Summit Plans to File For Eminent Domain Against Landowners on 60% of IA Carbon Pipeline Route

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Today, Summit Carbon Solutions announced plans to begin filing for eminent domain against landowners. The pipeline corporation claims it has obtained “voluntary” easements from only 40% of landowners, meaning 60% of the route would require land condemnation through the use of eminent domain for the project to break ground. Until Summit files Exhibit H with the Iowa Utilities Board, these numbers remain estimates.

After more than a year of harassment to secure voluntary easements with Iowa landowners, Summit has failed to leverage substantial political contributions and funds spent on lobbying to their benefit. Iowans remain steadfastly opposed to the use of eminent domain for carbon pipelines, with April Food & Water Action polling finding that 80% of Iowans oppose eminent domain for the projects.

The Sierra Club’s attorney Wally Taylor has filed multiple requests regarding Exhibit H and transparency, available here.

“This is going to do very little in the way of addressing climate change or saving the ethanol industry. It’s going to do a lot of huge damage but the pipeline companies will make a lot of money in the process. I don’t care what the dollar amount is — I’m not signing an easement,” said Jean Granger, Floyd County impacted landowner. “I will stand with thousands of landowners across the midwest who are refusing to sign easements. Why should they have the right to steamroll Iowa’s farmers to enrich their pockets?” 

“Summit showed their true colors today,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit. “For more than a year, landowners and activists have joined together to stand up to corporate greed and stand up for the will of the people. We fight because we believe in a better Iowa and a better future that supports people, not corporations. Summit may seek eminent domain but is our public institutions, accountable to the people, that will be responsible for the final decision. And we won’t stop fighting. Governor Reynolds, listen to your constituents — stop Summit’s land grab. The IUB must say no to carbon pipelines.”

“Summit has had nearly a year to harass Iowans and buy support from influential politicians, yet they are doing poorly. It shows that this is not a viable project. The Iowa Utilities Board is allowing Summit to continue by giving them the time and means necessary to bully people into signing. The IUB needs to put us before the pipeline companies,” said Jess Mazour, Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, Conservation Program Coordinator.

Summit’s allegations of only having 40% of the route it wants to build its experimental hazardous pipeline is a shockingly low number after the tens of millions of dollars it has spent and after the lobbying efforts and backroom deals compromising Iowa politicians. Their announcement is underwhelming and shows where the vast majority of Iowans are on this taxpayer funded land grab — solidly opposed. Eminent domain for this foreign owned proposed hazardous pipeline must not be allowed,” said Brian Jorde, Lawyer representing landowners in Iowa and other carbon pipeline impacted states.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

New Research Shows Massive Water Savings If California Phased Out Fossil Fuels for Renewables

New research finds that if California phased out fossil fuels for renewable energy sources like PV solar and wind, the state could save 82 million cubic meters of water per year that currently supply fossil fuel and nuclear power generation. That represents a 99% decrease in California’s yearly water withdrawals for electrical generation from fossil fuels while producing the same amount of energy. 

The new Food & Water Watch research, “Thirsty Fossil Fuels: Potential for Huge Water Savings By Switching to Renewables,” details state and national numbers highlighting the need for immediate action to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Environmental advocates have long criticized Governor Newsom’s sluggish response to the drought as well as his lack of bold action to phase out fossil fuels — particularly his willingness to extend the lifetime of gas fired power plants, also intensive water users.

“Fossil fuels not only pollute our planet and hasten global warming, they also use up massive amounts of water,” said Food & Water Watch Research Director Amanda Starbuck. “California in particular could benefit immensely from a swift transition to less thirsty energy. The only tradeoff in switching from fossil fuels to renewables is positive: you can produce the same amount of energy while freeing up water for households, agriculture and other beneficial uses. Governor Newsom has every reason to end California’s dependence on fossil fuel energy and transition to renewables immediately.”

The research details the pitfalls of carbon capture, another water-intensive “false solution” favored by the fossil fuel industry and recently touted by Newsom amid environmental backlash

Contact: Peter Hart – [email protected]

Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority Advances Backroom Deal with Aqua

Categories

Clean Water

This morning, the board of directors of the Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority (BCWSA) announced a year-long exclusivity deal with Aqua Pennsylvania to finalize the sale of the authority’s sewer system to the corporation. This comes after months of community opposition, and it follows months of private conversations between the BCWSA board and the corporation. The proposed $1.1 billion sale would be the largest sewer privatization in the United States. 

Aqua Pennsylvania submitted an unsolicited proposal in late 2020 and has since been attending Board meetings. The BCWSA has rejected Food & Water Watch’s Right to Know request for a copy of that proposal or any information about its ongoing conversations with the corporation. According to a document submitted by BCWSA in response to an appeal of that denial, Aqua Pennsylvania has claimed that the proposal and all communication are confidential “without regard to time.” 

“This backroom dealing is a recipe for disaster for the customers of the BCWSA,” said Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “The process was ripe for manipulation by private interests at the public expense. The Board has failed the public, who should have been informed and consulted before the Board started down the road to privatization. This major transaction would stick generations of Bucks County residents with higher utility bills. The Board must reject the deal.”   

“When you put politics before the residents who would be affected by the increases privatization of services and the effects it has on their daily life brings, it’s a sad day for all of us who will have to live with this mistake,” said Tom Tosti, Director of District Council 88, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). 

“Yet again we see Aqua Pennsylvania continue its drive to be the regional water monopoly in our area and yet again we have a set of local officials who do not appear to understand the bigger and profound negative impacts from commodifying our water and wastewater systems,” said David McMahon, cofounder of Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts (NOPE). “And so once again it is left to the ratepayers themselves to do the due diligence and show how these privatization efforts are simply not in the public interest.” 

“We keep playing this game where consultants and public officials pretend that there is a magical benefit to privatizing water and wastewater systems but time and time again we are shown that the PA PUC is unable to protect ratepayers,” said Kofi Osei, a community organizer with NOPE. “Investor owned utilities consistently have double or triple rates of nearby systems owned and operated by municipal authorities. Section 27 of the PA constitution states that ‘ Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come’. Investors have no right to our constitutionally protected resources and Municipal Authorities, especially huge multi county ones like BCWSA, have no right to explore giving away our property.”

“This is disappointing but not surprising,” said Margo Woodacre with Keep Water Affordable. “We spoke at one of the suddenly-announced Buck’s County Sewer and Water Authority’s board meetings to warn the board of our experience with Aqua’s tactics of raising fees on the ratepayer. We were surprised to see Aqua’s leadership quietly present at that meeting.  Although the board promised that this would be an ‘open process,’  this decision seems to have been made behind closed doors with no public input!”

Since last winter, community groups, workers and residents have attended Board meetings to express opposition to privatization of BCWSA. More than 300 Bucks County residents have signed petitions opposing the privatization. 

The authority will not pursue the traditional competitive bidding process. It has engaged in exclusive conversations with Aqua Pennsylvania. The vote was made without advance public notice. The item was not included on the agenda. This has raised concerns that the anticompetitive nature of the transaction will result in higher costs for the public. 

TONIGHT – Online Film Premier and Conversation: “Dear President Biden: Our Climate Can’t Wait”

Categories

Climate and Energy

Tonight the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch, along with the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition, will host an online national premier of the new short film Dear President Biden: Our Climate Can’t Wait, from acclaimed director Jon Bowermaster. Following the film screening there will be a discussion with Bowermaster and a number of activists featured in the film who are on the front lines of numerous grassroots fights against new fossil fuel export projects and false-solution carbon capture schemes around the country.

