Pride Outside: Making Our Outdoor Spaces More Welcoming & Inclusive

Every June we celebrate Pride Month in the United States to honor the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, which was one of the sparks of an era of change for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people in this country. Despite the rights that the LGBTQ+ community has fought for and won, there are fundamental needs that have yet to be secured in communities across the country. Now, more than ever, we need to work to make spaces safer for LGBTQ+ people, especially in the outdoors. 

One common concern surrounding LGBTQ+ protection is the right to feel safe from day-to day. According to a study by Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, LGBTQ+ people are nearly four times more likely than non-LGBTQ+ people to be victims of violent crime. 2020 saw a devastating rise in murder and hate crimes against Black and Latinx transwomen. This is unacceptable. For our most vulnerable communities, it is essential that we reimagine our spaces to ensure that they are accessible and safe for everyone, including LGBTQ+ people.  It has been shown that LGBTQ+ people showed concern for the environment and sustainability at a 20% higher rate than non- LGBTQ+ people. This highlights, one of many reasons, why we owe it to the community to create safe and inclusive spaces that many LGBTQ+ people are fighting to protect. 

For us to create safe spaces, one of the first things we must understand is that a sense of security is directly connected to one’s past and present experiences. For too many LGBTQ+ people these experiences have resulted in trauma that can make engaging with the outdoors more difficult and painful than others without those negative experiences. Therefore, it is important for us to create spaces with compassion and publicly state our support for LGBTQ+ individuals.  

It is worth noting that just as the environmental justice movement has historically struggled with issues relating to race and class, the Pride movement has as well. Advocacy efforts after the Stonewall Uprising were largely centered around the wellbeing of white, cis-gender individuals.  Gender non-conforming and trans people of color (QTPOC) were often overlooked as they faced higher rates of violence and were disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDs epidemic. While progress has been made, there is still work to be done. Workplace discrimination greatly affects the jobs that LGBTQ+ people can hold, thus limiting the opportunities that are available for them to become and remain financially stable. As a result of this, many LGBTQ+ people also live-in environmental justice communities that are overburdened by environmental stressors and harm. Engaging with nature and the outdoors has many proven benefits related to mental health, physical health, and more. In this way, LGBTQ+ justice is Environmental Justice. 

The Pride that we now celebrate was made possible by the countless activists and allies who fought and organized for the rights that are now afforded to LGBTQ+ people in the United States. We invite you to check out and support the amazing LGBTQ+ environmental organizations listed below. 

  1. Delaware Pride 
  2. OUT for Sustainability 
  3. The Venture Out Project 
  4. The Trevor Project 

Marissa McClenton is the author of this blog and a student at University of Delaware as well as the Clean Water Campaign’s Grassroots Organizer. Stay tuned for more insights and resources from the DEIJ Corner and Marissa in the future!

Juneteenth and Environmental Justice

Emancipation Day Celebration Band c. 1900

In one of Frederick Douglass’ most memorable speeches he says, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” We celebrate Independence Day every July 4th to mark the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It is a day full of American pride and gives us an opportunity to pay our respects to those who fought for our independence from Britain. The reality that Douglass brought up is that the 4th of July did not hold the same meaning and pride for American slaves because they weren’t free themselves.

Freedom for slaves came in waves. One of the first waves came January 1, 1863 when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and freed the slaves in southern rebel states. Juneteenth (also known as Emancipation Day and African-American Freedom Day) marks the day over 2 years later on June 19, 1865 when word of the emancipation reached slaves in Galveston, Texas. Since then, the holiday has spread, from Texas, throughout the United States and serves as a time for African-Americans to come together and celebrate their independence and culture.

Juneteenth is often marked by festivals, parades, community service, cookouts, and many other forms of Black joy. The atmosphere of Juneteenth is amazing to witness and is a constant reminder of how Black people have used joy as a form of resistance even in the shadows of slavery. It marks emancipation and freedom and the beginnings of Reconstruction that helped move the community forward, even in the face of growing Jim Crow laws.

