Sally Deneen

Goodbye and thank you from Seattle PostGlobe


              THANK YOU

Thank you to our donors for your support, which made what we did possible. We also wish to extend special thanks to:

  • KCTS and Moss Bresnahan for free office space and being our fiscal sponsor during our initial months.
  • Justin Carder and Scott Durham of Instivate for creating the site you’ve seen for two years, and making us a part of Neighborlogs.
  • Rennie A. Sawade of Wrenware and WashTech.org for voluntarily creating our original site and in August 2011 moving our site to a new server to serve as an archive.
  • Andrew Saeger (AndrewSaeger.com) for creating the cool Seattle PostGlobe bird logo.
  • Attorney Kathy George of Harrison Benis & Spence LLP for her legal assistance.
  • Attorney Scot J. Johnston for legal assistance. Also, attorney Signe Naeve for legal advice.
  • Shunpike, our longtime nonprofit fiscal sponsor.
  • Spot.us, an invaluable resource that helped us drum up donations for our special projects.
  • Common Language Project and InvestigateWest for use of your full-length projects, and to our other partners whose work we highlighted.

 

It’s been an eventful two years – sometimes fun, sometimes a mountain of work, but always worthwhile. And now it’s time for the PostGlobe to say goodbye and thank you. It’s time for us to move on.

We started as a nonprofit news site created by laid-off staffers of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after the 146-year-old paper printed its last edition on what for others was a festive St. Patrick’s Day in 2009. More than 100 journalists lost their jobs as the paper scaled down its staff and went online-only. Some ended their journalism careers that day, as newspaper jobs nationally continued to evaporate – nearly 15,000 other print journalists lost their jobs that year.

Part of our purpose for starting PostGlobe was to provide former P-I staffers both hope and an outlet, as Kery Murakami, a former P-I reporter who spearheaded the site, told the Seattle Times in those early days. “We want them to know that it’s not over, that you can still write for us, even if you have to get a job at Wal-Mart,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina Beach takes a break from her bike ride to enjoy the fog lifting at Golden Gardens Park. Grant Haller shot the image as part of a September 2009 photo essay. (Photo: Grant M. Haller)

 

So it was that Seattle Mariners reporter John Hickey still covered the Mariners, foreign affairs editor Larry Johnson blogged about foreign affairs, art-film reviewer Bill White reviewed art films, and so on, as Columbia Journalism Review wrote in this nice write-up. Six months later, Murakami found himself the “primary reporter, editor, art director, accountant, copy chief, IT troubleshooter,” as another CJR piece put it.  People left as they found jobs or ways to get paid for their work: Murakami exited in late 2009 (he currently works at Newsday). John Hickey currently writes for P-I sports legend Art Thiel’s operation, SportsPress Northwest, as well as Comcast SportsNet Northwest. PostGlobe over time has morphed into something else — a community site that does a fair amount of aggregation as well as some of our own enterprise reporting.

A recap of some of our major enterprise:

 

(Photo by Mike Kane)

  • Eric Ruthford explored how gangs are turning from selling drugs to selling girls for sex as part of a special series on teen prostitution in Seattle.
  • Our reality check on the King County 10-year plan to end homelessness revealed shortcomings; no one could think of a single homeless program that will close for lack of demand.
  • We broke the story about City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco getting a $40,000 bonus from the city.  It’s impossible to know if another reporter would have discovered that eventually. But we may never have known had we not been there.
  • We broke the story of how Seattle might ban smoking in parks.
  • We “ truth-squaded ” the proposal by King County Council members to have Seattle pay for the downtown bus tunnel and were the only ones to report Metro believes Seattle was already paying its fair share.
  • We were the only ones first to reported a bit of Seattle history – the sale of four old ferries that cruised Puget Sound for decades. And we chronicled their departure for a scrap yard in Mexico.**

 

The thanks for these stories goes not just to the journalists, but also to our generous donors, mostly civic-minded citizens who gave in small denominations. You made possible this venue for bridging the gap and more fully informing Seattle readers.

We’ve been proud to be part of what journalism observers are calling a hotbed of innovative journalism models here in Seattle.

But there have been obstacles.

 

A person shouts in front of a car lit by rioters shortly after the Canucks were defeated by the Boston Bruins in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup in Vancouver, B.C., on June 15, 2011, “As long as it’s staying safe, it’s good to express yourself.” the person said. (Photo copyright – Karen Ducey of KarenDucey.com)

 

 

Donations have fallen off. Ads have generated no meaningful revenue — ever. We began with no startup money. We obtained no grants. All of which actually provided unusual freedom. But as a volunteer-run site, we’ve run out of helping hands as unemployed journalists have left for jobs. (Which is a good thing!)

So this is our final month.

We will attempt to keep the site up for archival value. But we will no longer collect donations through what has been our fiscal sponsor, Shunpike, which had made donations tax-deductible.

 

This logo greeted theater-goers attending the 2009 Seattle play “It’s NOT in the P-I.” The P-I wasn’t the only paper to close that year. Nearly 15,000 layoffs and buyouts took place at U.S. newspapers in 2009, reports the Paper Cuts blog.  

