Category Archives: Air Force

WashPo Magazine: Lake Superior’s Forever Chemicals

Story and photographs by Shantal Riley
JANUARY 12, 2022

“A mass of gray clouds loomed over a panorama of humid wetlands in late summer on the Bad River Reservation in northern Wisconsin. Carpets of bright-green grass blanketed the glassy surface of the water, accented here and there by clusters of purple loosestrifea spiky invasive plant, as an aluminum skiff glided silently over the water. Edith Leoso, tribal historic preservation officer for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, leaned over the edge of the boat, running her hand across the bushy grass tips and loosening showers of wild rice. “If it sinks to the bottom, that means it’s ripe,” she said.

The wild rice is sacred to the Ojibwe, also called Chippewa. “We were from the East Coast, originally,” she told me. “There was a prophecy that said there would be a light-skinned race that would come across the great salt water. In their coming, they would bring destruction upon us. In order to maintain our way of life, to maintain who we were as a people, we would have to move to the West.” There would be signs along the way: “We would know when we arrived at our final stopping place when we saw food that grew on top of the water,” Leoso said. “That was our manoomin. … ‘Mino’ in our language is good, and ‘min’ is seed. So, ‘good seed.’ ”

The rice grows on the Kakagon-Bad River Sloughs, which sit atop 16,000 acres of wetlands on the southern rim of Lake Superior. The area serves as a spawning ground for lake sturgeon, walleye, yellow perch and northern pike. Both fish and wild rice are staple foods of the Anishinaabe, as the Ojibwe call themselves.

 

Early last year, the state of Wisconsin issued a fish consumption advisory that recommended eating no more than one meal a month of Lake Superior rainbow smelt, caught by tribes and local anglers during smelt runs in the spring. It was the first advisory for any of the Great Lakes warning of fish with elevated levels of PFAS — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of man-made chemicals linked to cancer that have shown up in drinking water systems around the country.

PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment. After years of industrial use, the federal government recently took steps to regulate them. But will it be enough to assure the safety of the Indigenous people who have fished on the lake for thousands of years — and depend on the fish for survival?

A few days earlier, I was in a small plane flying over the deep green forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The plane shook violently from turbulence as it approached Keweenaw Bay, a V-shaped inlet on the southern shore of the lake. A thin layer of smoke had settled on the water, blown in from wildfires burning hundreds of miles away in Canada.

 

The lake tribes live in close-knit communities that I knew I’d need help to access. So, I retained a local, Charlie Rasmussen, to advise me on various aspects of the trip: He warned me about spotty cellphone coverage, which roads were under construction and where deer liked to dart out in front of traffic; he also gave me leads on locals I could speak to about fishing. (He is a writer, photographer and communications officer for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, a nonprofit that supports member tribes through natural resources management, conservation and public information. But his work with me was in a freelance capacity.)

A rental car secured, I drove an hour south along Highway 41, to the L’Anse Reservation, where a pocket of woods was quiet but for water spilling over a mossy rock ledge. Jerry Jondreau was trying to catch brook trout on Silver River, which twists its way through the reservation. The reservation is home to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), one of about a dozen bands, including the Bad River Band, who live around the lake.

 

 

The lake itself is often hailed for being the cleanest of the Great Lakes. But Jondreau said its pristine reputation is a misconception. “I can’t bring fish back to the family from the lake,” he explained. “We don’t eat as much fish as we used to.”

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake on Earth by surface area, spanning a vast 31,700 square miles. Surrounded by dense forests and relatively sparse populations, more than 80 species of fish live in its cold, remote waters. While the fish are abundant, they’re rife with contaminants: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, the pesticide toxaphene — all linked to cancer — and mercury, left behind as a legacy of mining in a rugged region known as Copper Country. There are enough pollutants now circulating in the great lake that Michigan lists more than a dozen consumption advisories for its fish, and the pollution runs headlong into areas where tribes practice subsistence fishing.

On a windy August afternoon, the choppy waters around Lake Superior’s Madeline Island glittered with flecks of sunshine. Boats headed north, fishing poles straining toward wakes churning behind them. In 2019, Wisconsin scientists took samples from fish swimming near the island, considered the spiritual homeland of the Ojibwe. Six fish species had detectable levels of PFAS — and rainbow smelt had an average of seven times the amount of PFAS that were found in the other fish, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It was enough to trigger the January 2021 consumption advisory for Wisconsin waters. Two months later, Minnesota and Michigan followed suit with their own advisories.