In addition to it being a time of celebration, Juneteenth is a time to reflect on the ways that the effects of slavery have continued since the Emancipation Proclamation and even the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Slavery was abolished without providing protection for the rights of newly freed slaves, meaning states were free to create their own systems to prevent African-Americans and their descendants from becoming truly liberated. Slavery was abolished, but racism led to Black Codes and Jim Crow laws that were aimed at preventing Black people from prospering and gaining equality. These were direct responses to the passages of the Reconstruction amendments (the 13th, 14th, and 15th) that together abolished slavery, granted citizenship and equal protection to everybody born or naturalized in the United States, and secured the right to vote for Black men. As a result, some of the Black Codes required Black people to get yearly work permits or risk punishments including arrest or forced labor. They also threatened the right to vote through poll taxes, intimidation tactics, and literacy tests that were intentionally made to bar Black men from being able to safely exercise their right to vote. The Codes varied by state and directly challenged the progress that African-Americans had made with home ownership, access to education, and reclaiming their right to pursue the lives that they wanted to live.

Juneteenth marks the shift from fighting for the freedom of slaves to fighting for the liberation of all Black people. The fight for Black liberation, access to a healthy outdoors and environmental justice have always been connected. The placement of hazardous waste sites and pollution in Black neighborhoods is a direct result of structural racism and historical housing discrimination. The same systems that allowed Jim Crow laws in the south also allowed the redlining practices that pushed Black families into industrial, urban centers by denying mortgages in the growing, and predominately white, suburbs. The after effects of these redlining practices can be found at the core of many environmental justice issues relating to access to important resources and proximity to harmful facilities. Liberation for environmental justice communities would mean updated and greener infrastructure to make neighborhoods safer. It would mean investments in schools and community centers to ensure the success of underserved communities. Most importantly, it would mean a more aggressive strategy to address legacy toxins and to provide neighborhoods a say in what industries are located near their homes.

Every year Juneteenth reminds us that there is always work to be done to ensure the liberation of Black folks in the USA. It allows us to celebrate those who have fought for our right to live and experience love and joy and motivates us to continue to demand liberation for the communities still struggling with the legacies of slavery.

Here in Delaware, the holiday has been recognized in several ways throughout the state. Governor Carney has closed state offices and both Delaware State University and University of Delaware have as well. There are also plenty of opportunities to get engaged this weekend! Looking for ways to celebrate in Delaware? Check out these Juneteenth events below and look around your community for more! 

Juneteenth Celebration in the Park – 10:30 a.m. at Christina Park 

Delaware Freedom Ride with Urban Bike Project and Delaware Greenways 

Juneteenth Block Party– 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Walnut Street YMCA 

For more events and information visit https://delawarejuneteenth.org/  

Marissa McClenton is the author of this blog and a student at University of Delaware as well as the Clean Water Campaign’s Grassroots Organizer. Stay tuned for more insights and resources from the DEIJ Corner and Marissa in the future!

Clean Water Maps for Delaware Legislative Districts

Over the past few months we have been working on developing a series of maps which illustrate Delawareans’ unique relationship to clean water and clean water infrastructure.

We created these maps in conjunction with Bright Fields Inc. as well as the University of Delaware’s Water Resource Center. The poverty concentrations are based on federal census data. Water and sewer data are from state and county databases. These maps are organized by legislative district, and tell a story about how areas served by sewers and public water systems intersect with poverty concentrations. These maps show that the lack of access to sewer and public water is often correlated to areas with high poverty concentrations in our state.

Descriptions and links to the maps are included below. 

Delaware Legislative Districts Showing Public Sewer Service Areas and Poverty Rates

House Version | Senate Version

The black, forward-slashing on this map shows Sewer Service Areas. Residents of these areas are served by sewage treatment plants. Residents outside of these areas flush their wastes into septic tanks and drain fields that, in Delaware’s sandy soils, can be a major source of groundwater contamination.