 

 

 

We were called the PostGlobe because of that wonderful big representation of Mother Earth atop the waterfront building where New York-based Hearst Corp. housed the P-I staff before so many were let go. We attempted to follow the “post-Globe” activities of that seasoned group of journalists who for so long had worked under that Globe to offer Seattleites smart, scrappy local insights and superb photography.

As we end SeattlePostGlobe.org, it coincidentally turns out that this week also marks a turning point for the hardworking

but tiny staff of the online-only Seattlepi.com: Its journalists are leaving their Globe-topped building to move into a different space nearby. The future of the Globe itself is uncertain. A fitting symbol for the state of indepth journalism.

We ask that you continue to choose to read the insightful writings of the independent journalists we have attempted to highlight at PostGlobe, including the dogged reporters at ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, Common Language Project, InvestigateWest, and Tom Paulson’s Humanosphere. Please consider bookmarking Paul Nyhan’s Birth to Thrive blog on early learning, Gene Stout’s music reviews, Martha Baskin’s environment reporting, as well as checking out stories from nonprofit Crosscut and local independent blogs, such as Justin Carder’s hyperlocal Capitol Hill Seattle Blog and Jonah Spangenthal-Lee’s SeattleCrime.com.

Seattleites know the power of voting and of spending money at indie establishments. Exercise your power to improve journalism: Support independent journalists. Click on their stories. Spend time with them. “Like” their articles on Facebook. Tweet about them. You will, in this way, show grant makers and advertisers that they’re worthwhile; not all news media must be reduced to fashion photos and cat videos.

We have attempted at PostGlobe to serve as a megaphone for indie journalists, and now it’s your turn to grab the megaphone. Thank you for accepting this easy but powerful charge. You have more power than you may ever know.

Best,

Sally Deneen, co-founder and curator

Seattlepostglobe@yahoo.com

 

** This story originally incorrectly stated that PostGlobe was the only outlet to report a bit of Seattle history – the sale of four old ferries that cruised Puget Sound for decades — and that we were the only outlet to chronicle their departure for a scrap yard in Mexico. We regret the error.

In fact, we tried to do a unique take on the subject at the point where the scrap-yard folks were about to haul the old ferries off to Mexico, but the PostGlobe wasn’t the only outlet covering the subject, as pointed out by two commenters below. Reached via email today (July 30), reporter Larry Lange set the matter straight. He recalled reporting on the ferries: “There had been other stories on the pending sale of the ferries for scrap in late 2008, before the PostGlobe started up. All the local media, including the P-I when it was printing, the Herald and others reported the ferry system’s plan to sell the boats.

“What Grant and I did for the Post Globe months later was a long followup that traced the history of the four boats, the decision first to take them out of service and then the difficulties getting them sold.  One previous sale had fallen through because scrap-metal prices had dropped.  The ferry system ultimately had to take a lot less money for the boats than it had hoped, just to get them out of the maintenance yard.  The PostGlobe story picked up the thread when the state finally got a firm buyer and had his check in hand, hence the new story lead: ‘this time, the scrap yard for sure.’” – S.D.

After Parvaz’s nearly 2 weeks in Syrian detention, McDermott says: ‘We’re working on it’

 Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott on Tuesday night sought to provide some assurance to worried friends and family of journalist D. Parvaz, who nearly two weeks ago arrived by plane in Damascus, Syria, and never was heard from again. Syria has admitted she was detained by the government.

  McDermott said he talked with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday about the need to press Syria to release Dorothy Parvaz, the former Seattle P-I journalist who now works for Al Jazeera English.

  “I talked with Mrs. Clinton this afternoon… We are pressing hard on the Syrians to acknowledge she is there and release her. She is not forgotten,” McDermott said during a telephone Town Hall event he held Tuesday night.

  He was responding to a query by a caller named Melanie, a Parvaz friend who had asked McDermott: What are you doing on the case? She noted that the offices of Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray had taken action, but friends and family had yet to hear what McDermott was doing to urge the dictatorial Syrian government to release Parvaz.

  McDermott responded that he had talked with the two senators and learned they had made contacts through diplomatic circles, “trying to resolve this is a diplomatic matter. We are following it,” he said.

  He said he has been involved in a number of cases of people detained in other countries, including one currently in Iran.

  “Quiet diplomacy is often the most effective way to do it,” McDermott said.

  “Rest assured, we are working on it. There’s no question about it.”

  It’s been a tense 12 days for Parvaz’s loved ones and a broad circle of friends far and wide who have “liked” the Free Dorothy Parvaz Facebook page, which on Tuesday surpassed 11,000 fans. Syria is holding in custody at least five journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and on May 4 acknowledged it had detained Parvaz.  Friends and family discount newly arisen claims by a pro-regime newspaper that Parvaz left Syria May 1 “after authorities denied her entry, because she carried a tourist visa while her equipment indicated that she wished to engage in journalistic work, a matter that requires different procedures.” Still perched in the top right-hand corner of Al Jazeera English’s home page are these words:

  “Free our journalist. Al Jazeera’s Dorothy Parvaz has been held captive in Syria since April 29. We want her back. Now.”

