Kingston Citizens: Niagara Bottling Company Project. YOUR WATER IS IN PLAY.

Click on the image to view the film “tapped” that examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil.


By Rebecca Martin

We have recently created a Facebook invitation for the next Common Council meeting on Tuesday, October 7th.  Please consider coming to speak during public comment (at the beginning of the meeting) on the proposed Niagara Bottling Co. plan to bottle and sell Kingston City Water.

The timing here is crucial, given that the group has apparently been in private talks with City officials for several months. Media reports say that they are planning to get moving as early as 2015.


Read more…

Take a Healthy and Green Pledge

By Arthur Zaczkiewicz


Long time, no hear – from me. Sorry I’ve been away for so long.

Much has happened since I’ve edited and posted to this blog. I’ve got much on my mind. One thing weighing me down is the weight of Kingston’s children, who are above average in regard to being overweight and obese. That’s dark news for their current health and their future health. I don’t have to tell you that obesity leads to heart disease, cancer and other ailments.

Read more…

Environmental Focus on Kingston: Blue Moon New Year’s Eve

We’re in for a real trifecta of a treat – the kind that only comes along once every 19 years.   There will be a Blue Moon rising to help ring in the New Year.  Party goers in Africa, Asia and Europe will be treated to this event with a partial lunar eclipse, but it will remain unseen for those in North and South America.  (Click HERE for an animated preview)

The last New Year’s Eve Blue Moon occurred in 1990.

How rare is a lunar eclipse of a Blue Moon on New Years Eve? According to, “A search of NASA’s Five Millennium Catalogue of Lunar Eclipses provides an approximate answer. In the next 1000 years, Blue Moons on New Year’s Eve will be eclipsed only 11 times (once every 91 years).”

A Blue Moon is the name given to the second new moon to occur during the same month.  The moon’s cycle of waxing and waning gives us a full moon every 29.5 days.  Lunar cycles differ from solar cycles in that the solar calendar contains an extra 11 days (roughly).  These “extra” days accumulate so that every 2.7154 years, there is an extra full moon.

Ancient myths and folklore have entire chapters, entire books for that matter, dedicated to the effect of a full moon on human behavior.  The term lunacy and lunatic are derived from Luna, the Roman moon goddess.  The full moon has been linked to crime, suicide, mental illness, disasters, accidents, birthrates, fertility, and even werewolves.  However studies have found no direct connection, rendering it no more than an urban myth.

It seems to me that there is an exceptional amount of poetic symmetry for this rare event to occur on the eve of a new year, while acting as the usherer of a new decade. It gives me a little hope that 2010 will be a better year for all of Kingston’s citizens.

Perhaps this rare 19 year event is the year for that New Year’s resolution to stick?  That’s probably an urban legend too.  (Just in case though, try to think of a good one.)

From all of us to all of  you, best wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous and safe Blue Moon New Year!  Let the revelry and howling commence.

– Wilbur Girl

Environmental Focus on Kingston: Thor’s Hammer

I know what Thor got for Christmas.

On December 26th at 10:05 P.M. there was a flashing burst of white atomic lightning.  Nearly 20 seconds later it was followed by a deafening clap of nuclear holocaust, world ending thunder.  And that’s exactly what I thought had happened.

After I dislodged the pieces of my heart from my throat and stomach, I looked outside expecting to see the world had been obliterated, my home the only survivor.  When I saw the planet was still spinning gently on its axis, I imagined my beloved, primordial maple tree had grown legs and ripped itself from the earth rather like one of Tolkien’s Ents.  However, it was still intact.  Perhaps the train trestle had collapsed?  But that too was still standing.

Winter lightning and thunder is said to be a rare event.  Lightning is born of out intensive atmospheric energy.  Cold air is less energetic and holds less moisture, making winter thunder unusual.  But it seems to me that I can recall several instances of it over the past decade or so and it seems to be increasing with frequency.  I wonder if it’s related to an el Nino weather event or the much debated global warming?

I paid enough attention in school to know that a thunderstorm occurs on the leading edge of either a cold or warm front as the two air masses collide.  Thunder is the manifestation of the super heated air (15,000-60,000 degrees Fahrenheit) created by lightning.  It causes the air around the lightning to rapidly expand and creates shock waves that rumble through the atmosphere.

I couldn’t even tell you what the weather was like that day or night.  The boisterous clap seems to have erased all memory of it away.  My research didn’t turn up any super cool nuggets of information on the subject either.  Perhaps someone out there has an interpretation of the cause of that pulverizing blow from Thor’s Hammer that they can share with us.

I did come across these brief interesting tidbits which I’ll share with you on the way out of this post.

Old Wives Tales:

  • If during the winter you have a thunderstorm, within 10 days you’ll have snow.
  • If there’s thunder during Christmas week, the winter will be anything but meek.

