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

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New Mexico Organizer

Contact Email: [email protected]

Post Date: 02.1.21

Job Type: Employee

Office Location: Work Remotely

Department: Organizing

Job Description: 

The Organizer for New Mexico will report to the Senior Organizer for New Mexico and will work with other national organizing staff, regional field staff, and policy/research staff to support FWW’s campaigns to ban fracking and factory farming. The Organizer will be responsible for implementing campaign plans, working with volunteers, organizing sign on letters, petitions, and social media outreach. NOTE: Priority consideration will be given to candidates living in New Mexico and/or who have experience working in New Mexico. This is a Bargaining Unit/Union Position. 

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Build a strong base of organizations and individuals in support of our campaigns, with a particular emphasis on petitions and social media outreach and in person volunteer activities once safe.
  • Work with a team on executing long- and short-term goals, strategies and tactics.
  • Work closely with volunteers, team members, and partner organization to develop and implement joint strategies.
  • Participate in coalitions on campaign issues and implement grassroots organizing and public education campaigns.
  • Speak at public events, forums, and other venues, and serve as a representative of Food & Water Watch to the public and the media.
  • Assist in building the capacity and leadership of volunteers.
  • Maintain familiarity with a diverse set of issues, research products, and FWW’s suite of digital organizing tools, and respond to information and support requests from activists, coalition members, and the media.
  • Develop educational materials such as factsheets, action alerts, web site content and newsletter articles on various campaign issues. Maintain activist database and email lists to effectively communicate to members and supporters.
  • Regularly report on work to supervisors and donors.
  • Participate and/or develop non-partisan electoral strategies and tactics for either/both Food and Water Watch (c3) and Food and Water Action (c4).
  • Participate in membership recruitment and fundraising for Food & Water Action/Watch.
  • Support Our Culture of Philanthropy: Demonstrate an understanding of the essential role of our members and supporters, and consistently serve as an ambassador for FWW/FWA and our work. Participate in or attend events and other activities as appropriate that are organized for our supporters and donors. Be cognizant of fundraising opportunities and share contacts and information that will help build and sustain FWW/FWA.
  • Carry out other projects as assigned.

To perform this job successfully, the person in this position is expected to develop a complete understanding of FWW’s Strategic Organizing model and an ability to develop campaign strategy. The Organizer will be expected to work closely with volunteers and allied organizations to ensure campaigns are moving forward to achieve programmatic goals.

The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.                                                                                            

Education/Experience: Bachelor’s Degree or combination of relevant education and experience. One year of full-time experience organizing. Clear demonstration of ability to develop effective organizing strategies.

Computer Skills: An individual should be able to work in a computerized environment and have adequate knowledge of word processing, email, internet and spreadsheet software and Zoom; in particular have coursework or certification in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Power Point and proficiency with all other Microsoft Office products.

Compensation: Annualized at $40,000-$46,200, dependent upon experience and based on labor market.

Click here to apply. Please include your resume, cover letter and three professional references to be considered.

We will review your application and if we feel that your knowledge, skills and abilities are potentially a good match for our organization, we will be in contact with you. Please include a Cover Letter with your submission. Position open until filled. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Food & Water Watch strives for a diverse work environment and encourages women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals with disabilities to apply.

Help us fix our broken systems and stand up against corporate control. Submit your résumé today!

Assistant Director of Individual Philanthropy

Contact Email: [email protected]

Post Date: 03.8.21

Job Type: Employee

Office Location: 

  • Washington D.C.
  • California – Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania

Department: Development

Job Description: 

Reporting to the Director of Individual Philanthropy and working closely with Senior Leadership, the Assistant Director of Individual Philanthropy plays a key role on our national major giving team. This position is responsible for the cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of major donors ($2,500+ annually), and also in playing a leadership role in managing the mid-level donor program. The Assistant Director of Individual Philanthropy is instrumental in establishing, implementing and promoting the goals of Food & Water Watch, raising funds and cultivating relationships with significant prospects and donors. The Assistant Director of Individual Philanthropy travels or conducts donor visits through in-person, phone and virtual calls up to 50 percent of the time. This position is also responsible for playing a leadership role in managing projects outside of donor portfolio and mid-level program; may include donor communications, events or other special projects that support development team.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