PFAS were introduced to Americans in the 1940s. Prized for their resistance to heat, oil and water, they were key ingredients in products like Scotchgard and Teflon. Today, they’re found in food packaging, carpets, furniture, clothing, makeup and everyday household items like dental floss. They’re used on an industrial scale in nonstick and waterproof coatings, electronics, degreasers and fire foams. The chemicals have been linked to a host of serious health problems: high cholesterol, liver damage, suppression of the immune system, thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancer, among others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some take years to be eliminated from the human body.

“They dissolve easily in water,” says environmental engineer Christy Remucal, who studies PFAS in her lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Remucal was not involved in the testing of the Lake Superior fish.) So, the chemicals move around the environment fairly easily, she told me — and there are thousands of them. One of these, called PFOS, or perfluorooctane sulfonic acid — found at airports and military sites with histories of fire foam use — tends to build up in fish.

But Michigan scientists were puzzled when the little smelt showed higher levels of PFOS than larger, predator fish such as lake trout. “Typically, the higher up on a food chain that you go, you’re going to have higher levels of contamination,” explains Brandon Armstrong, an aquatic biologist with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), referring to a process called biomagnification. “It was surprising to see such a high level of PFOS in smelt because they feed low on the food chain,” he says. “They’re eating small fish and zooplankton out in the glades. They’re not a top-predator species.”

 

Smelt is just one among many fish that tribal communities in the lake basin depend on. Indeed, food sovereignty was a cornerstone of 19th-century treaties in which the Ojibwe ceded millions of acres and retained their rights to fish, hunt and gather. These rights were challenged a century later, when William Jondreau, an Ojibwe man — and grandfather of Jerry Jondreau — was arrested for catching lake trout when it was out of season. He claimed, under treaty rights, that he was free to fish on Keweenaw Bay, where his people had fished for centuries. His case went before the Michigan Supreme Court and, in the 1971 landmark Jondreau decision, the court ruled that the 1854 treaty with the Chippewa superseded state fish and game laws.

The decision reaffirmed his people’s right to hunt and fish on ceded territories. But there has been a steady “devaluation” of treaty rights since, Jerry Jondreau argues. “In those agreements, we retained our rights to hunt, fish and gather,” he says. “In exchange, the U.S. got all the land. It’s accruing wealth. But the fish, the water … those things are becoming sick.”

 

On the Bad River Reservation, a flash of lightning lit up a dark cloud over the Kakagon River. Seconds later, a low rumble of thunder rolled through the wetlands. Edith Leoso watched from the back of the boat as it sped inland. The rice harvest would be plentiful this season, she said. But the smelt population is in decline — and has been for years. Even so, she said, “people are still smelting when they shouldn’t be. We should leave that fish alone.” They’re fishing out of necessity,she explained, regardless of consumption advisories: “We don’t recognize them if we have to feed our families. That’s the bottom line.”

Michiganalso lists consumption guidelines for fish in hundreds of smaller lakes and rivers. “Fishing is a primary source of subsistence for Ojibwe tribes throughout the basin,” says Valoree Gagnon, director of university-Indigenous community partnerships at the Great Lakes Research Center of Michigan Technological University. “So, when you’re asked to lower fish consumption, you’re not just losing meals, you’re losing all those practices associated with fishing: sharing knowledge and passing that to future generations. It changes all kinds of social dynamics.”

The lake tribes have been proactive in response to environmental threats to their water. In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the Bad River Band the authority — known as “treatment as a state” — to set its own water-quality standards. A decade later, KBIC received the same authority.

 

Researchers are doing additional testing to identify possible sources of PFAS in Lake Superior. But contaminated sites already identified may hold clues. The chemicals have been found at the Duluth Air National Guard Base, adjacent to a PFAS-polluted creek that leads to Saint Louis Bay, at the southwestern corner of the lake in Minnesota; they were first detected at the Duluth air base in 2010, said Bioenvironmental Manager Maj. Ryan Blazevic of the 148th Fighter Wing in an email. The wing “no longer conducts fire protection training in a manner that discharges firefighting foam,” he said. (Firefighter training is a common source of PFAS at military bases.)”