These fights are taking on ever-increasing significance as the Biden administration seeks to expand oil and gas exports overseas, at the expense of frontline communities here at home. Similarly, the administration has recently allocated $ billions for unproven and unworkable “carbon capture and storage” schemes as a solution to the climate crisis.

Available for interview: film director Jon Bowermaster – the author of eleven books and director of over a dozen documentary films, all pertaining to the environment in which we live. Founder of Oceans 8 Films, he and his team have traveled the world and inspired action to help the environment through powerful storytelling.

What: Online film premier of Dear President Biden: Our Climate Can’t Wait, followed by discussion with the director and featured anti-fossil fuel activists

When: Tonight, Thurs. June 23, 7 – 8:30 pm ET

Where: Online – register to attend here: https://www.mobilize.us/fww/event/465116/

Who: Film director Jon Bowermaster and featured activists including: 

  • Fermin Morales lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fermin is a part of Philly Boricuas, a grassroots organization of Puerto Ricans organizing the diasporic community in Philadelphia.
  • Joye Braun is the national pipelines organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network , an alliance of Indigenous Peoples whose shared mission is to Protect the Sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination & exploitation by respecting and adhering to Indigenous Knowledge and Natural Law.
  • Jean Su is the Energy Director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity. Jean focuses on transforming legal structures of the U.S. power sector to achieve rapid increases in renewable and clean energy, phase out fossil fuels, and electrify transportation. Jean also serves on the Board of Directors for SustainUS.
  • Jessica Wiskus is fighting  to stop a proposed carbon pipeline that could pass near her rural Linn County. This has led Jessica to become more active in local politics and community organizing. She’s a wife and mother and is not only running for office, but has taken the lead on organizing her community against the pipelines.
  • John Beard, from Port Arthur, Texas, is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, a community based, environmental justice non-profit. PACAN advocates for solutions that reduce or eliminate environmental and public health hazards, promotes community development and improvements to the quality of life in Port Arthur.
  • Kate Delany is the Head of South Jersey Progressive Democrats and Senior Organizer for Food & Water Watch. Kate is a lifelong South Jerseyan and mom of two. More about Kate.
  • Russell Chisholm serves as co-chair of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, and Rights Coalition in the campaign to stop Mountain Valley Pipeline and dangerous fossil fuel expansion through Virginia and West Virginia. He is coordinator of the pipeline construction monitoring Mountain Valley Watch project, documenting and reporting potential violations of environmental law and holding regulators accountable to impact
  • Sandra Steingraber is the senior scientist at the Science and Environmental Health Network. Its principal aim is to use law and best practices to combat cumulative impacts, especially in matters relating to public health and the environment. Steingraber taught at Ithaca College where, since 2003, she served as Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Experts Join IA Farmers, Advocates and Legislators For People’s Hearing on Need for Factory Farm Moratorium

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

AMES, IA — On Saturday, farmers, experts, advocates and legislators gathered at the Ames Public Library for a people’s hearing on the urgent need for a factory farm moratorium in Iowa. The event came on the heels of yet another legislative session without action in Des Moines on the state’s factory farm crisis, and one month after the release of a new Food & Water Watch report, “The Hog Bosses,” detailing the agricultural consolidation crisis in Iowa farm country.

Absent legislative action on the issue, advocates from the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture, a coalition of more than 25 organizations united against factory farming in Iowa, hosted the two-hour people’s hearing to present constituent demands and expert perspectives on the necessity of a factory farm moratorium in Iowa. Hours of testimony reflected the diverse criticisms of the industrial factory farming model, and highlighted local impacts on the lives of Iowans from all corners of the state. Topics discussed included water quality, public health, market consolidation, and the impacts factory farms have on community members’ quality of life and on farmers’ ability to make a living.

A recent poll commissioned by Food & Water Action found that 95% of Iowa voters support rules that make it easier for small farmers to compete with large agricultural corporations, and a 2019 study found that 63% of Iowa voters support legislation to stop factory farm expansion and corporate monopolies in our food system.

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer John Aspray, Chair of the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture issued the following statement:

“The factory farm system is crushing Iowa. For decades, Iowans have seen independent family farms forced into bad contracts with corporate giants in order to survive, small businesses shutter their doors, and our waterways and drinking water devastated by this model of industrial agriculture.

“Today, community members, farmers, and experts from all across Iowa came together to bear witness to the tremendous suffering our people, state, and environment are undergoing at the hands of corporate agribusiness and their legislative enablers. Our hearing underlined the criticisms of a model that many of our legislators have been too weak to confront.

“Iowa legislators must listen to us, their constituents, as we state loud and clear that it is high time to put an end to factory farms’ relentless growth in our state. We must pass a factory farm moratorium in Iowa and our federal representatives must pass the Farm System Reform Act.”

A full quote list from event participants is here. A recording of the event is available here.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

World’s Largest Ethanol Producer Joins Forces with Navigator On Controversial Carbon Pipeline Scheme

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, Texas-based Navigator CO2 Ventures announced a letter of intent to partner with the world’s largest ethanol producer, POET, to add 18 new facilities to the company’s controversial carbon pipeline proposed for the Midwest. The pipeline is set to cross 36 Iowa counties and stretch into Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and South Dakota.

Navigator’s pipeline proposal is one of many controversial carbon pipelines proposed for the Midwest. Hotly contested by scores of landowners, farmers, health professionals, experts and activists, the projects have drawn widespread opposition and brought together odd bedfellows. Recent Food & Water Action polling showed that 80% of Iowa voters, across party lines, objected to the use of eminent domain for the project. 

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following statement:

“The Midwest’s carbon capture pipeline battle is pitting the biggest industry players against the very farmers who supply them. The lines are being drawn, and it’s people vs polluters. Our elected officials need to stand up for the little guy and stop these carbon pipeline scams from taking root. Carbon capture is a false solution to our climate crisis, sucking up billions in public dollars to throw at private companies, while leaving farmers, landowners and communities like mine to foot the bill when things go wrong.

“Iowa and our farmers deserve better than irreparably damaged farmland and leaky and potentially lethal pipelines running through our communities — Governor Kim Reynolds must direct her Iowa Utilities Board to stop these carbon pipelines, and the legislature must ban the use of eminent domain for their construction.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Tester, Booker, Merkley, Warren Introduce Food & Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Today, Senators John Tester (D-MT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced federal legislation to combat rampant consolidation and monopolistic practices in the food and agribusiness industries. The Federal Food & Agribusiness Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act would pause all industry mergers and establish a commission to study how to strengthen antitrust oversight of the farm and food sectors. The bill’s introduction comes as American consumers struggle with rising grocery prices and crucial product shortages.

A recent Food & Water Watch report, “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Hog Bosses”, laid out the agribusiness consolidation crisis’ effects on Iowa farm country, finding that as industry efficiencies squeeze more hogs than ever out of Iowa factory farms, farmers and communities are left behind. Key findings include:

  • Iowa lost nearly 90 percent of its hog farms from 1982 to 2017, as rapid factory hog farm expansion drove out smaller, independent farms.
  • Since 1982, Iowa counties with the most hog factory farm development suffered declines across several economic indicators, including real median household income and total jobs. These counties also experienced significant population decline — twice the rate of Iowa’s rural counties overall.
  • Overproduction — and growing corporate consolidation — have pushed down the real price of hogs. Adjusting for inflation, today’s farmers earn $2 less per pound of pork produced compared to 1982, while the retail price fell only $1; slaughterhouses, processors and retailers capture the other $1.
  • Between 2004 and 2011, the top four firms slaughtered 9 out of 10 Iowa hogs thanks to corporate consolidation within the meat slaughtering and processing industry.

