Archive for October, 2009

Report: Two Million Pounds of Industrial Toxins Dumped into Bay in 2007

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Industrial facilities in Maryland dumped more than two million pounds of toxic chemicals into the Chesapeake Bay in 2007, according to a report released Wednesday by Environment Maryland, an advocacy group. It’s the first time in the last decade the amount of toxic chemicals has increased from one year to the next.

The report outlines possible adverse health effects from exposure to water or contaminated wildlife from the bay, ranging from reduced fertility to cancer. But Heath Kelsey, a scientist with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, said recently that bay water is only dangerous for 48 hours after a heavy rainstorm. Otherwise, the bacteria and pollutants are mostly harmless, he said.

Regardless of the safety aspect, the bay should have been free of toxic chemicals by 1985, according to the 1972 Clean Water Act. Tommy Landers, a field organizer with Environment Maryland said the goal now is to know exactly what is going into the bay and how it affects life in and around the waters. Most chemicals from facilities are untested and assumed harmless, he said.

“This clearly aggravates the already fragile state of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Landers. “Overall, we want to go from an innocent-until-proven-guilty mindset to a guilty-until-proven-innocent mindset.”

- By Capital News Service’s James B. Hale.

The Health of the Bay

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

What else needs to be done to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay—-and to ensure the livelihood of those who make a living on it?

Hoyer Holds Forth on War, Health Care, Guarantees

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, reflected on his recent discussion with President Obama regarding Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s call for more troops during his weekly pen and pad briefing Wednesday.

“I think there was a general feeling around the room that whatever your particular view on what General McChrystal had recommended, the president had to grapple with this and come up with a policy that accomplishes the objectives the president thinks are critical,” Hoyer said.

“This is an issue that requires us to think very carefully … Afghanistan has not been a successful venue for many great powers in the past, I can’t think of any. I think we also need to have some great confidence that the government in Afghanistan is a viable government, with the confidence of its people.”

Switching gears to health care, Hoyer talked about reconciling the Senate’s bill with one that would pass in the House.

“I would be shocked if there was not a very robust conference where we would come to grips with differences between the House and the Senate. We’re not there yet in determining what the Senate bill is going to look like.”

When asked if he could guarantee the House would pass a health care bill before Christmas, Hoyer said: “Can I guarantee that? No. Do I think it will? Yes. I am way beyond guaranteeing what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it.”

- By Capital News Service’s David Johnson

A New Pandemic: How Has It Affected You?

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

H1N1 (swine flu) is moving through Maryland, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last month the state reported its seventh H1N1-related death.

Have you or anyone you know caught the bug? How has it impacted you? What are your thoughts on this flu and its vaccine?

O’Malley: Health Care Reform Necessary to Fix State Budget

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

The state’s ailing budget cannot be cured without first gaining control of rising health care costs, said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley during a phone conference Thursday morning organized by the Democratic National Committee.

“[Health care costs are] the single largest part of our budget,” O’Malley said, and one that could “crowd everything else out of the picture.”

Maryland  has made $735 million in cuts to this year’s state budget and is searching for an additional $300 million to cut in order to balance the budget when the fiscal year ends in June.

O’Malley cited education and public safety as services that may be at risk if health care costs are not put in check soon.

Speaking Thursday in support of President Obama’s goals for health reform, O’Malley said the state’s health care costs grow at a rate of 7 or 8 percent every year and promise to continue to do so if no changes are made.

“If we do nothing it’s going to be nearly impossible for us to be able to keep up with those escalating costs,” he said.

Maryland Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester, agreed that health care might play a role in fixing Maryland’s budget, but said it shouldn’t be seen as a cure-all.

“There is a possibility that the health care plan will help Maryland’s budget, but our problems are deep and we’re going to have  to face some tough cuts in an election year 2010 session,” Colburn said. “We have to move ahead no matter what they do in Washington.”

O’Malley praised the federal government for stepping in to help the state at a time when it needs it, comparing the challenge Maryland faces with those of small business owners who also  must scramble to find a way to provide affordable health care to their employees.

“I think the key, the real key, is making sure everyone is covered,” O’Malley said.

- By Capital News Service’s Karen Anderson.