Delaware Legislative Districts Showing Public Water Service Areas and Poverty Rates

House Version | Senate Version

The black, backslashing on this map shows the extent of Water Service Areas. Residents inside these areas receive their drinking water from regulated wells or surface water systems that are tested routinely and treated to remove EPA-regulated contaminants. Residents outside of these areas receive their drinking water from a single or community wells, many of which may or may not be tested or treated for contaminants.

Delaware Legislative Districts Showing Impaired Surface Waters and Poverty Rates

House Version | Senate Version

The red segments on this map show dreams that have poor water quality. Delaware’s list of impaired waters includes 377 bodies of water that suffer from excess nutrients, low-dissolved oxygen, toxins, and/or bacteria that negatively impact human and aquatic life. Approximately 90% of Delaware’s waterways are considered impaired. [It is important to note that many Delaware streams have not yet been tested.]

We are happy to answer questions and further discuss the thought process behind these visuals at any time at Emily.Knearl@DelNature.org.

Reflecting on Climate Justice, COVID-19, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As we celebrate their contributions to this country and continue vital conversations about how to address climate change, we must first come to terms with the complex history of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) people here in the United States. We are currently experiencing a devastating increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans that have, in part, been fueled by racist rhetoric around the COVID-19 pandemic. This violence is not new and is also an extension of the mistreatment and discrimination that AAPI have suffered since immigrating to America; as well as the racist rhetoric used to blame Asian and Southeast Asian countries for climate change. The only way we will achieve true climate justice is by acknowledging and working through this ugly part of our history.

Climate justice frames climate change not only as an environmental issue but also as a political and ethical one. Political and ethical climate justice conversations must include countries throughout the world and include environmental justice considerations. For this to happen, we must become more comfortable taking responsibility for our environmental shortcomings without immediately focusing on what other countries can do better instead. For example, conversations about waste management systems around the globe often focus on the challenges that Asian and Southeast Asian countries like India and Indonesia face and how they can do better. These conversations fail to mention those same waste management struggles happening here in the United States This is not to say that we should never critique other countries when it comes to environmental issues with global impacts, but too often the blame is placed on Asian countries while the American responsibility is rarely fully addressed.

What are the chances that violence against AAPI and the blame for climate change is related? We certainly know that the sharp increase in violence against the AAPI community is related to COVID but placing unfair blame on non-white communities is not new. There are years of painful history between the United States and Asian and Pacific Island countries that have translated into the feeling that AAPI are a threat to our way of life here in the United States. The term “Yellow Peril” has been around since the 19th century and represents how these feelings have manifested in American culture. Yellow Peril is the fear that Asian people are going to invade the country, take jobs, and threaten our safety and way of life. While the term “Yellow Peril” has not been used in years, the ideas behind it have been used to push anti-Asian rhetoric and to justify, discrimination, imprisonment of entire families during World War II, and the most recent spate of violence. This continues to result in many people holding implicit biases against Asian American and Pacific Islanders that make it easier to blame them for many issues in the world. It has also helped lead to a paralysis in dealing more aggressively with climate change and feeds misinformation campaigns about the pandemic, threatening the very lives of AAPI friends and families in this country.

We need to do better. Large scale problems like climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be solved if countries place blame instead of collaborating on a solution. There is room for the nuances of responsibility for climate change, but not if the United States refuses to own our part that we have played in the past and present. True climate and environmental justice addresses the full, not sanitized, histories of countries around the globe, including the United States. It also means that we have a responsibility to address our country’s role in damaging the environment and the structural racism that means communities of color are much more likely to live near heavy pollution. No longer can we play the blame game with our sister countries when there are people and our planet at risk if we want to build a more just and sustainable future. Nor should we let racism go unchallenged among ourserlves, the world, and our fellow Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

For more information about the Stop AAPI hate movement click here.

