Posted on 08 February 2011.
A Hungarian aluminum plant that caused a massive spill of red sludge in October is still producing poisonous substances that endanger a local river, Greenpeace said Tuesday.
Urging the European Union to intervene, the international environmental protection organization said MAL AG is illegally disposing of red mud by delivering it directly into the river Marcal.
The facility made world headlines last October when 38.8 million cubic feet of red sludge burst through a reservoir’s retaining wall and flooded nearby villages, killing ten people.
Greenpeace conducted a water analysis on Jan. 26, taking samples at six points along a waste water channel near the Danube river.
The tests revealed alarming levels of toxic substances like arsenic, aluminum and organic carbon. The analysis by Vienna’s EPA found 1,300 micrograms of arsenic per liter in the samples – well above Austria’s legal limit of 100 micrograms. Aluminum levels, in turn, were were 100 times above the safe limit.
“The EU Commission has to intervene with the Hungarian government immediately to stop this threat to humans, animals and nature,” Greenpeace campaigner Balazs Tomori said.
Despite October’s disastrous chemical accident, MAL AG was able to resume operations barely two weeks after the spill.
“It’s immensely frustrating that the Hungarian government has legalized this environmental crime — a catastrophe emergency act has been activated, which overrides environmental regulations,” Tomori said, according to AFP.
Posted in Toxic Substances, Water Pollution
Posted on 03 February 2011.
An investigation of New York City’s Gowanus Canal has revealed the waterway’s widespread contamination, which authorities say poses a threat to people and the environment.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday released a study that assessed the pollution of the 1.5-mile canal, which was named eligible for the federal Superfund cleanup program last year.
The channel, which flows through an industrial area near affluent Brooklyn neighborhoods, is tainted with various metals and over a dozen contaminants, including suspected carcinogens like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the EPA said.
Under the Superfund program, the government will force polluters to pay for the canal’s cleanup. Officials say restoration will require major dredging and will last 10 to 11 years beginning in 2015 at a cost of $300 to $500 million.
The EPA said the canal also contains the contaminate polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, another suspected carcinogen.
Agency regional administrator Judith A. Enck told the New York Times that people should refrain from swimming in the canal and eating fish from it.
“What we found is no surprise,” she said. “The report paints a pretty serious picture of the level of contamination.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has opposed Gowanus’ designation as a Superfund site, saying the label would scare off developers.
Posted in Toxic Substances, Water Pollution, Water, Oceans, & Ice
Posted on 06 January 2011.
Bacteria consumed methane gas from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in four months, a report said Thursday.
Methane constituted 20 percent of the crude oil that erupted from the Macondo oil well in worst marine spill in the history of the petroleum industry.
A report published Thursday in the journal Science said a sudden bloom of bacteria ingested the methane completely by early September.
“They did a good job on it and that was much earlier than expected,” said John Kessler, a chemical oceanographer at Texas A&M University, according to AP.
University of California Santa Barbara geochemistry professor David Valentine, one of the study’s lead authors, said the discovery proves that the bacteria play a vital role in preventing heat-trapping greenhouse gases on the ocean’s floor from entering the earth’s atmosphere.
“They do serve an important function, and as we see here under certain conditions these bacteria can be very effective at preventing the methane from reaching the atmosphere,” Valentine told AFP.
Valentine added that previous research showed that other types of bacteria also ingested the ethane and propane released by the explosion.
The researchers also said bacteria consumed some of the crude oil itself, but it is not yet clear how much.
Posted in Global Warming, Oceans & Coastlines, Oil & Petroleum, Toxic Substances, Water Pollution
Posted on 05 January 2011.
The U.S. Coast Guard is working to clear the Houston Ship Channel of thousands of gallons of beef fat that leaked into the busy marine artery from a storage tank Tuesday.
Officials used pitchforks and fishnets to pierce and round up the oily substance.
“Hopefully they’ll finish clean-up efforts by tonight, or if not early in the morning,” said Coast Guard spokesman Richard Brahms, according to the Wall Street Journal.
An estimated 250,000 pounds of tallow spilled from a nearby on-shore storage tank owned by agricultural products company Jacob Stern & Sons Inc. Some 15,000 gallons of the fat streamed into the channel through a storm drain Tuesday, Brahms said.
“When it hit the water it instantly thickened,” Brahms said, as quoted by msnbc.com. “It turned into a thick pattie, which is pretty much what we’re cleaning up now.”
