Archive | Pollution & Toxins

San Juan Residents May Face Smoke and Acid Rain from Raging Fire at Fuel Storage Facility

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Oct. 24 (UPI) — Residents of San Juan, Puerto Rico, are at risk of possible smoke inhalation and acid rain due to a raging fire, officials said Saturday.

Officials were concerned a wind shift Saturday could put additional San Juan residents at risk for smoke inhalation and that smoke from a fuel storage facility fire could mix with expected precipitation to create acid rain, CNN reported.

The fire at the Caribbean Petroleum Corp. facility just outside San Juan began with a major explosion Friday. Police said as of Saturday, at least 15 of the 40 fuel storage tanks at the facility were still ablaze.

As firefighters attempted to contain the fire, authorities had hundreds of local residents moved to local shelters as a precaution.

Pedro Nieves, chairman of the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, said steps had been taken to prevent fuel from entering San Juan’s nearby bay.

“We have been monitoring the water visually, and we have installed preventive pads and other material to contain a spill,” Nieves said. “No oil has reached the water.”

CNN said the official cause of the explosion and ensuing fire had not been determined.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Other, Pollution & Toxins, Wind0 Comments

Italian Mayors Stage Sit In over Toxic Ship Wreckage

ROME, Oct. 21 (UPI) — Italy’s environmental undersecretary agreed to tour the site of a toxic shipwreck Wednesday after 50 mayors staged a sit-in in Rome, the mayors say.

Mayors from the Calabrian province of Cosenza went to the capital Tuesday to persuade the Italian government to take immediate action to recover the toxic waste a ship was carrying when it sank off the Calabrian coast, the Italian news agency ANSA reports.

The wreck was located six weeks ago after an informant told prosecutors the mafia sank a ship in 1992 to dispose of 120 containers of radioactive waste.

In addition to the mayors, Calabrian members of Parliament also called for immediate action.

“The situation is extremely serious and there is no time to waste,” says Calabrian Deputy Franco Laratta of the opposition Democratic Party. “The ship was discovered 40 days ago and still no action has been taken. Enough is enough.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Pollution & Toxins0 Comments

Tire Fire Smoke and Soot Pollutes Detroit and Surrounding Area

DETROIT, Oct. 20 (UPI) — Parts of Detroit were blanketed Monday with thick smoke from a tire fire in nearby River Rouge, Mich., authorities said.

Billows of soot floated along Interstate 75 at the River Rouge bridge and into the Rosa Parks Boulevard area of Detroit, city fire Capt. Steve Varnas said.

“When that cools enough to settle, there’s going to be black soot covering stuff,” Varnas said, describing the smoke as heavy in carbon and, therefore, a serious health risk.

Residents in the smokiest areas were advised to remain indoors until the fire was fully contained, Varnas told the Detroit Free Press in a story published Tuesday.

The fire looked ominous but was being brought under control and there was no need to evacuate, a River Rouge police spokeswoman said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Finland to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions with Long Range Emission Goals

HELSINKI, Finland, Oct. 17 (UPI) — Finland aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 through tougher building standards and electric cars, officials said.

Government incentives and mandates will encourage Finnish residents to be more energy efficient in housing, transportation and food production, a government report on climate change said.

Under the new policy, buildings must use 60 percent less energy than they do now, cars must reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 90 percent and waste management facilities must curb emissions from landfills, Helsingin Sanomat reported Saturday.

The policy means Finland will see more electric cars and the use of alternative fuels in cars with internal combustion engines, Finish climate expert Oras Tynkkynen said.

The policy represents the first time Finland has set long-term targets for emission reduction.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Buildings, Cars, Energy, Landfills, Pollution & Toxins, Transportation, Waste Management0 Comments

France's EDF Accused of Dumping Nuclear Waste in Siberia

PARIS, Oct. 14 (UPI) — Paris is demanding answers from EDF after allegations surfaced that the state-owned energy giant is dumping nuclear waste in Siberia.

A documentary broadcast on TV channel Arte Tuesday showed footage of what appeared to be nuclear waste out in the Russian countryside.

The report claims that EDF, the world’s largest operator of nuclear power plants, ships 13 percent of its spent fuel to Siberia where it is left in metal containers in the open. More than 1,500 tons of waste is sitting in Siberia, the documentary said.