Marissa McClenton is the author of this blog and a student at University of Delaware as well as the Clean Water Team’s Grassroots Organizer. Stay tuned for more insights and resources from the DEIJ Corner and Marissa in the future!

Meaningful Involvement

Marissa McClenton is the author of this blog and a student at University of Delaware as well as the Clean Water Team’s Grassroots Organizer. Stay tuned for more insights and resources from the DEIJ Corner and Marissa in the future!

If I had to pick out one part of environmental justice and other DEIJ issues, it would be the concept of meaningful involvement. Diversity and representation are assets that add value and legitimacy to the ideas and initiatives that they create. The search for meaningful involvement is hard, though, and for good reason. For us to have meaningful involvement and to reach the people who have historically been overlooked, we need to create an environment that is safe for them and an environment where they can bring their authentic and whole selves without fear of rejection.

I stumbled across this concept on either Twitter or Instagram and it pains me that I didn’t catch the source but as I frantically researched keywords with the hopes of running into the original concept I found a quote by Vernā Myers. She said that “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance,” and the fireworks went off inside my brain because YES! The distinction between diversity and inclusion is important and sort of fuzzy because they are so often grouped together. In order to have meaningful involvement you need diversity, but not as a foundation. First, you need an inclusive environment so that, when you add diversity, you’re not forcing people to enter hostile spaces where they can’t dance their way and comfortably ask dance partners for what they need.

This is an empathetic guide because I think many people ask themselves what they can personally do to create an inclusive environment and I think it’s time we talk about it. It is also called an empathetic guide because, while I am not a DEIJ expert, I have learned how to make people feel involved as a result of being born with what I see as two steps down from the hyperempathy that Lauren Olamina has in Parable of the Sower. I believe that empathy should be the first step we take when engaging with people, especially when we are asking for their help and intellectual labor.

The first step in my Empathetic Guide to Meaningful Involvement is to look outside of yourself and see how others experience the world. Read books from authors who live completely different lives from you. Engage with art from people who create things that challenge your ideas of what art is. Watch movies in different languages than the ones that you speak. Familiarize yourself with how other people interpret their world so that when the time comes, they don’t have to explain every single cultural difference when they enter a space with others. I’m in no way equating research to lived experience but Black girls in college shouldn’t have to explain why we wear bonnets.

The next thing to do is audit your space. Look at both your physical and virtual spaces, would somebody needing accommodations have to ask for them and do the work to create them? If you see this, start working to fix it. Start thinking about your unspoken rules and think about why you didn’t need them spelled out to you. These can be huge barriers to involvement because time spent participating can sometimes be spent trying to find where you fit in the current dynamic when the dynamic should be fluid enough to account for what people need. Audit your space, but more importantly, be willing to change your space to make it more inclusive even if it meets the needs of those currently there, because more will always come.

The last part of this guide is to be patient and compassionate in the moments that make you want to give up and do it yourself. Everybody starts from a different spot and took a different path to get where they are today. Consider that your impatience might be you expecting a system or structure that worked for you, to work for somebody who has different needs from your own. These are the moments when we need compassion and empathy the most. When you see someone struggling, ask how you can help them and truly listen when they tell you. You don’t have to be perfect, but empathy is the first step in bridging the gap between honest imperfection and the growing pains you feel in the beginning of any meaningful journey.

Reflecting On Women Environmentalists

For too long, women were seen as helpless people who always needed a protector. They were seen as fragile and were framed as too emotional or too simple to hold powerful jobs in society. Throughout history, countless women have shown the world how capable and innovative they can be. These women had to fight not only sexism, but also the other intersections of their identities like race, class, and sexuality, just to be awarded the same opportunities that were awarded to men by default. There are countless women who have paved the way for a more equitable society and workplace, and today we are going to highlight the women who have paved the way in the environmental field.

