On the defense

Auntie Ruth is green to the eco scene. Read up each week as she weeds through the dirt and unearths new gems of environmental knowledge.

Is the Department of Defense a big bully? No way, you must be kidding! But what else explains a recent accusation by environmental regulators from more than 15 states, including California, claiming the U.S. Department of Defense retaliated against them for attempting to enforce cleanup of contaminated military-owned sites? The military is the worst polluter in the nation, with 129 Superfund sites on military bases. “In worst-case scenarios, the Department of Defense is intimidating a state environmental agency into not pursuing enforcement,” said Steve Brown of the Environmental Council of the States at a congressional hearing in September, as reported in The Washington Post. Congress gives the department $30 million a year to help with cleanup costs, but DOD allegedly began withholding federal oversight money in 2006.

Ruth also learned that in June, the DOD defied repeated orders from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up some of its most contaminated sites. The department has a history of appealing to Congress for exemptions from environmental laws, this time seeking exemption from air and hazardous-waste laws. A Pentagon spokesman pleaded to Congress: “The department has experienced several close calls where the relocation of military readiness activities could have been stymied by the conformity requirements of the Clean Air Act.” The spokesman was then asked to cite specific examples. Wait, just give it a second. Wait. Wait. Nope, the Pentagon spokesman couldn’t think of a single example to support the department’s claims.

Speaking of going down the toilet, San Francisco-based company Brondell has unveiled the Swash Ecoseat, a line of toilet seats that are supposedly good for the environment. The Swash is a button-controlled contraption that attaches to most standard toilets. Using retractable water-spraying wands to assist in, um, cleaning, the Swash reduces or eliminates the need for toilet paper. Other features included in the Swash line: a contoured heated seat, a warm-air dryer and a wall-mounted control panel that stores your personalized settings. With so many companies jumping on the green wagon, Auntie Ruth is a bit skeptical about an eco-friendly device that stays plugged in all the time, especially one that employs motorized devices while her pants are down.