find more at this link  much more to the story

There is not enough accountability.  Bribery rules, along with conflicts and those who harm hide behind the corporate charters [that mean anything the money says they do.]  – Brad

Postpone Request for National Guard: 11 Jan 22 “Open House”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 10, 2022

Contact: Tom Boswell, 608/718-7312

 

Safe Skies Clean Water Asks Air National Guard

and Dane County Airport to Postpone “Open House”

 

Madison – The Safe Skies Clean Water Coalition has called on the Wisconsin Air National Guard and Dane County Regional Airport to postpone an “Open House” scheduled for Tuesday, January 11, at Madison College. The purpose of the event is to update the public on plans being undertaken by the Wisconsin Air National Guard (WANG) and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) to remediate PFAS pollution originating with the Truax airbase.

 

location  https://isthmus.com/locations/madison-college-truax-campus-mitby-theater

 

This is not the right time to hold this event,” the coalition wrote to Colonel Bart Van Roo, commander of the 115th Fighter Wing at Truax. “We are in the height of another public health crisis. Many of the families who are and will be most impacted by the water pollution and dangerous noise levels of F-35 fighter jets are not likely to further jeopardize their health and safety by attending an indoor event at this moment.”

 

The coalition is one of several groups that has been advocating for the Air National Guard, Dane County and the City of Madison – all designated by the DNR as responsible parties in the water contamination crisis – to be more forthcoming in communication with the public. But Safe Skies Clean Water said “this is not the appropriate time for this event.”

 

Representatives of the NGB and a Maryland-based engineering firm are to present information on the remediation process and progress to date and address questions and comments from the public. The event is scheduled for 6 pm at the Mitby Theater on the Truax campus of Madison College.

 

We are frankly skeptical concerning the motivation of the Air National Guard and Dane County Regional Airport for scheduling this Open House while the pandemic is peaking, the weather is inhospitable, the students and faculty of Madison College are on winter break, and the event was announced during the winter holiday,” said Safe Skies Clean Water.

The Air Force, National Guard Bureau and Air National Guard have proven to be toxic neighbors. Now they plan to initiate yet another assault on our public health by foisting F-35 fighter jets on an already compromised community that doesn’t want them. We are asking the Air Force and Air National Guard to be better neighbors. We know you would rather be protecting us from real threats like pandemics and national disasters rather than making war on us. We ask you to postpone this event and to halt the construction at the airbase until the site investigation and PFAS remediation is completed.”


 

Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin is a nonprofit coalition of residents and organizations in Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin opposed to the proposed bed down of F-35A fighter jets at Truax Field.

For more,  safeskiescleanwaterwi.org 


“There is a problem.  Let’s put it on the table, get people engaged in it, hold polluters accountable and clean it up.”

  • Dr. Maria Powell, MEJO
  • Brad Geyer, Veterans for Peace, Former WI Air National Guard and US Air Force

WI Environmental Health Network: Forever Chemicals Wisconsin

Madison Environmental Justice: PFAS Related

 

Living Under Warplanes Interview On WORT 89.9 FM With Documentarian Nina Berman

A Public Affair Radio: Living Under Warplanes With Documentarian Nina Berman

WORT 89.9 FM Community Radio – Thursday Talk with Allen Ruff

Nina Berman Website 

“Communities across the country are living with military fighter jets overhead. Here in Madison, F35 Jets are scheduled to bed down in early 2022, despite public outcry. A new film by documentarian, photographer, Nina Berman, “When Jets Fly” shows the experiences in Whidbey Island off the coast of Seattle. The project features the people living there, whose voices are often interrupted by fighter jet.

Nina Berman is documentary photographer, filmmaker, author and educator. Her wide-ranging work looks at  American politics, militarism, post violence trauma and resistance.  She is the author of Purple Hearts – Back from IraqHomeland, and An autobiography of Miss Wish.”

 



Related article on Intercept 

WHEN THE JETS FLY: NEW WARPLANES TURN U.S. TOWNS INTO SONIC HELLSCAPES
“U.S. communities are beset by deafening roars from a generation of louder military aircraft — and they are fighting back.”
Nina Berman
December 17 2021

“THE SOUND of the U.S. military’s latest generation of warplanes is quite literally deafening. The vibration shakes your insides. Conversation stops. Stress floods your body. And just when you think it’s over, another jet, and another and another, roars above rooftops, until it feels as though the sky is going to crack open.