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer John Aspray issued the following statement:

“For too long, a handful of agribusinesses have stood between our nation’s two million farmers and 330 million consumers. Iowans are seeing the effects of these decades of unchecked corporate consolidation in the grocery aisle and on struggling family farms. In order to create a food system that works for consumers, farmers, and our communities, we must rein in the corporate profiteers that stand in the way. Passing the Federal Food & Agribusiness Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act is a critical first step.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Ben Murray

Ben Murray

Senior Researcher

Madison, WI

Landowners Protest at IA State Capitol Demanding Senate President Give Eminent Domain Bill A Fair Shot

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Despite a subcommittee vote on Tuesday to advance SF 2160, legislation to adjust Iowa eminent domain laws, the bill was pulled Wednesday from its scheduled committee hearing. This afternoon, landowners whose property could be seized under eminent domain for the proposed carbon pipelines rallied with advocates from the Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition at the State Capitol, demanding Senate President Jake Chapman reassign the bill to the Ways & Means Committee to give it a fair shot.

The group marched from the West Capitol Terrace to Governor Reynolds office demanding SF 2160 receive a committee hearing this week. Photos and video are available here. Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit said:

“Iowa’s elected officials have copped out of protecting Iowans, our land and our communities from eminent domain abuse. It’s outrageous that Gov. Reynolds and our legislature would let private corporations steal land from Iowa’s landowners and farmers for their own private gain. Senate President Jake Chapman must stand up to this nonsense and give this bill a fair shot for a vote. We demand Sen. Chapman reassign SF 2160 to the Senate Ways & Means committee before the week is out.”

“I’ve worked my whole life to steward my land and property, and am not about to let that go without a fight,” said Dan Wahl, Landowner and Farmer from Dickinson County. “What Summit, Navigator and Wolf want to do is nothing short of property theft, and our legislators need to stand up to that nonsense. Landowners and farmers are constituents and voters — our needs cannot be silenced. SF 2160 deserves a fair shot.”

“Corruption is the abuse of power for private gain. Corruption is precisely what we have when government officials — whether the governor or legislators — abuse their power by handing their cronies the right of eminent domain for private gain,” said Carolyn Raffensperger, Science and Environmental Health Network Executive Director. “The only people who gain from blocking eminent domain reform legislation are pipeline companies and the politicians who will get big campaign donations. We stand with the landowners and farmers whose land will be hijacked through eminent domain for a false climate solution unless SF 2160 is passed.

“It’s time for Governor Reynolds to make a decision: will she stand with Iowa’s landowners and everyday folks in opposition to the carbon pipelines, or will she side with the corporate, political elite?” said Tom Mohan, president of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Linn Co. resident. “She needs to use her power to protect Iowans and the land we love, not sell us out.”

“What we see before us is a mad rush to push these carbon pipelines on the people of Iowa,” said Mahmud Fitil, Great Plains Action Society. “Pipeline companies and their corrupt state sponsors are engaged in a green-washed scheme to funnel hazardous waste around the region; in effect, trading Iowa’s environment for state & federal tax incentives which drive profits of corporations like Summit and line pockets of people like Bruce Rastetter. We know that when the Earth becomes objectified and commodified then so do we.”

“There is no excuse for the legislature to ignore this looming threat to thousands of everyday Iowans. These carbon pipeline projects are profiting off the exploitation of Iowans, our land, and our communities,” said Jess Mazour, Sierra Club Iowa Chapter. “We expect Governor Reynolds, Senator Chapman, Senator Whitver, and Representative Grassley to put Iowa before these greedy companies and pass the bill.”

“The Capitol in Des Moines is the People’s House. The vast majority of the people in Iowa want, and are entitled to, clear air, clean water and a livable future, and are opposed to the CCS pipelines. The landowners/farmers of Iowa are entitled to have their land protected from eminent domain for private gain. Carbon Capture and Sequestration is a greenwashing scam, designed to perpetuate CAFOs, ethanol production, fossil fuel extraction and to put more money into the hands of those who have already profited mightily from exploiting our natural resources, family farmers, and Iowans,” said Miriam Kashia, 100 Grannies for a Livable Future. “It is time to stop the exploitation and the profiteering and give the power back to the people where it belongs, not the corporations.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

New FERC Gas Policies Could Be Key to Stopping New Fossil Fuel Projects

Categories

Climate and Energy

Today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved policy statements that provide guidance for how the commission will consider pending and future gas infrastructure projects. 

The agency, long derided as a rubber stamp for the fossil fuel industry, has been under pressure for years over its failure to adequately assess the climate impacts of interstate gas infrastructure projects it oversees. The rules echo the core issues addressed in a landmark lawsuit filed last April in the DC Circuit Court, Food & Water Watch and Berkshire Environmental Action Team v Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In that case, the groups argue that FERC has been flouting court orders requiring them to meaningfully assess the downstream emissions of gas pipeline projects.

In response to today’s news, Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney Adam Carlesco released the following statement:

“Today’s announcements suggest that FERC is finally moving towards creating policies that it should have enacted years ago. There is room for cautious optimism here – though, guidance is not the same thing as action, and we still need to see FERC make substantial improvements in its evaluation of fossil gas projects in practice. Climate science tells us that we cannot build new fossil fuel projects if we are to have a chance at averting real climate chaos. Let’s hope today’s statements on FERC’s future policy orders constitute a meaningful shift in our nation’s approach to permitting gas infrastructure. However, this policy can only move the needle so far without bold and necessary action from Congress, which should pass legislation that puts an end to the approval of new fossil gas pipelines.”

Kearny Council Opposes PVSC Fracked Gas Plant

Categories

Climate and Energy

On January 26, the Kearny Council passed a resolution opposing a plan by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) to build a new fracked gas power plant in Newark and called on Governor Murphy to direct the agency to shift to a renewable energy alternative. 

Kearny is the fourth municipality to formally oppose the project, following Hoboken, Jersey City, and Livingston.

“For too long, this region has endured air pollution and noxious orders from heavy industry, garbage landfills, incinerators, and power plants. For too long, the residents of this region have suffered the negative health impacts from air pollution. It has to stop now,” said Mayor Alberto Santos of Kearny. “Residents must come first. I strongly support efforts to improve the quality of life for residents of the Ironbound and the region.”

​The power plant would be built at PVSC’s massive sewage processing facility in the Ironbound section of Newark, part of a resiliency project that was proposed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. That storm caused the sewerage plant to lose power and spill billions of gallons of raw or partially treated sewage into the Passaic River. The project would provide backup power to the treatment plant when the grid is down, but PVSC also plans to run the facility to offset their power needs from the grid at other times.

“We applaud the Kearny administration for taking a stand against the dirty energy plant and supporting the well-being of North Jersey communities and our climate,” said Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director of Advocacy and Organizing at Ironbound Community Corporation. “The welfare of Newark residents and residents across the region depends on Governor Murphy rejecting the proposed PVSC power plant and investing in an alternative guided by input from our community.” 

While local community members and advocates agree about the importance of improving infrastructure resiliency in the face of a worsening climate crisis, they are demanding a clean renewable energy project that will not increase the pollution burden in the Ironbound and the surrounding region, which has historically faced the brunt of New Jersey’s pollution burden and decades of environmental injustice.

