We live in a “prescription happy” society, and now are seeing those pharmaceuticals enter our environment and hurt the ecosystem. Two bills tried to address the problem, but both are now effectively dead.
Both HB 1165 and SB 5279 - for the safe collection and disposal of unwanted drugs from residential sources - did not pass before the deadline.
Why did these bills fail?
There were three important and largely unanswered questions. Questions like: how are these pharmaceuticals getting into the environment? What amounts of drugs actually go unused and unwanted? What are the costs and benefits of spending resources on these programs?
Brandon Houskeeper, policy analyst and director at the Washington Policy Center, said: “most people would agree they’re coming from humans, and most are a result of us excreting the drugs after we use them… there’s a well recognized industry report that PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) put together confirming this.”
Arguments against the program in House Bill Report HB 1165 also explained that: “most drugs get into the environment through human metabolism. A small percentage of drugs get into the environment from the disposal of unwanted drugs.”
The second question follows, how many drugs actually go unwanted each year? According to the House Bill Report, there is no hard science to definitively answer this question.
“There are studies from both sides that are clearly in conflict with one another,” explained Houskeeper. “The pharmaceutical industry claims it’s as little as 3%… proponents of this legislation say it’s as much as 50%… and it’s one of the things that we argue we simply don’t know… there needs to be more research to identify what quantities go unused… before you can regulate it.”
What benefits could there be from removing unwanted drugs if we don’t know how many unwanted drugs are actually out there, and if they are a real problem?
The final question stands: what are the costs and benefits of spending resources on this particular program?
“It’s hard to gage what the costs would be,” said Houskeeper. “If you look around the States, every program is so different from what was being proposed here, it would be hard to project the costs.”
Both bills suggested a program with largely unpredictable costs and uncertain benefits.
Arguments in the House Bill Report against the program suggested prescribing people smaller quantities. Then people could try out new medications to see how they worked, and would have less to throw away in the end.
Rather than just reduce the amount of a drug prescribed, why not also reduce the actual number of prescriptions written?
See my first blog on Pharmaceuticals in Puget Sound.]]>
So, you may be thinking, “what the heck do chickens have to do with Puget Sound?” And I will simply respond: “Everything.”
An interesting bill will be up for public hearing today that concerns the preservation of livestock and poultry diversity. Senate Bill 5002 is sponsored by Democrat Senator Ken Jacobsen and Republican Senator Dan Swecker and seeks to create the Washington heritage livestock and poultry breed recognition program. The bill is in response to the decline and even extinction of breeds due to the favored use of specialized breeds in modern agricultural production. It has been identified that preserving the heritage and diversity of food sources is an issue of strengthening food security, along will maintaining ecosystem viability. The bill hopes to provide an incentive for farmers and breeders to preserve livestock and poultry heritage by providing recognition of their contribution and to boost public awareness as well.
The link between protecting biodiversity and environmental health can be fuzzy, due to the complexity of repercussions that occur within an interdependent bio-regulatory system. Consider the following facts:
- The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report attributes modern farming methods as one of the main contributors to the significant loss of biodiversity:
-Today cultivated land occupies ¼ of the surface of the planet
-Water consumption has doubled since 1960, and 70% of it is used in agriculture
These facts reveal a disturbing reality: Modern methods of agricultural production are unsustainable and contributing to environmental degradation. In Washington State we are grappling with the dilemma of the declining health of Puget Sound, attributed to a series of factors that include habitat loss, agricultural and storm water runoff, pollution, and climate change. The question becomes: how are humans able to produce food in harmony with the surrounding environment? Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, states: “In order to grow crops and raise livestock, we must manipulate the environment gently, with due respect to local biodiversity, traditional culture, and the rhythms of nature.”
Reforming our food system is part of the solution to restore the health of Puget Sound. A chicken adapted to the environmental conditions of the Pacific Northwest is ecologically more viable in contributing to the overall diversity of the region. Senate Bill 5002 seeks to give animal owners of rare, diminished breeds the recognition for their contribution to preserving the ecological heritage of Puget Sound.