This is the situation on Whidbey Island off the coast of Seattle and in communities across the country, where civilians find themselves living amid sonic warscapes as the U.S. military practices for battle above their homes, schools, and playgrounds. In 2016, I went to Whidbey as part of a video research project on the environmental impacts from the production and testing of U.S. weapons. The Navy operates a base on the island where pilots train on Boeing-made EA-18G Growlers, which are electronic-attack aircraft designed to disable enemy communications and defenses.

Pilots practice touch-and-go landings and take-offs to simulate conditions on aircraft carriers. They use two runways, one on the base and a smaller one that is located near homes, schools, and a national historic reserve in the town of Coupeville. I met residents who were desperate and angry. They spoke of feeling anxious, of not being able to sleep or socialize, of homes shaking from within. I met one woman who bunkers down in her basement and cries while her husband sits inside with protective ear muffs and self-medicates when the jets fly.

Multiple studies show both auditory and non-auditory impacts from noise pollution of this magnitude, including cardiovascular disease, tendency to dementia, anxiety, depression, and negative childhood learning outcomes and hearing loss. On Whidbey, noise levels can reach 120 decibels outdoors and 90 decibels have been reported in some indoor locations. A jackhammer at five feet away is about 100 decibels, for comparison. The jets fly very low, day and night for hours at a time, sometimes past midnight.

I returned to Whidbey in the summer of 2020 and the situation was worse. The Navy had increased its Growler fleet. More areas were being impacted, including the San Juan Islands and the Olympic National Forest, which the Navy uses as an electronic warfare range.

In 2019, the Navy was sued by the Washington attorney general and a local non-profit, Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve (COER). Earlier this month, in a scathing opinion, Chief Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura said the Navy violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider war-training impacts on childhood learning, on the region’s bird population, and on greenhouse gas emissions. He also said the Navy should have more thoroughly researched training locations where there would have been less harm, such as the desert in El Centro, California.

The judge’s ruling does not provide a remedy. Instead, he has asked the parties to submit their suggestions within 30 days. For residents, the most obvious solution is to relocate the Growlers.

THE STRUGGLE against military encroachment on civilian spaces is not unique to Whidbey. Since 2019, residents in the Burlington, Vermont area have been living amid the sonic roar of  F-35 attack aircraft. Twenty F-35s are now stationed at the Vermont Air National Guard station at Burlington International Airport. Pilots fly several hours a day, Tuesdays through Fridays and some weekends and nights. They train over the most densely populated areas of the state, including the town of Winooski, just north of the airport and home to a significant refugee population.

Saddam Ali and his wife Rajaa and children are one of those new families. They escaped Iraq and every time they hear an F-35, it brings them right back to the war they had fled. “I feel like I am still living in Iraq when I hear the sound of the planes,” said Rajaa. “We feel stress. It’s from this, of course. It’s really disturbing.”

Despite vigorous opposition from Vermonters in the form of protests and local resolutions against the planes, both of the state’s senators, Democrats Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, supported the Air Force’s basing decision. They say it was needed to ensure the long term viability of the Air National Guard base but critics vigorously dispute that and say the base would exist with or without the F35s, and they point instead to Leahy’s cozy history with military contractors.

The F-35s are being rolled out at Air National Guard bases around the country, including Madison, Wisconsin, which is scheduled to receive the planes in 2023. Flight operations in Madison would increase by 47% over the current F-16s and make approximately 1,167 nearby homes “incompatible for residential use.” That doesn’t mean the Air Force will buy out these homeowners. The FAA would need to decide whether those homes should be sound-proofed or demolished and the homeowners compensated. In Vermont, if the authorities decided to sound-proof, it would take 26 years to fix 2,600 of the most-impacted homes at a cost of $4.5 million a year, according to a Burlington airport study.

But how do you sound-proof a park, or a playground, or your own backyard?”

Daniel Hale Deserves Credit for Exposing Crimes by Drone

SAM CARLINER

Original Article Link

New York Times Reporting on Airstrikes Should Give Daniel Hale More Credit – Common Dreams

“The New York Times should give Daniel Hale proper credit and call for Biden to immediately pardon him. As long as he’s in prison, there is no justice.”

