Help Us Track Oil Trains in Pittsburgh and Beyond

 FracTraker

Call for Volunteers

One of our new areas of focus  is protecting our rivers from the dangers of transporting harmful materials, particularly coal, coal ash and oil/gas across our rivers via barge and rail. Three Rivers Waterkeeper has partnered with the FracTracker Alliance and the CREATE Lab at CMU to track oil trains on October 21st near Pittsburgh, PA for 2-hour segments from 7:00am – 7:00pm.

Sign up to participate

We are looking for volunteers that can commit to a two-hour shift throughout the day on October 21st. Volunteers will be equipped with a video camera, tripod, and of course coffee and snacks in order to record the passing of trains in either direction throughout a two-hour shift. The video footage will allow us to identify a plaque that is required to be displayed on cars carrying oil, as well as whether the cars are empty or full.

Background Info

Approximately 400,000 barrels of oil are transported daily from the west, following tracks from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale Play, which typically run through populated urban areas such as Pittsburgh. These trains have been known to derail and cause immense damage. The most recent of cases occurred in Québec in July of 2013, when a derailed train and the subsequent explosions resulted in the deaths of 47 people. The transportation of volatile crude oil from western states to major cities up and down the Eastern seaboard poses a major risk to any town or city through which these trains pass. FracTracker and affiliated groups want to understand the true risk that these volatile train cars pose to our region.

FracTracker and CREATE Lab will use the data collected during this project to analyze the frequency and risk of crude oil freight trains passing through the Pittsburgh area, but we need your help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns at (412) 589-9411 or rob@threeriverswaterkeeper.org. We hope to see you there!

Happy Birthday Clean Water Act!

On Saturday, October 18th the Clean Water Act will celebrate its 42nd anniversary. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, oil spills, river fires, and toxic waste put a national spotlight on our country’s serious water pollution problems. As a result, Congress voted with overwhelming bipartisan support to enact the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972.

The passage of the CWA finally gave regulatory agencies the authority to hold polluters accountable, to regulate the discharge of pollution, and to establish water quality standards for our ailing waterways.

While the CWA has not achieved its ultimate goal of restoring all of our waters to “fishable, swimmable,” this landmark legislation has resulted in significant improvements for our Three Rivers and many of our nation’s waters. And, that is something definitely worth celebrating!

Autumn along the banks of the Allegheny River

 

Stream Daylighting: The Uncovering of Lost Resources

The preservation and safeguarding of small streams is the best approach to ensure environmental and community benefits such as clean water and flood reduction.  In many of our cities, however, where small streams are often covered by buildings and forgotten, protecting these streams is not possible.  Stream daylighting is an approach that looks to bring these buried waterways back to surface by physically uncovering and restoring them.

The city of Cincinnati is using this approach of stream daylighting along the Lick Run watershed, to reduce and eliminate combined sewer overflows into local creeks and rivers. Cincinnati, like the city of Pittsburgh, is under a federal consent decree to reduce its CSO’s. The Metropolitan Sewer District of Cincinnati hopes that the Lick Run project will not only reduce its CSO’s but also reduce flood damage, cost to tax payers, and revitalize the area economically. They aim to emulate the success seen in other cities like Seattle where the uncovering of Thorton Run, which cost a total of $14 million to complete, was a catalyst for $200 million in private development  (American Rivers Report:  Daylighting Streams, December 2013).

The  EPA is highlighting the Lick Run Project as a model communities could mimic, as they search for ways to address water pollution issues and promote economic growth.  Although more information needs to be gathered on the potential challenges of stream daylighting, the success of projects across the U.S indicates that it may be a valuable tool in addressing economic and environmental issues.

More information on the Lick Run stream daylighting project can be found at:

http://projectgroundwork.org/projects/lowermillcreek/sustainable/lickrun/index.htm

River Rally 2014!

River Rally is the nation’s largest annual gathering of grassroots environmental leaders who are working to protect and restore our most valuable natural resource – fresh water. Our 14th River Rally, co-hosted by River Network and Waterkeeper Alliance, will take place in Pittsburgh, PA, May 30-June 2, 2014. This one-of-a-kind event will bring together several hundred river leaders, volunteers, staff, board members, stewards and funders for an intensive sharing and collaborative learning experience that has proven to be the single most effective way to build and maintain a national movement of educated, effective river advocates and sustainable watershed protection organizations.

We are anticipating at least 750 River Rally participants including non-profit leaders from more than 250 organizations, dozens of federal, state and local agency staff, environmentally-minded businesses and other individuals from nearly every state, as well as several Native American tribes, and international leaders from across the globe.

River Rally 2014 priorities are to:

1) Provide a superior team leadership training experience for lead staff, volunteers, and board members of citizen-led local watershed groups;

2) Increase the skill and expertise level of River Rally participants in core areas, including organizational development, fundraising, technology, leadership, watershed science, and protection, restoration, and policy and litigation tools such as the Clean Water Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and

3) Facilitate increased peer-to-peer communication, networking, and sharing of “best practices” among watershed advocates.

Learn more at: www.riverrally.org