Mollie Beattie

In 1993, Mollie Beattie was appointed Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She was the first woman to be appointed to the position and made a tremendous impact despite succumbing to her fight with brain cancer after only 3 years at the job. She is remembered for her integral part in the protection of both the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. Under her leadership, 15 national wildlife refuges were added, more than 100 habitat conservation plans were signed with private landowners, and the gray wolf was reintroduced into the northern Rocky Mountains. Beattie made a huge impact on the environment in her time as director and her love for the earth has lived on in those who follow after her.

Mari Copeny

Also known as “Little Miss Flint”, Mari Copeny is known for her a letter she wrote when she was 10 years old that asked President Obama to meet and discuss the Flint water crisis. This meeting resulted in him signing off on $100 million dollars in relief for Flint, Michigan and helped start a nationwide conversation about the importance of youth advocacy and the right to clean water. Now 13 years old, she continues to fight for the right to clean water for Flint and other environmental justice communities. She became a national youth ambassador to the Washington DC Women’s March in 2017 and worked to provide the children and families of Flint with water bottles, holiday presents, school supplies and so much more. She is proof that passion and drive has no age, and that the voices of the younger generation deserve to be hard and taken seriously.

Aurora Castillo

A fourth generation Mexican-American living in East Los Angeles, Aurora Castillo is known as being one of the driving forces behind the creation of The Mothers of East Lo Angeles (MELA). At 70 years old, she advocated against the construction of a new prison in her community that already housed seven at the time. In addition to the successful fight against the proposed prison, MELA advocated for public meetings being held in Spanish to encourage involvement for more community members, fought against a planned toxic waste incinerator, led the fight against plans of a hazardous waste treatment plant to be built near a high school, and advocated for more community in involvement and company accountability in the area. Castillo received the 1995 North American Goldman Environmental Prize and is remembered for being a powerful and impactful environmental justice advocate and leader.

Marissa McClenton is the author of this blog and a student at University of Delaware as well as the Clean Water Team’s Grassroots Organizer. Stay tuned for more insights and resources from the DEIJ Corner and Marissa in the future!

Help Pass House Bill 200 Today!

Breaking news, Water Warriors! The Clean Water for Delaware Act, known as HB200, is going to be up for vote on the House floor this Thursday, April 1, 2021!

HB 200 will establish a Clean Water Trust Fund, provide financial resources to improve Delaware’s water quality and flood control, and prioritize investments in low-income and underserved communities. With 90% of Delaware’s waterways considered impaired or polluted, over 100 miles of fish consumption advisories, and consistent flooding statewide, there is no better time to act than the present.

In order for HB200 to pass, House legislators need to hear from you, their constituents! Will you help us ask the House to pass the Clean Water for Delaware Act (HB200)?

Below we’ve included the target legislators for you to contact as well as an email template for reaching out. If you’d like to like reach out to your specific House legislator and they aren’t one of our targets, we’ve provided resources for that as well.

Target House Legislators – To send an email directly, simply click on the link associated with each Representative on the right hand side.

Rep. Stephanie Bolden, StephanieT.Bolden@delaware.gov
Rep. Sherry Dorsey-Walker, Sherry.DorseyWalker@delaware.gov
Rep. Kevin Hensley, Kevin.Hensley@delaware.gov
Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, Jeff.Spiegelman@delaware.gov
Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf, Peter.Schwartzkopf@delaware.gov
Rep. Franklin Cooke, FranklinD.Cooke@delaware.gov
Rep. Kim Williams, Kimberly.Williams@delaware.gov
Rep. Steven Smyk, Steve.Smyk@delaware.gov
Rep. Mike Ramone, Michael.Ramone@delaware.gov
Rep. Mike Smith, Michael.F.Smith@delaware.gov
Rep. Tim Dukes, Timothy.Dukes@delaware.gov
Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, Madinah.Wilson-Anton@delaware.gov
Rep. Eric Morrison, Eric.Morrison@delaware.gov
Rep. William Bush, William.Bush@delaware.gov
Rep. Shannon Morris, Shannon.Morris@delaware.gov
Rep. Sean Lynn, Sean.Lynn@delaware.gov
Rep. Andria Bennett, Andria.Bennett@delaware.gov
Rep. Charles Postles, Charles.Postles@delaware.gov
Rep. Lyndon Yearick, Lyndon.Yearick@delaware.gov
Rep. Jess Vanderwende, Jesse.Vanderwende@delaware.gov
Rep. Ruth Briggs-King, Ruth.BriggsKing@delaware.gov
Rep. Rich Collins, Rich.Collins@delaware.gov

