as simple as setting it at the
curb, but not everyone can get garbage pick-up. So, instead, they burn
their trash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham
reports… that choice could be affecting your health:
(Sound of garbage trucks)
It’s not been that long ago that people everywhere but in the largest cities
burned their trash in a barrel or pit in the backyard. That’s not as often
the case these days. Garbage trucks make their appointed rounds in
cities, small towns, and in some rural areas, but they don’t pick up
Everywhere, or if they do offer service, it’s much more expensive
because the pick-up is so far out in the country.
Roger Booth lives in a rural area in southwestern Illinois. He says
garbage pick-up is not an option for him.
“Well, we burn it and then bury the ashes and things. We don’t have a
good way to dispose of it any other method. The cost of having pick up
arranged is prohibitive.”
He burns his garbage in the backyard. Booth separates bottles and tin
cans from the rest of the garbage so that he doesn’t end up with broken
glass and rusty cans scattered around.
A lot of people don’t do that much. They burn everything in a barrel and
then dump the ashes and scrap in a gully… or just burn everything in a
gully or ditch. Booth says that’s the way most folks take care of the
garbage in the area. No one talks about the smoke or fumes put off by
“I haven’t ever thought much about that. So, I don’t suppose that I have
any real concerns at this moment. I don’t think I’m doing anything
different than most people.”
And that’s what many people who burn their garbage say.
A survey conducted by the Zenith Research Group found that people in
areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota who didn’t have regular garbage
collection believe burning is a viable option to get rid of their household
and yard waste. Nearly 45-percent of them indicated it was
“convenient,” which the researchers interpreted to mean that even if
garbage pick-up were available, the residents might find more convenient
to keep burning their garbage.
While some cities and more densely populated areas have restricted
backyard burning… state governments in all but a handful of states in
New England and the state of California have been reluctant to put a lot
of restrictions on burning barrels.
But backyard burning can be more than just a stinky nuisance. Burning
garbage can bring together all the conditions necessary to produce
dioxin. Dioxin is a catch-all term that includes several toxic compounds.
The extent of their impact on human health is not completely know, but
they’re considered to be very dangerous to human health in the tiniest
Since most of the backyard burning is done in rural areas, livestock are
exposed to dioxin and it gets into the meat and milk that we consume.
John Giesy is with the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center at
Michigan State University. He says as people burn garbage, the dioxins
are emitted in the fumes and smoke…
“So, when they fall out onto the ground or onto the grass, then animals
eat those plants and it becomes part of their diet, and ultimately it’s
accumulated into the animal and it’s stored as fat. Now, particularly with
dairy cattle, one of the concerns about being exposed to dioxins is that
then when they’re producing milk, milk has fat it in, it has butter fat in it,
and the dioxins go along with that.”
So, every time we drink milk, snack on cheese, or eat a hamburger, we
risk getting a small dose of dioxin. Beyond that, vegetables from a
farmer’s garden, if not properly washed, could be coated with dioxins,
and even a miniscule amount of dioxin is risky.
John Giesy says chemical manufacturing plants and other sources of
man-made dioxin have been cleaned up. Now, backyard burning is the
biggest source of dioxins produced by humans.
“So, now as we continue to strive to reduce the amount of dioxins in the
environment and in our food, this is one place where we can make an
“That’s the concern. That’s the concern, is that it’s the largest remaining
source of produced dioxin.”
Dan Hopkins is with the Environmental Protection Agency. He says,
collectively, backyard burning produces 50 times the amount of dioxin as
all the large and medium sized incinerators across the nation combined.
That’s because the incinerators burn hot enough to destroy dioxins and
have pollution control devices to limit emissions. Backyard burning
doesn’t get nearly that hot and the smoke and fumes spread unchecked.
The EPA wants communities to take the problem of backyard burning
seriously. It wants state and local governments to do more to make
people aware that backyard burning is contaminating our food and
encourage them to find other ways to get rid of their garbage.
