Archive | Remediation

New Synthetic Material Traps Nuclear Waste

EVANSTON, Ill., Jan. 27 (UPI) — Northwestern University scientists say they’ve created a material that can trap the radioactive ion cesium while ignoring harmless ions such as sodium.

Researchers led by Professor Mercouri Kanatzidis said their synthetic material is made from layers of a gallium, sulfur and antimony compound. They said it has been extremely successful in removing cesium — found in nuclear waste, but very difficult to clean up — from a sodium-heavy solution that consisted of concentrations similar to those found in real liquid nuclear waste.

The scientists said the new material sequestered 100 percent of the cesium ions from the solution, while simultaneously ignoring sodium ions.

“Ideally we want to concentrate the radioactive material so it can be dealt with properly and the non-radioactive water thrown away,” Kanatzidis said, adding the new material could lead to a much-needed breakthrough in nuclear waste remediation.

The study is reported online in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Nuclear, Remediation0 Comments

EPA Finds Lead High Levels Around Smelter Despite Cleanups for Past Decade

HERCULANEUM, Mo., Oct. 28 (UPI) — More than 100 properties near a Missouri smelter that have been through cleanup in the past decade have high levels of lead in the soil, federal regulators say.

Testing by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found lead levels at more than 400 parts per million in 129 properties near the Doe Run Smelter in Herculaneum, Mo., the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Of these properties, 104 have had soil remediation.

“While Doe Run has taken some steps in recent years to reduce lead emissions, those efforts clearly fall short of what was necessary,” EPA acting Regional Administrator William Rice said in a statement. “The recontamination we are seeing in Herculaneum is unacceptable.”

Doe Run argued the testing shows the problem is not that severe. Officials said if test results are averaged on each property, only 29 have lead levels above 400 parts per million, the limit the EPA considers safe.

Many of those 29 properties are in a zone where the company has offered buyouts to the owners.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Pollution & Toxins, Regional, Remediation0 Comments

Humanity's Prosperous Destiny

Something we don’t hear often enough amidst this era’s turbulent convergence of cultures and challenging disruptions of technology is this: Humanity is destined within a tantalizingly few decades to achieve a level of prosperity that can scarcely be imagined today. The ongoing conflicts of nations, continued destruction of the environment, heartbreaking poverty, ruthless injustice – these all constitute a dark fog of tribulations that can appear inpenetrable. But this fog that can seem so thick and toxic is actually disappearing with breathtaking speed.

It is often easy to overlook the many positive forces of history, forces that can be identified with Euclidean precision, immutable forces that will deliver to humanity abundance in all forms, wealth to conquer poverty, cleanse the planet, and satiate the longings of peoples and nations. As the world urbanizes, voluntarily and en-masse, rural lands and wildernesses are relieved, and open space becomes abundant. As technological innovation advances at exponential rates, energy and water will also become abundant. The most important natural resource in the world is human creativity, and it is inexhaustible and will find a way to alleviate any scarcity.

The data to back up these audaciously optimistic claims is not terribly complex. It is based on two trends which taken together pretty much prove the point. The first is that the human population on Earth has nearly reached its maximum. Projections from the U.N. Office of Economic & Social Affairs indicate it is unlikely that the total human population will ever exceed 10.0 billion, and since there are already nearly 7.0 billion people in the world, most of the growth in human population has already occurred.

The second trend is the total economic output of the planet, measured in constant dollars, continues to increase. There is a fascinating 1998 study by J. Bradford DeLong, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, entitled “Estimating World GDP, One Million B.C. – Present.” that uses constant 1990 international dollars to estimate the per capita income of humans beginning over a thousand years ago and projecting through the year 2000. With this data, updated with more recent data through 2005 from the World Bank, and converting everything into 2005 international dollars, the table below provides estimates of per capita income as well as global GDP in fifty year increments from 1750 through the year 2000 and beyond. Assuming a modest annual rate of 3.0% for future global economic growth, on this table one can examine what happens when GDP continues to grow, but human population stablizes. The results are striking.
post resumes below image

When increasing global productivity no longer competes with
population growth, per capita income improves dramatically.

As the table indicates, global GDP grew at an annual rate of 1.0% or less until the industrial revolution, then picked up to around 2.0% per year until about 1950. During the period from 1950 to 2000, however, the rate of growth increased dramatically, to an annual rate of over 4.0%, as the momentum of the industrial revolution was catalysed by the information technology revolution, and rolled out from the Western Nations to begin to embrace all the world’s peoples.

Examining global population indicates similar trends, increasing growth rates as global wealth increases, with the the last half of the 20th century showing an unprecedented annual rate of population growth of 1.7% (ref. U.S. Census Bureau’s “Historical Estimates of World Population,” and Wikipedia’s “World Population.” Looking ahead, however, for the first time in history, the impact of wealth is so great that it is empowering individuals to shrink the size of their families instead of expanding them. The next fifty years through 2050 will see the average annual rate of global population growth reduced to 0.8%, less than half the rate of the preceding years, and after that, to virtually zero. The factors that cause humans to opt for smaller families – female literacy, access to contraception, and reduced infant mortality – are all the result of wealth, and as per capita wealth increases, everyone in the world becomes their beneficiary.

What is most encouraging is just how dramatic the increases to per capita income are going to be in the decades preceding 2050, and even more so in the 2nd half of the 21st century. As the table indicates, and these are constant units of currency, even at a realistic 3.0% rate of real annual growth in global economic output, which now easily and dramatically exceeds rates of population growth, by 2050 per capita income will be over $25K, which equates to an average household income of over $100K. By 2100 per capita income will be over $100K; an average household income of over $400K using 2005 dollars.