Several years ago, the Kearny Council also passed a resolution against a similar resiliency project that included a fracked gas power plant proposed by NJ Transit to be built right in their own town. After 18 months of opposition from activists in support of a renewable alternative, Governor Murphy directed NJ Transit to halt all work on this project and invest in a renewable energy-based power source.

“Earlier this month, Governor Murphy directed PVSC to delay a vote to move ahead with this power plant. We appreciate this pause but without further intervention, this project could move ahead very quickly,” said Matt Smith, Food & Water Watch NJ State Director. “If Governor Murphy wants to live up to his clean energy, environmental justice, and climate commitments, then just as he did with NJ Transit he must direct PVSC to stop all plans for a new fracked gas power plant in the Ironbound and make a strong commitment that PVSC will use their resources and the massive taxpayer grant at their disposal to redesign the project with a clean, renewable energy-based source of power.” 

The Story of Your Year with Food & Water Watch

Categories

Climate and Energy

Photos by Rebecca Wolf, Hannah Benet and Survival Media Agency

It’s our year in review! The Story of Your Year shows the real results from your investment in Food & Water Watch, including actions you and our members took that moved our mission forward in 2021 — petition signatures, calls, texts, and emails to legislative offices, letters to the editor, and the many other ways our members invested their time this year. From rallying against pipelines to exposing the suffering caused by factory farm pollution, and more — we showed up, we fought for our climate and resources, and we’re winning.

This dive into the numbers showcases some of our 2021 accomplishments. It highlights our strength – the movement we continue to build and the momentum you’ve created. We look forward to even greater successes in the coming year!

The passion you bring to the fight for our food, water, and climate makes all of our victories possible — including those in the video and stats below:


In 2021, the EPA has only banned one pesticide, chlorpyrifos. For years, we’ve been fighting for them to ban glyphosate. We sounded the alarm, published research and educated policymakers about its danger.  

We compiled data that showed glyphosate:

  • Interferes with hormone levels, even when its residue on foods is present at low levels;
  • Is a “probable carcinogen,” linked strongly to non-Hodgkins lymphoma, according to  the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer — which has underpinned many of the lawsuits against Monsanto/Bayer;
  • May contribute to antibiotic resistance in certain bacteria;
  • May be linked to reproductive issues and birth defects; and
  • Is widely present in our food. 

In part because of our work, Bayer announced it would be pulling glyphosate from consumer products! We have more work to do — they’ll still be selling it for large-scale agriculture which is its path to our food — but this is a step in the right direction.

In 2021, Food & Water Watch challenged dozens of corporations and government regulators in court. We’re fighting to put people ahead of corporate profit. 

Late this year, Food & Water Watch won a landmark lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. Our victory will force the EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act and require factory farms in Idaho to monitor and report on their water pollution.

This means that polluting factory farms in Idaho must now comprehensively monitor and report on water pollution for the first time. More importantly, the precedent is relevant everywhere across the country where factory farm permits take the same illegal approach.

We will use this huge win to fight factory farm pollution across the country!

Without monitoring, factory farms have polluted at will for decades. Our victory is a critical first step to hold the industry accountable; it brings us closer to banning factory farms forever.

Thanks to pressure by Food & Water Watch and allies, the House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act of 2021, jumpstarting regulations for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), toxic lab-made “forever chemicals.” The legislation would require the EPA to set drinking water standards for the two most-studied PFAS chemicals and would designate these as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund program to promote the cleanup of toxic sites. 

Studies show that long-term exposure to PFAS is associated with many health problems, including liver malfunction, birth defects, thyroid disease, weakened immunity and cancer. PFAS has been found in the blood of 97 percent of people in the United States and in human breast milk, and more than 200 million people in the country could be drinking PFAS-contaminated water. 

Food & Water Watch’s fight for clean drinking water is making a difference. We will continue to fight alongside you for everyone to have access to clean public water.

Your support brings a team of volunteers together to fight for and advance our mission, guided by our organizers and empowered by our research, legal expertise, and advocacy.

In 2019, we piloted our first formal volunteer program, the Food & Water Volunteer Network. Big, systemic change takes mobilizing people-power to convince decision-makers. We know that the larger our movement, the bigger the impact we can make. 

Food & Water Watch volunteers take on leadership roles aligned with their skills and build our capacity to pressure elected officials at all levels. We have formally launched volunteer hubs in Florida, New York, Iowa, California and Oregon and we’ll be adding more in 2022.

If you’re eager to take an extra role in this movement, join Food & Water Watch’s volunteer network. We’d love for you to join us for national volunteer calls, ​​trainings and workshops, and to work alongside other dedicated volunteers throughout the country. Our volunteers change the world, one location at a time! Learn more: fwwat.ch/volunteer2021

Food & Water Watch delivers groundbreaking research and bold policy recommendations on climate change under three interrelated fronts. A sustainable food system, safe, affordable water, and leaving fossil fuels in the past all help to create a livable future. Food & Water Watch provides scientific, factually grounded educational tools to inform the public and elected officials about these issues.

Our members do a wonderful job sharing these resources to spread awareness of the bold solutions Food & Water Watch is fighting for. 

Here are the top 5 articles our members read and shared this year:

Understanding Food Labels

Fracking, Federal Lands, and Follow Through 

Monsanto — Er, Bayer — Will End Glyphosate Sales. It’s Not Enough. 

Guide To Safe Tap Water And Filters 

5 Big Misconceptions About President Biden’s Fracking And Drilling Orders

And our debut digital report showcasing our new digital format and showing a path forward for our food system:

Well-Fed: A Roadmap To A Sustainable Food System That Works For All

We at Food & Water Watch are grateful for your generosity. 

Your investment in the fight for safe food, clean water, and a livable climate makes a huge impact. Thank you for standing with us to make a difference and fight like you live here!

Your help has been pivotal.

Thanks for everything you do!

New Report Highlights MD Poultry Industry’s Stranglehold Over People and the Environment

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

A report released today by the Environmental Integrity Project, finds that Maryland’s expanding poultry factory farm industry is woefully under-inspected, despite massive pollutant violations. Key findings include, that:

  • As the number of factory farms increases, the number of operations inspected by Maryland Department of the Environment’s two or three inspectors has declined by 40 percent since 2013.
  • 84 percent of Maryland’s inspected poultry factory farms failed their first state inspection; almost half (43 percent) also fail follow up inspections. Only four percent were penalized by the state.

In response, Lily Hawkins, Food & Water Watch Maryland Organizer, issued the following statement:

“Factory farm violations come at the direct expense of people and the environment. Over decades, Maryland’s poultry factory farm industry has tightened its stranglehold on the region, polluting air and water with abandon, and threatening the public health of those who work within the barns and those living near them. This report solidifies what advocates have known for years — factory farms are an unchecked threat to our health and environment.

For too long, factory farms have been given a pass. It’s time to double down on stopping the expansion of this polluting industry. At the federal level, that means passing the Farm System Reform Act. And in Maryland, that means keeping false solutions to the poultry industry’s excessive waste problem like factory farm biogas out of our state’s renewable energy portfolio.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Highland Park Council Opposes Keasbey Fracked Gas Plant

On Tuesday night, the Highland Park Borough Council unanimously passed a resolution strongly opposing plans for a gas-fired power plant in the Keasbey section of Woodbridge Township, and calling on the administration of Governor Phil Murphy to reject the facility’s air permit application.