Town Hall talk on new book: “A Mosque in Munich”

Tracing genealogy through DNA

    Bennett Greenspan figured he knew his basic ancestry – in his case, Eastern European Jewish, a.k.a. Ashkenazi – but a simple DNA test revealed a surprise never uncovered in his many hours spent drawing up his family tree the usual pen-and-paper way. Never did he have any idea that his ancestry might be Spanish, too.  Going back 1,000 or 1,500 years, according to the DNA test, he shares a common ancestor with a Spanish Jew (a.k.a. Sephardic Jew) from Bulgaria.

   What became more interesting: When he looked a few more markers out to try to find more people who might be in the same position as the guy in Bulgaria, he found three more matches or mismatches – and those folks are Catholics living in New Mexico.

   What this means, to Greenspan’s surprise, is this: It’s evidence that on his father’s father side, Greenspan says, “we were Spanish Jews who left Spain in probably 1492 with most of the rest of the Jewish community and moved east. And we may very well have moved east and ended up in Bulgaria, at which point the family may have split, and some stayed there and some moved north into where the Ashkenazi Jews lived. And we started practicing or thinking of ourselves as Ashkenazi Jews or no one knew the difference—after a few generations, you’re not going to know the difference. So we may actually be a Spanish Jewish line.

   “I thought my ancestry was Eastern European Jewish. I never had an idea that it might be Spanish–I mean, none whatsoever,” Greenspan, founder and CEO of Family Tree DNA, said in a phone interview before his speech tonight in Mercer Island at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State’s program on tracing genealogy with DNA.

  “I still have a hard time believing it. But when I look at the data, it’s hard not to infer that. Certainly that is a possibility. It’s gone from being where I never would’ve believed it to the facts tell me, they dictate, that I can’t forget it. I can’t ignore it.”

  Greenspan’s talk continues until 9 p.m. tonight at the auditorium of the Stroum Jewish Community Center, 3801 East Mercer Way, Mercer Island. Fee is $5. Find info about FamilyTree DNA test kits at FamilyTreeDNA.com.

BP, reeling from Gulf oil spill, socked with worker-safety fines in Washington state

  The same oil company whose offshore well in the Gulf of Mexico caused America’s largest oil spill in decades also was fined $69,200 this week by Washington regulators for serious safety violations at its refinery near Bellingham.

  The state imposed the fine on BP — which has sought to win public favor with its green-tinged “Beyond Petroleum” advertising campagn — for violations at its Cherry Point refinery.

  Workers could have been killed or injured as a result of the 13 “serious safety violations”  inspectors uncovered, says Hector Castro, spokesman for the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), which levied the fines. There are three levels of violations, with “serious” being the most severe.

  Many of the safety issues spelled out in the 44-page violation report were first identified by BP but not corrected, Castro earlier told public radio reporter Austin Jenkins.

  For example, a pressure safety valve “was venting in an area where employees could be exposed to flammable vapor. Their own recommendations from their own audits were it should be vented into a flare system so that it would be burned off. And what we found was that there’d been no action taken,” Castro told Jenkins.

  BP spokesman Bill Kidd downplayed that characterization in an interview with the PostGlobe, saying the pressure-safety valve issue is “not so much an imminent hazard…There are not vapors venting on employees.” He said his company hasn’t had time to assess whether to appeal the fines, as decision that has to be made in a matter of days. Kidd said his company needs to work with L&I to understand some of the issues raised in the state’s citations.

 ”Our main focus is to work with them to understand what the gaps are,” Kidd said. He didn’t outright dispute the report (it’s “not that we disagree necessarily,” he said), but he calls safety the company’s top priority.

  According to a state press release:

  The inspection focused on the hydrocracker process unit, the refinery’s largest process unit, which refines low-grade oil into gasoline. Twelve of the violations involve regulations governing the management of highly hazardous chemicals, which are part of what is commonly referred to as the Process Safety Management Standard. One of the violations involves a failure to provide proper machine guarding.

 The 12 process safety management problems included failure to routinely inspect or maintain safety control devices, such as pressure safety valves; inaccurate or outdated instrument diagrams; and failure to record whether identified safety hazards were corrected. One violation noted that there were 38 instances of safety recommendations for which there was no record they were ever implemented.

  “The safety violations our inspectors uncovered at BP were problems similar to those we’ve uncovered in all of the refineries we have inspected in Washington,” said Michael Silverstein, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “Petroleum refineries are inherently risky work environments, and following the safety regulations is the key to preventing explosions and other life-threatening events.”

  BP Cherry Point separately has attracted criticism from environmentalists, as when the company  doubled its refinery dock capacity next to the state’s once largest and genetically unique herring beds. That prompted environmentalist Fred Felleman, Northwest consultant for Friends of the Earth,  to successfully sue in 2006 to require an oil-spill risk assessment. The Army Corps of Engineers has yet to release the study. Meanwhile, the company’s expanded dock already is in operation.

  “If only BP spent as much money on environmental compliance as they did on PR, the world would be a safer and cleaner place. Now they only wish they were ‘Beyond Petroleum,’ but to me they have always been ‘Beyond Pathetic,’” Felleman said after hearing of the L&I fines this week.