“(It) probably won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution, but by exchanging
successful efforts that other communities have had, we should be able to
help communities fashion approaches that have a high probability of
But public education efforts are expensive, and often they don’t reach the
people who most need to hear them. The EPA is not optimistic that it
will see everyone stop burning their garbage. It’s not even a goal. The
agency is just hoping enough people will find other ways to get rid of
their trash that the overall dioxin level in food is reduced.
Many people do not know what to do with old computers and
equipment, so they end up in the trash.
Electronic waste can potentially contain harmful chemicals like
lead, mercury, and cadmium. Recycling computers and other electronics is a
way to help the environment.
If you bought a new computer over the holidays, there are plenty of places to drop off your household’s old computer. But to prevent more of the old monitors, laptops and other items from winding up in landfills, some Midwest states are looking to make sure computer makers get involved in recycling their products. One of the few manufacturers that already helps re-use old computer parts is Texas-based Dell, Incorporated. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach went to a Dell-sponsored recycling center and has this
If you bought a new computer over the holidays, there are plenty of
places to drop off your household’s old computer, but to prevent more
of the old monitors, laptops and other items from winding up in
landfills, some Midwest states are looking to make sure computer
makers get involved in recycling their products. One of the few
manufacturers that already helps re-use old computer parts is
Texas-based Dell, Incorporated. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Chuck Quirmbach went to a Dell-sponsored recycling center and has this
About a year ago, Dell helped set up and publicize a computer
recycling plant at a Goodwill Industries facility in Dell’s home city
(Sound of clunking)
Goodwill employees and volunteers sort through the hundreds of
boxes of computers and computer parts that are dropped off – at no
charge to the consumer – at the site. Newer computers are set aside
for repairs, and hard drive memories are erased. Older computers go
to a bench where workers like Paul take apart (or demanufacture)
“I’m taking apart all the useable parts. Motherboard, power sources,
cards, ports, metal goes into bins, plastic goes into bins for
recycling and what not.”
(Sound of ambience switch)
Goodwill sells the reusable parts at its retail store elsewhere in the
building. Used LCD monitors, for example, go for as low as twenty
Manager Christine Banks says some of the equipment is under
a 30-day Goodwill warranty. Other parts can be exchanged if the
customer isn’t satisfied. Banks says Goodwill is happy this computer-
recycling program makes a profit.
“Our operation does. However, there are 7 or 8 other Goodwills
throughout the country that do this that barely break even. We’re just
fortunate we have higher tech donations, a pool of employees with
more technology, it’s very tricky.”
Some states charge high disposal costs for unwanted computer parts,
which can contain potentially harmful chemicals. Those high costs can
make it difficult for a recycling program to get off the ground, but
environmental groups say the fast-growing pile of circuit boards,
monitors, and plastic parts can leach poisons like lead, mercury, and
cadmium into the environment.
They say small-scale projects like the one in Austin have to be part of a
broader effort to keep electronic waste out of the nation’s landfills. That
effort could include government mandates forcing manufacturers to
safely dispose of old products.
Robin Schneider is with the Austin office of the National Computer
“So, to really deal with the environmental problems of millions of
pounds of toxins, we’re gonna need something bigger than this. This is a
piece of it…and gonna need lot of pieces of it.”
Schneider says she’s encouraged that some Midwest states are
looking into manufacturer takeback programs. She acknowledges that
recycling may drive up the cost of new computers, but she also says
manufacturers may start redesigning computers so that it’s more
profitable for the companies to take them back.
Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk, Ohio Governor Bob Taft, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. This was right taken after they signed the agreement. (Photo by Shawn Allee)
In the spring of 2004, President Bush created a task force to develop a comprehensive Great Lakes restoration plan. The group recently released its final recommendations. But members already disagree about the future of their proposal. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee reports:
In April 2004, President George Bush created a task force to develop a
comprehensive Great Lakes restoration plan. The group recently
released its recommendations, but members already disagree about the
future of their proposal. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn
Efforts to improve the Great Lakes face a major hurdle. Local, state and
federal programs overlap and sometimes duplicate one another. That
wastes a lot of time and money. President Bush wanted to change this. So, he
created a task force called the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration. For the
first time, cities, states, federal agencies, and Indian tribes would agree to
specific goals and how to reach them. By most accounts they succeeded.