Cool New Word:

  • Astraphobia: The irrational fear of thunder and lightning.  (As in, Wilbur Girl’s cats suffer from extreme astraphobia.)

– Wilbur Girl

Environmental Focus on Kingston: O’ Christmas Tree

It’s here, again.  Looking at the calendar I can’t deny it anymore.  The holidays are coming even if I’m not ready.

Once this indulgent time of year has passed, what’s left behind will be evident in what’s put out curbside.  Plaintiffs’ exhibit one being the Christmas tree.

I suppose there’s an ongoing debate over artificial versus real trees.  I fall on the side of bah-humbug with regard to all things Christmas.  But if it became compulsory to display a Christmas tree and I had to make a choice between a real tree or its artificial counterpart, I would choose real any year.

Last year 28 million real Christmas trees were sold in the US.  They are grown in each of the fifty states and Canada.  With nearly 21,000 tree growing farms, the industry employs more than 100,000 full or part time annually.

Trees are a renewable, recyclable resource.  For every tree harvested, up to 3 seedlings are planted.  An acre of tree farm can provide enough oxygen for 18 people, while also providing a natural habitat to a variety of animals.

Once the glamour, glitz and glory of the holiday fade, all those trees begin their journey to their final resting place.  In Kingston we have two organized options available to local residents.

Bring your family and your tree to the annual Winterfest event held at Hasbrouck Park on January 16th between 10:00 – 2:00.  Your tree will be mulched for free!  You can take your mulch home with you or leave it to be distributed and used in Kingston’s extensive park system.

This growing and popular event is sponsored by the Kingston Parks and Recreation Department and the Friends of Forsyth Nature Center.  Other planned activities include snowshoeing lessons, snow animal building contest and children’s crafts.  The latter will be held inside of the heated and historic Hasbrouck Park Stone Building.  For directions to the event, click here.

If you are unable to make it to Winterfest, you may place your defrocked tree curbside for pickup through Jan 31st according to the city code.  Please note that if you get your tree out before January 16th the DPW will transport them to event site for chipping.  Any trees hauled away after that date will go to our local brush dump.

Still want more green tips for Christmas?  Check out these ideas.

Did You Know: 85% of artificial Christmas trees are manufactured in China and are made with non bio-degradable plastics?

–          Wilbur Girl

Environmental Focus on Kingston: Plastics by the Numbers

Starting Novemember 8th the sale of all water bottles under a gallon will have a 5¢ deposit added to them.  This is the result of being included in the state’s newly expanded Bigger Better Bottle Bill.  It marks the first change to the state’s bottle deposit law since it was created in 1982.

An estimated 3.2 billion water bottles are sold annually across the Empire State.  Including water bottles under the deposit law is expected to result in increased recycling and decreased litter, which sounds good for the environment.  There’s even some good news for the state; 80% of unclaimed deposits will now go to Albany in the form of much-needed revenue, which is projected to be as much as $115 million.

Despite my long love affair with drinking the icy cold, refreshing liquid, thankfully I’ve avoided developing a water bottle habit.  I can probably count the number of times I buy them annually on one hand.  And when I do it’s usually under extreme duress, like immediate threat of dehydration or imminent death.

While including water bottles under the deposit law is a great idea that is long overdue for the state and the environment, it really got me thinking about the many different types plastics there are and how to recycle them.

Plastic is one of the most widely used materials in the US.  It’s in everything from toys, clothes, food containers, to medical equipment and devices.  It makes up 11.7% of the nation’s waste stream and is among the least recycled items.

Plastics are made from fossil fuels and their manufacture can involve the emission of toxic substances into the atmosphere and water.  When they are incinerated, toxins such as lead and chlorine are released.  When put into landfills, they can take 100-400 years to decompose.

There are over a hundred kinds of plastics that have been created, but the most common containers fall into one of seven categories.  The Society of the Plastics Industry developed this numeric system to identify the type of plastic resins used in specific products.  This helps recycling centers to sort them so they can find life in new products.

Here’s the low down on each of the seven types of common plastics used today:


