EPA grant to help Duwamish Valley residents, businesses prioritize health needs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying south Seattle’s pollution-scarred Duwamish Valley needs help to sort through health and environmental problems, on Tuesday awarded a $100,000 grant to local groups to examine health risks and come up with strategies to improve conditions.

The valley between West Seattle and Beacon Hill  encompasses the neighborhoods of South Park and Georgetown, which have disproportionately large minority and low-income populations, as well as the industry-packed Duwamish River. The river has been declared a Superfund site under federal law, meaning it’s one of the most-polluted sites in the country.

The grant announced Tuesday is to examine health issues outside the immediate area of the Superfund site.  Across south Seattle, as InvestigateWest has documented, residents face a plethora of health issues, including toxic air pollution, the highest rate in King County of kids hospitalized for asthma, residents eating contaminated seafood, and the fact that the area is a “food desert” because of a lack of fresh groceries. A separate $50,000 grant will help the groups advise EPA about health issues related to the Superfund site itself.

“With our partners, we will make a difference,” said James Rasmussen, executive director of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group, “… not just to make plans but to take action.”

The grant is to:

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Changes at InvestigateWest

InvestigateWest is announcing some exciting new changes!

With the departure next month of Executive Director and Editor Rita Hibbard, the InvestigateWest board is pleased to announce the Robert McClure, a co-founder as well as an award-winning environmental journalist, is succeeding Hibbard as acting Executive Director.

At the same time, Carol Smith, a co-founder and acclaimed social issues and health journalist, is moving into the role of acting Executive Editor.

“Robert will guide a growing, stable and exciting news organization into its next phase,” said Hibbard, who is leaving to pursue other projects long put on hold by the demands of a thriving nonprofit newsroom. “As a co-founder, he profoundly understands the importance of what we do, and is in a great position to push it forward.”

InvestigateWest is an independent, nonprofit investigative news organization founded in 2009 and based in Seattle. It is staffed by journalists with a track record of producing in-depth stories that produce change in public policy and practice.  It has received funding from both national and regional foundations.

InvestigateWest’s work resulted in three laws passed by the state Legislature in 2011, including two establishing worker safety and health rules after the publication of a story linking exposure of chemotherapy drugs to illness and death among health care workers, and another banning carcinogenic pavement sealant after InvestigateWest wrote about their widespread use.

 “Carol also will bring her investigative and narrative skills to the fore in her new role,” said Hibbard, who has been at the helm since InvestigateWest’s launch. “She’s a wonderful writer and journalist who will contribute hugely to the new organizational structure.”

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Rita Hibbard's picture

Going green: new city law requires buildings to report energy use

While more than 25 percent of Seattle’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, few property managers know how much energy their individual buildings consume.

 “They all know the mileage of their car,” Jayson Antonoff, sustainable infrastructure & green building policy advisor for the Seattle Department of Planning & Development, said. “But not the energy use of their building.”

By not knowing the amount, managers also don’t know how efficient their buildings are. Because many of the buildings are not as energy efficient as they could be, much of the energy paid for by property owners, building managers and tenants  goes to waste.

That could change. A new Seattle ordinance now requires managers of buildings larger than 10,000 square feet -- a total of about 9,000 buildings -- to report and disclose their annual energy consumption to the city.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” Senior Policy Associate for the NW Energy Coalition Kim Drury said. “Feedback is critical in energy management.” The coalition is focused on development of renewable energy and energy conservation.

Drury was one of 50 people, including property managers, tenants, city officials and energy conservation activists, who worked in developing this policy as a way to achieve the overall goal of the Green Building Capital Initiative, which was to reduce energy consumption in Seattle’s existing buildings by 20 percent.

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Protesters attack Port of Seattle salaries, seek better conditions for workers, less air pollution

Protesters attacked air pollution, working conditions and high salaries for port executives

Against the backdrop of a towering asthma-medicine inhaler, about 250 protesters demonstrated downtown on Thursday*, saying the Port of Seattle should do a better job of cleaning up air pollution, taking care of its low-level employees and reining in the six-figure salaries of its executives.

The protest outside a meeting of the American Association of Port Authorities targeted in particular Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani’s 9 percent pay raise earlier this year that gave him a salary more than twice that of Gov. Chris Gregoire – as state employees saw their paychecks dip 3 percent. Yoshitani makes $366,825 a year.

One protester carried a sign saying “Tay’s pay is not OK.” Others carried Yoshitani’s visage emblazoned with “Overpaid.” Protesters included labor activists, environmentalists, port workers and others.

“He got a 9 percent raise!” state Rep. Zack Hudgins told the demonstrators. “Did anyone here get a 9 percent raise?”

