Happy Halloween News: World’s Largest Bat Colony Saved TODAY!

Every now and there there is some GREAT news on the environment!
We just learned that Bat Conservation International has helped save the largest Bat colony in the world.  Largest Bat Colony Saved!  The Executive Director is a friend of ours.  If you love bats, maybe you want to join Bat Conservation International.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Boo!

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Escondido Mayor Abed failed to comply with water quality regulations–Implications for Escondido

Issues around water quality and regulation continue to worsen here in Escondido.   Please review this important information regarding Escondido Mayor Sam Abed’s violation of the stormwater permits    Escondido 2014.  
This is serious and is very troubling for the region. Please watch the video clip at the end which includes the comments of  Mayor Abed and then Deputy Mayor Marie Waldron (now in the Assembly) about their views on the stormwater permit and regulation.  This a key reason we have lost confidence in the city’s ability to achieve compliance with stormwater regulations.  We thank the Regional Board for their diligent action in investigating this issue


This information has major ramifications on the water quality goals of Escondido Neighbors United.
1.    We learned late last week that the Oak Creek developers have changed their project to locate even more homes on to sensitive lands next to Felicita Creek.  We have raised repeated concerns about how stormwater is planned for that project.  More homes closer to the creek means more hardening and more runoff potential.  Now, those impacts will be even worse.    In our comments on the DEIR, we raised several concerns about the future enforcement of standards.  The environmental review of that project stated repeatedly that impacts would not occur from the project because there would be compliance with the stormwater regulations.  We are not so sure.
2.   Now we learn that Mayor Sam Abed, the leader of the city, has failed to comply with stormwater quality laws and is currently subject to an on-going investigation by the Water Quality Control Board regarding his paving is property at 540 W. Grand Ave. This evidence of his lack of commitment to our important water quality and environmental laws should be of concern to everyone in our region.    The Mayor’s disregard of regulations has financial impacts as well– creating unfair competition and costs all of us, the city, the state, additional money to  bring him into compliance. 
3.   The source of the violations is clear in Mayor Abed’s comments about his lack of respect and commitment to stormwater regulations when he offered his opinions in January, 2011 in excerpt–: For me, I’ve seen this several times. It’s another mandate…the EPA has a history of over regulation….there is no question of the over-regulation in this…” …the most cost effective way is mother nature, that will take care of it without regulation without paperwork…”  (emphasis added)
There are many troubling aspects to these statements.  Since Mayor Abed is in a position of leadership, he has a responsibility to learn how the environment actually works.  The reason Mother Nature can’t ‘take care of it’ herself is that we are constantly paving it over—hardening the surface with parking lots and development causing pollution and runoff to flow off the sites which in turn erodes our creeks and degrades our water quality.  Because of this, we all pay the price of polluted water, stream erosion, and flooding.  If the EPA had been over-regulating, we would have clean water now!  The reason the stormwater permit continues to get more stringent is that we are under-regulating and, in this case, under-complying. 
This has only heightened our significant concerns about the runoff issues in Escondido.  As it, now stands we cannot rely on the city  to secure and ensure compliance with the stormwater rules for new development.   There are many such developments proposed for Escondido, such as at Oak Creek, Amanda Estates, Safari Highlands Ranch, and others that will need very strong implementation of stormwater requirements or our environment and water quality will suffer.   
Mayor Abed does not seem to understand the critical role the stormwater pollution permit has in cleaning up our local waters.   That he, himself, does not comply is a significant problem and sends a troubling message about his commitment to environmental protection rules. 
We urge the Mayor to take the time to get educated on water quality and environmental issues– and comply with them– so that we can all have more confidence in the actions of the city he leads as we face more and more development threats to our water quality in the region.
As for the regulators, we actually agree with Ms. Waldron who speaks at the end of the video clip, the Water Board is government at its finest, we appreciate the Water Board’s firm hand and diligence in upholding and defending our water quality regulations.  We urge the Water Board to continue to ensure compliance at this site.  We will have additional recommendations soon about future actions the Board should take to ensure full-compliance in Escondido.
More later. 

Channel 10 update story on contamination in Felicita Creek

Yesterday, Channel 10 ran a story on the posting of the Notice to Park Users in Felicita Park.
Channel 10 on signs in Felicita Creek  We would like to thank Channel 10 for continuing to cover this story and in helping achieve this result.  Escondido Neighbors United will continue our work to ensure that the public is aware of the issue.  More importantly, we will continue our work to secure cleanup of the creek as our top priority.

We want to ensure that every kid who wants to play in the creek can do so.
It is the promise of the Clean Water Act.
It is our commitment too.

Felicita Park NOTICE TO PARK VISITORS released by DTSC- ENU recommendations

In response to Escondido Neighbors United and community requests, Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) released a Notice to Park Visitor on their website regarding the contamination in Felicita Creek.
See notice here: NOTICE TO FELICITA PARK VISITORS

We are happy to see that a notice has finally been offered and we will be looking to the County to ensure that it is posted where the visiting public can see it.  This Notice is a commitment the DTSC made to the public at the September 30, 3014 public meeting and we appreciate their following through on this.

