Monday, July 28, 2008
Anton Caputo - Express-News
Underground toxic chemicals do not appear to be seeping into homes just north of the defunct Kelly AFB at dangerous levels, according to federal regulators who conducted air quality testing in five area homes.
The recently released test results show two of five homes with levels of toxins at or near screening levels that could trigger more federal scrutiny. But Cheryl Overstreet, a toxicologist with the Environmental Protection Agency, termed the results “not alarming at all.” Still, the agency would like to return this winter for a battery of tests to determine if there is any seasonal variability in the level of chemicals.
“I'm hoping that this is not the end,” Overstreet said. “To make the data more robust we would like to have more of it.”
The agency tested the sub-slab air quality or the underground crawl space, depending on construction, of 20 area homes just north of the old Kelly AFB. Based on those results, the air quality inside five homes was then tested twice.
Two of the 10 tests showed levels of chemical vapors at or slightly above the federal screening level. That level is based on enough of a toxin present in the air to increase a person's chance of getting cancer by 1 in 1 million over a 30-year period.
The results left some area residents uneasy and asking that their homes undergo the same testing.
“They didn't bother coming to our neighborhood,” Robert Alvarado Sr., 66, who lives just south of the base, said Saturday. “You have all these readings about contamination, but you don't have readings about all the people dying from cancer in our neighborhood.”
The chemicals in question leaked into the ground over decades of aircraft maintenance at Kelly AFB, which closed in 2001. It is also possible that industrial businesses off base contributed. The plume of chemicals, which is contained in the area's shallow aquifer, is underneath the neighborhood just north of the base and is estimated to have also stretched at least 5 miles south and east of the base. It now lies beneath more than 20,000 homes and businesses.
The contaminated aquifer is not a source of drinking water.
The toxins include tetrachlorethylene, or PCE, a probable carcinogen that the Air Force used for metal degreasing. Federal studies have found elevated levels of kidney cancer in neighborhoods around Kelly AFB, but the cancer has not been linked to the plume.
Many in the area insist the contamination has caused a number of health problems for local residents. Alvarado, who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, is among them. His kidneys are failing and he is legally blind, while his wife and daughter have throat cancer.
Lara Cushing, of the Southwest Workers Union, an advocacy organization that has organized community members, said the results are troubling. That's because, while the two highest PCE readings are on the borderline of the screening level, she said the levels of PCE were likely higher in years past before federal efforts to clean the contamination reduced levels of toxins in the aquifer.
Overstreet said it's not possible to determine what levels of contamination were present in the past.
“I have no way of knowing where the groundwater was 10 or 20 years ago or how it might have migrated or not migrated,” she said, adding that it would be about two months before the EPA would know if it could come back this winter for more testing.
Lenny Siegel, director of the California-based Center for Public Environmental Oversight, hopes the environmental agency does return. He agreed that the recent testing shows marginal danger when using current federal screening levels. But the EPA is currently reassessing the danger of PCE, Siegel said, and a draft report shows the chemical could be more dangerous than previously thought.
Siegel also pointed out that only a small number of homes were tested and said that, in some cases, chemical vapors are pulled from the ground at higher levels in the winter, when homes are more likely to use their heating systems.
“There is no reason to panic,” he said. “But it does suggest that there is a need to sample more homes.”
Friday, July 25, 2008
The Youth Leadership Organization and Southwest Workers Union were once again in front of the headquarters of Bill Millers Restaurant. One year since we launched our campaign 'Equal Pay for Equal Work' demanding that all employees start at $9/hour regardless of the income level of the surrounding community, workers have seen, on average, an increase in 50 cents to $1 an hour.