In many respects, just how so much wealth will benefit humanity is impossible to visualize. Just as cave dwellers couldn’t possibly imagine spending whatever might have passed for currency back then on a television, it is quite likely there are things we will do with our wealth in 100 years that we can’t imagine today. Things we can imagine are many, however, and fascinating: personal androids that will care for us when we’re old, life extension therapies that will delay getting old to begin with, treatment and prevention of currently incurable diseases, remediation programs to restore ecosystems, and exploration programs to colonize the solar system. With the kind of innovation and wealth creation that defines being human, ten billion people will not nearly exceed the carrying capacity of planet earth, and 100 years is not a very long time. It is helpful to remember this inspiring path we are on, and the bright destiny that awaits humanity, as we strive to make our way today through the fog.

Posted in Business & Economics, Energy, Population Growth, Remediation, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Television11 Comments

Refill the Aral Sea

RELEASE THE RIVERS: Let the Volga & Ob Refill the Aral Sea
Kyrgyzstan Mountains
Kyrgyzstan, the Switzerland of Central Asia
Headwaters of the Syr Darya River

The Aral Sea used to be an endless expanse of bountiful waters. Now only burning sands remain, and graveyards of ghost ships. On the salt-saturated seabed where the sea once ran deep, lie dessicated hulks of what only 50 years ago were great fishing fleets.

This vast sea was an oasis of continental proportions, moderating the temperature, humidifying the air and the land, providing livelihoods for nearly a hundred thousand fishermen. To the east lay the vastness of asia, to the south the great ramparts of the Himalaya.

Since the dawn of civilization the Aral sea, 66,000 square kilometers in size, defied the dry deserts of Central Asia, and benefit the climates of the world.

Drying up the Aral Sea is considered by many environmentalists to be the biggest environmental disaster of all time, a disaster that might only be eclipsed by the total meltdown of Earth’s Ice Caps. Canals killed the Aral Sea, canals built by Soviet engineers with the eager assistance of local farmers, to increase agricultural production in their Central Asian republics. Between 1960 and 1980 the cotton industry in Central Asia has burgeoned, irrigated by northward flowing rivers that used to fill the Aral Sea, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya.

Aral Sea from Orbit
View from Earth Orbit
The Aral Sea in 1985

The headwaters of the Syr Darya are Himalayan glaciers in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. From this breathtaking region, the veritable Switzerland of Asia, the Syr Darya cascades north, eventually delivering a flow of 70-80 cubic kilometers per year into the Aral Basin. Kyrgyzstan has constructed dams and reservoirs with huge water diversion potential, as most of the flow of the Syr Darya is directly from watersheds within Kyrgyzstan. The Amu Darya has a northward flow per year of 30-40 cubic kilometers, with its headwaters in Afgahnistan. These headwater countries might release more water to their rivers, if they knew more water would go to the Aral Sea.

The countries that border the Aral Sea, Uzbekistan on the south and Kazakhstan on the north have the greatest amount of irrigated land; in all the Aral Basin now has an astonishing 87,600 square kilometers of irrigated crops, mostly cotton, up from a small fraction of that amount fifty years ago. These crops now use up virtually all the water that used to make it to the Aral Sea. The farming economies of virtually all countries in the Aral Basin are dependent on water from these rivers.

In 1950 water reaching the Aral Sea totaled 50 cubic kilometers each year, now the sea only gets 3, about one-twentieth of what it needs. Within 50 years, this water evaporated and wasn’t replaced, nearly 1,000 cubic kilometers of water volume. The sea shrank from 66,000 square kilometers to less than 10,000. The climate of the Aral Basin, with an area of 1.3 million square kilometers, was ruined by the sea’s demise. Coastline and hinterland are decimated by storms of salt and sand, dried away and desolate. Occupying a pivotal position in the arid center of the vast Asian continent, the death of the Aral Sea has altered weather patterns permanently, creating more continental extremes as weather fronts no longer encounter the moderating humidity from the evaporating Aral Sea. Soviet engineers didn’t just take 50 cubic kilometers out of the rivers feeding the Aral Sea each year, in equal measure they disrupted an evaporative water inflow into the air. Fewer continental clouds.

United Nations

For only (USA)$30 million, the rice and cotton farmers in the most salinated fields of the irrigated Aral basin could have their crop bought out. They could sit out the summer with their harvest money already in hand, no need to sow the seeds, no need to watch over the fields, or to harvest, or to water. This relatively paltry sum of $30 million would release enough water to double the flow into the Aral Sea, from 3 cubic kilometers per year to 6, a very, very good bargain. Any takers? Major environmental organizations use many times that much money each year for marketing and legal fees, and as for the corporate world, a lot of them spend $30 million the way the rest of us might go buy a cup of coffee.

Turkmen with Horses
“Water is a Turkmen’s life,
a horse is his wings…”
An Ancient Turkmen Proverb

One joyful event was the independence of five Soviet Republics in 1991, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazahkstan. Proud and ancient lands, these nations have flowered since they gained autonomy. But now the Aral Basin, with Russia included, numbers six countries where there once was one. Cooperation is more complicated. Some have suggested the Aral Sea itself become its own 7th country, at the center of the basin, a remediation zone that could more easily coordinate agreements with all involved and quickly attract investment. In any case, upstream countries might be induced to contribute more water to the downstream flow if they knew more water would end up in the Aral Sea.

Another way to save the Aral Sea is through more efficient irrigation systems. The Kara Kum canal, for example, the centerpiece of the Soviet built system of huge diversion canals, lacks concrete lining for much of its 1,300 kilometer length. In all there are over 60 diversion canals that tap into the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. Most of them lack lining. Improving the canal system and overall irrigation efficiency can probably give as much as 20 kilometers per year of water back to the Aral, not nearly enough, but far more than at present.