Here’s Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
“I can’t overstate what a major step forward this is for the Great Lakes.
For the first time, we’re all the same page with a common vision.”
The parties agreed to eight major goals. Among other things, they want
to restore wetlands along Great Lakes shorelines, they want to clean up
heavy metals that pollute lakebeds, and they want to keep sewage away
from public beaches. The cost for all this would stand at billions of
dollars, and that price tag caused a major rift.
Bush administration officials agreed to spend 300 million additional
dollars per year. That’s just a fraction of what states and environmental
groups hoped for.
Derek Stack is with Great Lakes United, an advocacy group. He says
states want to participate, but sometimes they can’t.
“I think a lot of the states simply don’t have the dollars necessary to pull
Tribes, cities and states are being careful with their criticism. They want
to keep the door open for the administration to change its mind.
“To be fair to the federal administration, the states are saying we don’t
have federal money, and the feds are pointing out that we don’t exactly
have state money either, but the states have committed themselves to the
plan. So, now that they know what they’ve committed themselves to, the
budget building can begin. It’s hard to build a budget if you don’t have a
Some critics are more strident, though. Illinois Congressman Rahm
Emmanuel says the administration needs this clear message. Federal
leadership requires federal money.
“There’s either action or inaction. This is the ninth report in five years,
and I hope it’s the last report. Now, there’s nothing that can’t be cured when
it comes to the Great Lakes that resources can’t take care of.”
Great Lakes advocates and state governments will be watching the next
few months closely.
Cameron Davis directs the Alliance for the Great Lakes. He says he’s
reserving judgment until the President releases a budget proposal.
“That budget will be released the first week of February, and if it has 300
million dollars in new funding, then we’ll know that the administration’s
serious. If it doesn’t we need to ask Congress to step in.”
Some legislators say that deadline might be too soon to judge the
ultimate success of the restoration plan.
Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk says other federal cleanup efforts came
after several reports and years of waiting. Congressman Kirk says the
prospects for the restoration plan are good. The Great Lakes region has
the strength of eight states standing behind it.
“When you look at the success of the Chesapeake Bay, and then the success
of protecting the Everglades, you see, once you come together with a
common vision, what a unified part of state delegation or in the case of
Florida, what an entire state delegation can do.”
On the other hand, it might be hard to keep eight state governments
focused on a common purpose.
There’s another wrinkle in the restoration plan as well. Canada lies on the other
side of the Great Lakes, and any comprehensive plan will require its
cooperation as well.
Canada is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement aimed at curbing heat trapping gas emissions. Now, a new study shows that these gas emissions have risen sharply in Canada over the past ten years. The release of the study comes just days after the prime minister criticized Washington for its climate change policies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Dan Karpenchuk reports:
Canada is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement
aimed at curbing heat trapping gas emissions. Now, a new study shows
that these gas emissions have risen sharply in Canada over the past ten
years. The release of the study comes just days after the Prime Minister
criticized Washington for its climate change policies. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Dan Karpenchuk reports:
The study was prepared by the Environment, Health and Statistics
departments of the Canadian government. It shows as of a couple of
years ago emissions of greenhouse gases were 32 percent above the
targets laid out in the Kyoto Protocol.
Alberta and Ontario had the worst emissions of all the provinces.
The study found that the most of the greenhouse gas emissions came
from energy production and consumption. Vehicular traffic accounted
for about twenty percent, an increase reflected in the shift from
automobiles to vans, SUV’s and trucks. Those heavier vehicles emit
about 40 percent more greenhouse gasses on average.
Climate change has become a touchy issue between Ottawa and
Washington. Recently, Prime minister Paul Martin said the White House
had failed to yield to a global conscience in its refusal to sign the Kyoto
Protocol. Washington warned him to tone down his anti-US rhetoric,
describing it as cheap electioneering.