 

 

Frustrated local mom testifies to Senate: Why can’t I protect my baby from chemicals?

  Editor’s note: In November we wrote about a new study that discovered a variety of chemicals including mercury in the bodies of pregnant women. Today, we follow up on one of those studied moms; she appeared today before a U.S. Senate subcommittee to tell her story. 

   Molly Gray of Seattle for five years struggled with fertility and repeated miscarriages. She searched for an answer to why she was having trouble bringing a baby to term. So — as she told a Senate panel on Thursday — she discovered a connection between chemical exposures and their effect on health, particularly reproductive systems, and she made reasonable changes in her life: She did her best to eat organic food and low-mercury seafood, use personal-care products that didn’t contain chemicals called phthalates and fragrances, and avoid plastics–both cooking in or storing food in plastic.

  Imagine her surprise when, finally pregnant, she took part in a study of pregnant women that tested levels of chemicals in their bodies such as mercury, flame retardants, bisphenol A and phthalates.  Her results were higher than the national average in many of the substances tested.

  “I had the highest mercury of all the pregnant women tested,” she testified Thursday at a Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health hearing entitled, “Current Science on Public Exposures to Toxic Chemicals.” (Read her full testimony here.)

  “I wanted to see if my best intentions made a difference. The answer I received was incredibly disheartening. I was shocked that my levels were as high as they were. I learned that this fight to avoid toxins is larger than one person alone. These chemicals are ubiquitous in the environment and as clean as I tried to be, it was not enough to protect my baby boy.

 

  “Mothers-to-be can make many choices to ensure a healthy baby — we can take prenatal vitamins, exercise, avoid cigarettes and alcohol, and eat healthy diets. I am disappointed that with all of the choices we are able to make we do not have a choice to protect our children from the powerful influence of toxic chemicals on their developing bodies.

 ”…Something is wrong when I, as an educated consumer, am unable to protect my baby from toxic chemicals. I and all other parents should be able to walk into stores and buy what we need without winding up with products that put our families’ health at risk. Now that I’ve learned that companies can put chemicals into products without ever testing for whether they harm our health, I think we need to change our laws.”

  Gray was the only regular mom among the eight scheduled witnesses testifying at the Senate subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., which aimed to examine the current science on public exposures to toxic chemicals.

  Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, MPH, associate professor and director of the program on Reproductive Health and Environment in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at University of California-San Francisco, described for the panel some “concerning” trends. Examples: More women in the US, particularly under age 25, are having difficulty conceiving and maintaining pregnancy. One in eight babies in the US are born premature — a 36 percent increase since the 1980s.

There is a growing concern about exposures to toxic chemicals, especially at particularly vulnerable times such as the prenatal period and early childhood, Dr. Woodruff said.

Chemical production has increased since World War II by more than twenty-fold, Dr. Woodruff said, making chemicals “now ubiquitous” in air, water, food and everyday household items.

They’re also in our bodies — 70 to 100 percent of the US population have measurable amounts of the following chemicals, among others, in their bodies: triclosan (used in liquid antibacterial hand soaps), PCBs, Bisphenol A.

Most people think chemicals in shampoos, lotions, cookware, containers and other everyday items are inert, Dr. Woodruff testified, “but they apparently are not.”

The National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Woodruff said, concluded that “we should not assume that there is a safe level of exposure to any individual chemical unless proven otherwise.”

Gray, the regular mom, said people often ask if her seven-month-old son is healthy. “My answer to that is as far as I know he is a healthy happy boy,” Gray told the Senate subcommittee. “My concerns are of the unknown. We have no idea what the longterm health implications of these results are and I do not want my precious son or other children to be our scientific experiment.”

   

Gray called on Senators to take these steps:

* Take immediate steps to eliminate the uses of persistent toxic chemicals –those that build up in bodies or are passed on to the next generation in the womb.

* Legislation should reduce the use of chemicals that have known serious health effects and ensure only the safest chemicals are created and used in everyday products.

* Create standards that protect vulnerable populations like pregnant women and developing fetuses.

 ”I am disappointed,” Gray said, “that toxic chemicals like the ones found in my body in pregnancy are in our environment, our personal-care products, our clothes, our furniture, our baby toys, and our food. Babies deserve to grow and develop in a healthy environment, in utero and out. But babies are born everyday already exposed to toxins linked to serious health problems. Safe until proven harmful is not good enough for my baby or me. I want our country to value the lives of its children the same way I value and love my son. It will take time to rid our population of this burden on our bodies — we need to start now.”

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ON THE WEB

Watch an archived webcast of the hearing here. Seattle mom Molly Gray’s testimony starts at about minute 76.

Read InvestigateWest’s take on the hearing here.