  • Work closely with the Director of Individual Philanthropy to manage the major gifts, mid-level, planned giving and special events program.
  • Manage a portfolio of 75 to 125 major giving prospects with annual gifts of $2,500 and above. Provide consistent cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship through personal visits, telephone calls, written proposals and other communications.
  • Oversee and manage mid-level giving program, supervising annual gifts of between $500 and $2,499 in coordination with Manager of Individual Philanthropy. Develop digital and mail strategies. 
  • Oversee prospect review, research, and moves management processes to ensure appropriate and timely placement of donors on portfolios. Identify prospects and perform baseline prospect research, work with the Prospect Research and Portfolio Coordinator to qualify potential major donors as necessary. 
  • Establish and maintain a donor cultivation cycle and gift stewardship program to ensure that new major donors are developed, have opportunities to increase their level of support annually, and enjoy a close relationship to the organization. 
  • Prepare written materials for individual donors, including correspondence, solicitation materials, acknowledgements, and reports as part of the stewardship program. 
  • Coordinate and create a plan for major gifts’ cultivation and recognition events in collaboration with fellow major gifts team members and special events manager.
  • Maintain a working knowledge of Food & Water Watch national campaign priorities, with specific attention paid to efforts in relevant areas. 
  • Work with Director of Individual Philanthropy to establish budget goals and strategies to reach them. Provide regular analysis and reporting on progress toward goals. 
  • Supervise at least two direct reports. 
  • Other duties as assigned.

Support Our Culture of Philanthropy: Demonstrate an understanding of the essential role of our members and supporters, and consistently serve as an ambassador for FWW/FWA and our work. Participate in or attend events and other activities as appropriate that are organized for our supporters and donors. Be cognizant of fundraising opportunities and share contacts and information that will help build and sustain FWW/FWA.

To perform this job successfully, the person in this position has a high degree of contact with donors and prospects; a high degree of contact with Managing Directors and other staff; and a high degree of contact with non-development related activities.

The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.                                                                                                    

Education/Experience: 

Bachelor’s Degree (BA, BS, etc.) and a minimum five years major gifts and mid-level fundraising experience, preferably within a political or advocacy environment. At least two years of direct management experience. Demonstrated success personally soliciting gifts at the five-figure level and above. A track record of portfolio management meeting yearly solicitation goals. Exceptional interpersonal skills and the ability to interact effectively with FWW leadership and staff, prospects and donors. Excellent organizational skills and successful experience managing events and other complex activities in support of development initiatives. Highly developed verbal and written communication skills and the ability to make effective presentations to small and large groups. Ability to exercise good judgment, to demonstrate an understanding of ethics related to development activities and to use discretion in interactions with donors, prospects and others. Ability to conduct research and assemble data, analyze information, and prepare effective, accurate and timely reports and other documents to support development activities.

Computer Skills: An individual should be able to work in a computerized environment and have adequate knowledge of word processing, email, internet and spreadsheet software; in particular adequate knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel, and Power Point and proficiency with all other Microsoft Office products; have adequate knowledge of working with CRM, in particular proficiency with Salesforce.

Click here to apply.  Please include your resume, cover letter and three professional references to be considered.

Compensation:  Annualized at $93,900 – $117,400 (may vary based on labor market) and based upon education and experience.

We will review your application and if we feel that your knowledge, skills and abilities are potentially a good match for our organization, we will be in contact with you. Position open until filled. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Food & Water Watch strives for a diverse work environment and encourages women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals with disabilities to apply.  

Help us fix our broken systems and stand up against corporate control. Submit your résumé today!

4. Create a Legacy

Create a Legacy

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

Your legacy protects our planet.

HASSAN ALLALI

Hassan Allali

IT Support

Washington, DC

LILY HAWKINS

Lily Hawkins

Maryland Organizer

Washington, DC

Allegheny County Organizer

Food & Water Action is working to create a healthy future for all people and generations to come—a world where everyone has food they can trust, clean drinking water and a livable climate. Making this happen requires involving people in the pressing issues of our time at the local, state, and federal level, building on one win after another, as we develop a larger movement that has the political power to make our democratic process work.

