Category Archives: Environment


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5.  Dzershinsk, Russia—population 300,000:  The largest chemical weapons site in Russian history.   Between 1930 and 1998, 300,000 tons of toxic waste was improperly disposed of within the borders of this town.  Some pollutants exceed safe limits of exposure by 17,000,000 times.

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6.  Niger Delta, Nigeria—population 31,000,000–Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill 2010:  In the last 50 years, there have been more than 6800 oil spills in the region, totaling from 9,000,000 to 13,000,000 barrels since oil drilling began in Nigeria.  The 700,000-square-kilometer Niger Delta is one of the largest and most significant wetlands in the world, with most of the Delta’s 31,000,000 population depending on the land for their livelihood.

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7.  Lake Karachai, Russia:  Decades-long dumping ground for the Soviet Union’s nuclear waste.  Dubbed one of the most polluted sites on Earth, Lake Karachai is so toxic that standing on its shores for only one hour delivers a lethal dose of radiation.

Despite thousands of concrete blocks dumped into it to prevent the shifting of radioactive sediment, the lake and its area will continue to be toxic for hundreds of year.

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8.  Linfen, China:  A city dubbed China’s Chernobyl where laundry hung out turns black before it dries, though it had been known for its clean spring water and fertile farmland in the 1980s.   A booming coal industry producing inefficient power plants and employing legal and illegal coalmines changed the city from an ecological paradise into a pile of ash.

Source:  Discovery News, August 8, 2013



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1.  Fatberg:  A 15-ton blob of congealed fat in a London sewer.  It’s a byproduct of the lasting damage to the environment a single community can cause.

It’s a threat to human life as well because there’s plenty of Fatberg waddling around above the sewers.

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2.  The Great Ocean Garbage Patch:  An accumulation of 13,000 pieces per square kilometer of plastic over an area some calculate as twice the size of Texas.  As it breaks down into confetti-size bits, it releases chemicals into the water and then enters the food chain, where it’s a threat to marine and avian wildlife.

It’s also a threat to the human life that eats the wildlife because basically, we’re eating our own pollution.

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3.  Jiapingtang River, China:  A river outside of Shanghai supplying drinking water to over 23,000,000 people.  Last April 16,000 rotting pig carcasses had to be removed.  After the removal, about 1,000 dead ducks surfaced and were also removed.

Since April, the river has turned an inky black with a thin layer of slimy algae on its surface and smells like a backed-up drain.

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4.  Blood-red Trinity River, Dallas TX:  A river fed with pigs’ blood originating from the nearby Columbia (meat) Packing Co, Inc.

Source:  Discovery News, August 8, 2013  And other sources


1284607055KSuKT3Worldwide, electric power-generating stations annually release about 12,000,000,000 tons of CO2 from the combustion of oil, coal and natural gas.

Home and commercial heating is responsible for another 11,000,000,000 tons, together releasing 23,000,000,000 tons of CO2, all contributing to climate change.

But what if that greenhouse gas were harnessed and converted into electricity?

“Why not?” was the response of Bert Hamelers and colleagues from Wetsus, the Dutch center of excellence in sustainable water technology.

The team used a capacitive electrochemical cell:

“Built roughly like a battery, the cell has two electrodes—one surrounded by a membrane that allows hydrogen ions to flow in and out, and the other that does the same with bicarbonate ions, produced when carbon dioxide is bubbled through water.”

They harvest the chemical energy in CO2 emissions using a two-stage process:

First, by pumping water flushed with CO2 through the cell, they caused the hydrogen and carbonate ions to flow into their respective electrodes.  The ion separation charged the cell and drove an electrical current.

Second, once the electrodes had reached their capacity to absorb ions, researchers pumped air-bubbled CO2 emissions from power plants, industrial smokestacks and residential heating worldwide through the cell, thus driving the ions out of the electrodes and back into the cell.

By repeating these two steps, the cell produces electrical power.

The potential for the new process could generate about 1570 terawatt-hours of power each year, about 400 times that produced by the Hoover Dam.

Like other hydroelectric power facilities, the Wetsus-produced electricity wouldn’t add to global carbon dioxide emissions.

Source:   Smart Planet Daily, July 25, 2013        Science NOW, July 2013       Study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, July 25, 2013


NCP photo for storyDamage along beach in Mantoloking NJ, five months after Hurricane Sandy  Photo credit Wendell A Davis Jr, FEMA

Researchers at the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University say that the best protection from rising sea levels and storms in the US is a combination of engineering and conservation.

