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An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

New federal push to control toxic chemicals

—Jeff Radford, Corrales Comment

Industrial chemical usage in the microchip factories on the mesa above Corrales could come under more strict federal regulation if a bill meant to toughen the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) gains congressional approval.

A bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senator Tom Udall, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, is being considered in committee hearings with some prospects that the law meant to protect the public from exposure to toxic chemicals could actually pass.

Few of the solvents and acid gases used by Intel here are effectively regulated by safety standards set by federal or state agencies despite the 37 years since the toxic substances act was adopted. When Intel officials say, as they have for nearly twenty years, that their emissions of toxic chemicals from the plant here meet all federal standards, that assurance needs to be viewed with the knowledge that, for the most part, federal standards don’t really exist.

Altogether, the pollution permit issued to Intel allows the chipmaker to release up to 24 tons a year of such chemicals into the air. No health-based standards exist to determine whether that is safe for the public to breathe.

While implementation of the federal Clean Air Act failed to develop criteria to protect public health from exposure to airborne releases of Intel’s toxic chemicals, the same paralysis has effectively prevented implementation of TSCA. The Udall-Vitter Senate bill aims to remove some of TSCA’s provisions that inhibit enforcement and allow corporations to avoid disclosing the toxic chemicals used or produced.

Udall said the reforms proposed “will substantially increase access to chemical information for the public, for state governments, and for medical and health professionals, which cannot now be disclosed due to confidential business information claims.”

From the public health protection point of view, the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition supports a serious overhaul of TSCA as well. Its statement points out, “Instead of requiring chemical manufacturers to demonstrate that their products are safe before they go into use, the law says the government has to prove actual harm in order to control or replace a dangerous chemical.” The public interest coalition points out that very few of the more than eighty thousand chemicals on the market since 1976 have been tested for impacts on human health.

Udall said he suspects most Americans think the government already protects them from harm due to exposure to toxic chemicals. They would be wrong, he pointed out. “Most states in the country don’t have laws in place; New Mexico has no protection now.” In his comments at the Senate committee meeting July 31, Udall said the Chemical Safety Improvements Act “would, for the first time, require testing of the tens of thousands of chemicals that are used in everyday products.”

[This is an excerpt from the Corrales Comment August 10, 2013, edition. The entire article can be read at]

La Buena Vida gardening project

“New Beginnings” a success

— Steve M. Lucero

In 2011, a joint project of Sandoval County Master Gardeners was initiated with the La Buena Vida program “New Beginnings,” located in the Town of Bernalillo. The program has been a helpful and enjoyable endeavor. Volunteer Master Gardeners provided assistance and advice to ‘new beginning’ clientele on how to grow vegetables in raised beds.

New Beginnings clientele sowed seeds in small pots in early spring and nurtured them until the sprouts were ready to transplant into raised bed gardening plots. During the summer, the plants were watered and fertilized. As fall approaches, the fruits of their labor are harvested, and they are used to prepare daily lunch at the center.

This year’s crop included tomato, pepper, beets, beans, cantaloupe, and watermelon. The New Beginnings’ clients also plant and maintain several pots of colorful flowers used for decoration outside the La Buena Vida building.

La Buena Vida, Inc. is a nonprofit outpatient family-oriented mental and behavioral health care organization located at 872 Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo, NM. New Beginnings participants share a common goal of making positive life changes with the help and support of others. Marilyn Lande is the psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR) team leader of the New Beginnings program and has been with the program since the spring of 2012.

Marilyn is very pleased with the success of the joint garden project. She has seen her clients open up to the Master Gardener volunteers in a special way during the past two growing seasons. She also noted that several of her clients have taken their knowledge of gardening back to their homes and have planted their own gardens.

The New Beginnings participants have found the garden project to be a popular team activity with the common goal of growing healthy plants and producing fresh vegetables. The clients take their turn in the daily maintenance of the garden based on their abilities.

Master Gardener Training Program

—Steve Lucero

The New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service of Sandoval County is offering a Volunteer Master Gardeners’ Training Program for 2014. The training is for residents who enjoy and have been gardening for a few years. The Master Gardener volunteer program is designed to educate and assist the residents of Sandoval County in all aspects of gardening.

Now is the time to apply for the 14-week course which will begin on January 7 and end on April 15, 2014. Classes will be held every Tuesday from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., at the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension office, located in the old Sandoval Courthouse, 711 Camino del Pueblo, Bernalillo.

To become certified as a Sandoval County Master Gardener, you are required to complete forty hours of classes, which include testing, thirty hours of volunteer work, and ten hours at the Master Gardner telephone hotline at the Extension Office in Bernalillo.

The Master Gardener Volunteer Training Program is limited to 35 students. The deadline to apply is December 1, 2013. The cost is $125 dollars. The class fills quickly, and there is usually a waiting list, so early applications are advised. Applicants will be interviewed between September and December.

For more information, contact the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service at 867-2582, or toll free 1 (800) 678-1802, or go to county/sandoval/mastergardener/index.html.

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