WATER SUPPLY/San Francisco attacks dioxin pollution
The San Francisco Bay has long been a polluted water source, yet some residents continue to eat fish and drink water from it. Recent concerns about the high levels of dioxin pollution found in the bay have prompted the city and county of San Francisco to adopt a resolution that will reduce the pollution, restore water quality and protect the health of their residents.
“Dioxin is the DDT of our generation,” says Francesca Vietor, director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFDOE), which drafted the resolution. “If it were a product like DDT that we could outright ban, it would have been banned a long time ago. The problem is that it’s a byproduct – it is part of a process, so it’s not something that you can just eliminate. You have to look at what creates dioxin.”
In March, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the resolution titled “Dioxin, Public Health & The Environment,” which calls for: * designating dioxin pollution as a high priority for immediate action to restore water quality and protect public health; * identifying the sources of local dioxin pollution; * requiring dioxin pollution prevention practices to be a part of all waste management and recycling programs by city departments, hospitals and businesses; * ensuring that less-toxic, non-chlorinated products, such as chlorine-free paper and PVC-free plastics, are used and supported by the city and county of San Francisco; and * educating people about the health and environmental effects of dioxin.
The SFDOE has been working with other local governments and the Oakland-based Association of Bay Area Governments to create a regional task force on dioxin since the resolution was adopted. The task force will encourage local governments to adopt the resolution and help the groups work together on dioxin elimination and community outreach.
To start the process of reducing dioxin pollution, San Francisco also has committed to purchasing only chlorine-free paper for all city and county departments. “One of the best ways we can attack this issue is from the procurement angle, if we just stop buying chlorinated products like paper or PVC plastic,” Vietor says.
The city also plans to educate consumers, who can help reduce dioxin pollution by purchasing chlorine-free, or unbleached, paper products such as printing paper or paper towels. “If consumers start demanding it, more and more companies will start supplying it,” Vietor says.
Once the task force is in place, the group will work on the larger solutions to dioxin pollution, such as identifying polluted water sources; restoring water quality; finding alternative products for hospitals and builders to use; and finding safer waste management practices.