Marine ecologist and lead author of the study, Katie Arkema, says “ . . . the traditional approaches to protecting our shorelines, such as seawalls, levees and coastal buffering, don’t always do a sufficient job.”  She and her team addressed the question of the role of coastal habitats in providing protection.

Their first step was to gather data from local, state and national agencies about which coastal habitats might provide protection to coastal areas during extreme weather.  The next step was to assess and rank the amount of protection offered by each area.

Then they studied tide gauge measurements from 1992-2006, Global Sea-Level Rise scenarios from NOAA and an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report.

From the above information, the team created a Hazard Index to assess individual communities’ risks based on the effects of habitat type, shoreline type, wind, waves, sea-level rise, storm surge potential and topographic relief.

The results showed that as sea levels rise, natural defenses of coastal forests and shrubs offer significant protection in some areas.  Habitat offers less protection in other areas, probably because it can’t keep up with climate change.

Arkema notes that the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico areas are at highest risk from sea-level rise and storms because of their “ . . . low-lying habitats—mud flats and sandy beaches.”

Natural habitat is most protective of populations and property value in Florida, New York and California.  In fact, were that protective habitat lost, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts residents would be exposed to higher risk from storm hazards.

Vivien Gornitz of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, applauds the study.  She says it’s the first time that the habitat protection aspect of the US shoreline has been studied and demonstrates “ . . . the value of having as much natural habitat or coastline as possible in terms of potential protection against sea-level rise and storm surges.”

Gornitz wasn’t involved in the Stanford study.

SOURCE:  Earth Magazine, July 16, 2013   Study published in Nature Climate Change, July 2013


2013_0612-4The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) held a press conference Tuesday with makers of the documentary Triple Divide as a “cautionary tale” for oil and gas fracking in Ohio. OEC said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has yet to begin monitoring of the industry under 2012 legislation that could address at least part of the filmmakers concerns over water contamination

OEC’s director of water policy and environmental health, Melanie Houston, hosted a webinar and answer session with investigative journalists Josh Pribanic and Melissa Troutman of Public Herald, who say Pennsylvania’s history with horizontal hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” of Marcellus shale shows “Americans suffering in the wake of shale oil and gas development.” They offer those experiences as a warning to Ohio.

Pribanic and Troutman, both originally from northern Ohio, say the state still has a chance to learn from its neighbor. “Ohio is really in the infancy stage in shale gas development, compared to Pennsylvania,” said Troutman.

Triple Divide is named after a unique continental transition zone and network of rivers in northwestern Pennsylvania where its fracking industry is concentrated. The film documents what they claim are various regulatory anomalies in the state, including an alleged failure by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to compare certain pre- and post-drilling water tests that could have exposed the effects of fracking on potable water.

“When tests are dismissed, it changes the water quality history of an area, saying a pre-existing condition, not fracking, caused the water contamination,” they said.

In one case, Chesapeake Energy Corp. ignored a pre-drill test with the complicity of DEP, said Pribanic.

In another, the “blow-out” of a fracking well into nearby waterways produced a 10-fold increase in methane, sodium and other contaminants. Guardian Exploration was also found to have buried fracking waste not approved by DEP, Pribanic said.

In fact, he said, only half of all fracking waste is ever extracted from shale formations, proliferating the number of disposal wells.

In Pennsylvania, pre-drill testing is technically required, post-drill testing only occurs in response to complaints, and even then is not well monitored by authorities, Pribanic said. In Ohio, Houston said Gov. John Kasich’s energy legislation in Mid-Biennium Review measure 129-SB315 (Jones) included a provision for pre-drill water testing, but no requirement for post-drill testing.

“While that is a step forward, we are nowhere near where we need to be in the regulation of this industry,” Houston said, noting it’s still

not clear who will monitor testing. “We don’t have rules in place yet. My understanding so far is that Ohio EPA is not involved.”

Troutman and Pribanic were asked whether they believe there is any way to perform horizontal hydraulic fracking without endangering nearby inhabitants.

“According to the information that we found, they have a lot of complaints when it comes to wells, they have a lot of spills, and they have a lot of failures,” Pribanic said. “I can’t say that hydraulic fracturing at this point is being conducted in a safe way.”

Troutman questioned the notion of safety, saying hydraulic fracking uses such intense pressure that it moves substructures underground. “Any statement like that would be very risky.”

They said their documentary is different from “hearsay” exposes on horizontal fracking.

“We’re not giving you our views in the film. We’re not giving you our bias. We are giving you the evidence,” said Pribanic.

OEC issued a follow-up statement following the press conference. “Through thorough investigative journalism, Triple Divide presents a compelling case that the gas land communities of Ohio may be in for more than clogged roads and a temporary surge in retail dollars from itinerant oil and gas workers. They may be in for a real rude awakening,” said Houston.

