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]

Food & Water Watch v. United States Environmental Protection Agency

Categories

Food System

To put it simply, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) permit in Idaho violates federal law and will let industrial-scale livestock operations off the hook. That’s why in June of 2020 Food & Water Watch and Snake River Waterkeeper filed suit against the EPA in the federal Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit for violating the Clean Water Act by allowing factory farms to avoid mandatory pollution monitoring.

While this is an Idaho-specific permit, the groups believe that a legal win could have national impact. The CAFO General Permit is meant to ensure that factory farms comply with pollution restrictions that protect waterways for recreation, fishing, wildlife, and other uses. 

In Idaho alone, there are several hundred factory farms that produce vast quantities of pollutants like E.coli, nitrogen, phosphorus, pharmaceuticals, and heavy metals. This industry, which remains largely unregulated, has contributed to the 2,000 miles of streams and rivers that are now considered impaired by pollutants commonly associated with factory farm waste. 

The federal Clean Water Act is meant to control pollution from CAFOs and other “point source” dischargers through a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit that relies on self-monitoring and reporting of discharges.

EPA has let CAFOs off the hook with the Idaho General Permit by failing to include meaningful pollution monitoring requirements.

“Factory farms have flocked to Idaho to take advantage of lax oversight and industry-friendly politicians, with the predictable results of more pollution, degraded lakes and rivers, and fewer sustainable, small-scale family farms. EPA’s permit will allow this pollution to continue unabated by making it all but impossible to hold CAFOs accountable for illegal pollution, in clear violation of the Clean Water Act and EPA’s own regulations.” 

Tyler Lobdell, Staff Attorney for Food & Water Watch

We don’t shy away from the right fights. Make a donation today to fund work like this in the future!

4. 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.