Environmental and Climate Issues 

Environmental and climate issues are a key portion of the Democratic Party’s policy platform. Dorchester County, MD is especially sensitive to environmental issues as it impacts our local industries, the Bay, rivers and waterways, and the miles of wildlife refuge areas we work hard to protect. This section will feature articles and stories that impact the Eastern Shore, Dorchester County and national efforts that influence how we treat our environment and actions you can take. 

To contribute to this section please e-mail dorchesterdems@gmail.com.

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Valley Proteins Proves the Need for an Environmental Human Rights Amendment

a letter to the Cambridge Spy

By Susan Olsen

Sierra Club of the Lower Eastern Shore

Cambridge, MD

February 22, 2022

The Maryland Environmental Human Rights Amendment is a bill being heard this session in the Maryland General Assembly.  It is being sponsored by Delegate Wanika Fisher in the House and Senator Will Smith in the Senate.  Speaker Pro Tempore Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes is a co-sponsor.  

The amendment would provide:

(A) That each person, as a matter of basic human dignity, has a fundamental and inalienable right to a healthful, sustainable environment.

(B) That the State, as trustee, shall protect, conserve, manage and enhance Maryland’s natural and cultural resources, including its air, lands, waters, wildlife, and ecosystems, for the benefit and enjoyment of both present and future generations....READ MORE

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Maryland Orders Chicken Rendering Plant Shut Down

Tipped by environmental group, inspectors find pollution violations at Shore facility

Timothy B. Wheeler

December 22, 2021  Bay Journal

 

Maryland regulators have ordered a shutdown of a problem-plagued Eastern Shore chicken rendering plant after a tip from an environmental group led them to discover a batch of new pollution violations there.

The Maryland Department of the Environment on Dec. 21 directed Valley Proteins Inc. to cease operations at its facility in Linkwood in Dorchester County until it can meet its wastewater discharge permit limits and reduce the risk of overflows from its storage lagoons. The MDE threatened to fine or suspend the plant’s permit altogether if it failed to comply with prescribed corrective actions.

 

Michael A. Smith, vice chairman of the Winchester, VA-based company, said it had agreed to a temporary shutdown until it can lower the levels of its storage lagoons and meet permit requirements.

“We are working cooperatively with MDE to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” Smith said.

The shutdown order comes after a series of MDE inspections this month found multiple problems at the facility. According to MDE inspection reports, those included an illegal discharge into a holding pond, discharges of sludge and inadequately treated wastewater into a stream leading to the Transquaking River, and leaks and overflows from treatment tanks.

The inspections were triggered by drone images provided by ShoreRivers, a coalition of Eastern Shore riverkeeper organizations, showing a grayish discharge from the rendering plant’s wastewater outfall, according to a letter MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles wrote to a Valley Proteins executive.

Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta, a member of ShoreRivers staff, said that while doing aerial surveillance on Dec. 10, he saw “a large, discolored discharge” coming from the Linkwood facility and flowing downstream toward the Transquaking.

The MDE inspected the plant later the same day and reported it found acidic, inadequately treated wastewater being released into a stream, chlorine-treated wastewater leaking onto the ground, and foam and wastewater overflowing from another treatment tank.

The following week, more MDE inspections found waste sludge in a stream outfall leading to the Transquaking, continuing improper discharges both to the stream and onto the ground and inadequate cleanup of earlier detected leaks, spills and overflows. The MDE also found raw chicken waste on the ground. Regulators ordered the plant to cease discharges until the wastewater could be treated sufficiently to meet its permit limits.

“Chemical spills, tanks are overflowing, illegal discharges coming from all over the treatment process. It’s an absolute mess,” Pluta said of the conditions described in the inspection reports.

Read the entire article… https://www.bayjournal.com/news/pollution/maryland-orders-chicken-rendering-plant-shut-down/article_4c2033e8-636c-11ec-9dce-cfa096bd033f.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share

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Intro by Maris Wicker

December 4, 2021

Addressing climate change and environmental degradation often seems like a monumental undertaking that is way beyond the scope of the actions of individuals. There are, however, many manageable steps that individuals can take to effect positive climate and environmental changes. You already may be incorporating some of these actions into your daily routines- such as recycling rather than disposing of certain kinds of household waste, or driving a car that is powered by electricity. This section will be addressing those and other steps that might be considered personal climate actions. We’ll start with looking at regenerative farming/gardening, and at bay/river–healthy lawn care. 