Aral Sea Diagram
Aral Sea 2005

Present efforts to save the Aral are noble but yield meager results. The northern Aral Sea which has split off from the Aral Sea has stablized and has a tiny fishery reestablished. Unfortunately the Northern Aral Sea, or Little Aral, is insignificant compared to the entire Aral Sea. Moreover, it lies on higher ground north of the larger Aral sea bottom, and the fishermen in the region are building a dam on the former seabed to keep the sea from overflowing. Unless more water arrives, well they should, conservation will refill the lower Aral sometime between thousands of years and never. Conservation is only part of the solution.

Aral Sea Diagram
Aral Sea 2010
-canals flowing-

The best way to save the Aral Sea had been planned all along. When the Soviets built the Kara Kum canal system, to make up for the loss of water to the Aral Sea they intended to build two more canals to divert water from other major rivers into the Aral Basin. One canal would move water south-west from the southern flowing Volga, and another longer one would move water south by southeast from the northern flowing Ob-Irtysh. Both of these rivers are far larger than the Amu Darya and Syr Darya that water the Aral basin.

Aral Sea and Surrounding Area Diagram
Canals (orange) divert up to 100 cubic km water
per year to the Aral Sea from the Volga & Ob Rivers.
Yellow areas = elevation over 200 meters
Map Scale: 100 pixels = 1,000 kilometers

The Volga, which has its headwaters on the western slopes of the Urals, has a flow of around 240 cubic kilometers per year and flows into the Caspian Sea. The Ob-Irtysh, drawing its moisture from the vast Central Siberian Plain, has a flow of around 385 cubic kilometers per year and flows north into the Arctic Ocean. These rivers, both of which serve regions with an overabundance of water, could each have under ten percent of their flow tapped and the Aral Sea would get an extra 60 cubic kilometers per year, more than making up for the diversions that have robbed the Aral for all these years. Indeed that was the plan, fifty years ago. But the priorities of the cold war slowed Soviet investment in new canals, and when in 1989 the USSR broke up, the plan was forgotten. Until now.

Aral Sea Diagram
Aral Sea 2015
-starting to refill-

Russian President Vladmir Putin, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, and many other prominent Russian political leaders and eminent scientists are stepping forward to revive the plan to save the Aral Sea by constructing canals to tap Russian rivers. The President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, has also endorsed reviving the project. The smaller of the canals was intended to transfer water from the Volga river to the Aral Sea. Today, building this canal, 800 kilometers long, 200 meters wide and 16 meters deep, would cost about (USA)$8 billion. Such a canal would tap into the Volga river in the Ural uplands, running along the contours of the earth to drain into the Aral basin and into the shrunken sea. Depending on the route, because of a lack of high altitude barriers between the Volga watershed and the Aral basin, this canal might require little or even no pumping stations.

Aral Sea Diagram
Aral Sea 2020
-major fishing!-

The larger canal was designed to run from the confluence of the Ob and Irtysh rivers, 2,500 kilometers south through the lowlands along a major tributary called Tobol River, over the low hills separating the Western Siberian plain from the Aral basin. This canal, equally wide and deep while longer and requiring more pumping stations than the one built from the Volga would cost about $22 billion if it were built today. A canal from the Ob-Irtysh to the Aral Sea would be pretty big, but it is comparable in scope to canals already built all over the world. This canal system is certainly not any more extensive than the sea-killing one already in place to drain the water for crop irrigation, nor than the systems in Western Europe, California, China and elsewhere.

Aral Sea Diagram
Aral Sea 2025
-Caspian saved-

It is natural for many environmentalists to ridicule and demonize a plan like this. It is very expensive and constructing the canals will disrupt many local ecosystems. But the long-term benefit far outweighs costs. The biggest environmental disaster in history would be totally reversed. What’s that worth?

Even more compelling to environmentalists are new factors that didn’t exist 50 years ago when the canal system was originally conceived. The Caspian Sea is rising alarmingly, over 2.5 meters in the last 30 years. Nobody knows where it will end. Coastal cities are at risk of inundation. Farmland is being swallowed up. Having a canal to drain 10% or more of the Volga river into the Aral Basin would help manage this crisis.

Aral Sea Diagram
Aral Sea 2030
-Gulf Stream ok-

An even bigger environmental reason for building these canals applies to the Ob-Irtysh, which flows into the Arctic Ocean. Many climatologists and hydrologists are concerned about the impact of fresh water flowing into the Arctic. Their models suggest that too much fresh water might have an effect on the Gulf Stream, causing it to no longer wind its way northwards hugging Europe’s western shores, from Spain to Murmansk. Weather in Europe, if no longer warmed by the Gulf Stream’s tropical ocean current, would revert to an ice age. Not a pleasant thought, if you’re sitting outdoors to tea in London. Melting glacial ice and icepack in recent years have allowed unprecedented levels of fresh water to accumulate in the Arctic. Diverting as many as 40 cubic kilometers of fresh water away from the Arctic delta of the Ob-Irtysh would significantly reduce the levels of fresh water in the Arctic, helping preserve the northward flowing Gulf Stream, preventing an imminent ice age.

Aral Sea Diagram
Aral Sea 2035
-completely filled-

Building two canals to save the Aral Sea, avert Caspian floods, and prevent a European ice age sound like pretty good reasons, but economic reasons also show viability. Bringing back the largest fishery in Central Asia, and having more, smarter irrigation systems would turn this desolate region, victim of man’s hubris, into a garden of the world. At a cost of $30 billion, once these canals were constructed, the Aral could be refilled in twenty years. This money can be put together by the World Bank, or any collection of good-sized Nation States. This construction project could even be funded by private interests. Environmentalists should quit hiring lawyers and start buying bulldozers.