#1 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)*: This is the most common type of plastic and is considered to be one of the least toxic.  However, most environmentalists agree that it is fit for single use only.  PET plastics are typical of soda, juice, water, and even cough syrup bottles.  (Accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#2 High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)*: Is considered one of the safer plastics, despite it being manufactured with chemicals such as hexane and benzene.  #2 plastics are most often used in shampoo and detergent bottles, milk jugs, cosmetic containers, toys and sturdy shopping bags.  (Accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): Is considered a plastic to avoid and many environmentalists think it to be the most toxic, despite the plastic industry’s defense its safety.  Both its manufacture and disposal releases dioxin into the air and water.  It is used in shower curtains, meat & cheese wrappers, 3-ring binders, some bottles, plumbing pipes and many toys.  (NOT accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#4 Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)*: This type of plastic is used for shopping bags, six-pack rings, CD and DVD cases and some bottles.  (Acccepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#5 Polypropylene (PP)*: #5 is generally regarded as a relatively benign plastic.  It is used in prescription bottles, yogurt, food storage containers, diapers, candy containers and lab equipment.  (Accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#6 Polystyrene (PS): This plastic has undergone some chemical changes since it was phased out of McDonald’s sandwich wrappers some 20 years ago.  Ozone depleting CFC’s are no longer used in its manufacture, but environmentalists still dislike it because of the presence of toxic styrene and it is known to pollute nearby air & water.  #6 plastics are found in disposable cups, take-out food containers and packing peanuts.  (NOT accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#7 Other: These types of plastics are “wild cards.”   They do not fall within the guidelines for the other common categories.  They include toothbrushes, protective head-gear, reusable water bottles, sunglasses and cell phones. (Accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

Remember when recycling plastic containers to remove and discard all caps and be sure to rinse all containers.  Lids are generally accepted.

*A quick word on bisphenol A (BPA), which has been a frequent media topic lately.  Scientists are studying the link between heating a plastic container lined with BPA and the potential leaching of the chemical into foods and beverages.  Some believe that BPA leaching causes neural and behavioral issues, particularly in young children.  The current expert thinking is that #1, 2, 4 & 5 plastics do not use BPA in the manufacturing of their related plastic products.

Finally, if that isn’t enough to help you understand plastics, the importances of choosing the right kinds as consumers and why/how to recycle them – then check out this article from How Stuff Works.

(Courtesy of: Silverman, Jacob.  “Why is the world’s biggest landfill in the Pacific Ocean?.”  19 September 2007.,  29 October 2009.)

– Wilbur Girl

Environmental Focus on Kingston: Why Pay As You Throw?

The City of Kingston has a mounting waste management problem.  Forced reductions in budgets and workforce due to economic shortcomings will only put a temporary bandage on a hemorrhaging situation.

The reason is simple; weekly, unenforced curbside collection and hauling our garbage more than 250 miles away to the Seneca Meadows Landfill, is extremely expensive and is getting more so with each passing year.

In 2008 the city paid tipping fees of $71/ton to UCRRA, who ultimately hauls the waste upstate.  The national average is $42.08/ton.

It’s time to fundamentally rethink the ways we manage our waste disposal methods.  Public opposition is understandable and expected.  After all, as my mother explained to me without batting an eyelash, traditional weekly collection of garbage is number one on the list of Kingston’s Ten Commandments. And she was serious.

I didn’t say it would be a popular idea among citizens, but here’s why it should be:

1. Pay As You Throw (PAYT) encourages equity among users by charging fees based on the amount of waste a household actually disposes of.  It treats garbage disposal more like a utility such as your electric, water or phone bill.  Rather than charging everyone the same embedded fee in annual taxes, it allows the customer to have control over what they pay by controlling what they throw out.  It provides a direct link to consumer behavior and the cost generated by it.

2. Research shows that users of PAYT programs will alter their waste disposal habits in a number of positive ways in an effort to produce less waste and therefore pay less for disposal costs.  In terms of buying habits, consumers will be more likely to buy frequently used items in bulk in an effort to reduce packaging wastes.  Recycling habits improve, and items once carelessly tossed can be viewed as having a valuable reuse.  PAYT also motivates users to compost yard waste and kitchen scraps as another proven method of keeping excess waste from their personal waste stream.

This has a positive environmental impact given that the average person generates 4.4 pounds of garbage a day.

This approach to waste disposal is not new.  Over the past decade it has really taken off and gained popularity among municipalities across the nation.  In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated there were over 7,000 communities across the country that employ a PAYT system.  This included 42% of communities in NYS.  These programs report an overall waste disposal average decrease of 14-27% and an increase in recycling rates typically between 32-59%.

Here in Kingston the topic was first introduced in 2003, when city resident Emilie Hauser worked with several aldermen to propose studying the potential benefits it could have on our tax dollars and environment.  It was brought up again in early March 2008 by city environmental educator Steve Noble.  The most recent discussion on it came from the mayor’s office just last month.  We think now is the time for the Common Council to roll up their sleeves and take a serious look at the merits of PAYT.  If after doing their homework on the issue they determine it not to right for Kingston, then we expect them to put forth another viable solution.

All PAYT systems are not created equal.  Communities tend to create hybrid programs that meet and address their specific needs.  Typically users purchase disposal bags, tags or vouchers directly from the municipality.  Another possibility is the mandated purchase and use of specifically sized collection containers.  Payment options can include a direct sale purchase, use of a voucher system, monthly, quarterly or budget billing.  Some communities make allowances for seniors on fixed incomes and families that fall below certain income levels by offering subsidies, incentives or rebates to help control costs.

