Grab your life jackets as we take a dive into this week’s round-up as we look at the Trump Administration’s plans to turn dumps into detention centers, utility bills that show a Congressman’s unquenchable thirst, and an argument over police misuse of military gear turns a quiet Delaware beach town upside-down.
See a great use of public records we missed? Send over your favorite FOIA stories via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook, and maybe we’ll include them in the next round-up. And if you’d like even more inspiration, read past round-ups.
Digging up dirt on detention
This week, ThinkProgress reported that environmental and health advocates have joined forces with non-profit groups to file FOIA requests demanding the government release details about plans to keep detained immigrants at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas and Goodfellow Air Force Bases in San Angelo, Texas. The groups are concerned that housing detainees in these locations could cause severe human health and environmental harm.
The Environmental Protection Agency has listed Fort Bliss as a Superfund, which means it is on a priority list for environmental cleanup. At Goodfellow, tents meant to house people are said to be constructed directly over a former firing range, not far from an uncapped landfill.
As the FOIA states:
“These waste sites have the potential to cause dangerous human exposure to toxic chemicals via air, water and soil to migrants housed in tent encampments and to workers constructing the detention camps.”
“Because the Trump Administration plans to construct and house immigrant children and families on a greatly expedited schedule, timely receipt of the following information is required to inform the public of potential adverse impacts and to ensure the safety of those detained and those constructing the encampments.”
Read the full FOIA request embedded below, or on the Earthjustice webpage.
Water, water, everywhere
According to information obtained by the Statesman, Texas Congressman Michael McCaul takes the crown as Austin’s top water user for 2017. While the exact number of water used by the McCaul family is unknown, as they have fought to keep that information private, it can be confirmed that the family used more than 1.4 million gallons - the amount used by Austin’s second-place water waster.
The Statesman reports:
The amount used by the McCaul’s in 2017 would fill an Olympic-size swimming pool at least twice, and the weight of the liquid would be at least 11,676,000 pounds, nearly twice as heavy as the Saturn V rocket that propelled man to the moon. According to Austin Water, the utility’s average residential customer uses about 70,000 gallons a year.
Pentagon police gear
In Dewey Beach, Delaware, two audit committee members in resigned after they released a report deatiling a severe misuse of funds by the local police department. Apparently, the Department had been receiving property from a federal military surplus program without town oversight or proper accounting. Similarly, the Dewey Beach Patrol competition team had an “off-the-books” bank account and was receiving donations without nonprofit status.
To make matter worse, Dewey Citizens For Accountability member, Jeffrey Smith, was charged with theft and disorderly conduct after he tried to take a copy of the report home. Smith claims to have been confronted and “charged at” by the audit committee chair after the meeting.
The report was made available to the public at the committee’s August 3rd meeting, but the committee argues that the report was not free to take home. However, Dewey Beach leaders were unable to cite the law that makes a document available for inspection by the public at a public meeting private property.
The police department’s presentation on the items acquired through the 1033 program is embedded below.
Image by Lee Cannon via Flickr and is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0