Archive | Water, Oceans, & Ice

New York City Canal Contains Suspected Carcinogens

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.

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Inland Tsunami Kills 10 in Queensland, Australia

The “inland tsunami” that swept through Australia’s Lockyer valley Monday killed at least ten and left 78 missing, authorities said Tuesday.

Military helicopters are currently scouring the floodwaters near Toowomba in Australia’s Queensland state for the missing 78 people.

A violent torrent of water streamed through the valley Monday, ripping houses from their foundations and tossing cars like toys as people clung to telephone poles and rooftops.

The raging channel slowed as it headed toward Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, where some fear floodwaters are set to strike next.

“This is a truly dire set of circumstances for the people of Queensland, with more flooding to come,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television, according to The Associated Press.

The steady deluge in Queensland, which has swamped an area the size of France and Germany combined, began before Christmas. Monday’s devastating 6-foot wall of water brings the overall death toll to 20.

Authorities rescued over 40 Lockyer Valley residents from rooftops and evacuated thousands more. In the nearby town of Forest Hill, emergency services officers airlifted the entire population of 300 people to safety.

Search and rescue efforts were impeded by the unremitting rain and heavy thunderstorms.

Brisbane authorities are preparing for 6,500 buildings to be flooded by about 3 feet of water in the coming days, potentially affecting about 15,000 people in 80 suburbs.

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson called Monday’s flash flood in Toowoomba “an inland instant tsunami,” AP reports. Officials warned that more flash floods could occur Tuesday.

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Queensland Floods Leave 8 Dead

Australian authorities say the death toll from the Queensland floods has risen to eight, with more than 70 missing after a flash flood tore through the city of Toowoomba Monday.

The sudden 2-meter torrent of water carried away cars and pedestrians and left people clinging to rooftops and telephone poles.

There are mounting fears that the floods will hit nearby Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city.

Officials said more than 40 people were rescued from rooftops by helicopter.

Police have launched a major rescue operation for the 72 people still missing.

The state of Queensland has been swamped with heavy rains since before Christmas, causing the worst flooding in decades.

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Hexavalent Chromium Carcinogen Found in Tap Water of Most Cities

Hexavalent chromium, the cancer-causing chemical at the center of the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich,” was found present in the tap water of 31 of 35 cities tested in a recent survey.

The findings, released Monday by the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, are the first study of hexavalent chromium to be made public.

Researchers with the advocacy group have released the study at a time when the Environmental Protection Agency is debating whether to set a cap on the “probable carcinogen”‘s levels in tap water, the Washington Post reports.

Jane Houlihan, EWG’s senior vice president of research, says the toxin has been linked to stomach cancer and leukemia along with other health problems, CBS News reported Monday.

Hexavelent chromium, also known as chromium-6, originates as refuse from steel and pulp mills as well as metal-plating and leather-tanning facilities, EWG said in a statement. It can also contaminate tap water through erosion of natural deposits.

The carcinogen first came into the public eye in 1993, when Erin Brockovich famously sued Pacific Gas & Electric for polluting the drinking water of Hinkley, Calif. The lawsuit eventually yielded $333 million in damages.

Today, the highest levels of chromium-6 can be found in Norman, Okla.; Honolulu; and Riverside, Calif., EWG claimed.

“Every single day, pregnant mothers in Norman, Oklahoma, school children in Madison, Wisconsin, and many other Americans are drinking water laced with this cancer-causing chemical,” EWG senior scientist Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D said in the statement. “If the EPA required local water utilities to test for hexavalent chromium, the public would at least know if it was present in their local water. Without mandatory tests and a safe legal limit that all utilities must meet, many of us will continue to swallow some quantity of this carcinogen every day.”

With regulations on the water supply possibly in the works, what can consumers do to reduce their intake of the toxin?

“With levels this high, it’s critically important that people begin to think about filtering their water,” Houlihan told CBS News. Unfortunately, inexpensive carbon filters commonly found in filtration pitchers and faucet attachments don’t do much to remove chromium-6. Reverse osmosis filtration systems should do the trick, but they can cause hundreds of dollars.

There are no legal restrictions for hexavalent chromium in bottled water, so plastic water bottles may not be a safe option either.

“It is sometimes difficult to understand why I still have to warn the public about the presence of hexavalent chromium in drinking water 23 years after my colleagues and I first sounded the alarm,” Brockovich said in EWG’s statement. “This report underscores, in fairly stark terms, the health risks that millions of Americans still face because of water contamination.”

Posted in Carcinogens, Chemicals, Drinking Water, Groundwater, Springs & Aquifers, Policies, Water, Oceans, & Ice0 Comments

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