Sample Email for House Representative 

Dear [Representative their last name],
I am writing to ask that you support the Clean Water for Delaware Act, HB200, to establish a Clean Water Trust Fund, provide financial resources to improve Delaware’s water quality and flood control, and prioritize investments in low-income and underserved communities. With 90% of Delaware’s waterways considered impaired, over 100 miles of fish consumption advisories, and consistent flooding statewide, there is no better time to act than the present.
Earlier this year, Governor Carney and legislative leaders proposed a $50 million investment in clean water. HB200 will support this investment by creating a Clean Water Trust Fund, a cabinet-level committee to oversee the Trust, and guidelines to developing an Annual Report and Strategic Plan for Clean Water.
Funds from the Trust will go towards numerous priorities, including but not limited to:
  • Municipal wastewater treatment projects
  • Watershed restoration projects, including natural solutions
  • Flood reduction
  • Public sewer and septic upgrades
Clean water is especially important to me because [insert why you care about clean water here. Adding your personal experiences will make your email to your Representative stand out and have a greater impact!]
We need clean water to protect our health, economy, and environment while improving water quality and reducing flooding.
Thank you.
Sincerely,
[Insert your name here]

Take Action on PFAS in Delaware: House Bill 8, The Drinking Water Protection Act


In early February of 2018, Delaware officials announced Blades residents should avoid drinking their water to allow the town time to install a carbon filtration system. The warning was due to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) detected at levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Blades, which sits near the headwaters of the Nanticoke River, is one of 18 sites in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed where PFAS were discovered at levels of concern. The news of their PFAS contamination in 2018 shocked and inspired people statewide to advocate for the improvement and for new protections of Delaware’s water resources.

Now, it’s time to take action by supporting House Bill 8, The Drinking Water Protection Act. HB 8 is sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan and Sen. Dave Sokola and has drawn bipartisan support. It will be heard on the House floor for a vote on Thursday, April 29, at 2:00pm. Make your voice heard by contacting your House legislators today. For contact information and suggested talking points, check out our latest Action Alert newsletter. 

The legislation in its current form would direct the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Division of Public Health (DPH) to set Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) on PFAS, specifically PFOS and PFOA, found in drinking water. By establishing enforceable MCLs, Delaware will be going above and beyond the EPA’s non-enforceable healthy advisory limits and will reinforce that water providers must fix problematic PFAS levels.

Background on PFAS

There are thousands of types of Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS); two of the most studied are referred to as PFOA and PFOS. The EPA has issued health advisories based on the best available peer-reviewed studies of the effects of PFOA and PFOS on laboratory animals (rats and mice) and were also informed by epidemiological studies of human populations that have been exposed to PFASs. These studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol change).

PFAS come from a wide variety of sources, and are often associated with manufacturing. In Blades, the source is believed to be from electroplating operations based on other metals that were found in high concentrations in groundwater with the PFAS. EPA Region 3 Site Assessment Manager, Connor O’Loughlin, noted that the EPA has been looking into two electroplating facilities in the area since the mid-1990s, Peninsula Plating and Procino Plating, though the Agency would look at additional sites in their investigation into the contamination.

This is a critical issue facing Delawareans today, and we urge you to contact your state representative to ask that they support passage of HB 8. Make your voice heard and help protect Delaware’s drinking water today.