“This is really dirty stuff, as it contains harmful radioisotopes like uranium 236,” Mycle Schneider, a nuclear policy consultant, was quoted as saying by French newspaper La Liberation. “There’s absolutely no use for this (depleted uranium). It’s sitting in the rain. The main problem is its toxicity as a heavy metal.”

The company has denied the allegations. Silvain Granger, head of EDF’s nuclear fuel division, said the material sent to Siberia is uranium that is enriched and later reused in European power plants.

“The material, which is sent (there) is valuable material and not waste. We do not send waste to Russia,” Granger told the BBC.

The company claims that it sends its radioactive waste for processing and storage to Areva’s La Hague site in Normandy.

But Paris is not convinced.

Chantal Jouanno, the deputy minister for ecology, called for an inquiry to “confirm or reject” the allegations.

“We cannot allow the slightest possibility of suspicion that there is a problem,” Jouanno said on French radio. “It has to be completely transparent.”

The allegations come as France’s quest for a nuclear waste storage site is ongoing.

France plans to store reprocessed spent fuel in a clay formation underground; it chose the location at La Bure in 1998 and is planning to have a working repository in place hopefully by 2025.

But storing nuclear waste is harder than it sounds. The different types of waste radiate from 10,000 years to several million years; they would need to be sealed in repositories that are completely secure for such a period of time to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences in the case of leakage. Naturally, there exists no practical experience with such a long-term project — and short-term experience has been quite worrisome, with several storage projects failing.

EDF runs 58 nuclear reactors in France — which produce 80 percent of the country’s electricity — and eight in Britain. There, the company plans to invest billions into four new nuclear power plants.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Nuclear, Pollution & Toxins0 Comments

Chevron's Oil Pollution of Jungle Lawsuit Drags on in Ecuador

QUITO, Ecuador, Oct. 11 (UPI) — Ecuadorean officials and Chevron executives continue to accuse each other of gross improprieties as a legal case over oil spills in the jungle drags on.

The U.S. oil giant inherited the legal problems in the Amazon jungle when it bought Texaco in 2001, The New York Times reported Friday. Texaco was responsible for contamination of water in the Amazon region of the South American country.

A multibillion-dollar legal case filed by the government for Amazon peasants that has already run for 16 years became complicated in August when Chevron released secretly taped videos. Two businessmen who appeared to be looking to get a slice of the expected $27 billion in damages taped themselves with Ecuadorean officials, including the judge hearing the legal case.

The businessmen won’t explain why they attended meetings in Quito and a jungle outpost to discuss an alleged bribery plot.

One of the Ecuadorean officials taped, Patricio Garcia, said he was entrapped by Chevron. He said Chevron masterminded an industrial espionage project intended to smear Ecuador’s legal system.

His interpretation of the situation is echoed by Washington Pesantez, the country’s attorney general, who says Chevron is trying to further delay the suit. Chevron denies having the meetings taped, which is illegal in Ecuador.

Texaco allegedly polluted large swaths of the rain forest long before it was purchased by Chevron. Chevron has no assets in Ecuador so it would be hard to get the company to pay even if the government wins the suit.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Other, Pollution & Toxins0 Comments

GAO: Scrubbers Slash Power Plant Mercury Emissions by 90%

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (UPI) — Sorbent-injection scrubbers cut mercury emissions at 14 U.S. coal-fired power plants by 90 percent, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said Thursday.

The GAO said in a report that the sorbent-injection systems used at 14 plants enabled them to meet various state mandates for mercury reductions.

“Importantly, the substantial mercury reductions using these systems commercially and in tests were achieved with all three main types of coal and on boiler configurations that exist at nearly three-fourths of U.S. coal-fired power plants,” the report said.

The 491 coal-fired power plants in the United States are the leading source of mercury emissions in the nation, annually producing about 48 tons of the toxic heavy metal.

Sorbent-injection scrubbers are seen by the Department of Energy as a promising technology since they cost an average of $3.6 million per plant, which is low compared to other types of emission-control equipment.