She provided the following screening dates for Triple Divide in Ohio: Sept. 10, 7 pm, Columbus – Gateway Film Center Sept. 12, 6 pm, Mansfield – Relax, It’s Just Coffee Sept. 19, 7 pm, Granville – Denison University

Sept. 20, 7 pm, Springfield – Senior & Community Center Sept. 21, 7 pm, Rocky River – West Shore UU Church Sept. 22, 6 pm, Youngstown – B&O Banquet Hall Sept. 23, 6 pm, Salem – The Memorial Building

Sept. 24, 7 pm, Bowling Green – Grounds for Thought Sept. 25, 5:50 pm, Toledo – Maumee Branch Library Sept. 27, 7 pm, Sandusky – Harlequins Community Theatre

More information on Public Herald is available at Also, see:

Film Festival Gags Fracking Documentary as Radiation is Discovered in Local Waterway

SOURCE:  Ohio Environmental Press Conference, September 3, 2013


19.  Bottled Water
  It’s a bad idea, anyway you look at it.  It’s more expensive than the same thing coming out of your tap, which may be more pure.  The bottles consume exorbitant amounts of fossil fuel to make the bottles and then transport them.  They contribute to both the Pacific Garbage Dump and to the North Atlantic Garbage Dump.

If you have well water that is off-flavor or if you have an infant who needs to drink safe water, buy jugs of distilled water at big discount stores.  A gallon costs somewhere between $.79 and $.99, considerably cheaper than one bottle of water.

20.  Spice Mixes  Check the label, and you’re likely to find that the first ingredient is salt followed by “herbs and spices.”  Then check the internet for recipes for whatever spice mix you’re interested in and make your own from what you probably have in your pantry.

21.  Powdered Iced Tea Mixes or Prepared Flavored Iced Tea  Both are rip off$ full of sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup.  To make a quart of iced tea, use 8 bags of black tea or 10 bags of herbal, green or white tea.  You may want to skip the sugar all together and add fruit juice instead.

22.  Salad Kits  Washed and bagged greens cost about three times as much as buying the same amount of loose lettuce.  Even more expensive is the kit that includes a few croutons and a small bag of dressing.  Make your croutons out of toasted stale bread and your own salad dressing using extra virgin olive oil, proved to facilitate absorption of more vitamins and minerals from the salad than other oils.

23.  Individual Servings of Anything  Way too expensive.  Buy the large bag or box of chips or cookies or crackers and parcel them out in individual, reusable storage bags.

24.  Trail Mix  Again, an overpriced convenience at $10 a pound.  Make your own with a 1-pound can of dry roasted peanuts, 1 pound of raisons, a handful of almonds, dried fruit and candy coated chocolate.   Or substitute your own favorites.

25.  Snack or Lunch Packs  They cost from $2.50 to $4.00 and contain only pennies worth of actual edible, salt-filled ingredients.

26.  Pre-formed Meat Patties  Much more expensive than the 10 seconds it takes to form a patty from bulk meat and put it on the grill.  As most of the recent beef recalls because of e. coli have involved pre-made frozen patties, it makes more sense to make your own.

27.  Gourmet Ice Cream  Way too expensive at $6 a half-gallon.  Either wait till it’s on sale or buy a less expensive brand and garnish with your own bits of chocolate or crushed cookies.

SOURCE:   Reader’s Digest Slide Show


177147028Photo credit Handout, Getty Images News

For the first time since 2011, Japanese regulators declared “a radiological release incident” because 300 tons of radioactive water had leaked from a Fukushima Dailchi storage tank.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) stated the release of radioactive cesium and strontium is many hundreds of times as high as legal safety limits.  Accordingly, workers raced against a forecast of heavy rain to stem the spread of the contaminated water by placing sandbags around the tank.

The leak first became apparent last Monday when workers noticed contaminated water around the tank.  Upon measuring the contents of the 1,000 ton tank’s capacity, they found the tank held only 700 tons of radioactive water.

Tepco spokesman, Masayuki Ono, said much of the contamination had seeped into the soil, necessitating it being dug up and removed.  Eventually, the contaminated water will reach the ocean.

The plan was to clean the water using a filtering system before releasing it into the ocean, but protests by Japanese fishermen are delaying the project.

Desperate to stem the leaks, the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority suggested building a huge underground ice wall around the plant.  One of the problems with that plan is the enormous amount of electricity required.

Earlier this month rats chewed through exposed wires and caused a blackout of the plant’s cooling system.

Source:   Smart Planet Daily, August 22, 2013   The New York Times, August 21, 2013