The council’s action follows a vote in Edison earlier this month, where the Township Council became the first in New Jersey to formally oppose the fossil fuel infrastructure project.

The Competitive Power Ventures plan would place a 630 megawatt plant amid a densely populated community already overburdened with fossil fuel pollution. The company — which was embroiled in a high-profile corruption scandal in New York over approval for a facility in Orange County — already operates a fracked gas power plant adjacent to the proposed site.

The resolution was adopted as state officials develop rules under a new environmental justice law that will make it harder for polluting projects to be sited in overburdened communities. Each of the towns located within 5 miles of the proposed site (Woodbridge, Perth Amboy, South Amboy, Metuchen, and Edison) are considered overburdened, with 73% of all census block groups meeting one or more of the environmental justice criteria.

“We’re happy that the Highland Park Council passed a strong resolution. The proposed Keasbey gas-fired plant is an environmental justice issue for both the Highland Park and the Woodbridge Township communities,” said Ellen Whitt, a Highland Park resident who championed the issue.

“Our Council members and Mayor understand that burning fracked gas increases global warming and shortens lifespans. The only power that is acceptable in today’s world is the power of renewables,” said Tina Weishaus, Chairperson of Sustainable Highland Park, a committee that recommended this action to the Mayor and Council.

“There is simply no need to add another source of air and climate pollution in this part of the state, or anywhere else for that matter,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Charlie Kratovil. “If Governor Murphy wants us to believe he is ready to be a climate leader, he will reject the Keasbey plant.”

The resolution calls for the Borough Clerk to forward the resolution to Governor Murphy, as well as Rep. Frank Pallone, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, State Senator Patrick Diegnan, Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, Assemblyman Sterley Stanley, and the Middlesex County Board of Commissioners.

Monsanto — Er, Bayer — Will End Consumer Glyphosate Sales. It’s Not Enough.

Categories

Food System

Photo CC-BY © Mike Mozart / Flickr.com

Over 100,000 legal claims from consumers finally prompted Bayer to announce last month that it will remove glyphosate from its residential-use weed killers, including Roundup, beginning in 2023 (newsflash: still not soon enough). Bayer (which now owns Monsanto) said it will replace glyphosate with a different alternative.

In 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen but Monsanto — as the company was then known — initiated a PR blitz to contradict that finding. This included paying scientists to conduct an “independent” review of glyphosate to give the toxic chemical a bill of good health, and wooing officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tasked with reviewing the pesticide’s cancer effects. This interference heavily muddied the waters and likely influenced EPA to find that glyphosate didn’t pose a cancer risk to humans. 

But what a government agency that is supposed to protect us didn’t do, and what a corporation hellbent on protecting its profits wouldn’t proactively do, thousands of costly lawsuits finally accomplished. Still, this voluntary removal of glyphosate from residential-use products doesn’t go nearly far enough, and we won’t rest until the EPA bans glyphosate altogether. 

Here’s a brief history of how Monsanto/Bayer has manipulated science and government agencies in order to keep selling their deadly money-maker. 

Court Documents Revealed Monsanto’s Playbook To Obscure Roundup’s Cancer Link

In March of 2017, a federal judge unsealed court documents that detailed the lengths Monsanto went to twist the public narrative and EPA review in order to continue selling glyphosate under the claim that it was safe. 

For instance, an internal PowerPoint outlines Monsanto’s strategy for countering the damning classification as a probable carcinogen. One suggestion was to publish a paper analyzing the animal data that the WHO used in its cancer assessment, noting that the “majority of writing can be done by Monsanto, keeping OS$ [costs] down.” It suggested recruiting external scientists like Helmut Greim, who co-authored a Monsanto-funded analysis the following year that — unsurprisingly — concluded that glyphosate is not carcinogenic to laboratory animals.

They also ghost-wrote papers and paid “independent” scientists to put their names on them, and stopped working with scientists who wouldn’t present findings the way they instructed. 

EPA’s framework for assessing the public health risk posed by pesticides like Roundup relies heavily on industry-funded science, which makes the process vulnerable to this kind of predetermined conclusion-driven approach. It is also why advocates worry that glyphosate’s replacement could have its own health risks, but still be given the green light by EPA. 

Injured Users Of Roundup And Advocacy Groups Like Food & Water Watch Took Action When EPA Did Not

For years while we’ve been waiting for EPA to do the scientifically sound thing by banning glyphosate, we also sounded the alarm ourselves, publishing research and educating citizens about its danger. 

We compiled data that showed glyphosate: 

  • Is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it interferes with hormone levels, even when glyphosate residue on foods is present below allowable thresholds;
  • Is probably carcinogenic, linked strongly to non-Hodgkins lymphoma, according to  the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer — whose assessment has underpinned many of the lawsuits filed against Monsanto/Bayer;
  • May contribute to antibiotic resistance in certain bacteria;
  • May be linked to reproductive issues and birth defects; and
  • Is widely present in our food — meaning this voluntary suspension of consumer-level Roundup sales does not go far enough and we still need EPA to act. 

It’s Time For EPA To Do Its Job To Protect The Public And Ban Glyphosate

Bayer’s press release announcing the move to eventually pull glyphosate from their products confirms that they have no plans to stop selling it for large-scale agricultural uses — which is the path by which it ends up in so many of the foods in our grocery stores: 

This move is being made exclusively to manage litigation risk and not because of any safety concerns. As the vast majority of claims in the litigation come from Lawn & Garden market users, this action largely eliminates the primary source of future claims beyond an assumed latency period. There will be no change in the availability of the company’s glyphosate formulations in the U.S. professional and agricultural markets.

This statement implies that Bayer/Monsanto has no qualms about continuing to cause harm to consumers, as long as they feel adequately shielded from liability for that harm. 

This is why we can’t rely on corporations to do what’s right, and we must insist the EPA do its job and ban glyphosate everywhere, for good. 

Tell the EPA to ban Roundup everywhere!

Farm System Reform Act Reintroduced in Congress; Would Ban New Factory Farming

Categories

Food System

Washington, D.C. – A diverse coalition of animal welfare, public health, environmental, and sustainable agriculture organizations commend U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) for introducing the Farm System Reform Act, federal legislation that will help create a more humane food system by moving away from destructive concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and supporting the transition toward higher welfare, certified farms, and alternative crop production. This legislation also includes provisions to address industry consolidation and unfair practices, which can hamper farmers’ independence and ability to improve animal welfare, as well as measures to ensure communities located near factory farms are able to hold these companies legally accountable for negative environmental and public health impacts, and to provide consumers with increased transparency on country-of-origin labelling.

Original cosponsors of the Farm System Reform Act include Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the Senate, and Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D.Wis.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Andy Levin (D-Mich.) in the House of Representatives.  

“The factory farm agricultural model, which dominates our country’s food system, fuels toxic air and water contamination, drives dangerous and unfair working conditions, wreaks havoc on independent farmers and rural communities and threatens food safety,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The Farm System Reform Act is the bold approach we need to bring dangerous factory farming under control now—and begin the necessary transformation to a safe and equitable future for food consumers and workers alike.”

Almost 10 billion animals are raised on U.S. factory farms every year, crowded together in intensive confinement and unable to carry out even some of their most basic natural behaviors. The COVID-19 crisis further exposed the failings of our current food system as viral outbreaks among slaughterhouse employees and inspectors killed hundreds of workers and resulted in shutdowns and the mass killing of millions of farm animals who languished on farms with no place to go. The scale of this suffering has increased the immediacy with which the food, farming, and animal welfare movements advocate together for a shared vision of a better farming system.