Senate Bill 5002 delegates the responsibility of forming the recognition program to the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. To receive distinction, an animal owner will have to apply and provide the following information: the history of the animal breed and its origins, photos of the animals, and distinguishing characteristics.
While the bill has good intentions, its potential for success is shaky. The nonregulatory incentive-based program runs the risk of being unsuccessful because recognition may not be a strong enough incentive. Incorporating financial compensation into the bill would likely generate greater participation.
Overall, the bill has important ramifications and reflects acting with foresight. Preserving biodiversity is about maintaining a rooted sense of our collective identity that connects us to a place. Preserving the diverse heritage of livestock and poultry contributes to the rich identity of Puget Sound. This may sound silly, considering that food is generally viewed in the United States as a commodity to be consumed, rather than being honored for the nourishment it provides. This mindset reflects a disconnect of humans from nature in not caring where one’s food comes from.
A chicken of the Puget Sound will not (or at least shouldn’t) taste the same as a chicken of a farm along the Mississippi River. Taste is a mélange of elements: the air, water, soil and feed all contribute. A healthy chicken will taste good, and evoke the distingishing characteristics of a particular place. By eating a chicken of the Puget Sound you can internalize the goodness of the region and have an immediate connection to home because both you and the chicken come from the same place. Puget Sound is both a place of dwelling and of nourishment.
Food is part of a region’s natural and cultural resources. Here in the Puget Sound, we are well aware of this fact and a particular species comes to mind: salmon. What would the Puget Sound be without the salmon? The lively fish markets at Pike Place that draw people from all corners of the world, and the Native American Tribes, whose very being is inseparable from salmon, contribute to the rich culture that makes Puget Sound such a beautiful place that we are lucky to call home. Recognizing that caring to preserve the biodiversity of a region includes preserving the diverse heritage of livestock and poultry of the region, the next step can be taken to cultivate a unique food system that reflects the local identity of Puget Sound. Senate Bill 5002 makes that critical first step by creating a program that gives due recognition and encourages public support.
If you are curious to know more and track the progress of the bill, the following information may be helpful:
March 20th SB 5002 is scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources at 1:30 PM.
March 26th: scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources at 8AM.
To read the bill in its entirety go to: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?year=2009&bill=5002#documents
Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food should be Good, Clean, and Fair -By Carlo Petrini
SB 5412 would allocate 25 cents from each registration fee for a saltwater algae control account that specifically targets sea lettuce, a type of seaweed.
Although lettuce is good in salads, it’s not as good for nearshore habitats in the Puget Sound.
Too much sea lettuce – and decomposing sea lettuce – creates low oxygen conditions in the water, which negatively affects aquatic ecosystems. According to a Senate bill report on 5412, the seaweed contributes to “dead zones,” where fish and plants cannot survive.
The dead and decomposing seaweed also wreaks havoc on beaches, suffocating clams and affecting bird habitat.
Funds in the account would be distributed by the Department of Ecology for management and research of saltwater algae in the Puget Sound and on Puget Sound beaches. Grants could be made to cities, counties, tribes, special purpose districts and state agencies, according to the bill’s digest.
The grants would be usable by grantees for proactive algae control projects as well as reactive projects.
According to the bill, preference in funding allocation will be given to grantees that are considered “Puget Sound partners,” which are defined by RCW 90.71.010 as entities that have “been recognized by the [Puget Sound] partnership … as having consistently achieved outstanding progress in implementing the 2020 [Puget Sound] action agenda.”
The account – and, environmentalists hope, the algae problem – will expire June 30, 2012.
The bill is scheduled for an executive session in the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources March 26.
Well according to the “2030 challenge”, the Architects American Council believes that state buildings should be using “net zero” fossil fuels by 2030.
During the month of March, decisions regarding the state energy code for 2009 are being made right now. The state energy code is part of the state building code, with provides the minimum construction requirements for buildings in the state. The Code provides a minimum level of energy efficiency for residential and non-residential buildings, but allows flexibility in building design, construction and heating equipment.
Bill 7147 has been proposed to reduce climate pollution by buildings, and promises to provide the tools needed to achieve a 40 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.