- Youth led research, action and media outreach
- Passed out fact sheets at 18 Bill Miller Restaurants
- 1200 + Equal Pay for Equal Work petition signatures from the customers, the community, and Bill Miller workers
- Sent in signatures from petition to Head Quarters
- 4 Letters, numerous visits and phone calls to the board to set up meeting
- Created Bill Miller Post Card; 1000 passed out and sent to headquarters from customers, workers, community
- 2 Community-Worker Youth-led Marches: (1) August to commemorate the long struggle for a living wage in San Antonio and (2) October (Halloween March) to bring to light to the ‘scary’ wages paid by Bill Miller
- Created outreach materials & propaganda
- Christmas Caroling : ‘Equal Pay Jingle’
Victories for Workers
¨ Bill Miller Raised Wages
o 1 restaurant received $0.25 raise
o 15 restaurants received a $0.50 raise
o 2 restaurants received $0.75 raise
o 10 restaurants received $1.00 raise
¨ There are no longer restaurants at $6.50 an hour
¨ In the beginning there were 2 restaurant paying at $9.00
o Now there are now 9 restaurants paying at $9.00
¨ Over 150 youth & young workers have participated in marches & rallies, received news coverage and created a YouTube video
Monday, July 21, 2008
Durante esta semana tuvimos el priveligio de una visita del compañero Rubén Solís, del Southwest Workers Union (San Antonio, Texas, México). Rubén y otros compas del SWU han trabajado de cerca con el Comité Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques y otros grupos e individuos en Vieques desde la década de 1990 y, en particular, desde la lucha intensa de 1999 a 2003.
Como parte del Military Toxics Project, una delegación del SWU viajó a Vieques hace varios años para compartir sus estrategias de organización y mobilización comunitaria en el área de la cerrada base aérea, Kelly. Los problemas de tóxicos militares y salud en la zona adjacente a esa base se asemejan mucho a la situación de Vieques. Para conocer más sobre los proyectos del SWU, varios viequenses viajaron a San Antonio para participar en foros y talleres sobre los procesos de la descontaminación militar y otros asuntos relacionados con el problema internacional del militarismo. Ismael Guadalupe, Elda Guadalupe, Cynthia Martínez y Nilda Medina - todos deVieques - y nuestro asesor ambiental, el químico Dr. Jorge Colón, participaron en años recientes en reuniones con la SWU en Texas.
En esta ocasión, Rubén estuvo en Puerto Rico durante un mes para trabajar en la redacción de un memorial de veinte años de lucha de la SWU. Además, se reunión con diversos grupos políticos puertorriqueñ
En Vieques, tuvimos la oportunidad de dialogar con Rubén el pasado viernes en la noche en una reunión informal del CPRDV. Varios miembros del comité participaron en el conversatorio en lo cual Solís describió los proyectos del SWU: lucha en defensa de los derechos de miles de empleados no docentes del sistema de educación pública; trabajos de justicia ambiental y económica; proyectos agrícolas y una cooperativa de costureras - Hilos de la Justicia! - además de su importante trabajo contra el Muro de la Muerte que las fuerzas de seguridad nacional (EU) construyen en la frontera con México. Rubén participa activamente en las directivas del Foro Social de las Américas y en los trabajos del Foro Social de EU. El SWU fue instrumental en lograr la participación de una delegación del CPRDV en el Foro Social de EU y aportaron a nuestra participación en Venezuela y Ecuador.
La oportunidad de colaborar con y aprender de gente y organizaciones que hacen esfuerzos milagrosos a favor de un mundo mejor, un mundo más justo - como es el SWU y sus representantes como Rubén Solís - cuenta entre los grandes privilegios de nuestro trabajo en Vieques y figura entre los elementos de solidaridad que posibilitaron la gran victoria del pueblo
During this past week we had the priviledge of a visit from comrade Rubén Solís, of the Southwest Workers Union (San Antonio, Texas, México). Rubén and other friends from SWU have worked closely with the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques and other groups and individuals in Vieques since the 1990's and, particularly, since the intense struggle between 1999 and 2003. As part of the Military Toxics Project, a delegation from the SWU travelled to Vieques several years ago to share strategies from community mobilizing and organizing used in the area of the close Kelly Air Force Base. The problems military toxics and health in the zone adjacent to Kelly are very similar to those on Vieques. To know more about the SWU's work, several Viequenses travelled to San Antonio to participate in forum and workshops on processes of military decontamination and other issues related to the international problems of militarism. Ismael Guadalupe, Elda Guadalupe, Cynthia Martínez and Nilda Medina - all from Vieques - and our environmental advisor, chemist Dr. Jorge Colón, participated in recent years in meetings with the SWU in Texas.