“Large, multinational meatpackers, because of their buying power and size, are putting our food system at risk and harming everyone along the supply chain. We need to fix the broken system – that means giving family farmers and ranchers a fair shot and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing,” said Sen. Booker. “We must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system. An important first step is ending our reliance on huge factory farms and investing in a system that focuses on resilient and regenerative production.”

“If Congress doesn’t act soon, we risk losing an entire generation of family farms to multinational farming corporations,” said Rep. Khanna. “The Farm System Reform Act is the clear way to ensure the American food system maintains fair competition, high animal welfare standards, and a dependable food chain. We must fix this broken system. I’m proud to reintroduce this critical legislation with Senator Booker to level the playing field for family farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers in the 21st century.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed animal agriculture’s deceptive façade, revealing a broken factory farm system that is failing both people and animals. The Farm System Reform Act will help repair and bring compassion to our food system, protecting countless animals from unconscionable cruelty,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “We thank Senator Booker and Representative Khanna for championing this necessary legislation to build a food system that values animals, people, and our planet—not just profit.”

Factory farms directly threaten animal welfare, often making use of cruel confinement methods that prevent animals from carrying out even the most basic natural behaviors like perching or rooting. Besides harming animals, factory farming also wreaks havoc on rural communities, public health, farmers, farm workers, and the environment. The COVID-19 crisis has strengthened the public’s understanding of these linked impacts with demand for change growing. A 2020 survey found that the vast majority (89 percent) of Americans are concerned about animal welfare, worker safety or public health issues that go hand-in-hand with factory farming—including 85 percent of farmers and their families who support a complete ban on new CAFOs, almost twice the level of support expressed by the general public. 

The Farm System Reform Act is supported by more than 300 diverse groups, including the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), Food & Water Watch, and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Additionally, more than 100 farmers across the country have signed onto a letter endorsing the bill as a critical solution that would revitalize independent agriculture and uplift farmers and rural communities. The coalition is asking the public to contact their U.S. senators and representatives to urge them to cosponsor and pass the Farm System Reform Act.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

6. Create a Legacy

Create a Legacy

Make a gift that ensures a future for generations to come.

Your legacy protects our planet.

LILY HAWKINS

Lily Hawkins

Maryland Organizer

Washington, DC

2. STOPPING THE PRIVATIZATION OF A PUBLIC RIGHT

Categories

Clean Water

Stopping the privatization of a public right

Water is a human right — corporations have no business managing public utilities.

Public ownership ensures our water systems are safe and affordable for everyone.

Guide to Safe Tap Water and Water Filters

Categories

Clean Water

Drinking tap water should be safe, affordable, and taste good. Follow our guide to check your tap water quality and find the best filtration system for you.

The word is out: bottled water can be bad for our wallets, our health and our environment. If you’re among the growing number of people kicking the bottled water habit and making the move to tap water, you may be curious about your local water supply. Consumer standards are actually more stringent for the quality and safety of tap water than for bottled water.

We need to make tap water safe and affordable for everyone. Sign the petition for safe water for all!

The best way to find out about your local water is to read your water quality report, a document that your water utility is required by federal law to provide to you every year telling you if your water has any contamination. This guide will help you understand how to interpret what your report tells you.

Beyond basic safety, many people prefer to filter their tap water to remove minerals and particulates, which may affect the taste. We’ll walk you through the different types of tap water filters and help you pick the best one for your needs.

Is Your Water Safe? Your Water Quality Report

Annual water quality reports, also called consumer confidence reports, are intended to help consumers make informed choices about their drinking water. They let you know what contaminants, if any, are in your drinking water and how these contaminants may affect your health. They list all the regulated toxins that were detected in your water over the preceding calendar year. This guide will help you understand what’s in your water quality report and how to interpret what it tells you.

Who Gets a Water Quality Report?

A water quality report is available for every customer of a community water system, which is one that provides year-round service to more than 15 households or more than 25 people.

When Is a Water Quality Report Issued?

You should receive your report by July 1 of each year.

What Does a Water Quality Report Tell You?

Every water quality report must contain:

  • The source of the drinking water, be it a river, lake, groundwater aquifer or some other body of water;
  • A brief summary of the state’s source water assessment, which measures how susceptible the source water is to contamination, and how to get a copy of the complete assessment;
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and health goals for drinking water contaminants;
  • A list of all detected regulated contaminants and their levels;
  • Potential health effects of any contaminant detected at a level that violates the EPA’s health standard;
  • An educational statement for people with weakened immune systems about cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants;
  • Contact information for the water system and the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline.

Worried about lead? Make sure you get the right water filter.

The crisis in Flint, Michigan has brought attention to the serious problem of lead in drinking water. Fortunately, a water filter that is either NSF/ANSI Standard 53 or NSF/ANSI Standard 58 certified can reduce lead in your drinking water. These certifications are established by NSF International, a public health organization that develops standards and providing certifications with the mission to improve global human health.

These certified filters come in different shapes and sizes. Certification requires that manufacturers state how much water the filter can treat before it must be changed. Some filters even include a device that will let you know when the filter needs to be changed. When changing filter cartridges, it’s important to use a certified cartridge. A non-certified cartridge may not effectively filter lead from the drinking water.

There are a variety of filter options that meet the NSF’s certified standard. Outlined below, these filters include: pour-through pitchers/carafes, faucet mounts, and even plumbed-in filters that are installed under your sink or reverse osmosis drinking water treatment systems.

On the NSF website at www.nsf.org you can search for specific suppliers and product codes to see if they are NSF certified. Their lead specific guide provides a list of all NSF Standard certified brands and models with details for each: www.nsf.org/info/leadfiltrationguide.

Why Is a Water Quality Report Important?

Your water utility is required by law to tell you about any violation of EPA water quality standards when it occurs (through the mail or media outlets such as newspapers and television) and again in the annual water quality report. You should not drink water that fails to meet EPA standards because it may be unsafe. Thankfully, public utilities have worked hard to improve water quality. As a result, more than 90 percent of water systems meet all EPA regulations.

The report must also disclose a list of all regulated contaminants that have been detected in the water supply. The Safe Drinking Water Act sets the maximum level of contaminants allowed in drinking water based on the filtering and treatment capabilities of current technology. The water quality report also tells you about potentially harmful substances found in your water at levels below their legal limit.

How Is a Water Quality Report Distributed?

All very large community water systems, serving more than 100,000 people, must post the report online. All community water systems that serve more than 10,000 people must mail or email either the report or its web address to customers.

Water systems also must make a “good faith effort” to reach renters, workers and other consumers who use the water but do not receive water bills. Utilities should use a combination of different outreach methods to notify users, such as posting the reports online, mailing them and advertising in local newspapers.

More information is available online from the EPA.

Tap Water Filters and Filtration Systems

The United States provides some of the cleanest drinking water in the world, and more than 90 percent of water systems meet all EPA regulations. Some people may prefer to filter their tap water, however, because they prefer the taste, want to remove minerals and particulates or have concerns about lead piping and plumbing. This section highlights the types of available filters to help you to determine which one is best for your needs.

What to Consider When Buying a Water Filter

What impurities do you want to remove from your water? Are you concerned about health risks, or simply unappetizing tastes and odors? Different filters are designed to remove various impurities, so be sure that the filter you buy will do the job.

