Citizen Action Monitor

Environment Hamilton: Not-for-profit citizen action group exhibits winning formula

No 197 Posted by fw, June 17, 2011

ABOUT ENVIRONMENT HAMILTON (EH)

Overview from the website

Environment Hamilton’s Mission: EH was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 2001 to help Hamiltonians to develop the knowledge and skills they need to protect and enhance the environment around them. 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr at EH’s opening ceremony: The organization’s official launch took place on December 5, 2001 with the assistance of the president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper Mark Mattson. It included a presentation by Mr. Kennedy to over 2000 students at Hamilton Place.

EH’s first major campaign – a victory against the City: The organization emerged out of the efforts of a small group of citizens from east Hamilton who launched an investigation to ensure the City of Hamilton’s old Rennie Street Landfill was properly cleaned up. Working with the Sierra Legal Defence Fund [now Ecojustice Canada] and the Environmental Bureau of Investigation, charges were laid against the City of Hamilton for allowing toxic substances such as PCBs and other contaminants to discharge from the dump directly into Red Hill Creek. The city entered a guilty plea to the charges and was fined over $480,000 under both provincial and federal environmental legislation. The sum of $150,000 came back to the citizens via a fine-sharing provision in the federal Fisheries Act. Some of that provided seed money for the launch of Environment Hamilton and a substantial portion is managed by the organization as an Environmental Justice Fund.

EH’s Ongoing projects and activities: Environment Hamilton has subsequently worked on dozens of projects and activities in collaboration with a variety of funders and many local partners to build a sustainable future for Hamilton. We also work alongside residents to deal with pressing environmental issues, making frequent use of [Ontario’s] Environmental Bill of Rights and other legal tools.

Executive and Board: Environment Hamilton s led by executive director Lynda Lukasik and a volunteer board of nine directors, and each project has one or more full or part-time staff.

VICTORY FOR ENVIRONMENT HAMILTON IN AIRPORT POLLUTION CAMPAIGN

May 16, 2011 Hamilton Catch article — Chemical pollution continuing from airport. Hamilton Catch (Citizens AT City Hall) — another exemplary citizen action group, which reports on Hamilton civic affairs — reported on an Environment Hamilton campaign to stop contamination of fish and turtles in a conservation area.

Led by its director, Dr Joe Minor, a biologist, EH pressed the city to stop the on-going flow of toxic chemicals from a fire suppression practice pad at Hamilton airport. Minor, whose independent testing confirmed the airport as a source of Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) contamination, wrote three letters to council in the span of a month demanding quick action:

“I am concerned that I see no evidence that any action has been taken to reduce the ongoing flow of PFOS leaving City property destined for the Welland River. It is my opinion that a lack of public communication has played a key role in the PFOS contamination going ‘unreported’ and ‘uninvestigated’ for 30 years. This resulted in the contamination spreading many kilometers downstream, the devastation of a local lake, and many years of people eating contaminated fish.

The May 16 Catch article concludes the story this way:

Council formally received Minor’s first two letters at the two most recent council meetings and referred them to the general manager of planning and the city’s Medical Officer of Health for reports. Councillors earlier directed their public health staff to test wells and irrigation facilities . . . for the chemical, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has also promised to examine multiple stream sites to determine sources of the toxic contamination that led it to issue fish consumption warnings for Lake Niapenco.

June 14, 2011 Catch article — City relations with airport strained by pollution. The two opening paragraphs confirm a BIG WIN for Environment Hamilton:

With the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) now agreeing with a citizen group [i.e. Environment Hamilton] that the airport is the source of major chemical pollution of the Welland River and Binbrook Conservation Area, city councillors are asking why it took so long for Tradeport International to inform the city about the Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) contamination. A resolution approved after three hours in closed session strongly suggests councillors don’t trust the information they are getting from the airport management company, and are worried about potential city liability for a costly cleanup.

The unanimous decision orders the hiring of an independent consultant “to ensure that Tradeport is meeting their environmental obligations under the law or identify where it is not”, and uses a clause in the lease agreement to require Tradeport to pay the costs of the consultant. It also directs the city’s legal department to engage its own consultant “to review all environmental practices at the airport” including the sediment analysis conducted by a Tradeport consultant and the claims that contamination occurred prior to the private company taking over operation of the city-owned airport.