Contact Email: [email protected]

Post Date: 08.7.20

Job Type: Employee

Office Location: Work Remotely

Department: Organizing

Job Description: 

The Allegheny County Organizer will report to the Pennsylvania Organizing Manager and will work with other national organizing staff, regional field staff, and policy/research staff to support FWW’s work with community members and local elected officials in municipalities in Allegheny County to pass and enforce oil and gas zoning ordinances that will protect these communities from fracking. Specific projects will include organizing actions, tracking data, community outreach, building relationships, and volunteer leadership development. NOTE:  Southwestern PA residency is required.  The Organizer will have 5 main responsibilities: 

  1. Advance Municipal Outreach Project strategy
    1. Help development campaign strategy for these communities
    2. Develop and carry out tactics that will move forward this strategy, and bottomline the rollout of these tactics
  2. Build grassroots volunteer infrastructure
    1. Recruit and support volunteers in effective actions
    2. Maintain campaign data
    3. Develop volunteer roles that will advance our campaign strategy, and build volunteers’ investment in our campaign by plugging them into these roles
  3. Represent Food & Water Watch
    1. Represent Food & Water Watch at public events and with local media
    2. Participate in membership recruitment and fundraising for Food & Water Watch
  4. Build coalition: Maintain close relationships with and engage local coalition allies
  5. Other duties as required

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

1.         Build a strong base of organizations and individuals in support of our campaigns, with a particular emphasis on the Municipal Ordinance Project and fracking.

2.         Work with a team to develop strategic campaign plans including long- and short-term goals, strategies and tactics.

3.         Work closely with team and partner organization to develop and implement joint strategies.

4.         Participate in coalitions on campaign issues and implement grassroots organizing and public education campaigns.

5.         Speak at public events, forums, and other venues, and serves as a representative of Food & Water Action/Watch to the public and the media. 

6.         Assist in building the capacity and leadership of volunteers and allied grassroots organizations by offering training and organizing support. 

7.         Maintain familiarity with a diverse set of issues, research products, and FWW’s suite of digital organizing tools, and respond to information and support requests from activists, coalition members, and the media.

8.         Develop educational materials such as factsheets, action alerts, web site content and newsletter articles on various campaign issues. Maintain activist database and email lists to effectively communicate to members and supporters. 

9.         Regularly report on work to supervisors and donors.

10.       Participate and/or develop non-partisan electoral strategies and tactics for either/both Food and Water Watch (c3) and Food and Water Action (c4).

11.       Participate in membership recruitment and fundraising for Food & Water Action/Watch.

12.       Support Our Culture of Philanthropy: Demonstrate an understanding of the essential role of our members and supporters, and consistently serve as an ambassador for FWW/FWA and our work. Participate in or attend events and other activities as appropriate that are organized for our supporters and donors. Be cognizant of fundraising opportunities and share contacts and information that will help build and sustain FWW/FWA.

13.       Carry out other projects as assigned.

To perform this job successfully, the person in this position is expected to have a complete understanding of FWW’s Strategic Organizing model and an ability to develop campaign strategy. The Organizer will be expected to work closely with volunteers and allied organizations to ensure campaigns are moving forward to achieve programmatic goals.

The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions:                                                                   

Education/Experience: Bachelor’s Degree or combination of relevant education and experience. One year of full-time experience organizing. Clear demonstration of ability to develop effective organizing strategies.

Computer Skills: An individual should be able to work in a computerized environment and have adequate knowledge of word processing, email, internet and spreadsheet software; in particular have coursework or certification in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Power Point and proficiency with all other Microsoft Office products.

Compensation: Annualized at  $40,000 – $46,200, dependent upon experience and based on labor market.  

Click here to apply. Please include your resume, cover letter and three professional references to be considered.

We will review your application and if we feel that your knowledge, skills and abilities are potentially a good match for our organization, we will be in contact with you. Position open until filled. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Food & Water Watch strives for a diverse work environment and encourages women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals with disabilities to apply.  

3. 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.