'Poisoned Waters' producer Hedrick Smith speaks tonight

Hedrick Smith

Hedrick Smith, the producer of the PBS Frontline documentary “Poisoned Waters,” will deliver a lecture on water pollution tonight, April 27, in St. Paul.

The lecture– titled Poisoned Waters: The Pollution Peril —  is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of  Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.

The lecture will be at 7 p.m. in the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Student Center theater.

More than three decades after the Clean Water Act was supposed to make America’s waters clean enough for swimming and fishing again, major waterways across the country are still in perilous condition. Runoff from industry, agriculture and massive suburbandevelopment is flowing into waters from Chesapeake Bay to the Mississippi River to Puget Sound.

Smith, who produced the powerful and highly acclaimed “Poisoned Waters” last year, will deliver a video-illustrated lecture that will examine the sources and dangers of that pollution and the policies that have allowed it to continue.

Smith, a Pulitzer Prize and Emmy award-winning reporter and producer, also will talk about some of the pollution solutions that his documentary reported. He will describe the nation’s track record on water quality since the 1970s and deliver a tough-minded report card.

“We are at a crossroads – and most people don’t know it,” Smith warns.  “Back in the 1970s, we made real progress on the most visible pollution from industry and wastewater treatment plants. But since the 1990s, we have been backsliding. The environment has almost slipped off the political radar screen.

“Congress has cut funding for major environmental programs, such as Superfund, and several administrations in Washington have shifted away from vigorous enforcement of the Clean Water Act  to voluntary controls that have not worked.”

A panel of Minnesota water-quality experts will appear with Smith and join him in taking questions from the audience. The panelists will be:

  • Shawn Schottler, a senior scientist with the Science Museum of Minnesota’s St. Croix Watershed Research Station.
  • Kris Sigford, water quality director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
  • Glenn Skuta, manager of the Watershed Section of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Regional Division.

Smith’s talk will be the second in a Moos Family Speaker Series that the Freshwater Society and the College of Biological Sciences are sponsoring as part of 2010 – The Year of Water, a yearlong celebration of water and observance of the threats water faces.

Robert Glennon, a University of Arizona law professor and author, delivered the first lecture in the series on Feb. 22. To read about Glennon’s talk and link to a video of it, click here.

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