Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Friends and (In)Credible Data

On page 6 of the Feburary 29th version of the green edition of the San Juan Journal there is a very good letter by David Ralston commenting on some recent statements by Friends Board member Janet Alderton.  Janet is one of the most, if not the most, outspoken member of the Friends Board recently.  However, there are many instances where Janet is more certain than accurate, and David skillfully addresses some of her statements that appear to be deceptive half-truths.

She states in her correction of Peg Manning "... the number of species as listed as threatened ... almost doubled in two years."  However, if you read the referenced material cited, it says that about 27 of the 49 newly added species were already listed, and were added because we did not consider them users of the Salish Sea until a recently published paper identified them.

In other words, the number of threatened species identified here increased, not because of environmental decline, but if anything, because we are a refuge for those species, likely because of our excellent environmental stewardship.

Janet has also been one of the loudest voices to sound off about water quality data, collected by the non-profit group Kwiaht, suggesting harmful concentrations of pyrethrins in our water.  Time and again, it has been pointed out to her that the Kwiaht data is not credible because it was not collected, analyzed, or reported according to the State's own requirements for credible data. For instance, if that data were included in a water quality report to the State, the State would have to reject it.

Nevertheless, that doesn't stop Janet from continuing to sound the alarm bells that seem to panic the Council and Planning Commission into developing draconian new measures that will be used to beat up homeowners.

The email below is Ecology's response to a question about the validity of the Kwiaht pyrethrin data.  As Ecology says, it's value is only educational.  They are not "official scientific data."  Then why do the Friends keep bringing it up in CAO discussions?

From: Albin, Linsay (ECY) [mailto:LALB461@ECY.WA.GOV]
Sent: Friday, December 23, 2011 12:03 PM
To: Margaret M. Manning
Subject: Public Disclosure Request

Hi, Peg,

You and I seem to keep missing each other!  I’m sorry you haven’t been feeling well.

I don’t want you to think I’m avoiding you, and I’m on leave next week, so I thought I’d send you a short reply to your public disclosure request.

This will cover the highlights, but of course we can talk about details another time.

Your request was regarding the report “Preliminary Survey of Pyrethroid Pesticides and Surfactants in San Juan County Surface Waters”, which stated the study was undertaken via a “Public Participation Grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology, which has reviewed the results.” 

I believe you are wondering whether Ecology validated this study in any way. 

The Public Participation Grant (PPG) officer reviewed the products [study] to ensure they were consistent with PPG Guidelines. He did not verify the veracity of the information. Projects such as these are designed to be for educational purposes only.  A recipient, in accordance with our guidelines, cannot use the data they collect for litigious purposes or as official scientific data.

Basically, the agency awarded the grant money and filed the resulting report as the finished product of the grant.  The phrase in the study, “reviewed the results”, means the grant manager just read the final report to see the end product of the grant.  There was no participation by Ecology, such as data collection, organization, writing/editing,  verification of accuracy or scientific method.

Ecology does have the PPG file for the project, which includes the grant application, payment requests, progress reports, final progress report and data they collected.  The financial file is at the state records facility and can be retrieved if necessary.  If you are interested, I’ll put you in touch with my colleagues at our Headquarters in Lacey, who will scan or copy documents for you.

Give me a call when you’re feeling better and we can discuss this further if you would like.


Linsay Albin
Public Disclosure Coordinator
Dept of Ecology
Bellingham Field Office
1440 10th St Ste 102
Bellingham, WA  98225
fax 360.715.5225

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