Support from the world environmental movement for refilling the Aral Sea by the only practical means, building more canals, could tip the balance, raising awareness, spreading information, and having a decisive impact on gaining sufficient global political and financial support. If Russian President Putin and others can make this their legacy, the Caspian shore will be saved, the icecaps won’t melt, and ships will sail again upon the vastness and the abundance of a totally refilled Aral Sea.

Ed Ring is the Editor of EcoWorld, based in Sacramento, California, USA.

Table of Watershed Data for Aral Sea


Turning Siberian Rivers – Pravda

Will the Siberian Rivers flow to Uzbekistan? – Pravda

Asia’s Desert Set to Bloom Again – The Scotsman

The Aral Sea Crisis – BBC

Caspian Environment Programme

Moscow Mayor Plans to Sell Water to the World – Pravda

The Aral Sea: Bank From the Brink? – UNESCO

Portrait of a Doomed Sea – European Space Agency

Optimization of Syr Darya Water & Energy Uses – Water International

Time to Save the Aral Sea? – U.N. Food & Agricultural Organization

Welcome to Siberia (Khanty-Mansiisk) – International Federation of Film Critics

Probability Forecast for Aral Sea Levels –

River & Water Facts – U.S. National Park Service

Population & the Future of Renewable Water Supplies – Population Action International

For more information including electricity requirements see:
- Arctic to Aral – How Much Electricity Would the Pumps Require?

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EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

Posted in Conservation, Electricity, Energy, History, Organizations, Other, Remediation, Wind5 Comments

A Revolution in Soil Recycling

EarthWorks Continues Crusade to take their Revolutionary Soil Treatment Worldwide
EarthWorks Founder and CEO
Jonathan Brewer

Wouldn’t it be better to clean and reuse contaminated soil?

What if toxins could be inexpensively removed from soil, on-site, instead of being hauled to a landfill? This is the vision that inspired Jonathan Brewer to found EarthWorks Environmental in 1998, and in barely four years his small company has treated over 50 million pounds of contaminated soil. Based in Sacramento, California, Brewer’s company offers a unique and patented innovation, whereby mining equipment used to crush ore is adapted to grind up soil so that chemical or biological reagents can be sprayed onto the fine particles, neutralizing the toxins. This new approach to soil remediation is again attracting customers faster than Brewer can serve them, allowing him to live his dream of “growing and becoming financially successful by cleaning up the planet.”

Earthworks Environmental Inc. Logo

Mainstream methods of soil remediation either require permanent, and very expensive, removal of the contaminated soil, or they require “washing” the soil in cumbersome tanks. Brewer’s machines are fully self-contained, and can be easily transported directly to the contaminated sites, where the soil requiring treatment can be scooped onto a conveyance hopper and fed through the grinders and sprayers, coming out the other end completely treated. Where a soil washing system might be capable of cleaning 500 tons of soil per day, Brewer’s latest machine can clean 200 tons of soil or more per hour! “We can eliminate any toxin for which there is a chemical or biological methodology to degrade,” said Brewer, and that’s almost everything out there.

Contaminated Soil Awaiting Treatment in Gillette, Wyoming
Contaminated Soil Awaiting
Treatment in Gillette, Wyoming

Earthworks Environmental has gotten off to a good start, with four machines now in service and contracts in-process throughout the western United States. But there is huge, explosive potential for a machine that can recycle contaminated soil into clean topsoil for roughly a third the cost of today’s conventional practice of removing and sequestering contaminated soil. Brewer is holding onto a classic example of a disruptive, revolutionary technology, an invention that will not only turn the soil remediation industry on its ears, but also one that can greatly accelerate cleanup of polluted lands worldwide; a solution that cheaply creates clean earth again, instead of expensive removal and relocation of toxic waste.

Soil Treatment Vehicle
The Treatment Begins
EarthWorks Machines Process
Over 200 Tons Per Hour

For three years Jonathan Brewer has built his business like an entrepreneur, reinvesting his profits into refining his product, winning new business, growing slowly. Meanwhile the commercial potential and the environmental benefits for his revolutionary process call for rapid growth, requiring huge investments. EarthWorks is always on the lookout for strategic partners who are preparing to invest in conventional soil washing technology. EarthWorks offers a revolution in soil recycling to such an investor.

Treated Soil Pile
Treated Soil Comes off

an EarthWorks Machine

EarthWorks Environmental’s machines are mobile, flexible and fast, they clean and recycle the soil instead of sequestering it as toxic waste, and the process is much cheaper. A strong financial partner could acquire EarthWork’s Environmental and deploy their machines worldwide in a very short time. EarthWorks has had courtships with investors and partners where they would acquire the right to the patents, the equipment, and the company but to-date EarthWorks remains independent and growing their business the old fashioned way, by delivering jobs well done to a growing clientele. EarthWorks is actively marketing equipment and licenses to environmental contractors around the world.

EarthWorks mobile soil cleaning systems can be carted around a continent on rail cars and by truck. Wherever they go, clean earth is left in their wake, instead of toxic landfills. These machines and their many variations hold immense promise not only for the industrial nations, but throughout the developing world where their low cost and quick implementation make them especially attractive.

Processed Soil
Soil After the EarthWorks Process

Clean Enough to Use as Topsoil

EarthWorks offers soil cleaning solutions that are so much more cost-effective than traditional methods, that by implementing this more efficient solution, additional resources that would have been required for soil treatment can be redirected into the local communities. This altruism resonates with Brewer and is part of his criteria to find the right company to bring EarthWorks into the big leagues.

