Tuesday 26 September 2017

A message from Waterkeepers Chesapeake Executive Director Betsy Nicholas:

Waterkeepers Chesapeake is a coalition of 19 Waterkeepers from around the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. For years, we have worked to protect our most precious natural resource: water.

The President-elect is beginning to fill out cabinet and executive agency positions, giving us a preview of what kind of administration is coming to Washington, DC in January. Based on that preview, we are extremely concerned about our water resources.

Waterkeepers, along with our staff and volunteers, have worked tirelessly toward the goal of cleaning up the environment and restoring clean water to the Chesapeake Bay and the Coastal Bays and our local rivers and streams. On a daily basis, we monitor water quality. We hold polluters accountable. We advocate at the local, state and federal level.

We work every day toward the goal of swimmable, fishable, drinkable water for you and future generations.

We will not see that work reversed.

The president-elect has talked of rolling back regulations in very general terms. He provides no details. We don’t know what he has in mind yet, but we do know that regulatory oversight is sometimes all that stands between safe drinking water and water poisoned by things not limited to shoddy infrastructure, industrial pollution, and energy interests (drilling, exploration, legacy and transport). Ask the people of Flint, Michigan. It isn’t pretty when you can’t trust the water that comes out of the tap.

We will steadfastly oppose regulatory policies that threaten water quality. We will oppose any attempts to weaken the Clean Water Act.

The new administration has signaled an interest in looking backward by pushing for throwback energy resources, like coal and fracking. Why? We know that renewables are cleaner and are the key to a healthy environment and better jobs.

We will steadfastly oppose a return to energy sources that foul and threaten water and air quality.

The new administration is motioning toward appointing cabinet positions, particularly those in charge of protecting and conserving America’s great natural resources like the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, with individuals who deny climate change and would open our federal parks to oil and gas extraction.

We will steadfastly oppose those who ignore the science and threaten public safety by ignoring the threats of climate change.

We all deserve a future that includes clean water.

We will continue to fight for clean water for everyone, now and in the future!

Coal Trains: Dust Pollution is a Real Problem

If you live, work or commute along the Anacostia, Potomac, Susquehanna or James Rivers, you have probably seen train cars filled to overflowing with coal traveling alongside these waterways. These railcars are typically not covered, so the dust flows freely into the air as they make their way down the rail line. In fact, an average rail car loses about 500 lbs. of coal dust — dust that contains mercury, arsenic, uranium and other toxins harmful to human health and wildlife (including fish and aquatic life in rivers adjacent to the train tracks). In fact, our Riverkeepers have even found chunks of coal along river banks and in rivers. In November 2007, six cars of coal derailed into the Anacostia River.

Waterkeepers in Washington State scored a big win in federal court recently on the issue of pollutants from coal trains. In a case (Sierra Club Inc. et al. v. BNSF Railway et al.), the railway company admitted that an average of 60,000 lbs. of coal can be lost from each 120-car train.The court ruled that these trains are “point sources” of pollution under the Clean Water Act. This means that the rail company can be held liable for coal discharged directly into navigable waters. Not only did the Court find that railway companies can be liable for coal discharged into nearby waterways, but that Waterkeepers in the state had the legal ability to sue the railway company for such discharges.

The full trial is currently underway and Waterkeepers Chesapeake will closely follow this trial as a ruling against the train company could have profound implications for rail transport of coal in the Chesapeake region.


Photos (above to the left) of fugitive train-sourced coal ash dust located a few feet from the James River, a public walking trail, parkland, homes and businesses...a daily routine affecting families and drinking water sources of millions of Virginians.

We are Waterkeepers Chesapeake, 19 Waterkeepers, Coastkeepers and Shorekeepers from around the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays region. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!