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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Sussex County, Delaware, USA

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Sussex County, Delaware, USA
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Registered: December 2011
City/Town/Province: Rehoboth Beach
Posts: 1
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I am filming a documentary on the adverse health effects outdated energy-production sources have on the surrounding population. I live in southern Delaware where the entire county (the largest county east of the Mississippi), is supplied by one single power plant which dumps over 210,000 tons of fly ash per year into a secluded area of the Indian River watershed. Virtually every specie of fish native to Delaware’s adjacent waterways has been ranked by the state as healthy to eat 0-1 times per year. The EPA consistently rates our air quality as an ‘F’ and cancer clusters are ranked second highest in the nation (per capita.) Asthma and bronchitis have elevated incidence in children within the immediate surrounding area. My sister and I are two of those children who have developed asthma after living within a 5 mile radius of the power plant for less than 2 years. We never had trouble breathing before we moved, and there’s no genetic history of asthma in our family. Therefore, I can only attribute this to the Indian River Power Plant. After moving away (within a 30 mile radius of the power plant), our asthma has been managed, but we still have trouble on “code red” days where elevated particulate matter and ozone concentration make the air dangerous. Children and the elderly should remain inside and adults should not exert themselves outside (e.g. joggers, construction workers, etc.)
We associate spending time outdoors with being healthy, but that false perception of "health" can have deadly consequences. I had two asthma attacks, while filming at the Indian River Power Plant and at the Delaware City Coal Refinery, that were so severe, I pulled the muscles in between my ribs. After filming, the federal government shut down the refinery due to uncontrolled chemical dumping. Chemicals found in nearby drinking water were tens of times higher than were allowed by federal regulations. The same refinery that had the recent shutdown has just been granted a permit this week to expand and triple its production output.
Most disturbing, socioeconomically, is that these power plants and production sites are always built in poverty-stricken areas, where people already don't have the ability to pay for the medical expenses associated with living close to a coal-fired power plant or chemical dumping site. Many Nanticoke Indians had to leave their ancient lands around the power plant because particulate matter had settled on their houses, making them black and rusty, affecting air and water quality. My documentary includes footage of these desolate, hobbit-like homes, ironically without electricity, on Power Plant Road. The people closest to the plant are unable to afford their electric bill, and wet laundry hangs on trees outside their unlit shacks.
The Indian River Power Plant was opened in the mid-1950s and was self-regulated until the 1970s. During this 20 year period, 2,000,000 tons of coal ash were emptied onto a secluded island in the Indian River Bay called Burton Island. This dumping site was unlined and leached many chemicals into the surrounding water, a popular fishing area. These facts are undeniable, and yet, the tempo of the clean energy “controversy” is a pitched battle of my environmental project to clean up their act and prevent further contaminations.
Many people don’t know the history of Burton Island, the Indian River Power Plant, or the chemical-dumping Oil Refineries, and while so many people are uneducated about the past and present environmental conditions in Delaware, it is difficult to demand necessary policy change for the future. My documentary, Blowing Smoke, will educate Delawareans about the dangers they are unknowingly and helplessly exposed to every day.
My documentary has reached such a broad audience that I have been invited by Green Energy advocates to meet with Governor Markell on February 1st where I will share my research, personal story, and debut my documentary to state legislators. The point I am trying to convey is that we know of all the environmental injustices being done in our state, but we have yet to take legislative action to stop it. In the state, it seems that politics is believed to be more important than the health of its citizens. The state is afraid of losing tax money for placing controls on large businesses and refineries, while, in truth, the sanctions placed on the state by the businesses would be outweighed by the amount of money the government would save by not halting production on “code-red” days, and by no longer having to treat people without insurance, whose health has been affected by the poor pollution control of these same businesses and corporations. With reliable consequence-free energy sources, such as solar and wind, there is no reason not to make the change. It will create jobs and save money that would otherwise be used for pollution control, chemical clean-up, and hospitalizing those who have developed cancer or bronchitis, as a result of delaying the switch to green energy. When a wind-farm was planned to be built off the coast of Delaware to satisfy Sussex County’s energy needs, NRG, the company that owns the Indian River Power Plant, bought the rights to Blue Water Wind. Needless to say, the project did not take off. My guess is because it is cheaper to continue to pollute the state, than to see the project through.
My documentary has already shed light on the real issues and in February, I will continue to advocate for what is important, and what is right. For the past two summers, I have studied at the United Nations and talked to International activists about ways to invoke change in the world. The power of knowledge is unparalleled in its ability to change the human condition. In college, I will major in International Relations and Global Issues to shed light on environmental and social injustices throughout the world.
Date: December 31, 2011 Views: 8865 File size: 12.8kb, 154.3kb : 864 x 648
Hours Volunteered: 70
Volunteers: 7
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 17 to 70
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