It isn’t every day an entrepreneur comes up with an innovation that proves to be both profitable and promising a better future for humanity. Equally unusual is the entrepreneur who, having the fortitude to prove their product’s worth against entrenched competition, is able to let go when the time is right, and sell their company to a partner with the financial network to introduce his product to the world. Ideally, companies like Brewer’s EarthWorks will soon find investor partners that add the resources and international partnerships he needs, and also share his altruistic vision of how to use his product to improve the lot of civilization.

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EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

Posted in Cars, Landfills, Other, Recycling, Remediation, Science, Space, & Technology2 Comments

Technology & Free Enterprise Come Together To Save the Environment

Jonathan Brewer
Jonathon Brewer
Earthworks Environmental Founder

Editor’s note: As often as not, technology and free-enterprise are forces that can save the environment. A perfect example is Jonathan Brewer’s company EarthWorks Environmental, with a technology that transforms polluted soil into soil clean enough to grow crops. But delivering a technological solution is only the beginning of the fight. Environmental entrepreneurs can provide the courage and the innovation, but their efforts must be complemented by diligent reporting in the press, and serious attention from investors, if their solution is to get the visibility and financial backing necessary to scale up to something that will truly make the world a better place. This is especially true if, as is the case with EarthWorks, the solution will disrupt an established industry.

ROSEVILLE, CALIFORNIA Jonathan Brewer likens his soil remediation technology to the Wright Brothers’ airplane back in the early 1900′s. Why? Because the machines he’s designed are the first of their kind and can go where no man has gone before. They are a creative piece of engineering, and because of these machines, Mr. Brewer’s company, EarthWorks Environmental (, looks like it has a strong future ahead of it. But still, like many examples in history of an established industry reluctant to take notice of the “seemingly simple”, Jonathan Brewer’s concepts encounter some reluctance from the soil treatment industry in general. While EarthWorks’ “METS” process, or Matrix Enhanced Treatment System, is ingenious and may possibly be the answer to much of the earth’s contaminated soil troubles, its adoption would cause major disruption to the existing multi-billion dollar soil remediation industry.

METS Rotor
METS Rotor

EarthWorks’ “METS” consists of SUV-sized soil crushing machines that are based on mining practice and technology. They are specially designed and engineered to be toxin-neutralizing powerhouses. A rotor inside each machine grinds soil into particles that are small enough to be effectively decontaminated. Various chemicals, bioreagents, bacteria, and enzymes are sprayed on the crushed contaminated soil particles as they travel through the machine, leaving the soil in a neutralized, natural, decontaminated state that, as Mr. Brewer says, “can be used in your garden.” The cleaning materials that are used to clean the soil are always bench tested first, and there is no threat of leakage from the machines. According to Mr. Brewer, “the only soil contaminants we can’t treat are radioactive uranium and plutonium isotopes.”

The company is based in California and has had several major contracts awarded for its onsite cleanup techniques, including, as the Sacramento Bee reports, “a $100 million federal contract given to a Foster Wheeler subsidiary to clean up US Navy and Marine installations, and a $400,000 National Institute of Health grant prospect.” EarthWorks’ machines are remotely controlled and compact enough to fit in standard 20-ft overseas shipping containers, which will help in EarthWorks’ hopes to export machines internationally in the near future.

2001 Most Innovative Product Award
Earthworks has garnered
honors for its products
(UC Davis Connect Award)

According to Brewer, the major factor holding these machines back from full integration into the marketplace is “comfort”. The environmental industry is “comfortable” with the current practice of landfilling hazardous and contaminated soil. Brewer says, “the current practice of landfilling doesn’t remedy the problem, it only moves it to be dealt with by future generations. With the METS technology, we now have the availability to permanently treat the soil, at lower cost than landfilling. It’s going to take some time for the industry to embrace this major change.”

How will this technology shake up the soil remediation industry? What often times happens where contaminated soil or hazardous waste is concerned is that it is shipped off to a landfill where it sits forever. These landfills have protections against contaminant leakage, providing the hazardous soil is within specified contamination limits. Earthworks’ ability to treat almost any contaminated soil on-site creates a great benefit for humanity and the earth. However, not every cleanup situation has proven optimal for Earthworks. A recent situation in a city in Sonoma county, California, shows that this type of echnology, no matter how wonderful, must battle with time and government regulations.

METS Processor
METS Processor
at a job site

In this case, in early 2002, EarthWorks won the bid to clean a contaminated sludge area in a competitive process. When interviewed, an official from the city’s Utilities Department, who requested EcoWorld to withhold his name and the name of his city from this report, described the case as consisting of “more than 10,000 tons of sludge and pond bottoms from oxidation ponds from old treatment plants.” The material required off site disposal with or without treatment. “The lead levels in this sludge,” he explained, “were above 5 parts per million, which is the STLC limit for municipal landfill disposal. When this was discovered, another company was hired in a competitive bidding process, which included both options for on site treatment and disposal, and also simply hauling and disposal as hazardous waste. The company was hired to mix the material with cement to bind the leachable lead into a non-soluble form, thus reducing STLC to non-hazardous levels and reducing total lead concentration by dilution, so the material could be shipped to a landfill as soon as possible.”

While the City Utilities Department official claims he is not opposed to onsite technology such as EarthWork’s manufactures, he was sure that the use of this technology was not best for this situation, especially because of time. He stated “onsite soil remediation technology is good for most materials and situations for which the cleanup process has no time constraints. We had to get this hazardous waste out of this area that was close to society, close to a creek and a river, in a location where the weather was unpredictable and unexpected rains could cause further leakage into the surrounding soil.” He explained that it was urgent to get the soil removed from the area, and shipping it to a Hazardous Waste landfill seemed the best option at the time, because it would have been quicker, and thus safer for the residents of the city. Also, using onsite technology would have created the need for time-consuming government decisions on regulation and oversight over how the soil cleanup would have been managed during the process, and how it would be monitored once the site was cleaned, which would have slowed the process further.