PLANTING CROPS and CARBON TOO

Story by Gabriel Popkin, Washington Post

Photos by Gabriella Demczuk

Jan. 22, 2021

 

Maryland farmer Trey Hill pulled in a healthy haul of corn last fall and then immediately planted rye, turnips, clover and other species, which are now spreading a lush green carpet over the soil. While his grandfather, who started the family farm along the Chesapeake Bay, always planted in the spring in a clean field, in Hill’s approach to farming, “you never want to see the ground.”

 

As the winter cover crops grow, they will feed microbes and improve the soil’s health, which Hill believes will eventually translate into higher yields of the crops that provide his income: corn, soybean and wheat.

 

But just as importantly, they will pull down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the ground. Hill is at the cutting edge of what many hope will provide not just a more nature-friendly way of farming, but a powerful new climate solution.

 

In early 2020, he became the first seller in a privately run farmer-focused marketplace that paid him $115,000 for practices that, over the past few years, had sequestered just over 8,000 tons of carbon in the soil. The money came from corporations and individuals who want to offset carbon dioxide produced by their activities. Hill used the proceeds to buy equipment he hopes will allow him to squirrel away even more of the planet-warming gas.

 

If farmers throughout the world adopted similar “regenerative” methods, experts estimate they could sequester a sizable chunk of the world’s carbon emissions. The idea has been endorsed by soil scientists, a slew of food industry giants and, recently, President Biden.

 

Read more….https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2021/climate-solutions/climate-regenerative-agriculture/

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Environmental Tips You Can Implement 

 

Maris Wicker

Cambridge, MD

December 4, 2021

 

It is easy to despair over the damage that humankind has wrought to our planet’s climate and environment, and to feel that individuals are helpless to effect meaningful improvement.  And yet, there is so much we can do, even on a very small  scale, to promote a healthier environment. This section will offer information aimed at the small scale, specifically - our inside and outside living spaces.  Let’s start outside, and look at those oh-so-green lawns!

 

During spring and summer, you may notice little yellow signs poking out from freshly-mowed lawns cautioning humans and pets from walking on chemically-treated and very uniform blankets of green grass.  Indeed, strong lawn and garden maintenance chemicals can pollute our drinking water, our groundwater, our surface water, and our magnificent waterways and bays.  While there is no perfect solution to controlling yard weeds and pests, there are less polluting methods than the use of toxic chemicals. 

 

As for weed control, the most environmentally-friendly way to eliminate weeds is to pull them up, dig out the roots, let them dry in the sun, and then throw the dried roots into a mulch or compost pile. If, however, you need a quicker and less physically-challenging weed control method, try a “natural” or homemade herbicide, such as a salt spray, which is made with 1 part salt in 8 parts of hot water, with a little bit of liquid dish soap added.  You also can try variations of this spray, combining salt and vinegar (1 cup salt to 1 gallon vinegar).   Keep in mind that a non-treated yard may yield some wonderful “weed” surprises, such as patches of violets, black-eyed susans, buttercups, and/or clover. 

 

When it comes to controlling insects, there are effective homemade sprays that are much more environmentally-friendly than most commercially-available products.  Try a basic oil spray that combines one cup of vegetable oil with one tbsp. mild liquid soap. Shake this mixture thoroughly, and then add 2 teaspoons of it to 1 quart of water, shake, and spray directly on the affected plants.  You can make a more pungent spray with a pureed garlic bulb that has been steeped in water for 1 hour, and then strained.  Add to this mixture a small quantity of cayenne pepper and 1 tablespoon of liquid soap.  Keep any unused amount refrigerated.

 

For additional resources on environmentally-friendly weed and pest control – check out www.treehugger.com; www. beyondpesticides.org; shorerivers.org/river-friendly-yards; and rodaleinstitute.org.

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