Brahms said the cause of the tank leak is being investigated. Meanwhile, workers are corralling the tallow with boom to open up the channel for ship traffic by early Thursday.
Richard Arnhart, director of the LaPorte region of the Texas General Land Office, said the tallow could pose environmental risks if it washes ashore and smothers marine life. But for now, the fat is not impacting the environment floating on the water.
“Our biggest concern right now is to ensure that this gets cleaned up,” Arnhart said.
Posted in Aquatic Life, Dams & Infrastructure, Industrial Pollution, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands, Water Pollution
Posted on 30 December 2010.
Three environmental groups are challenging figures in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s report on coal ash, a potentially harmful byproduct of coal-burning in industrial facilities and power plants.
The dispute comes as the EPA prepares first-ever regulations for the disposal of coal ash in the wake of the catastrophic Tennessee Valley spill that dumped 5.4 million cubic yards of the sludge into the Emory River two years ago.
The agency is considering two proposals. The first would give the toxic residue a “hazardous” label and impose new federal regulations for construction of containment facilities. The second option, heavily favored by industry supporters, would classify the substance as “non-hazardous” and encourage facilities to recycle their coal ash into building materials like cement and drywall.
The Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, and the Stockholm Environment Institute’s U.S. Center released an analysis of the EPA’s findings Wednesday claiming that the agency has exaggerated the value of coal ash recycling. The EPA stated in its report that the practice is worth $23 billion in health benefits, pollution avoidance, and lowered energy costs. The groups estimate the annual worth of coal ash recycling to be $1.15 billion while posing serious risks for the environment and human health.
“The concern we have is so loudly exaggerating the economic benefit of coal ash recycling,” said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project, according to Bloomberg. “The noise that creates has sort of drowned out the concern over health and safety of properly disposing this kind of material.”
The groups voiced their support of the stricter program, which they say would protect communities near power plant-operated coal ash containment ponds.
They also noted in a statement Wednesday that there are as many as 50 unregulated coal ash dumps around the country similar to the one that broke down in the Tennessee Valley two years ago.
EPA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara said the agency would review the report along with over 400,000 public comments submitted to officials.
Posted in Coal, Hazardous Waste, Industrial Pollution, Industrial Waste, Minerals & Mining, Toxic Substances, Water Pollution
Posted on 29 December 2010.
The Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday unveiled a restoration plan for the heavily polluted Chesapeake Bay.
EPA regional administrator Shawn M. Garvin called the agreement with six states and the District of Columbia “the largest water pollution strategy plan in the nation” and possibly “number one or number two” in the world, the Washington Post reported.
The comprehensive plan applies to the following areas in the bay’s watershed: Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. All the states and the District submitted individual plans this fall addressing how they hoped to slash pollution runoff into the bay by 2025. EPA compiled these proposals in its plan.
Pollution from farm, urban, and suburban runoff have stifled oxygen levels in the 200-mile-long estuary and harmed fish and oyster populations.
Garvin said EPA may have to “place additional controls on permanent sources of pollution” to counterbalance three potentially problematic areas: New York wastewater treatment, West Virginia’s agricultural sector, and Pennsylvania’s stormwater treatment.
The plan aims to reduce phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment pollution by imposing total maximum daily load (TMDL) limits on areas in the estuary’s watershed.
Opponents of the new pollution measures say they will give farmers, developers, and local officials unneeded costs and difficulties. Environmentalists counter that the plan will bring economic benefits to the bay by boosting tourism and fishing.
“This is a very historic moment in the history, and the future, of the Chesapeake Bay,” Garvin told the press.
Posted in Aquatic Life, Drinking Water, Groundwater, Springs & Aquifers, Oceans & Coastlines, Policies, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands, Water Pollution
Posted on 27 December 2010.
New U.S. Navy testing off the Washington, Oregon, and California coasts will pose a danger for orca whales, environmentalists say.
The Obama administration recently approved a plan to expand sailor training, weapons testing, and underwater training minefield for submarines in the 122,400 nautical square miles off the West Coast.
The Navy has been training in that range since World War II, but environmentalists worry that new missile and sonar testing along with the dumping of depleted uranium could harm the population of 150 orcas known to live along the Pacific coast.
Howard Garrett, the president of the Washington-based nonprofit Orca Network, claims the hazardous materials could pose a serious risk for vulnerable orcas.