Besides confronting situations such as these time-sensitive ones, EarthWorks also faces in the soil remediation industry an entire network of jobs that have been secure for years for those people who transport soil to landfills and maintain the landfills. If EarthWorks’ onsite technology was used for all remediation sites and soil was cleaned up on-location, the need to transport to landfills would be greatly reduced. What would these people do? A lot of people would be without jobs, which is one of the reasons the soil remediation industry may not welcome the “new kid on the block” with open arms. When asked if he has any ideas to help overcome this problem, Mr. Brewer stated “transportation may still be needed by some sites that can’t afford the time or space for onsite cleanup. The soil could be transported somewhere else for treatment by METS machines, but treatment is always better than dumping!”

Overall it seems that EarthWorks may have a real goldmine on its hands, but certainly not before many industry obstacles have been overcome. These include the thousands of current jobs in trucking and hazardous waste landfills being lost or shifted, the urgent or time-constrained cleanup sites, government regulations and monitoring considerations, and just the overall acceptance of change. All of these are significant obstacles, but a process that cleans contaminated soil instead of sequestering it forever, while costing much less, ought to eventually prevail. It should be interesting to watch the EarthWorks’ METS process “take off” like the Wright Bros.’ plane so many years ago.

Earthworks’ Documented Field Results

The following projects were performed by EarthWorks Environmental, Inc. in the process of developing
the METS process for widespread commercial use. These projects were required to meet rigorous remediation standards established by regulatory authorities. The soil was treated as found, with no special preparation or enhancement.

In all cases, the treatment method involved a chemical/catalytic reaction to degrade the contaminant(s). In two cases, the soil was contaminated with more than one contaminant. Nevertheless, the soil was processed only one time in both cases.

Field Project #1: Field Project #2: Field Project #3:
Location: North
Central California
Coast California
Volume of soil: 250
Contamination type(s): Diesel
and MTBE
and diesel fuel
Elapsed time for project: 18
Nineteen days
Results from confirmation
Non-detect for diesel and BTEX
for all samples (sensitivity: parts- per-million
Non-detect for gasoline in all
samples (sensitivity at parts-per-million). Non-detect for MTBE in all
samples (sensitivity at parts-per-billion).
Non-detect for diesel fuel,
gasoline and BTEX (sensitivity at parts-per-million) for all samples.
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Pushing Green Products & Trends Starts with Companyies in "The Green Valley"

The next generation of products in the world will be green. But what is “green?” Green can mean earth-friendly, green can mean a political movement, but for lack of a better term, green can also be the label given to the most significant economic transformation in the history of humanity; the transition from a civilization that contends with nature in a struggle for survival, to a civilization that nurtures the environment, and creates technologies that exist in harmony with nature. In the year 2001 we sit poised on the brink of this momentus shift, and already the staggering economic opportunities are being identified and invested.

Sacramento California’s role in this worldwide shift to a green economy could be huge. Sacramento’s electric power company, SMUD, for example, is a pioneer in nurturing distributed power, where the utility buys back extra power that homeowners produce using wind or photovoltaics. Just how radical and courageous this stance really is can be appreciated when one studies the resistance other utilties, across most of the United States, are raising against “net metering” and other embracings of distributed power. But it’s in Sacramento’s start-up world where you’ll find the real green excitement. Across a variety of disciplines, from renewable energy to soil remediation, start-up firms in the Sacramento area are breaking new ground.

In Roseville, entrepreneur Jonathan Brewer at EarthWorks Environmental has taken the expertise he gained with mining enterprises and come up with an innovation that promises to make treatment of toxic soils better, faster, and a lot cheaper. He has taken giant hammer mills that are typically used to pulverize mining ore, and uses them instead to pulverize soil that has toxic contaminants. The atomized soil is then easily treated with chemical reactants to render it safe enough to use in a child’s sandbox.

Earthwork’s soil
remediation machine

“We can treat any toxin for which there’s a chemical methodology to degrade,” says Brewer, and that’s almost anything. Most current treatment options require moving the soil to a toxic waste dump, a much more expensive procedure that doesn’t solve the problem, only relocates it. Brewer’s company is going to turn segments of the industrial waste processing industry on their ears.

In downtown Sacramento, in a lab in an old brick building by the railroad tracks, for six years entrepreneur and inventor Rex Hodges at Anuvu Inc. has been perfecting a revolutionary automobile design. A former Aerojet scientist, Hodges has taken a variety of technologies used in aerospace; fuel cells, carbon epoxy composites, and hydrogen/oxygen fuel tanks, to design the car of the future.

Anuvu’s Concept Car

This vehicle runs on a hydrogen/oxygen fuel mix that car owners can produce themselves using a garage unit that runs on electricity and water that is sold along with the car. Modeling the performance of this car indicates that for $20 worth of electricity the car can go 700 miles, and Hodges believes they can sell the four-passenger sedans for under $30,000. Detroit, watch out.

Just west of Sacramento, in Fairfield, BP Solar has built one of the largest photovoltaic manufacturing plants in the world. Mac Moore, BP Solar’s Director of Building & Utility Markets for North America, said that the installed price for photovoltaic panels produced at this plant will be as low as $6.00 per watt, which is less than one-third what they cost just ten years ago. Already photovoltaic cells are cost-effective power solutions compared to utility prices during peak demand, and BP and other photovoltaic manufacturers are selling them as fast as they can make them. Costs for photovoltaics will continue to drop, and eventually will yield power that is not only clean, but cheap and abundant. Texas oilmen, take note.