ON this ocassion, Ruben was in Puerto Rico during the month to work a memorial text about the twenty year history of SWU. Also, he met with diverse Puerto Rican poliltical groups to share experiences and discuss solidarity projects.
In Vieques, we had the opportunity to dialogue with Rubén last Friday during an informal meeting of the CRDV. Several members of the committee participated in the conversation in which Solís described the SWU activities: struggle for rights of thousands of non professional workers in public schools; work on economic and environmental justice issues; agricultural and cooperative textile proyects (Threads of Justice!) - as well as important work against the Death Wall being build by US Security Forces on the border with Mexico. Rubén participates actively in the direction of the Social Forum of the Americas and works with the coordinators of the US Social Forum. SWU was instrumental in assuring participation the CRDV in the US Social Forum and helped us to participate in Venezuela and Ecuador.
The opportunity to collaborate with and learn from people and organizations that make miraculous efforts in favor of a better world, a more just world - like the SWU and its representatives like Rubén Solís - is one of the great priviledges of our work in Vieques and figures among the elements of solidarity that made possible our great victory of Vieques and Puerto Rico on 1 May, 2003.
Friday, July 18, 2008
A group of approximately fifty people, many of whom were youth and children, and nearby community members, showed up to protest Rep. Ciro Rodriguez’ support of the Border Wall and the SAVE Act. It all started about 1pm and the crowd caught the heavy traffic of military drive and I-35 with shouts of “down with the border wall!” and “no children in prison” and brightly colored banners. The group consisted of many Southwest Workers Union members and a caravan of people from
The community members came out in force to stand together and show the representative that people would not stand by and watch him support such horrendous and harmful policies. The SAVE Act is a repression-only bill that calls only for more border militarization (like the kind that caused the death of young Ezequiel Hernandez) and more border wall (fencing) with no positive resolutions such as paths toward legalization. The bill further supports family detention centers, where children are housed in jail-like conditions, and raids that separate families and cause terror in Latino communities.
Drawing strength from each other, the group marched in front of the office, continuing to chant “no border wall!” and “Ciro Rodriguez por cuanto te vendiste!” as a group people demanded that we receive answers and a change of heart on the part of the representative. When people opened the office doors to seek answers, they were met with silence and with orders to close the doors. The group did not dismay or give up; they kept chanting and again convened on
Finally, people marched one more time to the representative’s office and closed the protest by sharing why they had come out and would continue to fight the attack on migrants and border walls. Some of the stories shared talked about split families, hard working migrants, about how border communities have lived with open borders for centuries, and questioning the war on terror as an excuse to hide the wars the
See video here
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Thank you for writing the article on the plight of the food workers at AISD and other nearby districts. As I read your article, I thought of the bureaucracy involved in providing something that is relatively inexpensive such as required dress for their jobs, and yet, it may be months or longer before they get their districts to cover the real costs of doing their jobs. Workers on the high end of the salary scale get their equivalents covered through travel reimbursements, paid sick and leave time, and the like. But when asked for help with clothes that are required to perform their low-wage jobs, the agencies turn away. This is just another reason that the working poor remain so desperate.
I am tired of waiting for the bigger agencies such as school districts to solve the problems for some of their hardest working, essential employees. I realize it is not much, but I would like to sponsor a food worker for their attire for next year, presuming that the districts will not do so. How can I go about providing a uniform for a worker?