“They’re all very susceptible,” Garrett told AP. “The Navy is single-minded and they’re focused, and the whales are very much a secondary concern to them.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council also expressed concern over the new program, saying it “would pose a significant risk to whales, fish and other wildlife,” by releasing “thousands of rounds of spent ammunition and unexploded ordnance containing chromium, chromium compounds, depleted uranium,” and other hazardous materials, AP reported Saturday.
The Navy’s mid-frequency sonar testing could damage the orca navigation and communication skills and could even cause brain damage and affect reproductive rates, the NRDC said.
But Navy officials maintain that the expanded practices will have no effect on marine life.
“We are not even permitted to kill even one marine mammal. … What people don’t seem to understand is we share the environment with everybody,” Navy spokeswoman Sheila Murray said, according to AP. “It’s our environment, too. Of course we want to take care of it. The Navy goes to great lengths to protect the marine environment.”
Garrett remains skeptical. “I’m not convinced by the assurances that the Navy gives that there will be no effect,” Garrett said. “I can’t imagine there won’t be mortalities.”
Posted in Aquatic Life, Conservation, Ecosystems, Fish, Mammals, Noise Pollution, Oceans & Coastlines, Toxic Substances, Water Pollution
Posted on 23 December 2010.
Heavy rain hammered Southern California relentlessly this week, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger to declare a state of emergency for six counties in the Los Angeles area.
The torrential downpour caused major flooding in the Orange County coastal community of Laguna Beach, forcing officials to close the downtown area, which was several feet underwater.
Police evacuated several thousand residents in areas near Los Angeles in danger of mudslides, UPI reported.
A rain-swollen hillside collapsed onto a busy highway road east of Los Angeles, AP said.
In San Diego and southern Orange County, about 13,000 lost power, San Diego Gas & Electric said.
Wednesday’s storm followed nearly a week’s worth of heavy rain in the region.
According to UPI, the severe flooding caused sewage and petroleum leaks in San Diego, Fresno, and La Mesa.
Posted in Atmospheric Science, Wastewater & Runoff, Water Pollution, Water, Ecosystems & Agriculture
Posted on 16 December 2010.
The Department of Justice is suing BP and eight other companies over the catastrophic oil spill that devastated the Gulf of Mexico region last April.
The United States filed a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in New Orleans Wednesday, alleging that federal safety violations contributed to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
“We will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to hold accountable those who are responsible for this spill,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press conference, according to the New York Times.
On April 20th, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank, killing the eleven workers onboard and leaving millions of gallons of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from the well it was drilling. The leak was not sealed until July.
The 27-page complaint requests that the companies be held liable for removal costs and damages. While it does not mention a specific amount, the suit could cost BP and the other companies tens of billions of dollars, The New York Times reports.
“This is welcome and long overdue news to the fishermen and others who depend upon the Gulf of Mexico for their lives and livelihoods,” Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental organization, said in a statement, according to UPI.
Aside from BP, the lawsuit also involves: Anadarko Exploration & Production LP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH, Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc., and Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and QBE Underwriting Ltd.-Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036.
Posted in Drilling for Oil, Ecosystems, Fish, Oceans & Coastlines, Oil & Petroleum, Water Pollution, Well Drilling
Posted on 24 September 2010.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Sept. 24 (UPI) — Decades-long restoration efforts in Florida’s Everglades remain slow and may bring “trade-offs” between water quality and water quantity, a federal report says.
A report by the National Research Council found tangible but slow progress during the past two years in efforts to restore the Everglades, suffering from decades of draining and pollution as farms and development spread across former wetlands, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Thursday.
Cleaning up water pollution while also providing the amount of water the Everglades needs is a growing challenge that still must be addressed, the federal report said.
Since 2000, state and federal officials have been following a restoration plan based on protecting what remains of the Everglades while trying to address South Florida’s long-term water supply and flood control needs.
The plan calls for the state and federal governments to share the cost of building a variety of reservoirs, storm water treatment areas and other projects expected to take at least 20 years to build.
Environmental advocates said the report was an endorsement of recent Everglades successes but also a call to do more.
“It’s no secret that Florida’s water quality problems have been choking the life blood out of the Everglades for some time now,” Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham said. “This report should emphasize the need for the state to move forward aggressively on curtailing water pollution in the Everglades.”
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Posted in Other, Water Pollution