Hudgins, D-Seattle, said he will file legislation that would:

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Activists, truckers, religious leaders call for Port of Seattle to treat truck drivers better

Singing the African-American spiritual “Wade in the Water,” activists and religious leaders and truck drivers tried Wednesday to breach security at a downtown conference of seaport authorities to appeal to the Port of Seattle to improve working conditions and pay for drivers.

In the same hotel where hundreds of delegates to the World Trade Organization took refuge from tear gas in 1999, the activists sought to highlight their call for drivers to be hired as employees instead of scraping by as independent contractors. The drivers say they are on some days working for less than minimum wage, waiting for up to six hours to get a load that might pay them $40 or $50. Because they are independent contractors, the drivers also are responsible for sometimes-expensive maintenance and repairs.

Several waves of protesters, about 30 in all, were turned back in front of a phalanx of Port of Seattle police officers on the fourth floor of the Westin. “If you are not credentialed, you need to head right down that escalator!” Westin General Manager Elizabeth James instructed the last wave, which broke into song as the protesters moved slowly toward the exit.

The protesters are planning a larger demonstration outside the Westin Thursday at noon.

Michael Ramos, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle and a board member of the activist group Puget Sound Sage, said he was trying Wednesday to deliver a letter from several local and national religious leaders calling for better treatment of the drivers. Several workers also bore their own letter, hoping to deliver it to Port of Seattle executives at the conference.

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Backyard fruit feeds the hungry in Seattle

Fruit trees in Seattle produce thousands of pounds of food each year.  Most of this fruit falls to the ground and rots, as the tress go unnoticed, overgrown and uncared for.

But with the help of volunteers and a nonprofit organization, sacks of apples, plums and pears go into the pantries of local low-income people, helping balance food bank offerings this time of year.

Last summer, City Fruit volunteers and employees picked more than 10,000 lbs of fruit from the backyards of homes throughout the city. About 9,000 lbs of it was donated to food banks around the city. With this year’s harvest underway, volunteers and staffers are hoping to hit the same goals.

When the nonprofit organization began picking fruit three years ago, the goal was to pick fruit that otherwise would go to waste.

“We are trying to remind people that fruit is a healthy part of their diet and it’s a great local food source,” City Fruit President James Rooney said.

Volunteers of America Greenwood Food Bank, one of the food banks that received City Fruit donations last year, says demand is strong, with people asking about when the fruit will be arriving.

With an economy driving more people to use food banks and other emergency food services, fresh fruit is much appreciated, Sydney Pawlak community outreach coordinator for Volunteers of America Greenwood Food Bank said.

Last May, the Volunteers of America Greenwood Food Bankhad more than 4,000 visits from people needing food assistance, an all time record high for that location.

During the summer they expect to get even more people coming into the food bank.

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Robert McClure's picture

Cherry Point coal-export port hits two setbacks on environmental front

The controversial proposal for a major coal-export port to be built at Cherry Point near Bellingham hit two big setbacks this week: environmentalists broke off talks with the developer, SSA Marine, which was also caught building a road through forested wetlands without proper permits.

With this news still fresh, we're taking the opportunity to publish the second installment of the package we posted earlier this summer by Western Washington University journalism students who  took an in-depth look at the proposal. 

Briefly, here are this week's developments:

 

 

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Fishing town struggling in wake of tsunami

By Matt Drange

California Watch

 It's been four months since tsunami waves generated by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan ravaged the harbor in Northern California's Crescent City, destroying pilings and sinking 16 boats after ripping them from their docks.

But the diminutive harbor is still a long way from functional, crippling to a local economy dependent on the fishing industry. Tsunami victims, meanwhile, are finding little help in disaster relief, much of it in the form of reimbursements and loans they can’t afford.

Excluding the inmates who reside in Pelican Bay State Prison, Crescent City is home to about 4,200 people. The town already took a significant hit when most of the lumber mills and fish processing facilities were shuttered in the last decade, forcing hundreds to leave in search of jobs. Once home to eight lumber mills and three fish processing plants, Crescent City is down to just one of each.

“In a small community, when you lose 100 jobs, it's a big impact. Maybe five years ago, in the good ol' days, if you will, it wouldn't have been so bad,” said Bill Renfroe, executive director of Crescent City's Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority. “But today, with everybody struggling, it's a serious impact.”

Tsunami surges deposited more than 78,000 cubic yards of sediment in the inner boat basin, making it as shallow as four feet in some areas and effectively shutting out boats longer than 15 feet. The harbor is the largest Dungeness crab exporter on the West Coast. At one time, it had more than 100 fishing vessels; now there are only a handful.