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SIDEBAR:

 

WHERE TO TURN

 Want to avoid phthalates or other chemicals at home? Consult these resources:

* Skin Deep www.cosmeticsdatabase.com

* Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: www.safecosmetics.org

* Healthytoys.org

* Saferchemicals.org

* Washington Toxics Coalition www.watoxics.org 

 

Further reading:

* Plastics Ingredients Could Make a Boy’s Play Less Masculine (by Science News)

* Mercury Found in Blood of One-Third of American Women (by Environment News Service; SEJ)

* A Glut of Mercury Raises Fears (by Washington Post)

* FDA Knew about Mercury in Corn Syrup — and Kept Silent (by Chicago Tribune; SEJ Tipsheet)

* Teflon Woes Still Sticking to Food Packaging (www.Sej.org)

* BPA May Affect Sexual Function in Adult Men, Study Finds (by ConsumerReports Health Blog)

* Puget Sound: Down the Drain? When you wash clothes, you pollute (by Seattlepostglobe)

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Reports: Puget Sound getting sicker; Obama budget slashes money for Sound cleanup by 60%

   Eight indicators show a continuing decline in Puget Sound, while seven other indicators show evidence of improvement, suggesting that on balance there’s a slippage in the health of the waterway that sustains orcas, salmon and people, according to our interpretation of the findings in the first new biennial report by Puget Sound Partnership. The Olympian calls it “a mixed bag of improvement and continued decline.” 

  However, Partnership executive director David Dicks sees it another way — “we are making progress.”

  Meanwhile, President Obama’s proposed budget slashes money for Sound cleanup from this fiscal year’s $50 million to just $20 million — a 60 percent drop.

  That’s despite the fact that Puget Sound in July gained the status of national treasures like Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades in the eyes of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The new status was thought to pave the way for substantially more millions in federal dollars to flow here to try to help restore pretty yet polluted Puget Sound, where some marine life are disappearing and orcas’ weakened bodies accumulate toxic PCBs .

 And it’s not like the state government will pick up the slack. The Olympian reports that Puget Sound Partnership plans a light legislative session, backing only two bills covering the environment — “neither of which proposes strong proactive action on major problems facing the Sound.”

  The new partnership report stretches for 156 pages,  but this excerpt seems to sum it up:

 Compared to historical conditions, the Puget Sound ecosystem shows signs of stress and degradation from human activity.  For example, pollution and restricted marine harvests have reduced ecosystem support for human health and well-being. In addition, concerns about species viability and ongoing habitat alteration point to vulnerable biological systems in the region.

 Altered stream flows and water quality are some of the underlying problems in the Puget Sound ecosystem.

 There are also examples where the ecosystem has positively responded to management activities. For example, the quality of sediments in Elliott Bay is much improved over the late 1990s and the improvement happened at the same time as a decrease in tumors in fish.

 

  “It leaves a critical question unanswered: are we on track to restore the Sound to health by the year 2020?” Kathy Fletcher of People for Puget Sound wrote on her blog. “…If we aren’t on track yet to restore the Sound to health by 2020, and I don’t think we are, we need to get on track.”

  “One tough thing about saving Puget Sound is that we are still allowing more damage even as we try to clean up the mistakes of the past. A lesson from Chesapeake is that you can spend a lot of money and effort doing good things, but still lose ground overall. Sad to say, that’s been our story here in Puget Sound too. This is why we have the Puget Sound Partnership. This is why the law that created them is so heavy on ‘accountability.’ Will the Partnership get the job done? I sure hope so, because Puget Sound is running out of time.”

David Montgomery, a University of Washington geomorphologist, told KUOW reporter John Ryan: “If we’re really talking about restoring the health of Puget Sound, we need to reverse a number of trends, including the stormwater trend and restoring forest cover. We need to actually turn the numbers around so we see concrete improvement and not declines in the rate of decline.”

  Dicks, seeming to seize on the good news in the report, said in a prepared statement :

 The good news is we are making progress in our efforts to protect and restore Puget Sound. We have challenges ahead to meet our goal of achieving a clean Sound by 2020, but this report documents substantial improvements in the ecosystem. 

 Ecosystem performance evaluation and reporting is complex. This daunting task of linking actions to improving overall ecosystem conditions has eluded many of the other large restoration efforts in places like the Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades.  We have significant issues ahead of us, but we are on a path to make this work in Puget Sound and it will take a committed effort by the Partnership and its many partners to be successful.

  That’s more upbeat than his statement in September upon the launch of a campaign to encourage everyone to start washing cars in commercial car washes, scoop dog poop, and more:

 “Puget Sound is dying, and many of us don’t realize that our own actions are contributing to its decline,” said Dicks.  “The Puget Sound Starts Here  campaign illustrates the severity of the problem and explains how each of us can be part of the solution by changing a few everyday activities.  Everyone who lives in the Puget Sound region can make a difference.” 

 Regardless of how one interprets the new report, much work needs to be done if Puget Sound is to be saved.

  “We have a long road ahead and more hurdles, but I’m confident our efforts are off to a good start,” Gov. Christine Gregoire said in the prepared statement. She contended: “It’s encouraging that even during these tough times we are continuing to make progress in Puget Sound cleanup.”

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  WORSENING TRENDS

  Indicators that show worsening trends, according to Puget Sound Partnership’s first biennial report:

  1. Less fish for people to eat. Decreases in harvested amount for most types of finfish and shellfish from 1980s to 2000s. Possible causes: harvest and habitat impacts.

