‘Smell something, tell something’
Brunswick is home to four Superfund sites and 14 sites on Georgia’s hazardous site inventory, and all but one are within a one-mile radius of a “majority-minority” population (Black Americans are 75% more likely than white Americans to live next to a facility that directly impacts their health or quality of life, according to a 2017 study). Between December 2020 and May 2021, these sites led to 170 air quality complaints about a noxious chemical odor in Brunswick and surrounding areas being submitted to the EPD, Southerly reports.
Residents reported coughing, rashes, difficulty breathing and other symptoms due to the odor, and have posted about their experiences in the Brunswick-area Facebook group, “Smell Something, Tell Something.” This noxious odor and the health impacts that have come from it has prompted Black residents to work to hold these manufacturers accountable, without losing the jobs and economic benefits the companies have brought to Glynn County.
BEACH ADVISORIES: As of writing, there are 7 beach water quality advisories issued along the coast: two on Tybee Island, three on St. Simons Island and two on Jekyll Island. Before you head to the beach, check the link to see current notices.
Study: ‘Ugly duckling’ can rebuild an ecosystem
In East Coast news, a 20-year study is proving that planting seagrass meadows can help rebuild damaged ocean ecosystems, Reasons To Be Cheerful reports. In the 1930s, a disease swept along the East Coast that wiped out huge swaths of eelgrass, leaving bays off Virginia’s Eastern Shore barren. In 2001, Robert Orth, who was a marine biologist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences until his recent retirement, decided to launch a restoration project by scattering seagrass seeds by boat across four different bays.
And today, 20 years into the study, nearly 75 million seeds have been sown and around 9,000 acres of coastal bays are blanketed with eelgrass, which is actively improving water quality, increasing biodiversity and helping mitigate climate change by absorbing carbon. While seagrass has been nicknamed “the ugly duckling of conservation,” the plant is responsible for about 10% of the ocean’s ability to store carbon (while only covering 0.2% of the ocean) and is proving to be vital in restoring ocean ecosystems.
Regulating forever chemicals
Last week, we brought you a story from the New York Times about the EPA approving forever chemicals, or PFAS, for fracking. And last Wednesday, members of Congress and Biden administration officials outlined how they’re attempting to regulate the chemicals, with EPA Administrator Michael Regan saying the agency is currently in the process of regulating two types of PFAS in drinking water, Georgia Recorder reports. The PFAS Action Act of 2021 will be brought to a floor vote next week, and would designate the two types of PFAS — PFOA and PFOS — as hazardous substances. This would kick off federal cleanup standards, particularly on military bases. PFAS were detected in groundwater at high levels at two Georgia military bases, Robins Air Force Base and Moody Air Force Base, in 2018.
Bipartisan climate, infrastructure bill criticized
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on the Democrats’ package of climate and infrastructure legislation, Inside Climate News reports. The bill includes billions in government support for carbon capture, a technology that pulls carbon dioxide out of the air or from smokestack emissions and pumps it into the ground. On Monday, hundreds of environmental groups sent an open letter to President Joe Biden and Democratic Congressional leaders detailing their dislike for the technology, ultimately asking the leaders to reject it.
“To the contrary, investing in carbon capture delays the needed transition away from fossil fuels and other combustible energy sources, and poses significant new environmental, health, and safety risks, particularly to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities already overburdened by industrial pollution, dispossession, and the impacts of climate change,” the letter said.
Carbon capture is one of the few climate actions that has bipartisan support, with supporters arguing that its implementation could provide new jobs and it could prove critical to meeting climate goals. Some groups also argue that it would be a good technology for industries like steel and cement manufacturing that do not currently have good emission-free alternatives.
To flee or be swallowed by the sea
And finally, a story from Louisiana that’s pertinent to all of us on the coast. A few weeks ago, we brought you a story about managed retreat and the hard conversations communities across the world must have about leaving their coastal community due to sea level rise. At Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, home to the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, residents are having that very discussion, Inside Climate News reports.
The island has lost 98 percent of its landmass to rising waters since 1955, and in 2016, Louisiana’s Office of Community Development received $48 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to resettle current and former residents of the island, making them the first federally funded climate migrants in the United States. Residents who resettle will move 40 miles away to a 515-acre sugarcane field, raising a conversation about the sensitivities of encouraging Indigenous people to leave their ancestral homelands.
SHIP WATCH: What’s arriving and when. This week’s lineup includes the Cosco Shipping Rose arriving in Savannah on July 24. It’s 1,200 feet long and 157 feet wide, and it carries 13,500 TEUs, aka containers, according to VesselFinder.com.
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Smell something, tell something: Black residents in Coastal Georgia work to hold polluters accountable
Redlining, disinvestment, and lack of political power has made Southern communities of color prime targets for industries that often provide jobs in the areas they pollute.
Seagrass is responsible for about 10% of the ocean’s ability to store carbon. It provides a vital habitat for marine life, boosts commercial fishing, helps purify water, protects coastlines and even traps and stores microplastics.
Exposure to PFAS has been linked to various health concerns such as high cholesterol, thyroid disease, and testicular and kidney cancer. The chemicals don’t break down and build up in people’s bodies.
Flooding, drought, stronger storms are hallmarks of climate change. Small adaptations for infrastructure and technology can reduce the damage to communities.
Support non-partisan, solutions-based investigative journalism without bias, fear or favor on issues affecting Savannah and Coastal Georgia.