Thank you so much Tamara. This letter has inspired SWU to help raise funds to sponsor an AISD cafeteria worker for the 2008-2009 school year to get their required uniform. We hope that the generosity and solidarity of the Austin community will pressure the school district to do what is right. For more information email email@example.com.
Monday, July 14, 2008
- Elisa, YLO intern
South by south west has been a cool learning experience and a strong loving environment. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter where you come from, were you roots come from, you will have the same common struggles and goals in life.- Melissa, YLO intern
South by Southwest how to start one of the best times of a life time. Learning how indigenous people survive and how they go threw a day searching for water. Learning how people have no water in the dessert and what they actually have to do just to have water. They reuse all the water they have and use solar panels to get some electricity. The thing that amazes me the most is that they all had to learn how to do it on their own. Learning about
Friday, July 11, 2008
We presented our letter of recommendations and demands, which include, the representative withdrawing his co-sponsorship of the SAVE Act, that expands through legislation family detention centers and supports more border walls. Additionally, we emphasized the need for the representative to create a public written statement denouncing the wall and actively oppose legislation that is faulty and violent to our communities regardless of political pressure.
Upon leaving we stressed to office director, Cesar Blanco, that we would push our campaign forward and will be outside his office next Thursday (July 17th) to hold a press conference and rally to bring more support to these issues.Read & sign on to our letter, here
- Maria Sofia Corona
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
San Antonio on Wind Power and Transmission Lines (CREZ) from Power Time on Vimeo.
Produced by Environment Texas:
At issue is an upcoming decision by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas which will play a critical role in determining how much renewable energy is built in Texas in coming years. Environmental, economic development and public interest advocates, wind energy companies, more than 100 west Texas communities, and the San Antonio Express News have called for the most ambitious plan which would create transmission capacity for almost an additional 18,000 megawatts of wind and solar power. By displacing some coal-fired electricity generation, such a plan would reduce smog pollution from power plants by 13% and global warming pollution by 16%. It would also save consumers money, as expensive natural gas would be somewhat displaced by cheaper wind power, lowering the overall wholesale cost of electricity.
SWU applauds the effort of Hondo City Council to allow residents to sign up to speak to city council the day of the meeting. With a vote of 4 to 1, the Council approved a measure that will expand the ability to address the council without having to go to City Hall by Friday at 5pm to speak at the Monday meeting. Vance Tomey, Place 2 was the lone ‘nay’ on this motion.
With a crowd that was flowing outside of the doors, this policy was implemented for the first time and 4 people were able to address the council. SWU sees this measure as a positive step towards making the local government and elected official more accessible to the people.
The next meeting to make your voice heard is Monday July 21st at 6p
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Going to New Mexico didn’t simply offer a new place to travel or new food to taste; it gave me the opportunity to get in touch with my past, mother earth, and brothers and sisters in a struggle for a better world.
Albuquerque and the communities surrounding it are enthralled in the past. A small rural community outside of Albuquerque, Pajarito Mesa, is an example of people adapting to the lack of human resources by conserving water through recycling and using solar energy. Even though the people of Pajarito Mesa pay taxes, they struggle to get equal services like the other Bernalillo residents. The Petroglyph National Monument is described by many indigenous peoples as the “backbone of mother earth” and serves as a place of religious service.
The most inspirational program of the conference was the documentary, “500 years of Chicano History.” Within a few minutes of watching the film, I couldn’t help but feel like I was cheated out of having a truthful history in my education in Texas! The government had never kept any of its promises to Mexicans and has never truly acknowledged our contributions to American history. The lack of that acknowledgement separates our peoples. There is no doubt that African Americans, Indigenous peoples of America, and Latinos share a common history. This history is what can unite us in our struggles for an equal world, but government created a system where we ignore it.- Uriel Gonzalez, SWU intern (aka the sleeping jaguar)