  2. Forests grow fish, yet there’s less forestland, thanks to the expanding footprint of developed lands. Seven to 32 percent of forestland in Puget Sound counties were converted from forest to human uses from 1988 to 2004.

  3. Orcas down in numbers — a 20 percent decline in southern resident population, meaning local orcas, in the 1990s. The numbers in the 2000s fell below mid-’90s peak. Possible causes: fewer salmon to eat, disturbance by boats, pollutants.

  4. Spawning herring — a key to the food web — dropped 40 percent from 1970s to 2007, driven by decline at Cherry Point. Possible causes: overfishing, predation by other fish and animals, and other factors such as pollution, degraded nearshore habitat, endemic disease and parasites.

 5. Farms are better for the environment than cities (farms provide habitat, for one thing), yet 4,300 acres of agricultural lands were converted to development from 2001 to 2006.

 6. Eelgrass areas provide habitat for fish, yet they’re on a decline. Sites with year-to-year declines outnumber sites with increases in seven of the last eight years. Among possible causes: shoreline development affects water quality and habitat.

 7. Climate change is messing with the amount and timing of water reaching major rivers.  Earlier, higher winter flows and lower, earlier ending summer flows 1984-2008 compared to earlier period; declining portion of annual flow occurring in summer over 70-year record.

 8. Flame retardant chemicals (PDBEs) are showing up at increasing levels in harbor seals. Possible cause: Increase in the use of PDBEs in global economy and loading into Puget Sound.


 IMPROVING TRENDS

  1. Pollution in shellfish growing areas. From 1994 to 2008, regulators upgraded about twice as much area as downgraded. Possible reasons: shellfish protection and pollution identification and control efforts.

 2. Substantial increase in shellfish aquaculture from mid-80s to mid-2000s as industry grew to include new products.

  3. On the bright side, Chinook salmon run size is greater than before it was listed for protection (before 1998) — however, numbers of spawning salmon remain far below recovery targets. Possible reasons for the good news is ocean conditions and possibly harvest.

  4. Hood Canal summer chum run size is greater than before it was listed for protection (1998).   Possible reasons: Ocean conditions and possibly hatchery management and reduced harvest.

  5. Looking on the bright side, there’s been a slowing of the rate of the amount of land taken over by development (whose impervious surfaces are bad for Puget Sound, as they funnel polluted rainwater faster into the Sound).  Developed land increased 3 percent from 2001 to 2006, which is slower than in prior five-year periods.   Possible cause cited: Focus of development in already developed areas.

  6. Decline in liver lesions in English sole in Elliott Bay in early 2000s and decline in PAH sediment concentrations from 1998 to 2007. Possible reason: Sediment cleanup and/or  fewer PAHs finding their way into Elliott Bay.

 7. Increase in annual average freshwater quality scores from longterm stations from 1990s through 2000s. Possibly due to water-quality improvement projects.

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WHAT YOU CAN DO

Here are the four easy things that the Puget Sound Starts Here campaign initially asks residents to do to reduce pollution from entering the Sound. The press release reads:

 

1. Take cars to a commercial car wash, where wash water is properly handled. Car wash water can kill fish and be as potentially toxic as some industrial wastewater discharges.

2. Fix car leaks, or place cardboard under the car in the short term to catch leaking oil or fluids.

3. Use compost – instead of fertilizers or pesticides – to grow a healthy lawn and garden.

4. Pick up pet waste with a bag – both in the yard and in public places – and place it in the trash.

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 WHAT WOULD HELP PUGET SOUND EVEN MORE

  As we mentioned in a prior story, the big question is whether the government will begin to require relatively simple building techniques to help absorb the extraordinarily dirty water that pours off parking lots, sidewalks, roofs, streets and other hard city surfaces.

  That is the greatest future threat to Puget Sound.

  “The most promising approach” to reining in stormwater pollution is so-called “low impact development,” the Seattle P-I reported, adding: “That includes ‘green roofs’ that soak up rainwater, ‘rain gardens’ that intercept water before it flows onto hard surfaces, cisterns, and porous pavement that allows rainwater to soak into the ground.” A Crosscut headline summed up the matter another way: “Restoring Puget Sound: It’s the land use, stupid!

  “Picking up dog shit isn’t going build that sense of urgency and public constituency to save the Sound,” Mike Sato, spokesman for People for Puget Sound, wrote in his blog post. “Cutting out the bull shit and getting down to the hard business of funding stormwater programs and changing land-use practices will.” 

***

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King Co. fined $24,000 for spilling millions of gallons of raw sewage

  Totally preventable — that’s the conclusion investigators drew about the 8.7 million gallons of raw sewage that spilled into Elliott Bay from King County’s West Point wastewater treatment plant last month, prompting a four-day closure of the North Beach recreation area near Discovery Park. On Wednesday, the state Department of Ecology announced it fined the county $24,000 for three violations, including violating the state’s Clean Water Act.

  “King County has taken this incident very seriously, but significant errors led to the spill and made what could have been a small release much larger,” said Ecology’s Water Quality Section manager Kevin Fitzpatrick in a press release.  “The backup system was tested and ready, but inexplicably not used

during the very time for which it is designed.”

