The Toxics Action Center recommends bold reform
VERMONT — “Toxics in Vermont: A Town-by-Town Profile,” a report released in January by the Toxics Action Center, is the most comprehensive and up-to-date report hitherto on the toxic contamination of Vermont’s environment.
After revealing many critical environmental issues facing Vermont, the Montpelier-based center recommends a number of ways the state should address these issues.
Their suggestions for a healthy environmental future are long and varied. Here they are in a nutshell:
• The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant should be retired and replaced with “energy efficiency and renewable development.” Vermont should increase investment in Efficiency Vermont, operated by the nonprofit Vermont Energy Investment Corp., to decrease electricity demands.
“Vermont’s potential for wind, solar, micro-hydro, and cow power far surpass the state’s current needs,” the report states. It suggests that a statewide plan be created for renewable energy to meet the state’s needs.
• Industrial toxic chemical use should be reduced by banning toxic substances when safer alternatives exist, by giving incentives to companies to reduce the amount of toxins used or generated, and by giving the government and the public the power to reform companies unwilling to comply with reducing toxic output.
• The state should ensure appropriate cleanup of hazardous waste sites by establishing and enforcing timelines for cleanup and by creating a public participation program for input on these matters.
• The solid waste plan should be rewritten to move toward a zero waste model. The report states, “Vermonters throw away approximately one ton of trash per person each year. Of that, only about 30 percent is recycled … cities and provinces such as San Francisco, Nova Scotia and Nantucket … have achieved recycling rates of 70 to even 90 percent using the zero waste model.”
• Pesticide exposure should be reduced, and its use should be phased out. The report calls for the state to establish legislation that requires the notification of pesticide use; provide support to farms to convert to pesticide alternatives; halt pesticide use on school, hospital and the state properties; establish pesticide-free buffer zones around these properties and water sources; and ban persistent and highly toxic pesticides from Vermont.
• Water quality should be improved and protected. “Groundwater is threatened by over 1,400 hazardous waste sites, 33 water dischargers, active and closed landfills, underground storage tanks, polluting junkyards, and pesticide application,” the report states. “The state of Vermont needs to take initiative to ensure that water sources meet current water quality standards and proactively work to prevent future contamination of ground water.”
• Polluting salvage yards must be cleaned up. The report cites a recent survey that uncovered 200 illegally operating junkyards in Vermont and that the state recently strengthened regulations surrounding salvage yards. The report recommends, “The state as well as Vermont’s towns and cities need to move quickly to implement and enforce the new regulations to avoid lengthy and expensive cleanups in the long run.”
In addition to the previous recommendations, the Toxics Action Center discusses brownfields separately.
“The best uses for a brownfield are an industrial operation, or commercial site that doesn’t involve children, or contact with the soil,” says the center.
The full “Toxics in Vermont: A Town-by-Town Profile” report is available at www.toxicsaction.org/news/news/toxics-in-vermont-a-town-by-town-profile.