Energy efficiency is claims to be the cheapest, quickest, and cleanest way to meet the growing energy needs that Washington State has acquired. It can help create new jobs and speed up the economic recession we are in. If consumers began reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, it could mean not investing in expensive generation sources.
The State Legislature has discovered that buildings have a duration of fifty to one hundred years, and during this period repeatedly consume energy and produce greenhouse gas emissions. As of right now, homes, commercial buildings, and public institutions take in 70 percent of electricity consumption, and are responsible for 30 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
This percentages needs to go down dramatically in order to meet the state’s climate pollution requirements of RCW 70.235.020.
The amounts of energy used in buildings account for over 30 percent of Washington’s global warming emissions, and could save bundles of money annually. Public buildings that are designed and built to be energy efficient can save the public some serious money.
The current bill has removed school districts from the definition of “qualifying public facility”., and the Department of General Administration to conduct zero-energy audits.
Changes were made to allow cities or counties to participate in energy conservation services, as long as there is a current program offered by a local electric or natural gas facility. It will also allow conservation loans from a third party meet the carry on loan profits of a city, county, or district.
For more information, on this bill:
Check its status:
It’s a crisp and unusually sunny February morning at Meig’s Park. An eclectic bunch has gathered –high school students, property-owners, a group of young kids from the home school network, and plant experts- to tackle the pesky weeds dilemma afflicting Bainbridge Island.
Weed Warriors, a loose coalition of Bainbridge Island organizations, is working to remove weedy non-native plants and restore natural habitat to support local ecosystems. The members are committed to preserving Puget Sound’s ecological heritage. Every month work parties are held at a designated site around the island.
This month the group has convened at Meig’s Park for a Scotch Broom Sweep. Before the school children enter the park, Jeanette Franks, the founder of Weed Warriors, gives a quick tutorial on identifying Scotch broom and the proper method of removing it. The green, bristly plant lives up to its name and can grow to be 9 feet tall. Each person is handed gloves and heavy-duty tools to hack away at the scotch broom with. She explains the threat of the pesky weed and shows a poster depicting the devastation. If the problem is left alone, weeds take over and eventually, everything is gone, including the weed itself because it has crowded all the life out. The effect is called a green desert. And the last thing anyone wants is Bainbridge Island becoming a barren desert.
To the untrained eye, Meig’s Park is a pleasant sight, with lots of greenery and walking trails. But wait just a second. As eyes hone in, different shades of green begin to emerge. Thickets of the green, scratchy broom stand out in stark contrast to the native greenery. The congregation of Scotch broom at Meig’s park is baffling. It is everywhere.
“I feel like Sisyphus” Dick Baker says with a sigh as he takes a break from his work and steps back to survey the scene. Baker is an islander (local speak connoting Island residents) and married to Jeannette. He has been involved with Weed Warriors since its 2006 inception, and currently a board member. Just like Sisyphus, who was determined to push that rock up the hill, Baker is determined to rid of the weeds and restore Meig’s Park. Despite his frustration, he returns to work, determined to get as much done as he can.
Jeannette is a Professor at the University of Washington and describes restoration work as a hobby. She was inspired to start Weed Warriors when she realized that local environmental organizations were competing for volunteers. Collaboration is a leading principle and Weed Warriors actively works with The Land Trust, IslandWood, the Parks Department and the Watershed Council, among others, to restore Bainbridge’s natural habitat.
The attitude of the group is “we realize that we have made some mistakes, so let’s do something about it and try to make it better.” The issue of restoration is seen as a learning process. Randy, a volunteer and property-owner mentions how when he was first looking at property, Scotch broom was being touted as an asset to the landscape. He is helping out today because he frequently runs in the park with his dogs and is dismayed by the plants taking over the path and that catch on his clothing.
The problem is especially troublesome for Bainbridge Island because space is limited. Living on an island that is 5 miles wide and 10 miles long, with a total area of 27.78 square miles, an islander becomes aware of limited space and familiar with what is contained within the “finite borders” as Jeanette puts it. She adds that “bare ground is a weed magnet” and goes on to explain that development and population growth have exacerbated the problem. Dense population contributes because with more gardens and less open spaces, weeds proliferate and become concentrated.