  “I’ve made it clear, and our wastewater managers agree, that this incident was unnecessary and unacceptable, and that the division must be accountable,” said Dow Constantine in a county press release. “I’ve asked the division to review the chain of events that led to the overflow and to take a hard look at their operating procedures, and I will be following up to make sure any necessary reforms are made.”

  So, what happened?

  Operator error, according to separate investigations by Ecology and King County. 

   More specifically, an electrical short circuit in a no-longer-used system, coupled with operator error, caused an emergency bypass gate to open around 10 p.m. Dec. 14, which diverted a portion of the incoming wastewater around the treatment system and into Puget Sound off West Point, according to the Ecology press release.

 

  For nearly three hours, sewage spilled.

  Ecology investigators determined that after the electrical malfunction occurred, operators: 1) failed to implement the facility’s standard operating procedures, and, 2) did not use a backup system that can override the controls and close the gate within minutes.

   The county’s statement put it this way: The overflow began when employees prepared an emergency bypass gate to open automatically during rainy weather to prevent high, rapid flows from damaging equipment or injuring workers. An electrical problem caused the bypass gate to open, though the county’s investigation indicates that operators could have taken steps to prevent or minimize the duration and amount of overflow.

  The good news is less sewage spilled than the 10 million gallons originally estimated. Laboratory samples showed a progressive improvement in water quality within days after the overflow, the county said, so the beach reopened four days later.

  “The penalty is tough but fair, and we accept Ecology’s findings because the overflow was serious,” said Wastewater Treatment Division Director Christie True in the county press release. “We also agree with Executive Constantine on the importance of accountability and have enacted corrective measures to ensure that standard operating procedures are followed.”

  It’s not all crying over spilled sewage. 

  You may recall reading that sewage may be the reason the bodies of some male English sole in Elliott Bay contain a protein normally produced by female fish to help egg yolks develop. And scientists guess that may be caused by hormones in women’s urine or birth control pills.

  And, oh, there’s the ongoing campaign to save polluted Puget Sound.

 

FURTHER READING

The Real Poop: Is picking up dog poop the key to saving Puget Sound?

McGinn vs. Mallahan: As Seattle Mayor, what would either do to save Puget Sound?

Rockfish: Puget Sound’s latest endangered species?

Puget Sound: Down the drain? When you wash clothes, you pollute

Holy, uh, Toledo: 10 million gallons of sewage flows into Elliott Bay; no swimming by spit

 

So long, vampire bats: Zoo to close Night Exhibit March 1; can Batman come to the rescue?

   Scott Gifford two weeks ago thrust himself into the role of Batman — a guy who’s out to save the vampire bats, the armadillos, and his favorite nocturnal animal, the slow loris, from the surprise announced planned closure of Woodland Park Zoo’s Night Exhibit (a.k.a. Nocturnal House). He launched a Facebook campaign to try to change the minds of zoo officials. Nearly 25,000 people have joined. 

  Batman met his match on Wednesday.

  That’s when zoo officials announced a date — March 1 — for the exhibit’s closure as an effort to save $300,000 annually. They also announced which animals get to stay and which will get the boot.

  Gone from the zoo and being sent to new homes at other accredited places will be several animals from the 61-animal exhibit, including seven blind cave fish, two Coendou (prehensile-tailed porcupines), two Douroucoulis (“night monkeys”), two Galagos (“bushbabies”), one Tawny frogmouth, and these bats:

  *all 19 vampire bats

 * all 8 African straw-colored bats

 * the zoo’s sole Australian gray-headed bat.

“The good news is that we are able to keep several of the animals by moving them to other exhibits. Visitors still will be able to enjoy some of their favorites,” said zoo Deputy Director Bruce Bohmke in a press release. “While the zoo cannot accept donations to keep the Night Exhibit open,” he said, “we will accept donations for the long-term care and housing of the nocturnal animals that will be staying.”

  The animals that the zoo will keep and start displaying in their new homes two months later on May 1 are:

 

 * a pair of two-toed sloths, which will move to the Tropical Rain Forest exhibit

* all six Rodrigues Island fruit bats, which will move to the Adaptations Building

* tamanduas, which are small anteaters native to South America, and springhaas, which are small rodents native to southeastern Africa; they’ll move to the zoo’s Adaptations Building

* slow loris and pygmy loris, which will move to an off-exhibit area

* a three-banded armadillo will be used as a presentation animal for up-close education programs.

  These animals get to stay mainly because they’re active during daylight hours and not totally nocturnal, the zoo statement said.

  Gifford took the news in stride. Saddled with law-school debt, the recent grad nonetheless planned to make a $25 donation Wednesday night toward caring for the remaining Night Exhibit zoo animals.

  “It looks like they’re going to keep some of the animals, which I think is great,” said Gifford, a Normandy Park native, though he’s “disappointed that it’s closing, of course.” He takes it as a positive sign that zoo officials seem willing to evaluate what can be done with the closed nocturnal house to make it energy efficient or, failing that, possibly build a new one some day. 

  Gifford is surprised by the outpouring of concern.