The GAO said some plants had been able to reduce mercury pollution with their existing emissions control equipment; however other plants will need scrubbers as well as additional steps such as coal blending.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Energy, Office, Other, Pollution & Toxins, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

Findings Show How Global Greenhouse Gas Emission Cuts Can Work

NEW YORK, Oct. 8 (UPI) — New findings by two U.S.-based research organizations show global greenhouse gas emissions, widely seen behind current climate change, can be reduced to meet targets set for 2020 if world communities set their mind to concerted policy change and action.

The U.N. Foundation, a public charity, and the Center for American Progress, a non-partisan research institute, unveiled an analysis of what they see as the core elements of the fight to combat climate change.

In a joint presentation UNF President Timothy E. Wirth and CAP President John D. Podesta said 75 percent of the emission cuts needed to be in place by 2020 could be achieved through energy efficiencies, greater uses of renewable energy, conservation of depleting forests and a more sensible and sustainable use of land.

The measures could offer up net savings of $14 billion, they said.

The findings were released amid mixed messages from the preliminary round of U.N. climate talks in Thailand before the scheduled climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Global improvements in energy efficiency are currently estimated to be growing at a rate of 1.25 percent, said the study.

If the rate is pushed up to 2 percent by 2015 that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent below the rate likely to be prevailing in 2020. That reduction would represent a net saving of $98 billion by 2020, the study said.

Likewise, if electricity generated through renewable sources is increased to the point where it represents a fifth of the world’s total electricity production in 2020 that would mean a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by that year.

The findings also calculate that halving the rate of tropical deforestation at the same time as improving land use can lead to a 50 percent cut in emissions by 2020. The study recommends more sustainable forestry and land management and greater attention to how and where livestock is raised.

The report calls for introducing programs of national adaptation in the least developed and vulnerable developing countries to better prepare populations for a more sustainable approach to use of resources.

“A new international agreement is urgently needed to address climate change,” said Wirth. “It must include emission reduction targets by developed countries, nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries, financial assistance to developing countries, and technology cooperation.”

He said the core elements of a new agreement should include areas where all countries, both developed and developing, can take immediate action to reduce emissions. He said such action would also help economic growth, energy security and public health.

Wirth said the findings showed how “very substantial progress can be made toward the emissions cuts we need over the next 10 years at very low cost — in fact, with a net benefit to the global economy overall.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Conservation, Electricity, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Organizations, Pollution & Toxins, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

Canadian Authorities Probe Imperial Oil's Chemical Spill

SARNIA, Ontario, Oct. 7 (UPI) — Canadian authorities and Imperial Oil Wednesday were trying to learn what caused a leak of benzene in Sarnia, Ontario, a day earlier.

The incident happened about 1 p.m. at the Imperial processing facility in southwestern Ontario and prompted an emergency three-hour lockdown of the neighborhood around it, the Sarnia Observer reported.

Benzene is used to manufacture gasoline and is a known carcinogen.

Imperial Oil spokeswoman Julie Ferguson said it wasn’t immediately known how much of the chemical escaped or why, but it was contained quickly. She said heavy foam was sprayed on the spill to prevent vapors from spreading.

Area residents were told to remain indoors with all windows closed, and students downwind were kept inside for three hours, the newspaper said.

No injuries were reported.

There was a similar spill from the same tank on March 14, 2008, which Imperial officials said was caused by the collapse of its floating roof, the Observer said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Pollution & Toxins0 Comments

Survey Finds That Ford Vehicle Drivers Are Top Litterers

LONDON, Oct. 5 (UPI) — Officials with a British campaign against littering say individuals driving Ford vehicles are the most likely to toss garbage from their cars.

Keep Britain Tidy said on the campaign’s Web site Monday a survey of more than 6,000 littering reports found Ford vehicles were involved in 1,262 instances.

Second on the list were BMWs with the vehicle brand accounting for 318 sightings of littering from automobiles. Other top vehicle brands involved in littering were Citroen with 211 instances, Audi with 180 and Honda with 100.

The specific survey dates of the month-long campaign study were not released.

Keep Britain Tidy chief executive Phil Barton said his campaign wants individuals who litter from their vehicles to face the possibility of losing a point on their driver’s license for the infraction, The Daily Telegraph reported.

“Through campaigning on this issue, we now have information that is valuable and important to our goal of influencing the lawmakers and the manufacturers to make a positive change towards ending this problem,” Barton said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Cars, Other, Pollution & Toxins0 Comments

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