From1960-2002 Bainbridge Island saw a dramatic population increase of 219%, according to the City of Bainbridge Island’s Housing Needs Assessment, September 2003. In 1960 the population was 6,404 and currently stands at 23,180. Population growth has slowed in recent years. The Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council estimates that the population will grow modestly and reach 28,660 in 2025.
While population growth has slowed, the problem of weeds remains. The worst weeds, identified as the 5 most wanted are Knotweed, English ivy, Tansy, Holly, and Scotch broom. “This is one of those cases where our weakness is also our strength” Jeanette points out. Bainbridge Island is relatively small and a tight nit community, so getting people involved and raising awareness of an issue is easier to do than in larger areas, such as Seattle. The group reaches out, seeking to engage citizens, from elementary students to retirees. Building a strong, inclusive movement is a core principle and driving motivation for the group. “It’s amazing to learn what a community can do.” Vencie Anderson, a Weed Warriors board member states.
The Weed Warriors’ biannual board meeting was held after the Scotch Broom Sweep event at Dick and Jeannette’s home, which they spent time restoring and now the landscape features all native plants.
The six board members gather around a wooden table and discuss upcoming events over bread, quiche, and tea. The first item on the agenda is confirming the educational talks that will take place at Wilkes, Ordway, and Blakely elementary schools. Education is a large part of the group’s efforts. The upcoming Bainbridge in Bloom event held every July is a chance for the group to engage with a wider audience, some coming as far as California to see the gardens. The group sees the event as an opportunity to educate the public about responsible gardening. “Responsible gardening is what we are about,” states Jane Wentworth, a botanist, local weed expert, and board member of Weed Warriors, the WA State Weed Board and the Kitsap Noxious Weed Program.
Responsible gardening is a concern because it is not being practiced. Mismanagement leads the problem of invasives to persist. As long as the plant is managed and contained, it will not go to seed. Now if only making that message heard could be spread as easily as the invasives grow themselves.]]>
A few weeks before today’s final edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Robert McClure’s desk in the paper’s newsroom was stacked with countless yellow notepads, books on the Puget Sound, files, papers, mail, and inspiring bumper-stickers saying things like “Democracy Depends on Journalism” and “Never Give Up.” It was strange to think that after roughly a decade of hard work at the P-I, soon his desk – full of history and personality – would be nothing more than a lifeless cubicle.
Today marks the end of the 146 year-old newspaper. What remains is a solely online news source with drastically reduced coverage.
The closure of the Seattle P-I represents the larger trend of newspaper closures across the nation. The problem: scarcely any funding for journalism in an economic crisis. In the Puget Sound, strong, dynamic environmental reporting educates readers on the issues that our Sound faces and the efforts on behalf of environmental agencies and organizations to improve the health of this unique ecosystem. At the moment there is no clear replacement for this service.
With the closure of the P-I, there is increased pressure for environmental reporters outside of the P-I, including Lynda Mapes from the Seattle Times, to increase coverage of issues around the Sound.
Mapes and McClure have both devoted much of their time and effort to reporting on environmental news around the Puget Sound. The two reporters share an inherent interest in the natural world. McClure’s extends back to when his father would stir him out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to go fishing. Mapes’ is rooted in her deep appreciation of everything from clouds to the “wily ways of newts.”
Covering everything from salmon recovery to land use and development, the two reporters have made an effort to report local environmental issues.
Our troubled Sound
McClure, interviewed several weeks before the final edition, recalled a meeting in the Seattle P-I’s “bullpen” back in 2002 in which the staff looked out of the window onto the waters of the Puget Sound and said, “I wonder how the Sound’s doing?” Soon after, McClure, P-I reporter Lisa Stiffler, and their managing editor published the five part series, “Our troubled Sound.” The series examined water pollution, dwindling biodiversity, the dangers of development, the threat of oil spills, and solutions to these numerous environmental problems. McClure explained that writing the series was “exhausting,” but it did get Puget Sound environmental issues back on the radar, not only for the general public but for reporters as well.