A Conversation on Clean Water Legislation with House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst

In 2019 and 2020 House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst led the charge to secure clean water funding as the prime sponsor of the Clean Water for Delaware Act (House Bill 200, or HB200). We’re honored to have her support once again as our Clean Water Warriors begin organizing to fight for clean water in the upcoming General Assembly. The Clean Water Campaign recently had a chance to connect with Representative Longhurst to hear her thoughts about clean water – and what we can expect in the coming legislative session.

What inspired you to become a champion on clean water issues?

I’ve always had an interest in the environment and protecting our natural resources, but I really became involved in the clean water effort once it clicked for me just how connected the issue of clean water is to so many other issues across the state.

Whether it’s water and wastewater infrastructure to support smart development in New Castle County, the needs of our agricultural industry downstate, the challenges our coastal communities face with flooding and sea level rise, or the inequities in our underserved communities statewide, so much falls under the banner of clean water in Delaware.

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst speaking to Water Warriors at 2019 Clean Water Rally. Photo by Christi Leeson.

When will the Clean Water Legislation (successor to HB200) be introduced?

We’re planning to file the latest version of our legislation this spring.

What do you see as the biggest roadblocks to success?

The biggest challenge is and always has been funding. We need a meaningful sum to jumpstart the plan and a sustainable source of funding for the future.

We also know there are other interest groups out there who don’t necessarily share our vision for clean water in Delaware, and we’re going to keep confronting them on this issue, having those discussions and educating them.

How has the pandemic affected access to clean water/funding opportunities for clean water?

We don’t yet know how great a toll the pandemic has taken on state and local revenues, but that is certainly a big concern. With so many people working from home, I think there’s also an impact on residential water and wastewater infrastructure that we don’t know the full scope of yet.

On the other hand, I think outdoor recreation has become a bigger part of many Delawareans’ lives during the pandemic, and hopefully that has led to a greater awareness and appreciation of our natural landscapes and the need to safeguard them.

What can the Water Warriors do to support the new legislation and funding proposal?

Keep in contact with legislators from both sides of the aisle and make sure they hear you, especially the ones who represent you and your community. Share your personal stories about how water quality impacts your family. Stay engaged, spread the message to as many of your friends and neighbors as you can. You’ve made great strides in bringing the issue of clean water to the forefront — keep up the good work!

Are you ready to join House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, the Clean Water Campaign, and our coalition partners? Take action today by clicking here!

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst’s Legislative Service

Valerie J. Longhurst was first elected to the Delaware House of Representatives in November 2004 to represent the 15th District. The district consists of 20,000 people living in Bear, Delaware City and St. Georges. In 2008, she was elected as the House Majority Whip and served for four years. After the 2012 election, her caucus elected her House Majority Leader. Representative Longhurst is currently chair of the House Administration, Ethics and Rules committees. She also serves on the Telecommunications Internet and Technology committee and is the former chair of the Manufactured Housing Committee.

 

Woman Gardening

When the World is Disrupted, Advocacy for Clean Water Doesn’t Have to Be

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so many events and programs – and opportunities to meet with lawmakers about clean water – are hanging in the balance as we adjust to this “new normal.” Like you, we are staying home, spending time with our family members, wondering when restrictions may be lifted, determining our next steps, and getting out and enjoying every sunny day (while physically distancing, of course).  Our personal interactions and advocacy programming might be restricted for the time being, but it doesn’t mean our community of Water Warriors and Clean Water Alliance Members must stop the good work we do. It just means we need to get creative in HOW we advocate.

Here’s a few steps you can take from home right now to improve Delaware’s water quality and show our decisionmakers you care.

Become a Clean Stream Champion!

Right now, New Castle County residents have the opportunity to become a Clean Stream Champion by doing simple things at home. By signing this pledge to commit to do the following 5 steps, you are showing your local and statewide officials you are willing to do your part to improve water quality, too! 