Once you have read your water quality report, determine what, if anything, you would like to filter out of your water. Depending on the water quality where you live, you may decide that you do not need to filter your water at all.

Water Filtration: What Are Your Options?

Water filters come in many shapes and sizes. Depending on your filtration needs, lifestyle preferences and budget, you may want to consider the following options, whose descriptions were adapted from a May 2010 Consumer Reports article:

  • Carafe, or “pour-through,” filters are the simplest water filters to use. The filter fits inside a pitcher that you can keep in your refrigerator. Carafes are inexpensive and easy to use. However, the filters have a short lifetime and can only filter a limited amount of water at a time.
  • A faucet-mounted filter is exactly what it sounds like — a filter that is screwed directly on to your faucet. These filters require minimal installation, but they slow the flow of water and can’t be used on all faucets.
  • Countertop filters are best for filtering large quantities of water without modifying plumbing. They’re less likely to clog than carafe or faucet-mounted filters, but can clutter countertops and can’t be used with all types of faucets.
  • Plumbed-in filters are installed directly into an existing water pipe. Often, they are installed under the sink (and are sometimes referred to as “under-sink” filters). They can be plumbed-in to the existing sink faucet, which may require drilling a hole in the countertop, or they can dispense water through a separate tap. These filters are best for filtering large amounts of water without modifying the existing faucet or cluttering the counter. However, they take up cabinet space and require plumbing modifications.
  • Point-of-entry, or “whole-house,” filters are installed directly in the water main and filter all the water in a house, including water for the kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms. These filters have a long lifetime and are an inexpensive way to remove sediment, rust and, in some cases, chlorine from household water. But most won’t remove most other contaminants. They also require professional installation.

Water Filter Technologies

Different water filter products use different technologies. Some use more than one. If you are looking for a home water filter, you are likely to come across some of these terms:

  • Particulate/mechanical filter: These are simple screens that block large particles. They often function as “prefilters” in a multiple-step water filter.
  • Adsorption/Activated Carbon: Adsorption refers to a physical process where particles in water are removed because they stick to the surface of the material in the filter. These filters are usually made with carbon, often in granulated or powdered form. They are the most common filters on the market and come in different forms including pitchers and faucet-mounted systems. They are generally effective for reducing the most typical worrisome compounds that can be found in municipal water: chlorine, chlorine byproducts and dissolved volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) such as pesticides and herbicides. Carbon adsorption filters generally work well for reducing bad odors and tastes.
  • Softeners/Ion Exchange Units: Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to reduce hard metals — including lead — in water. When water passes through an ion exchange unit, hard metal ions are replaced by sodium ions, leaving the water “softer” as a result — but also saltier. This technology is often used in combination with adsorptive or reverse-osmosis filters. Potassium chloride water softeners work in a similar way to sodium chloride softeners, but without increasing levels of salt in the water; this makes potassium chloride softeners a better choice for some uses, such as watering plants.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) Treatment: This treatment uses UV light to kill germs that may be present in the water. UV treatment is the only treatment certified by the National Sanitation Foundation International to reduce bacteria.
  • Reverse Osmosis: Reverse osmosis is a process where water is forced through a membrane that filters out molecules physically larger than the water molecules. Although reverse osmosis works well for reducing minerals, it is not effective for chlorine or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are more likely to be concerns in municipal tap water. However, many reverse-osmosis units are combined with pre-filters and carbon filters to address this concern. Reverse-osmosis filters are expensive and very inefficient — they waste from one to three gallons of water for every gallon that they filter.
  • Distillation: Water distillers heat water so that it turns into steam, which is then collected and returned to its liquid form. Contaminants are left behind when the water evaporates. Thus, distillation is very effective for removing most minerals and bacteria. However, some distillation units do not remove VOCs. Distillation also requires more energy than other methods, to heat the water.

Consider Which Filter Is Best for You

Each product has its own pros and cons. Individual products may use multiple technologies and are often marketed as two (or more) stage filters. Carafe, faucet-mounted and countertop filters typically use a combination of adsorption and ion exchange resins, while plumbed-in systems may use those technologies in addition to reverse osmosis.

Filters also come in a wide range of prices. Most carafes and faucet-mounted filters cost between $20 and $50, while countertop, under-sink and whole-house filters can range from $50 to $900.

When considering the price of a water filter, remember that the total cost includes your initial purchase price as well as any installation, maintenance or replacement fees. Filter parts need to be changed periodically to prevent clogging, so be sure to consider how much replacement parts cost, as well as the manufacturer’s estimated life span for the product.

Also consider the amount of water you use. Some filter types have larger water capacities than others. Carafes, for example, can filter a few cups or gallons at a time, while faucet-mounted or under-sink filters work directly through a tap.

Most importantly, make sure that the individual product reduces the specific contaminants that you want to remove from your water. Generally, products will include claims on their packaging or advertising regarding which contaminants they reduce and the percentage reduction rate. See the table below for more information about common contaminants of concern and which type of filter will reduce the contaminants.

Water Quality Concerns and Filtration Methods*

Contaminant/Quality ConcernFiltration MethodNotes
ChlorineCarbon/Charcoal FilterContact your local water utility to find out which disinfectant is used in your drinking water. Water filters certified to reduce chlorine do not necessarily work for chloramine.
Chlorine Byproducts (Trihalomethanes)Carbon/Charcoal FilterTrihalomethanes are a type of VOC (volatile organic compound), so products certified to reduce VOCs will reduce this contaminant.
Taste and OdorCarbon/Charcoal Filter 
LeadCarbon, Distillation, Reverse Osmosis 
FluorideDistillation, Reverse OsmosisNot all public drinking water systems add fluoride to the water. Check to see if your community does by reading your annual water quality report.
ChloraminesSome Carbon/Charcoal FiltersCheck that the system you select is certified to reduce chloramines. Systems that reduce chlorine do not necessarily reduce chloramines.
PerchloratesReverse Osmosis 
ArsenicDistillation, Reverse OsmosisTwo different forms of arsenic can be found in water, so it is important to know which type of arsenic you want to filter before choosing a water treatment system.

*Information taken from National Sanitation Foundation’s Contaminant Guide. Please note that filters and treatment systems should be certified by a third party agency. Check to ensure that the brand of filter you choose is certified to address your water quality needs.

Pharmaceuticals, Personal Care Products and Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals

Consumers are increasingly concerned about pharmaceutical residues and other hormone disrupting chemicals in drinking water. These chemicals are not regulated, but studies have shown that they are showing up in trace amounts in drinking water. According to the National Sanitation Foundation, there is no testing available at this time to measure the potential ability of home water treatment systems to reduce pharmaceuticals.

Verify the Quality of Your Filter

Make sure that your filter is certified by an independent certifying agency. Not all filters live up to the claims on the package, so make sure that the product you are buying does. The packaging should display certification from an independent certifying agency such as the National Sanitation Foundation International or Water Quality Association.

Check the internet for product reviews, and make sure the reviewer is impartial. The best reviews and ratings come from organizations that do not sell the products, such as Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union, a nonprofit organization that provides consumers with unbiased product tests and ratings.

Setting the Record Straight on the Obama Administration’s Privatized Poultry Inspection System

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack held a press conference last week to announce the final rule for the “New Poultry Inspection System” (NPIS). I listened in, and noted that he made certain statements that were not completely accurate. Some of the written materials provided to the press did not tell the whole story either. Unfortunately, this is par for the course, regardless which party controls the executive branch. That’s because the poultry industry influences much of the policies that come out of the USDA, and the powers-that-be don’t even try to disguise this fact. 