From his experience with the series and his regular coverage of Puget Sound environmental issues, McClure said he believes that land use, stormwater runoff, and the risk of oils spills are the most important topics regarding the health of the Sound. Mapes added that development issues are a huge subject: “It’s about being careful,” she said.
A lose-lose situation
Mike Sato, director of communications, education, and involvement at People for Puget Sound predicts that on par with issues of development and stormwater is the threat of less environmental news coverage in the Sound.
Sato relies on journalists from the P-I and the Times to “ask the questions that readers would want asked and answered.” People for Puget Sound and similar environmental organizations depend on environmental reporters to fill the “tremendous gap” between environmental issues and the public. And according to Sato, McClure and his colleagues at the P-I have played a large role in filling that gap over the years. He is accustomed to waking up and knowing that he can count on a phone call with McClure.
Paul Bergman, Communications Director at the Puget Sound Partnership, has also been stressing lately about the loss of environmental reporters like McClure. He cited the P-I as the main Seattle newspaper to report Puget Sound clean-up efforts. “They made it matter,” he said.
Bergman said that the Puget Sound Partnership has been searching for new ways to reach the public. So far, “no silver bullets.”
Mapes would agree that the closure of the Seattle P-I does not bode well for the Puget Sound. This is “real public interest at stake here, it’s not trivial,” she said, “It’s a very big loss.” Mapes said she understands that while some readers enjoy the Seattle Times, others feel as if the P-I is their paper.
The big picture for papers
The closure of the Seattle P-I represents the current threat to traditional news reporting. A study by the PEW Research Center for People & the Press estimates that readership of printed newspapers has declined from 58% in the early 1990’s to 34% in 2008. Meanwhile, regular online readership has increased from nearly nothing to 37%.
An article in Time listed the top 10 most endangered American newspapers: the Philadelphia Daily News, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Detroit News, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Daily News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
McClure attributed the trend of newspaper closures to an “overall meltdown in the news business.” He said he fears that the “watchdogs may just be gone.” McClure explained that in 1993, 37 reporters covered legislative news in Olympia. This year there were ten. If reporters aren’t watching politicians, he said, the politicians try to get away with things. Sato said that McClure was one of the few who asked the hard questions to keep those in power accountable for their actions.
What will happen to news coverage of the Puget Sound? It’s tough to say. Mapes acknowledged the virtues of internet technology, but insisted that people need the complete information and credibility that a newspaper provides. For Sato, it’s difficult to imagine an age where we don’t have newspapers.
Perhaps no one is spending more time thinking about this possibility than the reporters and staff at the Seattle P-I. McClure explained that there has been quite a bit of “gallows humor” to break the “uneasiness and stress.”
The idea that specialized and experienced reporters have few options for continuing the service that they provide is disheartening. Mapes has hope that there is indeed a venue through which these journalists can continue their line of work.
“I mean, all these reporters aren’t gonna go grow broccoli,” she said.
McClure surely hopes that Mapes is right. He doesn’t know what he’ll be doing come fall. He may even be off somewhere, growing broccoli.]]>
Controversy has surrounded Glacier Northwest’s proposed gravel mine on Maury Island for several years. Maury Island’s aquifer provides clean water for homes on the island, and citizens are worried that the gravel mine has the potential to pollute the groundwater or use so much water that neighboring wells will dry up. Representative Nelson, who lives on the Island, is trying to pass a bill, HB 1708, in the legislature that could require extra monitoring and reporting on Glacier Northwest’s water use.
Glacier Northwest has already attained the majority of the permits they need to start the gravel mine. This means that they will follow the same requirements of other gravel mines in the state. They started applying for permits nearly ten years ago, and have worked with regulators to ensure their compliance. Is it fair to place extra precautions on the Maury Island gravel mine?
The aquifer on the Island is the only source of water for many residents. Single-family homes and small industrial companies are allowed to build permit-exempt wells to use a certain amount of water over a specific period of time. The gravel mine would fall under the permit-exempt well category, which means that the state Department of Ecology will monitor the water use if there is a complaint or obvious abuse to the law. If not, Ecology has to trust the people using the well to comply with the law.