ENVIRONMENT HAMILTON’S ONGOING PROJECTS & ACTIVITIES

Here is a brief sketch of several other EH projects. (For more information click on the linked headings)

Dundas Eco-Motion: Leave the car at home & reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Environment Hamilton is back in Dundas and working hard to promote the use of sustainable transportation and, in so doing, build a public movement to see sustainable transportation systems improved. The Dundas Eco-Motion Project (DEMP) encourages residents to walk, bike, rollerblade, or bus around their communities to reduce our carbon footprint and improve our health.

Hamilton Eat Local:  Formed in 2005 by Environment Hamilton and other community partners to support programs that encourage Hamiltonians to buy food grown by local farmers and harvest food from urban gardens and other settings that would otherwise go to waste. Hamilton Eat Local aims to increase the consumption of local food in Hamilton through two major initiatives: The Hamilton Eat Local Farm Map & Directory and the Hamilton Fruit Tree Project. The Hamilton Eat Local Farm Map & Directory, first launched in 2007, forms the cornerstone of our local food campaign. The map features over 60 locations where consumers can purchase locally grown food directly from those who produced it. The 2010-2011 Hamilton Eat Local Farm Map & Directory, featuring yet more local food sources than previous years, are available.

Good Neighbour Campaign: Despite our city’s pollution arising from a collective of contributors, community members are concerned with the odours, noises and emissions coming from ArcelorMittal-Dofasco’s facilities. The Hamilton Good Neighbour Campaign (GNC) was created to open the lines of communication between ArcelorMittal-Dofasco and its neighbours to create a positive working relationship and alleviate these concerns. Utilizing a methodology which has proven successful in other cities, the campaign has been working hand in hand with community members to encourage ArcelorMittal-Dofasco to be a better neighbour to the community in which it is a part.

Greening Our Local Economy: In 2009 Environment Hamilton launched the Greening Our Local Economy (GOLE) Project.  With the support of three years of funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the GOLE Project will focus on engaging Hamiltonians in an exploration of the potential for green economic development in Hamilton. With the continuous decline of the world economy, many countries, including our neighbours to the south, have acknowledged the potential for a Blue to Green Collar Transformation. The idea is to stimulate the economy by taking initiative to improve the environment. Investing in renewable energy, improving transit, and implementing retrofitting programs are just a few of the many ways in which we can accomplish our vision.

Greening Sacred Spaces Hamilton: A practical program developed by Faith & the Common Good to assist faith communities in taking concrete actions to create a more sustainable and energy efficient place of worship and to educate members of the community about ecological issues. It’s a joint project between Environment Hamilton and Faith and the Common Good (a province-wide, interfaith network of religious communities), funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Moving is Not an Option: The goal is to support residents as they address environmental issues in their own communities. Initiatives include: Hosting Eco-Fairs — a day of excitement and educational activities has the kids attending different stations throughout the school to learn about water conservation, eating locally, recycling and more; Greening Ideas Partnership with Schools: e.g.  In a brain storming session with EH staff, the interest in highlighting walkability around the school emerged. The idea? Create a large map and use it as an educational tool to teach kids about learning directions, identifying places of interest in their community, and even utilizing the map in math lessons on graphing. On the map, the school is highlighted in green and everything else is yellow. Each building has its address included so that kids can see exactly which home is theirs. For a description of other activities in this project group, click on the linked heading.

Rural Routes: A program to raise urban dwellers’ awareness of rural life. For example, In February A sold-out bus headed to lamb producer, Black Walnut Lane during the height of the lambing season.  Visitors were treated to a tractor ride, sheepdog demonstration and tasty lamb samples.  Rural Routes participants braved the cold as they explored two covered barn-like areas and saw rams, lambs, sheep, lamas, Angus cows, goats and more.

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This entry was posted on June 17, 2011 by in environmental activism, leadership, NGO counterpower, political action and tagged , .
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