While we are glad the information in some form is being provided to the general public, there are a couple points that the reader should keep in mind– especially regarding potential risks.

ENU Requests revision of language in Notice regarding risks from the contamination

As the Notice states, the evidence shows that the level of volatile organic compounds, (VOCs) in the creek exceed the cleanup levels of the Maximum Contaminant Levels or MCLs.  These are the agreed upon cleanup levels for the Chatham pollution.  The Notice goes on to state that there are no risks and it will not cause any health concerns.  To say, so uncategorically, that there are no risks, in our view, overstates the situation.  It is surprising, given the uncertainties and unknowns of the exposures, individual differences, chemical concentrations, modeling, changes in cancer slopes etc… that DTSC affirmatively states that there is no risk.

Our understanding is that where 1) a contaminant that impacts health is present and 2) a pathway of exposure exists—then a risk of  impact exists.  It may not be a high or even a medium risk but how an individual reacts to exposure to a chemical is a large unknown and cannot be fully predicted.  The creek is only measured every 4-6 months so the levels could go up and down during that time.  There are also more than one contaminant in the creek and people of all ages, pregnant women, children may be exposed to the creek.  There are many uncertainties related to risk and exposure.  Even the DTSC Human Health Risk Memo discusses conditions of use under which there may be potential risks. However, the Memo fails to acknowledge that the pools near FC-7 (the most southern monitoring location) are not the only pools that children play in. The area near the northern playground, and the highest monitoring results, also has pools and water year round. Felicita Park is not only a Park that people occasionally visit, but it is the ‘backyard’ to lots of homes and families and there are people who use it every day.

Further, it is important to know that MCL is not the “safe” level.   But, rather there is a significant cost-benefit analysis used to set the MCL based on risk and cost.

http://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/drinkingwater/Documents/MCLreview/MCLreviewprocedure.pdf

It is somewhat confusing that DTSC makes hard and absolute statements about some aspects of the site even where uncertainties exist and equivocates on others.

The Notice states that contamination in the creek is ‘likely caused’ by the Chatham Barrel Yard.  If based on all of the accumulated data and knowledge of the site history, hydrogeology, and cleanup actions, DTSC is unable to state the source of the contamination is from the former Chatham Brothers Barrel Yard, it is unclear why are the agency seems more certain of the risk where far less evidence exists to make the claim.  We would suggest that it would be in the public’s best interest if DTSC would be consistent with its disclosure of uncertainties. 

We suggest that DTSC revise the Notice to State that normal exposure is anticipated to pose a very low risk or even a very, very low risk instead of stating– what cannot be proved– “no” risk. 

Just in Time for Halloween– NATIONAL FOOD DAY– October 24th

Something just for fun…and for health.  You might be interested in National Food Day which is celebrated around the country on October 24th.  Learn more here. National Food Day Website.  Food Day has an amazing collection of political and organizational support and a clear platform of action.  You can find a Food Day event near you on the website. There will be one at the World Beat Center in Balboa Park as well. We have a super-delicious Carrot Soup recipe we’ll share later.Here is what they are working on

Food Day Priorities

Food Day’s national priorities address overarching concerns within the food system and provide common ground for building the food movement. Food Day aims to:

  • Promote safer, healthier diets: The foods we eat should promote, not undermine, our good health. Yet, every year we spend more than $150 billion on obesity-related health care costs, plus another $73 billion in reduced productivity.
  • Support sustainable and organic farms: Currently, sustainable farms receive little to no federal support and often lack market access to keep them competitive. Meanwhile, the largest 10 percent of industrialized farms—which contribute to poor health and severe environmental degradation—receive 75 percent of all farm subsidies.
  • Reduce hunger and improve food access: Currently, around 50 million Americans are considered “food insecure”, or near hunger, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) participation is at an all-time high. SNAP is vital to reducing hunger, but the program’s budget is under constant attack while federal measures to increase food access are minimal.
  • Reform factory farms to protect the environment and farm animals: Today, most farm animals are confined in “factory farms”—sometimes containing as many as 50,000-100,000 cattle, hens, or pigs. These practices result in needless animal abuse and illness, environmental degradation, and harm the people who live in and around those facilities.
  • Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers: 20 million workers throughout the U.S. food system harvest, process, ship, sell, cook, and serve the food we eat every day. And yet, many farmworkers earn well below poverty levels while the tipped minimum wage for restaurant servers has remained at $2.13 per hour for the last 21 years.

Click on the priorities for facts, resources, and actions you can take to help work towards a healthy, sustainable, affordable, and fair food system!

Vote NO on PROP G-Escondido Charter proposal on November 4th

Escondido Neighbors United urges Escondido voters to VOTE NO ON PROP G- The Escondido Charter City proposition.  Not all Charters are all bad, but this proposal is not in the interest of the people of Escondido.  Here is a good analysis by Charter Watch Escondido Charter Watch which outlines the many arguments against Prop G.
Please remember to Vote by November 4th and Vote NO on Prop G.