Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

Gas station pollution fix-it work from Seattle to Bellingham

by John Stang June 28th, 2012

Last year, Washington state and a Dutch corporation signed a contract to take care of leaking underground gasoline storage tanks at 40 former and current gas stations in King, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties. The work is tentatively expected to be completed by 2018. Washington’s Department of Ecology yesterday released an interactive map of the 40 sites. It allows users to drill down into details for each site including extent and type of pollutants released into the environment, clean-up project status, project documents, and name and address of site. (See our screen captures and navigation tips, below). Overall, the state has roughly 2,700 leaking underground storage tanks of all kinds.

Arcadis – a 124-year-old international engineering, consulting and design corporation based in Amsterdam with an American headquarters in a Denver suburb – is in charge of removing the tanks and contaminated soil for the gas station sites, which are owned by at least four corporations. Arcadis declined to comment on the individual contracts, their costs and names of its clients, citing confidentiality clauses in its contracts. However, the interactive map shows most of the sites belong to ARCO, with few owned by BP, the AM/PM convenience store chain and ConocoPhillips. Bundling numerous gas stations into one project makes the work more efficient for the clients and Washington to deal with, said Arcadis spokeswoman Debra Havins and ecology department spokesman Larry Altose

Arcadis will perform the cleanup of those sites under a voluntary state program in which the Ecology Department provides some technical assistance. The individual deadlines are more like guidelines and not etched in stone, Altose said. Havin said Arcadis is aiming to finish all the projects by 2018.

The Department of Ecology’s project map site provides a gateway into further information on each site. See our navigation tips below.


In the upper left-hand corner of the map’s start page, click on a county, for instance, Snohomish. That will take you to a section of the map for that county, where you can click on individual purple squares.

When clicked upon, each purple square goes to a project landing page for the associated pollution clean-up site, such as Arco 5377.

There, you can:

1) click on the “Facility Site ID number” in the upper right hand corner of the page for an aerial map view and the name and address of the site.

2) On the right side of the landing page you can also click on “View Electronic Documents” for any environmental reports on the site, and/or;

3) Click on “ISIS Site Summary Report.” That takes you to a new page which provides name and address of the site, owner’s name, project status, and at bottom under “Affected Media and Contaminants,” the names and relative degree of penetration of the chemical pollutants released to earth, water and air from the site’s leaking underground gas tanks.

Public Data Ferret’s Data Visualization+Environment archive

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Seattle NGOs echo concerns of USAID Haiti audit

by Zachariah Bryan May 23rd, 2012

A program aimed at improving watersheds and water quality in Haiti and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development hasn’t made inroads against major environmental risks and could be facing potentially expensive setbacks, according to an audit by the agency’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Discussing the audit’s concerns, representatives of two NGOs in the Seattle region which track Haiti respectively accented ongoing cholera risk from unsafe water; and the need for a deeper level of personal investment from citizens to augment external aid for environmental and public health problems. But underlying these challenges is a staggering unemployment rate which defies easy answers.

Haiti’s troubled environment is compounded by a weak government and wanting infrastructure resulting in part from the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Trash pick-up, environmental regulation, and water systems are especially problematic. Haiti’s watersheds have been long in decline due to decades of unchecked logging and charcoal demand, leaving the island with an estimated two percent forestation today, according to the audit. This boosts susceptibility to tropical storms and hurricanes which can bring flash floods to communities from eroded watersheds, taking lives and damaging property.

USAID in response launched a partnership with Chemonics International Inc. named the Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources program (WINNER). It has $128 million in authorized funding and is designed to reduce environmental and economic vulnerability by rehabilitating watersheds and reducing flood risk along rivers. It also aims to train farmers in agricultural practices. Haiti produces less than half the food it consumes.

New state report: 2011 assisted suicides reach new high

by Matt Rosenberg May 2nd, 2012

Under a law approved by voters in 2008, 80 different doctors wrote prescriptions for 103 lethal doses of medication in Washington in 2011 and 94 of the patients are known to have died, according to the state’s third annual Death With Dignity Act report. Issued today by the Washington State Department of Health, the report also notes that the 2011 totals for assisted suicide requests and deaths under the law reached a new high since the enabling state law went into effect in early 2009. Most of the 2011 Death With Dignity participants lived west of the Cascades, and were suffering from cancer. Many were concerned about losing ability to take care of themselves. A high percentage of the 94 participants who died also indicated concerns abut loss of dignity from their disease, and diminished ability to enjoy life. Participants also frequently identified as concerns their loss of bodily functions, imposing a burden on family and caregivers, and to a lesser extent, inadequate pain relief. The main drug prescribed for the assisted suicides was was secobarbital; although some doctors prescribed pentobarbital.

WA: one in five social programs checked don’t pencil out

by Matt Rosenberg April 17th, 2012

A new report from the Washington legislature’s non-partisan policy analysis unit, the Washington State Institute For Public Policy, finds that of 98 programs recently reviewed for what researchers liken to an investment advisor’s “buy-sell” list, 79 pass muster financially, with measured per-participant financial benefits to the state which exceed costs; but 19 do not. Another 45 which are identified, haven’t been recently evaluated for cost effectiveness, the report says. Of the new results in the April 2012 report – titled “Return On Investment: Evidence-Based Options to Improve Statewide Outcomes” – the so-called “net present value” (benefits to the state per participant minus costs) was highest for a series of juvenile justice and adult criminal justice programs, and lowest for a sub-group of child and teen prevention and preK-12 education programs including Early Head Start and Even Start.

UW, WA researchers: tobacco-prevention ROI more than 5-1

by Matt Rosenberg March 30th, 2012

Washington state has gotten a good bang for its buck on tobacco-prevention spending, at a rate of more than five dollars in benefits for every dollar spent, according to a recent analysis published in the American Journal of Public Health by a team including researchers from the University of Washington and the Washington state Department of Health’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. Tobacco control efforts in Washington state consist of three key approaches: price hikes (through tax increases on tobacco products); policies (such as enforcement of an indoor public smoking ban, and now a spread of local measures banning smoking in government-controlled outdoor properties); and programs (such as prevention education, particularly aimed at children and teens).

At least $5.73 saved for every dollar spent
The state spent almost $259.7 million on all forms of tobacco prevention from 2000 through 2009 and the researchers say they conservatively calculate the savings at $1.5 billion, for a return-on-investment (ROI) ratio of $5.73 saved for every dollar spent. The $1.5 billion in savings came in the form of almost 36,000 hospitalizations avoided for diseases found in peer-reviewed scientific literature to be significantly linked to smoking, such as heart disease, strokes, respiratory disease and cancer.

Ex-Marine, and ex-Seattle news exec warn U.S. Senate against overly broad disclosure shields

by Zachariah Bryan March 21st, 2012

In a recent testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee, a retired Marine and a national proponent of government transparency with long and deep ties to Seattle, ratcheted up concerns about a recent military attempt to censor from the public eye information on drinking water and public health risks. Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger (Ret.), who believes his daughter died of leukemia as a result of contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in 1985, was disappointed that the U.S. Marine Corps decided to remove from an official study, information regarding locations of water sources in the area. It has been the latest in a series of hurdles he has had to overcome in the case.