  He thought only a few friends would join his Save the Woodland Park Nocturnal House Facebook page, which he put up after being told by a friend of the zoo’s Jan. 5 announcement of the intended closure. Nearly 25,000 people joined his page without any ads or much attention–”very grassroots, word-of-mouth sort of thing,” Gifford calls it.

 “It was quite shocking that this many people would take the time to join the group,…wrote letters, went to meet-ups,” Gifford said.  “I think it’s a tremendous amount of support.”

  Emotions flowed.

  “This is the best part of the zoo,” wrote Marshie Stallak on the Facebook page. “Indian elephants are a dime a dozen and are at most zoos, but this is something very unique.”

  Wrote Bridget Fayden: “Every time i go to the zoo i sit in this exhibit for an hour at least. I like the bats.”

  “…In the rainy NW it is one of the few exhibits one can visit when it is pouring out,” wrote Thalia Syracopoulos. “One thing to remodel the building, which it may well  need. Another thing to close it and deprive generations of the thrill of animals rarely seen.”

 Alluding to a different zoo controversy backed by actress Lily Tomlin, Alyne Fortgang exhorted: “Why don’t you ‘nocturnalists’ rally for the Nocturnal House by supporting the elephants release to the 2,700 acre Elephant Sanctuary? This is a yearly savings of $400,000.00 since The Elephant Sanctuary is picking up all costs. How can we deny the elephants’ suffering in less than 1 acre yard?”

  Gifford said he has had cordial chats with zoo officials about the desire to keep or return the Night Exhibit.“I think this was never sort of meant to be antagonistic toward the zoo,” Gifford said. “It was never meant to be anything other than people who love the zoo say, ‘Hey, we’re concerned about this.’”

  Batman’s work is not done. Gifford said he “will do what I can to spread the word about fundraising.” He wants to show zoo officials that proponents have a solid base of financial support to move forward — if not to save the exhibit, “which unfortunately is looking less and less likely,” then to build a new energy-efficient one. So far, donations or pledges that Gifford knows about have been in the $20 to $100 range. Zoo spokeswoman Gigi Allianic also was unaware of any big checks. (“We received only a few donations under $500 toward keeping the exhibit open,” Allianic said. “We are going to ask these donors if they’re willing to re-direct their donation toward the long-term care and housing of the Night Exhibit animals that will remain at the zoo.”)

  “It’s all been a shock, but a lot of fun, and I think a good cause,” Gifford said, looking back at his two-week-old campaign, “and something that I think a lot of people didn’t know about.”

  Will Batman ultimately succeed? Stay tuned.

 

 FURTHER READING:

 Sign of the times: Bats pink-slipped from money-pinched WP Zoo; fans try to come to rescue

 Fans try to save zoo’s Nocturnal House; zoo indicates there’s no hope

 

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If you have the flu, it’s likely swine flu; vaccine now widely offered to keep others well

    If you have the flu, surprise — it’s virtually certain to be swine flu. Yes, swine flu, which has prompted 262 hospitalizations in King County since the start of the flu season on Oct. 5. Sixteen people during that time-frame are known to have died.

   “Virtually all of the flu circulating nationally is H1N1,” as opposed to seasonal flu, says James Apa, spokesman for Public Health-Seattle & King County .

   “The simple answer is we can’t say for sure why.”

    Normally at this time of year, health officials definitely would be seeing seasonal flu strains circulating now, but it hasn’t happened, Apa says. One theory is that the pandemic strain crowds out the seasonal-flu strains.

   “But the short answer is: we really don’t know,” Apa says.

   In an attempt to keep as many healthy people as possible flu-free, Public Health-Seattle & King County announced Friday that there’s lots of H1N1 vaccine available at participating pharmacies and health-care providers — about 114,000 doses for the taking. About 757,000 doses have been received in the county, but only 643,000 people have taken advantage of it.

   Now is a good time for anyone six months of age and older to get vaccinated, the agency says.

   For people who can’t afford to pay, the agency announced new community H1N1 vaccination clinics for January. Find more information here.

   Swine flu “has caused severe illness particularly among children, as well as pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions and weakened immune systems,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, in a press release. “We’re still seeing H1N1 influenza illness in our community, and we can prevent new waves of infection in coming months by vaccinating more people now. The current vaccine has been found to be very effective in protecting against the H1N1 virus.”

  The overall death rate due to H1N1 has been lower than expected, but the death rate among children has been 5 to 10 times higher than seasonal flu, the county health agency says.

 

  TIPS IF YOU HAVE THE FLU

  •   Don’t panic. Most people don’t need to see a doctor; only go if it’s an unusually severe illness. Most people experience and recover from swine flu just like seasonal flu. You may be ill for a week or longer.
  •   Drink plenty of fluids. Rest.
  •   Don’t go anywhere unless it’s to get medical care (wear a face mask) or important supplies.
  • Most people don’t need antiviral medications (such as Tamiflu). They are NOT recommended — except for people with the flu who are at higher risk from serious health problems from flu or who have severe illness.
  •   Do not go to work or school until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine (like Tylenol and ibuprofen).

    SOURCE: Public Health-Seattle & King County