CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said U.S. taxpayers were named as a recipient of the Dirty Dozen award for the Raymark Superfund site in Stratford. The site would require taxpayer funding to be cleaned up but the group did not cite taxpayers.
By pushing to roll back a 2010 state law banning pesticides at public schools, a trade group with a nice-sounding name has landed on the Toxics Action Center’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list of environmental pariahs.
The group is called The Connecticut Environmental Council, a coalition of pest control, grounds keeping and tree care groups. It opposed the 2010 state law banning “integrated pest management” for schools, which instead requires organic and natural means of protecting playing fields. And the council is lobbying hard to repeal the law in the upcoming legislative session.
Two other groups were named to the advocacy group’s 25th annual Dirty Dozen list for Connecticut issues. the list singled out 12 offenders in New England.
In Connecticut, the others named were General Electric, for what Toxics Action said is decades of delays in cleaning the Housatonic River of PCB’s; Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, for burning trash;
Toxics Action also named the notorious Raymark (Raybestos) Superfund site in Stratford, which has not been cleaned up by environment officials in part because the Superfund does not have enough money.
“The common thread that united all of the Dirty Dozen award winners is that they are dinosaurs,” said Jonathan Leibovic of Toxics Action. “Their business practices are relics of a bygone era.”
Toxics Action, based in Massachusetts, raises some important points and by elevating the environmental debate, it’s doing a public service. But its message is oversimplified and that hurts its cause. For example, to call GE a an environmental dinosaur is to miss years of reforms at the company, which is in the forefront of wind energy, engine efficiency and resource recovery.
Perennial Dirty Dozen designee CRRA, the trash-to-energy agency in central Connecticut, does indeed burn household trash from at least 51 cities and towns. But a spokesman lashed out at Toxics Action, saying the group ignores the fact that CRRA meets pollution standards.
“They’re scaring people needlessly. Every year they come at us with the same baseless accusations that have no facts behind them. If there were some scientific evidence, I would suggest they bring it to DEEP,” CRRA spokesman Paul Nonnenmacher said, referring to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Leibovic said the better way to handle refuse would be to reduce trash and reform the system toward “zero waste.” He’s right, of course, but he concedes there might not be a better way to handle the garbage we’re creating now.
As for reducing the waste stream, Nonnenmacher said, “nobody is doing more about that then CRRA.”
GE has fought efforts to force it to accelerate cleanup of the Housatonic, where dangerous PCB’s emanated from a plant in Pittsfield, Mass, that closed after the chemical was banned in 1979. Leibovic said the Fairfield-based company lost a final U.S. Supreme Court bid on the matter.
The web site of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates that much of the cleanup is done, and shows a general cleanup schedule that extends to 2015.
As for the Stratford Raybestos Superfund site, the federal fund is bankrupt, Leibovic said, because Congress allowed a tax on polluters to expire in 1995.
The anti-pesticide law at Connecticut public schools was the subject of heated debate in 2010 and apparently will be again this year, though efforts to repeal it failed last year. The Connecticut Environmental Council says the federally approved pesticide protocol is a “sustainable and thoughtful” way to control weeds and insects on public grounds.
“IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management,” the group says on its web site.
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport said it’s a disgrace that there should still be a debate.
“For us to even have to contemplate once again fighting the good fight to keep pesticides away from our children on school grounds is a tragedy,” Steinberg said. “This is in my mind settled science…this is not the 17th century when proto-scientists like Galileo Galilei has to contend with entrenched orthodoxies.”