Catalina Jaramillo covers watershed issues for StateImpact Pennsylvania and WHYY. She also delves into community development issues, environmental/sustainability stories, and neighborhood narratives for PlanPhilly. She is a freelance correspondent for Chilean newspaper La Tercera, collaborates with Feet in Two Worlds, a news organization that brings the work of ethnic media journalists to public radio and the web, and teaches Spanish-language journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. She was born and raised in Santiago, Chile, and has lived in Spain, Mexico and the U.S. She’s been living in the Norris Square section of Philadelphia since 2014. She tweets as @cjaramillo and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Jackson, a senior research scientist at the Stroud Water Research Center, measures conductivity at the White Clay Creek at the center.
Applying salt on roads and sidewalks during storm events is a safety issue — it helps keep roads drivable during winter and can prevent people from falling when it’s icy.
But there’s a cost: Studies show that salt ends up running into streams and rivers, raising chloride and sodium levels in fresh waters across the country, which hurts the environment and can threaten public health.
John Jackson, a senior research scientist at the Stroud Water Research Center, has been studying water quality in the Delaware River watershed for 28 years. Currently, he’s looking at the increasing salt concentration in surface waters from streams in Pennsylvania and the White Clay Creek at the Stroud Center, and its negative impact on aquatic organisms.
On Tuesday, a day before this week’s snowstorm, Jackson put a portable meter into the creek to measure conductivity, which shows the amount of salt dissolved in the water.
Philadelphia Energy Solutions is the largest refiner on the East Coast, taking Bakken Shale oil from North Dakota and turning it into gasoline. The company is the largest stationary emitter of particulate matter in the city.
Zalaka Thompson lives less than a mile from the largest oil refinery on the East Coast, which turns crude oil from the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota into gasoline. The Schuylkill Expressway, a major interstate highway, separates her home from Philadelphia Energy Solutions, and she says the facility impacts her family daily.
Her 14-year old son has asthma and carries an inhaler with him at all times. Some mornings, she can’t keep her windows open for long without smelling something akin to sulfur or gas.
“I like to open my windows for fresh air, but sometimes I have to close them,” she says.
The refinery is Philadelphia’s single largest stationary source of particulate pollution, according to city data. Particulate matter includes a mix of tiny particles that can damage lungs and cause respiratory diseases. In the 19145 zip code, which Thompson and her son call home, asthma is common among children, and the rates of hospitalization for the ailment are among the highest in the city.
Earlier this month, after years of financial strain caused by a drop in global oil prices, PES filed for bankruptcy. It blames its most recent financial problems on federal biofuel requirements, which mandate ethanol comprise a percentage of refined gasoline. PES CEO Greg Gatta describes the bankruptcy filing as a restructuring of debt that “positions PES well for the future with a sustainable capital structure and additional liquidity.”
But even as PES moves toward financial sustainability, neighbors like Thompson say the refinery isn’t doing enough to reduce its environmental impact locally. She hopes the bankruptcy will inspire the company to rethink how it does business across the board. Continue Reading →
Eric Friedman, right, who lives nearby, takes video of a Mariner East 2 pipeline work site at Shepherd Lane in Glen Mills on Wednesday. Delaware County Council says they are considering a risk assessment.
Delaware County Council is considering a risk assessment of the Mariner East natural gas liquids pipelines near homes, schools and businesses.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the council heard comments from more than two dozen residents concerned by the lack of a study establishing the worse case scenario in case of a pipeline accident and how to address it.
“We’ve asked the government in all levels to help us get that data,” said Eric Friedman, a spokesperson for the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety. “We’ve asked municipalities, we’ve asked the governor of Pennsylvania to do that — we’re now asking Delaware County Council to do it.”
The $2.5 billion, 350-mile long pipeline will carry ethane, butane and propane from the Marcellus Shale in western Pennsylvania to a Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County, to be exported to Sweden and Scotland for plastic manufacturing.
Gov. Tom Wolf has said he would support a risk assessment, but that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission would have to conduct it. The PUC said in a statement that it “continues to consider how to best address public concerns about pipeline safety.”