The constant in all successful applications of this method of waste management is that education and public involvement are critical to rendering it successful.  The EPA suggests that well implemented plans are phased in over an 18 month period.  During that time the ultimate goals desired from such a program are developed as well as a timeline for implementation.  Studies and data collection of volume and type of waste the community produces are conducted, joint citizen/official panel task forces are formed, and educational outreach programs begin.  During this time decisions on container options, rates structured plans, pilot programs, changes in city ordinances, and plans for effective enforcement need to be meted out.   Even beyond final implementation, educational outreach programs and enforcement need to continue.

Whether or not you love or hate the concept of Pay As You Throw, given our current economic development and path, you may not have a say on the ultimate decision.  Dragging our feet on an issue that is well researched, studied, documented and used by thousands of communities is doing us more harm than good.  The time is perfect for interested citizens to do their own research and to step forward to motivate our elected officials on moving one way or another on this important topic.

Maintaining status quo is no longer an acceptable approach.

Did You Know: The EPA has volumes of information on the subject and is a great place to get your feet wet!  You can start educating yourself by clicking here.

Don’t leave until you take our survey!  We want to know where you stand on this!

– Wilbur Girl

Environmental Focus on Kingston: Give Me A “C”, “S”, “O”!

This year instead of a summer, we’ve had a monsoon season.

On average Kingston receives 47.48 inches of rain a year, with May being the wettest month. This summer alone we’ve been deluged with roughly 17 inches of the wet stuff. While my friends are all bemoaning the loss of blight ridden tomatoes, I’ve been worrying about a problem that runs a little deeper. Yup, I’ve been thinking about combined sewer overflow systems (CSO’s).

Kingston’s antiquated sewer system is a CSO. They were all the rage and considered the newest and greatest in waste flow management along the eastern sea board following the Civil War. The EPA defines these types of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) as “remnants of the country’s early infrastructure and so are typically found in older communities.” They estimate there to be roughly 772 CSO communities in the US today.

A CSO was designed to collect rainwater runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater all in the same pipe. This slurry of toxic sludge is transported to a sewage treatment plant. Periods of heavy rainfalls or quickly melting snow exacerbate the volume of storm water runoff so that it exceeds the capacity of the system. Excess, untreated wastewater instead empties directly into nearby bodies of water – in our case, the Rondout Creek. Also, because of their age, CSO’s often fail or collapse at an accelerated rate.

The city’s CSO problems have been simmering for decades. In the past, city officials have all but turned a blind eye to our failure prone sewer. However, the growing number of orange and white barrels and yellow sawhorses that adorn sagging or collapsed parts of our streets are too becoming difficult to ignore.

The City of Kingston has been recently cited by the DEC for failure to take aggressive action to stem the flow of raw sewage into our waterways. A fully developed plan was due in September 2007. The DEC has warned that the city faces daily fines of $37,500 until corrective action is taken and a plan produced. As a result the Kingston Common Council has approved the borrowing of $93,000 to hire Malcolm Pirnie, Inc. to complete the necessary study, which must be done during the rainy season.

As immense as the CSO issues are that face our community, the average citizen can do plenty to assist with storm water abatement. In the next ENVIRONMENTAL FOCUS ON KINGSTON we’ll discuss the variety of ways this can be achieved.

DID YOU KNOW: What can YOU do?

The city of Kingston has an ordinance that prohibits downspouts to be connected to the sewer system. City ordinance A407-106 states “No person shall discharge or cause to be discharged any stormwater, surface water, groundwater, roof runoff, subsurface drainage or unpolluted industrial process waters to any sanitary sewer.” You can read the rest of the ordinance HERE. Scroll down to the appendix and open Chapter A407: Plumbing Code Administration. You’ll find the entire entry under section A407-106 of Article XVII.

Introducing: Environmental Focus On Kingston

A month ago, I put out the word looking for citizens to contribute to the blog’s. Thanks to those for being in touch.

I am happy to introduce a new series to called “Environmental Focus On Kingston” written by citizen ‘journalist’ Wilbur Girl. Below is her profile.

Please feel free to comment on these and all of our pieces, or to take the topic to your Yahoo! Group for further resident dialog.

Thanks, and more to come.

Rebecca Martin

Wilbur Girl is a third generation daughter of Kingston. Her roots can be found grown deep into a hill above the southwestern shores of the Rondout Creek in a home that has been in the family since 1943.

In “Environmental Focus on Kingston”, topics will focus on the simple environmental changes and actions everyday citizens can do like rainwater harvesting, composting, tips for greener living and recycling techniques. Learn more about what your neighbors and local businesses are doing to minimize their impact while maximizing their renewable resources. We’ll also look at trends and what other communities are doing to go green and improve their sustainability.