In 2000, an Ecology-sponsored report was published that said that Glacier Northwest’s mine would have little or no impact on Maury Island’s groundwater. They found that the natural water level of the aquifer varies from 51 to 59 feet; Glacier Northwest, which has also been monitoring the water, won’t be getting closer than 15 feet of the highest water level. This precaution will ensure the safety of the Island’s aquifer.
Currently, HB 1708 is a title-only bill, meaning that details will be added later. Those details are still unknown, but should be inserted in the near future. For more information on the status of this bill, visit http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/Summary.aspx?bill=1708&year=2009.]]>
On the first day of 2009 Seattle banned the use of expanded polystyrene food containers from being used in restaurants and delis. The weaning process apparently needs to take a full year and a half. Why couldn’t we have a year and half to prepare for this economic collapse?!
Needless to say, many Type A businesses have already begun purchasing, as stated, containers made from alternative materials, which almost always means recyclable plastics and/or compostables. The UW made a similar change, phased in over the last year, and has proven a leader in a long awaited switch.
The idea is to make a bunch of compost from our daily food buys, and their respective containers, rather than sending them off to our burgeoning landfills. Cedar Grove is nice enough to make suggestions to businesses on where to purchase from during this phase out. They also hold a line of compostable packages themselves.
It’s not all good, though. More green costs more green and many businesses, despite their theoretical support, are struggling to pay double for plates, bowls, cups and lids all made from compostable materials. Because many businesses refuse to transfer the cost to their customers, they take the hit.
PolyLactic Acid, a corn-based bioplastic, for example, is used in coffee cups which will biodegrade in one to nine months, depending on conditions. Bagasse and sugarcane form the basis of a couple other alternatives available.
Another problem with the new containers and “silverware” lays in their details. Some containers are not lined and do not store food well for long periods. This also creates issues with eating rice out of a “doggy-bag” when it wants to stick to it. Some of the forks and spoons droop at the first sign of heat and the tines of forks tend to snap much easier as well.
With a ban set in Seattle, however, and the chance of more appearing, the opportunity is out there for demure moneymakers to design better compostable products which businesses are all but forced to buy.
And as for the happy happy shopper who can’t finish his meal…observe-in the experimental sense-which decays first: your food or its container.
Contact Tye Rogerson at firstname.lastname@example.org]]>
Untreated storm water is the number one pollutant in the Puget Sound. The group feels as thought he permit does not do enough to fix older highways that continue to pollute storm water into the Puget Sound and other surrounding bodies of water. They also feel as though the permit does not go far enough in regulating future road projects.
What they would like to see is the Department of Ecology forcing the Department of Transportation to add systems on the existing highways to prevent the storm water from going directly into surrounding water. It will be interesting to see affect the suit will have.
To read the original article on this story go to:
To read the permit go to:
To look at the Puget Soundkeeper Website go to:
It’s the leading culprit in water pollution. Storm runoff has been a recent concern for the Puget Sound region, and when questioning who should be held responsible for the problem, local lawmaker and several environmentalists believe oil companies should.
According to KOMO News, HB1614 is a bill that would actually tax oil companies in an effort to compensate for environmental damage.
Oil companies would be charged a fee of $1.50 per barrel of petroleum product to pay for projects that would help change the flow of pollutants into the Puget Sound and nearby waters.
They blame the rain, though, as it falls onto the city of Seattle, moving oils and other pollutants from a variety of places. Quite obviously, these oil companies aren’t happy about the bill, as it would cost them for an environmental problem not directly linked (or at least intentionally) with the function of their product.
According to the Washington State Legislature website, the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources passed the bill last month. On March 2, the bill was passed to the Rules Committee for a second reading.
The bill would not only invest in the cleaning up of water pollution, but the money would create pro-green jobs in our area.
According to the People for Puget Sound website, the fee could generate about $100 million each year; the money prioritized for low impact development and would cut out runoff from roads and parking lots.
To see more information on HB1614, click here]]>