Let’s take a closer look at what this new inspection system will actually do: 

At the present time, chicken slaughter plants that are subject to conventional FSIS inspection can run their line speeds to 140 birds per minute (bpm). Current regulations limit what each USDA inspector can inspect to 35 bpm. So, if a plant were operating its slaughter lines at 70 bpm, there would be two FSIS inspectors stationed on that line – with each inspector looking at every other bird. If a plant were running its lines at the maximum 140 bpm, there would be four FSIS inspectors stationed on each line – with each inspector inspecting every fourth bird. In a young turkey plant, the current maximum line speed is 52 bpm, with each USDA inspector looking at a maximum of 26 bpm.

What do FSIS inspectors look for on these slaughter lines? Secretary Vilsack continues to argue that they only look for cosmetic issues such as bruises, blisters and broken bones. This is not true. FSIS inspectors are trained to look for animal diseases such as leucosis, septicemia, tumors and airsacculitis, and for visible fecal contamination where pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter are found. If these issues are not addressed on the slaughter line, the chances increase that meat from sick and contaminated birds will find its way to our dinner tables. Yet Secretary Vilsack repeatedly denigrates the role his employees play in this process, both to their detriment, and to that of consumers. This may explain why in recent surveys of federal government employees, the morale of USDA employees ranked among the lowest.

In 1998, USDA began pilot projects in both chicken and turkey slaughter plants that removed most FSIS inspectors from the slaughter line, turning their responsibilities over to company employees. Plants participating in the pilots could also increase their slaughter line speeds to run as fast as they wanted, provided the plants could provide “process control.” The pilots were called the HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) in slaughter. FSIS left one inspector at the end of each slaughter line in these pilot plants to satisfy the statutory requirements of the Poultry Products Inspection Act for carcass-by-carcass inspection. The on-line inspector was only able to look at one side of the carcass whizzing by and could not look inside the cavity of the bird. Each slaughter line was assigned an off-line FSIS verification inspector responsible for sampling up to 80 birds per eight-hour shift to verify that company employees were catching all defects on the carcasses.

Yet in the spring of 2011, one of the HIMP young chicken plants was permitted by FSIS to run its slaughter lines as fast as 220 bpm. That means that the one FSIS employee on the slaughter line was “inspecting” nearly four birds every second. The off-line verification inspector was looking at 80 out of 105,600 birds, or 0.00076 percent of the birds slaughtered in an eight-hour shift.

That experiment did not seem to work, because when USDA finally proposed its rule to privatize poultry inspection for all chicken plants in January 2012, it set the maximum line speed at 175 bpm for young chicken plants. That would require the on-line USDA inspector to instead look at three birds every second. What a concession! Turkey slaughter plants participating in HIMP were allowed to increase their line speeds to 55 bpm, so the remaining FSIS on-line inspector was inspecting one bird per second.

When it became evident in August 2011 that the Obama administration was going to expand the pilot to include all poultry plants, Food & Water Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for inspection data from 11 of the young chicken plants and three young turkey plants to evaluate how well this privatized model was working. FSIS did not respond to our request until the middle of January 2012 when it sent 5,000 pages of handwritten tally sheets for us to evaluate, and over 100 pages of non-compliance reports filed by off-line USDA inspectors that documented regulatory violations. The following week, Secretary Vilsack held a press conference announcing the department’s intent to propose expanding the privatized inspection model to all poultry plants. On January 27, 2012, the proposed rule appeared in the Federal Register.  

Because we were forced to perform hand calculations of the tally sheets FSIS sent, it took us until early March of 2012 to complete our evaluation. How well employees caught food safety and wholesomeness violations varied from plant to plant. In one turkey HIMP plant, Food & Water Watch identified a 99 percent error rate in just one inspection category alone. The documents also revealed that over 90 percent of the non-compliance reports filed by FSIS verification inspectors against the HIMP plants were for visible fecal contamination, most of which was found inside the cavities of the bird carcasses, something that an on-line FSIS inspector would not be able to catch. 

We were not the only ones who questioned the effectiveness of the pilot program. At the request of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on the FSIS pilots, finding significant problems with the system.

When asked by a reporter during last week’s press conference whether the final rule addressed the concerns raised by the GAO, Secretary Vilsack claimed that most of the GAO report dealt with the HIMP pilot in hog slaughter. In reality, most of the GAO report evaluated the two poultry pilot programs. Perhaps Secretary Vilsack confused it with the May 2013 report filed by the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General that also trashed the HIMP pilot for hog slaughter. The final rule did not, in fact, address the issues raised by the GAO.

The comment period on the proposed rule ended on May 29, 2012. What took USDA so long to publish the final rule? FSIS received over 175,000 comments, most of which were opposed to the proposed rule. Furthermore, worker safety advocates made compelling arguments that the rule did not take into account the increased workplace injuries that would be incurred by poultry plant workers by allowing plants to increase their line speeds, an issue we raised as early as 2007. 

When Secretary Vilsack announced last week that the final rule would be published, he repeatedly stated that because of the arguments made by the worker safety advocates, the line speeds would be capped at 140 bpm at all young chicken plants. Yet a review of the final rules reveals that some chicken slaughter plants, some of the largest in the country, will be allowed to run their lines at up to 175 bpm, and all turkey plants will be permitted to increase their line speeds to 55 bmp, despite notoriously poor worker safety conditions. 

Moreover, not all remaining young chicken plants will be prevented from increasing their line speeds under the final rule. In a report comparing the HIMP young chicken plants with 64 comparably-sized poultry plants not participating in the pilot, FSIS stated that the range of line speeds in the non-HIMP plants ranged from 81 to 140 bpm, with the average 115 bpm. So, plants running at below 140 bpm at the present time will be permitted to increase their line speeds under the final rule.

The Obama administration has disappointed labor advocates. They were promised policies that would make it easier to organize workers, and the administration has failed to deliver. Regulations to improve worker safety have not materialized. The final rule on poultry inspection does not contain meaningful worker protections, or clear enforcement mechanisms for the few crumbs on worker safety that the rule does mention. In fact, it relies on FSIS inspectors to call the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) if they spot any safety violations in the plants. So, in addition to performing their food safety work within these plants with a reduced workforce, the remaining FSIS inspectors are to become part-time whistleblowers for OSHA.

On the same day that Secretary Vilsack announced that the final rule on privatized poultry inspection would be published, FSIS rejected a 2011 petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and supported by Food & Water Watch that would have made certain strains of salmonella and campylobacter adulterants. It is currently legal to sell poultry products contaminated with these pathogens. Secretary Vilsack claims that the privatized poultry inspection system will prevent 5,000 food borne illnesses a year, but it is unclear how. According to the Centers for Disease Control, salmonella causes over one million food borne illnesses a year, and campylobacter causes another million. 

With the petition’s rejection, the only hope is for Congress to pass H.R. 4966, the Pathogen Reduction and Testing Reform Act, introduced by Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), that gives USDA the legal authority to declare certain strains of salmonella and campylobacter adulterants. This legislation will be the only way to reduce food borne illness caused by those two pathogens. With the deregulation of inspection, USDA likes to throw around the word “modernization.” So why doesn’t the agency modernize its approach to food safety, arming its inspectors with real tools to prevent food borne illness? I guess because the industry would object.

This final rule is flawed—in terms of both food and worker safety. The poultry industry is celebrating and rightfully so — the Obama administration just handed them the keys to the candy store.