Pensacola, Florida
Monday September 22nd 2014

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Rant & Rave 2/17/11

COMMENDABLE FEATURE Both for myself and on behalf of those Pensacola citizens who care deeply and wish to be informed of the workings of their city government, I thank you—immensely!—for the informative and revealing feature article in this week’s issue (Independent News, “What Will Our Strong Mayor Do Next,” Feb. 10, 2011.) I have a pretty good idea of how much time that must have taken. You have done us all a great community service.

It begs the questions, “Why was this not provided by the mayor’s office? Where is the much-promised transparency?” What we are getting instead are weekly puffs of exhaust from the Travis Peterson spin machine.

While I have your ears (eyes?), you should know that there is a large measure of disappointment in the composition of the Westside committee. Dr. Morris neither lives nor pastors in the Westside (he’s in Woodland Heights); why is he on that committee? Oh, wait—he helped the mayor get elected. The criticisms that have been made to me by African-American friends who live in the Westside are that there are no business people and no women. As a further public service, perhaps you could address this representational imbalance.

And, by the way, I was more of a fly in the ointment than the other two, actually. You just didn’t care for some of the ointments that I chose to attack!

–Diane Mack, Pensacola
DRINKING WATER ISSUE The infamous Environmental Working Group study published in 2009 has resurfaced. You may recall that EWG analyzed nearly 20 million water quality records obtained from 45 states and the District of Columbia over a three-year period. The data were not created by EWG, yet were submitted to states by the water providers themselves. EWG found 316 pollutants in tap water throughout the United States, with over half of these pollutants not regulated by the EPA.

EWG then ranked the 100 largest providers, ranking ECUA water 100th: the worst. EWG found 45 compounds in ECUA-provided drinking water (the national average was eight); only 13 of those 45 pollutants are naturally occurring; the others are from industry, agriculture, urbanism, etc.

There were several town hall meetings after this study was published and even a report published by CEDB at UWF legitimately debunking the methodology of the EWG ranking system. Due to the unfortunate method EWG used to rank the water systems, the actual point of EWG’s study was lost to our community.

The purpose of EWG’s study was not to panic communities into thinking their drinking water was poisoned. The point was to shed light on the following facts: 1. there are hundreds of chemicals being discharged into the environment which did not exist when the EPA created drinking water standards; 2. there are dozens of chemicals in our drinking water which we have no idea what the safe limits are; 3. these chemicals are in our water legally and utilities are under no obligation to report them to us; and, most importantly, 4. the EPA must do a better job at protecting and regulating our drinking water—period.

ECUA successfully brushed EWG’s study under the rug due to faulty ranking methodology and claiming EWG motives were to sell water filters. And, the truth is, ECUA did not have one Safe Drinking Water Act violation during the entire study period. However, the fact remains that ECUA water has nearly six times more compounds than the average amount found in drinking water throughout the U.S., along with an undetermined amount of other unregulated potential pollutants—a fact ECUA has not denied.

In March 2010, Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, admitted the lag in use of chemicals and regulating those chemicals in our drinking water. Recently, the EPA announced that 16 cancer-causing Volatile Organic Compounds (eight currently regulated and eight not) will be addressed in the first round of updating drinking water standards. Of those 16, seven regulated and one unregulated were found in ECUA water during the three-year study by EWG.

The process of adding or editing regulations is a tedious one. It will be at least four years before any changes to the Safe Drinking Water Act standards are in place. That, of course, is only if there are no challenges to the changes and if the next administration does not quit the process.

As a proponent for strict regulations of the only resources which are essential to life—our water, air and food—I often hear opponents scream that regulations put undue stress on industry which costs jobs. I am confident that we will hear from very well-paid attorneys for industry who will claim that industry can regulate itself and save the taxpayers money and jobs. If only that were true!

Of course, if ECUA were to decide to remove all 45 compounds found in our drinking water, I am confident folks would come out in droves to complain about the cost. The responsibility does not lie solely with ECUA; it lies with all of us.

What will it take for us to redefine costs? When will long-term health implications become part of the cost equation? When will we determine our success based on the health of our people and our communities?

Don’t get lost in the absurd debate of who has the worst water. Rather, educate yourself as to what is in your water, what that means, what should or can be done about it, and then help to make that happen.

Oh, and I recommend a good water filter, even though I do not have any for sale. Of course, I tend to error on the side of safety than “cheap.”

–Chasidy Fisher Hobbs, Coastkeeper & Executive Director, Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc., Pensacola
CLIP OF THE WEEK Feb. 22 is Spay Day, when many veterinarians offer reduced-cost spaying and neutering. If you haven’t yet had your animals sterilized, here are some great reasons to “spay the day!”

–Animal shelters across the country are overflowing with homeless cats and dogs. Up to 4 million animals must be euthanized for lack of homes every year.

–Spaying and neutering prevent thousands upon thousands of animals from being born only to struggle to survive on the streets, suffer at the hands of cruel or neglectful people, or be euthanized in shelters.

–Spaying and neutering eliminate animals’ chances of contracting several cancers that are expensive to treat and often fatal, including uterine, ovarian, and testicular cancer.

–Sterilization reduces or eliminates mating urges, aggression, and excessive territoriality, making sterilized dogs three times less likely to bite.

–Sterilized animals are much less likely to “mark their territory” on your favorite armchair or embarrass you by mounting objects—or your guests’ legs.

For the nearest low-cost spay/neuter clinics, call 1-800-248-SPAY. To learn more, visit PETA.org.

–Lindsay Pollard-Post, The PETA Foundation, Norfolk, Va.