    1. Scoop Your Pet Poop – Don’t leave it in your yard or on the sidewalk; it washes into our rivers and streams!
    2. Garden to Improve Water and Wildlife – Using native plants (plants local to us in Delaware) means you don’t need hazardous chemicals to keep them alive. Fewer chemicals means less pollution in our waterways!
    3. Ensure Only Rain Goes Down the Drain – Don’t dump soaps, chemicals, or even leaves/grass clippings down your neighborhood storm drains. It goes right into our rivers and streams and makes our sewer systems less efficient!
    4. Reduce the Use of Household Hazardous Chemicals – What goes down the kitchen or bathroom drain can end up in the water we drink or play in. Chemical cleaners, medications, paint, and lawn chemicals are common pollutants that can pass through water treatment plants and end up in our waterways.
    5. Cease the Grease – Don’t pour cooking grease down your drain. It builds up in our pipes and creates expensive clogs in your personal plumbing and in your local sewer system. Clogged pipes can cause sewer overflows that introduce harmful bacteria into our waterways. And FYI, running hot water along with cooking greases doesn’t help.

The Clean Stream Champion website even has a map showing every pledge signer, and we’d love to show our elected officials signers hundreds of signers from all over the county!

Sign the pledge today!

Support Wetland Buffers!

Wetland buffers are vegetated spaces between marshland (wetlands) and waterways and development. In the case of wetland buffers, bigger will be better! Right now, Sussex County is considering new rules that would require more vegetated and natural space between wetlands and new construction. Currently, Sussex County only requires a 50-foot buffer on tidal wetlands and waterways. By comparison, that’s only half the distance that is required in Kent and New Castle Counties and only a sixth of what is regularly required in neighboring New Jersey.

Why are the buffers so important? Let us count the ways:

      • 87% of Sussex County’s waterways are polluted. But wetlands have the ability to act like a giant water filter. They improve the quality of the rivers, streams and ponds around them. More wetlands mean improved water quality in Sussex County.
      • Sussex County is especially vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise. But wetlands act as a large sponge, soaking up flood waters. The more wetlands we have, the less flooding our roads, homes and commercial development face with each and every storm.
      • Sussex County is facing increasing developmental pressure with new retail centers, commercial buildings, and housing developments getting built all across the county. Increased wetland buffers not only preserve Sussex County’s rural character but improve property values through reduced flooding and improved water quality.
      • Our wetlands provide more open space. More open space helps improve water quality by allowing the pollution and contaminants from rain and flood water to get absorbed across natural land before it goes into our Inland Bays and other waterways.

This is the most important piece of environmental policy to be considered by the county in years and it will need your help to pass. To show your support there are a few things you can do:

        1. Contact Planning and Zoning Commission members to share your values about buffers.
        2. Contact Sussex County Council members to share your values about buffers.
        3. Attend meetings of the Commission and Council to provide testimony.
        4. Write letters to the editor about the need for better buffers in Sussex County.

For an in-depth dive on the incredibly important environmental and economic value of wetland buffers, head over to the Delaware Center of the Inland Bays’ resource center on the issue.

Remind Our Legislators That Nature Is Not Closed!

There’s no better time than now to let legislators know just how much the environment and our outdoor spaces mean in a time of uncertainty like today. If you are spending your time walking a local trail, planting your garden in your backyard, or doing just about anything outside, snap a picture and post it on social media. Be sure to tag the legislators, county council members and local officials that represent you in your hometown. Mention that you are especially grateful for the value of the outdoors, including our waterways, in such an unprecedented time – and that you want our future generations to continue enjoy our waterways and outdoor spaces. Be sure to join us on the Clean Water Campaign and Delaware Nature SocietyFacebook pages for other advocacy opportunities and outdoor activities.

Not comfortable on social media? That’s ok! You can always email your elected officials or send the photos to us and we are happy to post them on our social media accounts!

It’s thanks to you and our fellow Water Warriors that we can continue to fight for clean water during such an unrivaled time in history. We count ourselves lucky to be working together with such an amazing community of great neighbors and global citizens and thank you for your efforts.

Stay healthy!

The Team at the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice Campaign