Delaware County councilman Brian Zidek said Council has the authority to do a risk assessment.
The Delaware River on the Pennsylvania side at the Delaware Water Gap.
When the Delaware River Basin Commission proposed a ban on high-volume fracking for natural gas in the basin, arguing it “poses significant, immediate and long-term risks” to the watershed, one environmentalist called it “a huge and groundbreaking protection.”
But there weren’t only celebrations. Environmental leaders said the proposed rules don’t make sense because even though they ban fracking in the basin, they allow operations outside the watershed to treat wastewater in the river and to use water from the Delaware for fracking elsewhere.
Former DRBC executive director Carol Collier disagrees. She said the draft proposal, released in November, is positive for the basin’s water quality and quantity.
“One, it’s proposing to ban the high-volume fracking in the basin, so that takes care of the water quantity aspects that would be needed for fracking and also water quality because you don’t have that industry in the basin,” Collier said. “As far as the wastewater, this make the regulations stronger that what’s on the books now.”
Collier said the treatment of hydrologic fracking wastewater is not banned in the basin now, and that the new regulation includes strict requirements — such as treatability analysis and background characterizations — that are thought to discourage the industry.
“So these requirement say, ‘OK wastewater treatment plant, you need to tell us what’s in that Delaware River water or tributary right in front of your wastewater plant and the contaminants that you expect to be treating. And if you are above Trenton, there could be no measurable change on those parameters,’” Collier said. “So that’s really stringent, so I think it just might be easier for somebody who has to dispose of the wastewater from that drilling facility to go elsewhere than the Delaware.”
Industry groups such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition have said water is protected from any fracking contamination by multiple layers of steel and concrete at well sites, and that the proposed regulations deny Pennsylvania citizens the right to benefit economically from their own property rights.
The Delaware River Basin Commission extended the written comment period on the proposed regulations to March 30, and added two hearings to the ones happening this week in Waymart on Tuesday and Philadelphia on Thursday.
Hearings are set for:
Tuesday, 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to as late as 9:30 p.m. at the Performing Arts & Recreation Center Pavilion at the Ladore Camp, Retreat and Conference Center, 287 Owego Turnpike, Waymart, Pa.
Thursday, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 to as late as 9:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Philadelphia Airport, 4509 Island Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa.
Bill Clenes, right, a retired probation officer, attended a public meeting Jan. 18 in Dover, Delaware on the Trump Administration’s plan to open 90 percent of America’s coastline to drilling. Clenes said he was there “to save the ocean from the drilling.” After attending information panels, he said he had little hope. “They act as if we have people power, but the deck is stacked,” he said.
Charlotte Reid used to work in Washington D.C. as a federal attorney. But seven years ago she retired to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
“Because I’ve always loved the beach,” Reid said. “I always loved coming to Rehoboth.”
But Reid said President Trump’s draft proposal of a five-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan is threatening her retirement dream.
Jerome Shabazz runs the Overbook Environmental Education Center in Philadelphia. Shabazz says he has used federal dollars from the EPA's environmental justice office to raise awareness about water quality and toxins like lead.
It was a stormy night in Memphis, Tennessee, and Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t feeling very well. He had a slight fever and a sore throat, and felt exhausted after the trip to the city that would see him die.
But he got up from his bed at the Lorraine Motel and joined hundreds of striking sanitation workers gathered at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple. Public garbage collectors were demanding equal rights and accusing the city of neglect and abuse. It was April 3rd 1968, the night before his assassination, and the third time he had traveled to Memphis to support the strike.
“The issue is injustice,” King said. “The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers.”
The garbage workers who held signs saying “I am a man” also happened to be black.
Although the term environmental justice emerged decades after King delivered his last speech, his work is considered part of the bedrock of the movement that institutionalized the right to be equally protected from environmental hazards as a civil right.
“Dr. King was a forerunner in this area and set the tone and the stage for understanding the relationship between work and pay and civil rights and equal treatment. The civil rights movement gave birth to the environmental justice movement,” said Robert Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University. If King was considered the founding father of environmental justice, Bullard would be his firstborn son.