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‘Grits’ is a meaty prison blog

Grits for Breakfast, the Koufax Award Winner for Best Single Issue Blog in 2004, has recently joined the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s stock of reform and civil-liberties projects. The blog covers police interactions with the public, the state of local jails and prisons, the overflowing and almost-capped probation system, and has plenty of biting commentary and credible research. Activist Scott Henson runs the site, and states on the opening page, “All opinions are my own. The facts belong to everybody.”

One of the numerous postings includes those of CrimProf, also known as Mark Godsey, who runs the Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati Law School. Look for Godsey’s explanation of a DNA-based exoneration, as discussed on his recent Larry King Live appearance. The site also offers information on why the president of the Rio Grande Valley Chamber of Commerce opposes the border wall and commentary from a blogger who works in the Texas construction trades and doesn’t think development would be possible without illegal immigrant labor.

Also listed are daily blogs to check, such as “In the Pink Texas,” which, in a recent posting, tsk-tsked the Express-News for “falsely reporting that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to hear Tom DeLay’s money laundering case.... `because` they relied on Delay’s spokesman Kevin Madden.” A multitude of resources pertaining to various political, economic, and social issues brewing within the Lone Star State and elsewhere are also available. Info:

Francesca Camillo

Report bears little good news for Kelly cleanup

The cleanup of environmental contaminants at the former Kelly Air Force Base continues to be problematic with persistent contaminant plumes, ineffective monitoring, and discrepancies in data, according to findings by the California-based Clearwater Revival Company.

Clearwater recently issued its conclusions about the status of groundwater contamination at the former base, using data contained in the Air Force’s January 2005 Semiannual Compliance Plan report.

The company’s findings will be released at a meeting of the base’s Restoration Advisory Board, Tuesday, January 10, at 6:30 p.m. at the Kennedy High School cafeteria, 1901 S. General McMullen.

Contaminants found in the groundwater on base, in Leon Creek, and under nearby residential neighborhoods include those from degreasing solvents, gasoline components, and paint removers, as well as arsenic, chromium, nickel, and manganese.

The Clearwater review concluded that while concentrations of solvents close to the groundwater wells are decreasing, the amount of chemicals found off base that aren’t being treated remain the same.

According to Clearwater maps, an arsenic plume persists in the groundwater beneath the southeast portion of the base and extends off-base to a portion of Quintana Road near Hollenbeck Avenue and an alternative school. A groundwater plume tainted with high levels of nickel encompasses an area south of SW Military Drive at Luna Court, northeast to Crittendon, and continuing southwest to include portions of Bynum, Fenfield, McLaughlin, and Price Streets.

Monitoring has shown that the contamination isn’t affecting drinking water from the Edwards Aquifer.

Yet, a plume of PCE and TCE extends from East Kelly three miles to near the San Antonio River; contaminated groundwater continues to seep into Leon Creek. PCE levels have consistently exceeded water quality standards at one sampling location. A fish advisory was issued in 2004 because fish-tissue samples revealed high levels of PCBs, a cancer-causing chemical, and another contaminant associated with military ordnance disposal. Six hundred feet from Leon Creek, levels of chlorobenzene have been measured at 100 times the water-quality standard.

Air Force contractors also recently installed slurry walls and permeable-barrier reactors, which are supposed to contain or neutralize the contaminants. These systems don’t have adequate monitoring wells to evaluate their effectiveness, the report stated. In one area, levels of PCE and vinyl chloride downhill from the reactor exceed water quality standards.

On a positive note, the report found that an off-base plume of PCE, TCE, DCE, and vinyl chloride has been reduced to the size of three city blocks.

Lisa Sorg

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