The New York Times recently came through with a display of reporting that should be commended. On December 18, the paper announced its release of hundreds of the Pentagon’s confidential reports of civilian casualties caused by U.S. airstrikes in the Middle East. This followsits high profile investigations into the U.S. drone murder of the Ahmadi family during the Afghanistan withdrawal, and an American strike cell in Syria that killed dozens of civilians with airstrikes.

Many journalists will, rightfully, praise the New York Times for its reporting on U.S. airstrikes and the civilian cost. Far fewer will point out how the inhumanity of U.S. airstrikes were first revealed in 2013 by whistleblower Daniel Hale.

Hale used his first hand experience identifying targets for the drone program to highlight how it relies on faulty criteria, and as a result, kills civilians. Later, Hale worked for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, where he had access to documents on how the drone program operates. Hale provided those documents to the Intercept which published them as The Drone Papers in 2015. While Hale’s documents were not as comprehensive as the trove recently published by the New York Times, they did provide much of the same core revelations, particularly the faulty nature of how intelligence is gathered and the high civilian-toll of air campaigns. Most notably, Hale’s documents revealed that 90% of the drone program’s victims were not the intended targets. Up until the recent reporting by the New York Times, Hale’s revelations were the most comprehensive proof of how U.S. air warfare functions.

To be fair, the Times’ reporting on the brutal nature and high civilian cost of U.S. airstrikes is not insignificant. Americans could have easily ignored the Pentagon’s violence now that the “boots on the ground” approach to intervention has largely ended with Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal. In fact, the use of airstrikes was championed by Obama so as to avoid anti-war sentiments from Americans. The Times actually highlights this, writing:

“The air campaign represents a fundamental transformation of warfare that took shape in the final years of the Obama administration, amid the deepening unpopularity of the forever wars that had claimed more than 6,000 American service members. The United States traded many of its boots on the ground for an arsenal of aircraft directed by controllers sitting at computers, often thousands of miles away.”

Still, as much as the Times’ reporting already seems to be provoking conversation around U.S. air warfare, it is concerning that this conversation comes with the risk of Hale’s own heroic actions being disregarded. The Times makes no mention of Hale’s actions, even as they receive accolades for supposedly breaking to the world the violence of U.S. airstrikes. More damning is how little the Times has commented on the fact that Hale was sentenced to nearly four years in prison earlier this year for exposing the drone program. Aside from a standard article about his sentencing published in July, Daniel Hale is absent from the New York Times’ pages. Azmat Khan, the reporter behind the “Civilian Casualty Files” has not mentioned Daniel Hale once on Twitter.

It’s not like there have not been updates in Hale’s story since he was sentenced. After his sentencing, Hale was kept languishing in a jail for over two months even though he was supposed to be transferred in a matter of weeks. Once finally transferred, Hale’s situation was made worse. He was supposed to be sent to a prison that would provide care for his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis, but instead he is now being held in a communication management unit (CMU). CMU’s are designed for terrorists and “high-risk inmates” and detainees have highly restricted contact with the outside world. The American Civil Liberties Union has called on the U.S. government to end its use of CMUs, arguing that these “secretive housing units inside federal prisons in which prisoners are condemned to live in stark isolation from the outside world are unconstitutional, violate the religious rights of prisoners and are at odds with U.S. treaty obligations.”

Daniel Hale deserves freedom for revealing proof of the very crimes the New York Times is now being praised for exposing. His support team and anti-war activists have been working hard to grow concern and action for his cause, but that is a daunting task considering Hale is a person who the U.S. government, and U.S. military in particular, want silenced. But as the Times has shown with its own reporting of U.S. airstrikes, they have a platform that can cut through Pentagon-imposed silence. A single editorial calling for Hale’s release would do wonders for his cause.

Presumably, the Times reporters who have been investigating the violence of U.S. airstrikes are doing so because they believe the victims of U.S. air campaigns deserve justice. The Pentagon’s refusal to hold anyone accountable for their deadly Kabul airstrike in August signals that it will be an uphill battle holding anyone accountable for the newly-exposed airstrikes. Daniel Hale joined the fight to hold the Pentagon seriously accountable. He joined years before the New York Times did, and was treated like a criminal for it. The New York Times should give Daniel Hale proper credit and call for Biden to immediately pardon him. As long as he’s in prison, there is no justice.”

Sam Carliner is a journalist based in New Jersey. His writing focuses on US imperialism and the climate crisis. He is also the Weekend Social Media Manager at CodePink.

 

Daniel Hale Explains Why