Alert 635: Millions of public dollars spent on “nature centers” to showcase polluter DuPont’s propaganda

Green Delaware Alert 635
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Millions of public dollars spent on “nature centers” to showcase polluter DuPont’s propaganda

from 1996 to 2006, DuPont admitted dumping over 30 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the Delaware river from Chambers Works alone

How does this impact the integrity of the DNREC?

This letter from Matt Del Pizzo, former President of the Delaware Audubon Society, appeared in The News Journal on Dec, 30, 2008:

Again the DuPont Co. has bought a namesake and influence at the Russell W. Peterson Urban wildlife refuge at the Riverfront in Wilmington.

(“Footbridge rises along the Christina: Span will connect Riverwalk, environmental center, “Dec. 22)

The people of Delaware can never thank Gov. Peterson for the lifetime of work he has given in regards to the environment.

There has not been a more unrepentant polluter in this state than DuPont.

Remember this is the company that fought vigorously against the Coastal Zone Act that Gov. Peterson championed. This is the company that has polluted the Edgemoor area with huge tailing piles, laced with dioxin.

They have successfully managed to fight off attempts to remove this blight. They attempted to further poison the Delaware River by treating nerve gas at their facility.

DuPont will have input on every aspect of how the center presents its information. The Delaware Nature Society will staff the center and in effect will work hand in glove with DuPont, since they were formed by members of the du Pont family.

I was one of the volunteers who worked on the first cleanup of the wildlife area and DuPont was not there and does not care about the environment. This is sad commentary on how a company with influence can cover over the good work of many.

Matthew F. Del Pizzo, Townsend

Our sources tell us the DuPont Company is spending $500,000 each on three “DuPont” nature centers on or near the Delaware River.  This is part of DuPont’s “Clear into the Future” campaign ( http://www.clearintothefuture.com/ ) to “preserve and enhance the beauty and integrity of the Delaware Estuary for generations to come.”

One of these is already in operation ( http://www.dupontnaturecenter.org/) and is operated by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).  Sometime the DNREC seems like a de facto DuPont subsidiary.   (At other times, not nearly often enough, the DNREC has stood up to DuPont.)

Another, the “DuPont Environmental Education Center” is being set up on the Christina River in Wilmington as part of the “Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge.”  It will be run by the “Delaware Nature Society,” ( http://www.delawarenaturesociety.org/jobs.html) also closely tied to the DuPont Company and sometimes called the “DuPont Nature Society.”)

We haven’t been able to confirm anything about the rumored one in New Jersey.

Why is DuPont spending this money to greenwash itself?

Here are DuPont’s own reported figures for the amount of “Toxic Release Inventory” chemicals it has dumped into the Delaware river over the last ten years from just one site, Chambers Works opposite New Castle.  These reports include only a selected list of some of the very worst chemicals around.  (Look at the data yourself here:  http://oaspub.epa.gov/enviro/tris_control.tris_print?tris_id=08023DPNTCRT130 )

year pounds dumped in Delaware River

2006    3,455,240
2005    4,024,168
2004    2,705,450
2003    1,828,151
2002     2,713,465
2001     1,178,245
2000     2,853,928
1999     2,553,858
1998     3,615,391
1997     3,004,358
1996     2,565,258
———————
total reported dumped over this period:  30,497,512

In Alert 326: Some truth about DuPont’s Chambers Works , we reported:

In 1997, a total of 4,378,209 pounds of “toxic” pollutants were reported dumped into the Delaware. (Chemicals listed on the “Toxic Release Inventory” are only a small fraction of the total harmful pollutants dumped.). Of these, 3,086,517 pounds, or 70 percent, came from DuPont’s Chambers Works, the proposed site of the VX waste dumping. [Note:  this number differs slightly from the number in the table above.]
The next highest discharger was another DuPont plant, Repauno, in Gibbstown, NJ, at 410,074 pounds. These two DuPont sites discharged 80 percent of the total toxics reported dumped in the entire Delaware River. In that year Chambers works was the largest discharger of toxic metals and reproductive toxins. ( http://www.newhopepa.com/DelawareRiver/currentissues_3.htm)
According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), “More reproductive toxins, 220,000 pounds between 1992 and 1996, were dumped in the Delaware River than any other body of water in the U.S.” Of this amount, “Dupont Chambers Works in Deepwater, NJ dumped more reproductive toxins into the nation’s waters than any other facility: 210,000 pounds.” Thus, over this period over 95 percent were dumped by DuPont. ( http://www.pirg.org/reports/enviro/waters98/page1.htm)
During this period Chambers Works was the 11th largest toxic water polluter in the U.S. ( http://www.pirg.org/reports/enviro/waters98/table4.htm)
In 1999 Chambers Works was the second largest toxic polluter in New Jersey, releasing a total of 2.8 million pounds into air, water, and land. ( http://www.gsenet.org/library/11gsn/2001/gs010424.php)
In 2000 Chambers Works was the largest toxic polluter in New Jersey. ( http://www.epa.gov/region02/news/2002/02045.htm)

It’s worst than this, though.  DuPont reports ( http://www.clearintothefuture.com/resource-center/media-center/fact-sheet/pdf/DNC-Fact-Sheet.pdf ) that:  “To date, the state has spent approximately $1.6 million acquiring the land and transforming the former restaurant into a nature center.” Isn’t that nice?  DNREC spends most of the money but DuPont gets to control the message.

The Wilmington project is even more egregious.  The News Journal Reports: “Once the $16 million project is complete, Riverfront visitors, community groups and students will have access from the Riverwalk to the center and will be able to view the Christina River, the adjacent marsh and the variety of wildlife in the preserve.”

That’s not all of course:

DuPont proudly claims: “Science and education are two pillars of Clear into the Future. The initiative has enlisted Professor Green, a robot who teaches children about the importance of estuary ecosystems. By year’s end, “Professor G” will have visited about 60 elementary school assemblies in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Clear into the Future also provides universities with research assistance and fellowships.”

“It’s helping University of Delaware researchers develop an alternative to horseshoe crabs, a bait used by eel and conch fishermen.”

This, we expect, is a reference to the $200,000 bribe offered by DuPont in the middle of a public hearing on a permit for a polluting “acid plant” in the Coastal Zone.”  See Alert 234: Permits for sale by Minner administration?

The DNREC took the bribe and gave it to Nancy Targett at the University of Delaware.

DuPont ha been very clever:  By getting the public to pay for the land and buildings, and itself paying for the exhibits, DuPont is controlling the message.  Pretty pictures of horseshoe crabs and fish divert attention from what DuPont is actually doing to the river and the creatures trying to survive in it.

The DNREC people running the “DuPont Nature Center” have good intentions.  With inadequate state funding it is not surprising, maybe, that they are willing to take money from wherever they can get it.  But is letting our worst polluters influence environmental regulators this way worth the price?

Alan Muller

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