In North Highlands, Atlantis Energy is taking raw photovoltaic panels from manufacturers such as BP Solar, and integrating them into roofing materials and tinted windows. Joe Morrisey, Director of North American Sales for Atlantis Energy, sees this as an essential step towards photovoltaics becoming ubiquitous in the landscape, since, as he puts it, “we can’t have every neighborhood looking like a 15 year old’s science project.”
Not only do photovoltaics integrate well into windows and roofing, but they can, ultimately, be cheaper that way, since they are then filling the function not only of supplying power, but are also replacing roofing material and window panels that the builder would have to purchase anyway. Atlantis is working with major national home and commercial construction companies, and photovoltaics routinely integrated into the skin of new buildings is just around the corner.

California is a land of dreams. Before there was the dream of going to Los Angeles and becoming a movie star, or the dream of going to Silicon Valley and becoming a high-technology billionaire, there was the gold rush and dreams of riches, in Sacramento. Now a new dream can belong to California, with the epicenter back where it all began 150 years ago, the dream of a planet where nature and technology exist in harmony. Green technology companies, nurtured by the trend-setting political consciousness of Californians, and the creativity of local start-ups who have products that could change the world, can make the Sacramento a green boomtown. The destination of dreamers. The Green Valley.

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Posted in Buildings, Business & Economics, Electricity, Energy, Fuel Cells, History, Hydrogen, Other, Remediation, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Wind0 Comments

Toxins to Topsoil

EcoWorld - Upward Trend
Jonathan Brewer

When Jonathan Brewer headed west in 1981 to seek his fortune in the goldfields of California, you would think he came 132 years too late. Not so. There’s still a lot of gold in the Sierra and the mining concerns that Brewer worked for in those early years are alive and well. But as fate would have it, the mining industry procedures Brewer learned to extract precious metal from the earth have found him fortune in an ironic twist, by inspiring a unique process he has invented to extract toxic waste from the earth.

EarthWorks Environmental ( is the company founded from this inspiration, and Jonathan Brewer is well on his way to becoming a wealthy man, turning the solid waste processing industry on its ear, and helping the planet, all at once. The patented process that Brewer invented is not all that hard to grasp, it’s just that before he came along, nobody from the mining industry ever tried to tackle the problem of treating contaminated soils. What Brewer has done is built giant hammer mills that can pulverize virtually any type of soil. Chemical tanks on the machine then inject into the atomized soil chemical reactants that neutralize the toxins.

The Eureka

The machines are impressive. Brewer’s latest model, the “Empire” (all of his models are named after famous California mines), can process up to 220 cubic yards of soil per hour. The centerpiece is a 1000 pound roter made from heat-treated steel that spins at 1200 RPM and can reduce to dust up to 6 inch diameter boulders of reinforced concrete.

The benefits of this type of soil remediation are many. Most significantly, conventional methods of soil remediation require the contaminated soil to be removed to an approved toxic waste dump. The problem of the toxins is not eliminated, the toxins are merely relocated. Brewer’s machine cleans the soil completely, allowing it to remain on the original site, and solving the problem forever. “A lot of property owners don’t know that when they have toxic soil removed to a dump, they still have liability for any harm that the toxins may cause,” said Brewer. The soil that comes out of Brewer’s machines is so clean you can use if for a sandbox, or a vegetable garden. Brewer likened the appearance of the soil to “coffee grounds” and said that when they did a project in Wyoming, “the company had to hire a security guard to protect from theft the piles of treated soil because it was the best topsoil in the whole state.”

At work in Gillete, WY

Another key advantage to Brewer’s technology is that in one process both inorganic and organic toxins can be eliminated from soil. “We can treat any toxin for which there is an existing chemical methodology to degrade,” said Brewer. Also, the process can be completed in as long as it takes to run the soil through the machine. The key to the quick reaction is that the pulverizing process reduces the contaminated soil to dust, which has an extremely high surface area to volume ratio, allowing the neutralizing chemicals to be sprayed onto the surface of the dust and almost immediately permeate virtually all the molecules in the soil.

EarthWorks claims their process is much cheaper than other methods of soil cleanup, perhaps by as much as 35%, and unlike trucking the contaminated soil to a toxic waste dump, the soil is cleaned, yielding a permanent solution. Companies and property owners are taking notice. EarthWorks has already done some big cleanups, including 3,500 cubic yards of diesel contaminated soil in Gilette, Wyoming, 2,200 cubic yards of gasoline and MTB contaminated soil in Eureka, California, and 9,000 tons (ongoing) of soil in Santa Rosa, California, contaminated with heavy metals.

Rotor from the Eureka

What does the future hold for EarthWorks? Brewer intends to contract manufacture his soil cleaning machines and license them to the big players in the soil remediation industry. This means he’ll have customers like Radian, TRW, Bechtel, as well as end-users such Chevron who often do their own remediation. The business, of course, has great international potential; Brewer just completed a bid to a major oil company to clean up a site in Brazil.

EarthWorks was founded in 7-95 and incorporated in 7-98. They have four employees and are based in Roseville, California. They are self-funding their expansion and have no long-term debt. Brewer projects having about 100 active machines by 2003, yielding $30 million in annual revenue by that time. That’s an awful lot of toxic soil being turned into potting soil.

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Key EcoWorld Concepts

Reforest the earth! Nurture the planet, ourselves, and make money. All of this follows from learning how to reforest the earth. Giant new forests of diverse renewable products; timber, fruit, nuts, and other harvestable flora and fauna. How much value can such an enlightened plantation yield on a sustainable basis? What better way to reclaim wasteland?

If one billion people on earth plant 3 trees per year all over the world, we will add 5 million square miles of forest to the world in twenty years (if the trees are 35 feet apart, which is why they have to be great canopy trees).

Astonishing but true, that people still don´t realize that reforesting the earth and colonizing the solar system are mutually reinforcing ideas! Big bubbles filled with air, water and redwood trees, orbiting the earth at la Grange point five (“L5″). Sounds good to me. Closed loops in space equal quatenary cleaning on earth. More systems means lower costs. Technological crossovers, shared markets – bubbles in space and enlightened plantations on earth. Get it?

Let the Eagle land, of course. But what if from that moment onward your land was under federal control? No new garage, no driveway, not even an aquaduct to save the Aral Sea. Environmental protection stifles remediation efforts! Of course we need laws and regulations. When do they cross the line? When does one rather shoot than let the Eagle land?

Elephants and Rhinos (in Africa, mind you) live because the locals made a deal with the hunting safari tours. Elephants cost $12,000 USD to kill, Rhinos USD 28,000. Is it right. No. Are the species extinct? No. Libertarians lose a lot of fans here but who saved the Rhino? Hunters. I´m so sorry. The market while not sancrosanct does have an inevitability that it is better to throw jujitsulike into productive ends than try to thwart. What would the libertarians think of Nukes? Nice Star Trek like clean antimatterlike Nukes?

Ok so we´ve only planted about 1,500 trees. That would more than qualify our humble nursery for the committee of ten million. To restore the forest canopy of the planet to 20 million square miles, ten million people would have to plant 300 trees per year for 20 years. Now. Just think. We´ve almost qualified for the committee of one million. Because only one million people have to plant 3,000 trees per year for 20 years, in order to restore the earth to its original forest canopy. That´s only one in every 6,000 people on earth. Do you and yours want to be one in 6,000? Do you want to be a member of the committee of one million?

It gets very hot in San Jose. Well over 100 degrees on the hottest of days. But in the wide Sycamore Groves and groves of Ash and even Oak, when they´re thick enough, you can stay cool.

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India's Rishi Valley – Renewal & New Ideas

New School Curricula on Shared Flashcards
Teach Sustainable Farming & Watershed Management
The Result: Reviving an EcoSystem and Enriching Lives

The Rishi Valley is in southern India, and is a profound example of how an ecosystem that is ravaged by human exploitation can be restored when land use habits are modified. Restoration efforts in Rishi were begun through the volunteer efforts of a Mr. Sri Naidu, a native of the valley. After losing one of his sons in a swimming accident, Mr. Naidu began to teach farming methods in the Rishi Valley, which had become completely deforested.

The Rishi Educational System

The Rishi school system modified its curriculum to bring ecologically centered courses to the students. The student work emphasizes group and individual projects. The central themes of everything the students learn are local and accountable and highly tangible. All of the projects are geared towards one thing, the ecological health of the Rishi Valley. Efforts towards this goal are economically beneficial, making the schools almost completely self supporting.

Instead of learning the nuances of the caste system, students in the Rishi Valley learn about real things described by the teacher using a box of 500 illustrated project cards. When a student has completed them all, the student has completed elementary school. Students at all the grade levels work on the same set of projects, usually oriented towards the school´ flower, fruit or vegetable gardens.

Each school offers adult education courses at night, and again, these activities are contributing to the self supporting nature of the school, since the classes are in the all encompassing realm of farming, ecosystem management, forestry, soil science, water engineering,
construction, and so on.

Students make their own activity files, which track the projects they are completing. Their involvement in farming projects causes them to learn to read, to design, to rationally compare, they learn to manipulate categories and subcategories to a practical end, they learn statistical methods, they develop objectivity. They receive an excellent education, one that will make them prosperous farmers, and will make the land bloom.

When building their new schools in the Rishi Valley Mr. Naidu´ ecology school founders built on the worst land, reducing costs further, confident again in their curriculum to be the creator of value. Instead of learning about castes, the students maintain charts on plant growth. Their academic work is effective and inspiring, because each student can see the value of what they are doing. Imagine that, we can save the forests, rivers and farms at the same time as we teach our children. Students can build self-esteem because everyone has shared in the accomplishment of a great common purpose, putting farms and forests where only desert had been. As the students grow up learning how to cooperate with others towards common goals, they also receive an excellent general education that includes farming and other trades, math, reading, writing, money management and abstract thinking.

The Rishi Farming Methods

Fast growing plants that will create a lot of biomass and a solid root system are the first step towards recovery of desertified and salinated soil. In the Rishi the villagers chose the Custard Apple, which in addition to the virtues of being hardy and fast growing, contributes a food crop.

Water catchments were constructed using local material, mostly soil and stone. Building water diversion berms along the elevation contours has allowed excess runoff to be channeled into percolation tanks. The water table in the Rishi Valley was brought up from 40 feet down to only 10 feet down. This allowed well irrigation instead of massive ditch irrigation which wastes water and creates salinity.

Low tech solutions use inexpensive or waste materials. For example, the drip irrigation system that Mr. Naidu invented consists of filing a large food tin with water and blocking the small holes in the bottom sides with cotton so the water will drip out. A few of these around the first trees allows watering through the summer and drought seasons, especially when the trees are first getting established.

The best fertilizer is organic. “Neem Cakes” are popular among Rishi’s farmers. They are a decomposed pile of leaves from the Neem tree. Much of the new soil in the Rishi Valley comes from the silt that must be regularly scooped out of the percolation tanks. Everything, of course, is composted. Desertified soil is first anchored with trees either as patches of forest or as windbreaks, then farms and gardens are established. The process of restoration is self-accelerating, because each element of remediation, the water table, the quantity of biomass, the condition of the soil, creates more of a resource base to recover larger and larger areas that were lost.

The Rishi method is to restore and even intensify what was originally in place; a verdant forest harboring rare birds and yielding timber, a commercially competitive organic farm using lush natural soil, and a human population who stewards this abundance in a way that fosters their own aesthetic sense as well as nurtures their prosperity. What better way to build self-esteem and reward initiative?

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