Some Los Angeles-area beaches were closed to swimmers on Monday after 17 million gallons of untreated sewage spilled into the Pacific Ocean.
Sanitation officials said the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant in Playa del Rey had become “inundated with overwhelming quantities of debris” after a power outage, triggering the plant’s relief system to discharge the waste matter through a pipe one mile offshore.
Hyperion Executive Plant Manager Timeyin Defeta said in a statement that the “emergency measure” was necessary “to prevent the plant from going completely offline and discharging much more raw sewage.” He added, “Normally the discharge of treated sewage is through the five-mile outfall.” According to the L.A. Times, “Dafeta said he believes that the incident was the largest amount of untreated sewage discharged through the one-mile pipe over the last 10 years,” and “the one-mile pipe was last used for a major discharge of wastewater in 2015.”
17 million gallons of sewage is about 6% of a daily load, Defeta said.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health issued a beach closure order on Monday affecting swim areas around Dockweiler State Beach and El Segundo Beach. They will remain closed until water samples are confirmed negative for elevated bacteria.
On Monday afternoon, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn tweeted, “We are going to need answers about how and why this happened.”
“Protocols for notifying regulatory agencies and the State’s Office of Emergency Services were followed,” said Defeta on Monday. “Water quality sampling and testing of shoreline (beach) samples are currently being conducted, and our monitoring vessel traveled to both outfalls to make observations and take samples for analyses following regulatory permit protocols.”
Shortly after taking this picture a lifeguard approached me and said that 17 million gallons of sewage were dumped in this ocean last night… he did say that I would want to take a good long shower tonight as well which I will be doing pic.twitter.com/TtwhEM327Q
At about noon on Sunday, a large amount of debris unexpectedly clogged filtering screens with openings less than an inch in size at the treatment plant, said Barbara Romero, the director of L.A.’s Department of Sanitation and Environment.
The plant’s managers tried adding screens to replace the ones that were blocked. They also tried redirecting the flows to a storm drain system within the plant — an alternative way to bring the water through the normal treatment process.
But after several hours of recirculating the water, the system was still too overwhelmed…
So about 7:30 p.m., plant workers discharged the wastewater one mile out and 50 feet deep into the ocean. The normal process directs treated wastewater 190 feet down.
According to Romero, sanitation workers successfully routed the flows of water back through the standard treatment process around 4:30 a.m. on Monday.
Heal the Bay, an environmental nonprofit dedicated to protecting coastal waters of Greater L.A. warned that “bacteria and viruses in raw sewage are extremely dangerous to people and can carry a variety of diseases.”
The group posted information about the discharge on its website and urged people to stay out of Santa Monica Bay until further notice.
PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT: 17 million gallons of raw sewage were spilled into the Santa Monica Bay on 7/11-7/12. Dockweiler State Beach and El Segundo Beach are closed to the public. We recommend staying out of the water. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.https://t.co/8sP1MplBKapic.twitter.com/PNl7QJlu9u
“Debris such as tampons and plastic trash, when released into the Bay, can harbor bacteria and can cause entanglement of wildlife, but it seems in this case that debris were successfully filtered out of the spill before it made it to the Bay.”
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Wildfire burns above the Fraser River Valley near Lytton, British Columbia, Canada, on Friday. James MacDonald/Getty Imageshide caption
Wildfire burns above the Fraser River Valley near Lytton, British Columbia, Canada, on Friday.
James MacDonald/Getty Images
Emergency responders in Canada are currently battling more than 180 wildfires in British Columbia amid an intense heat wave that has left hundreds dead in the Pacific Northwest.
About 70% of the active fires were likely caused by lightning strikes, according to the British Columbia Wildfire Service’s dashboard. Chris Vagasky, a meteorologist with the company Vaisala, says a lightning detection network uncovered more than 700,000 lightning strikes in the area between June 30 and July 1.
About 95 miles northeast of Vancouver, residents in the village of Lytton were forced to evacuate to avoid a spreading fire that began Wednesday afternoon.
While two residents have already been confirmed dead by the British Columbia Coroners Service, others are still missing.
For three days, Lytton suffered through record-breaking heat, reaching up to 121 degrees Fahrenheit. Then on Wednesday, the fire started and the village’s roughly 250 residents were forced to flee.
Lytton resident Jeff Chapman was with his parents as they noticed smoke and flames in the distance. He helped them climb into a freshly-dug trench, before fleeing when he realized there wasn’t enough space. The fire arrived in just 10 minutes, he told the CBC.
He ended up lying near railroad tracks only to watch a power line fall on top of the trench where his parents were.
“I just can’t get it out of my mind,” Chapman told the network.
Now about 90% of Lytton is burned, according to Brad Vis, a member of Parliament representing the area.
In response to Lytton’s devastation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced federal aid would be sent to help the village rebuild.
The fires come amid a massive heat wave for the region. Extreme heat can intensify the risk of wildfires.
Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner for the British Columbia Coroners Service, said last week in a statement that 486 “sudden and unexpected deaths” had been reported in the last six days of June.
“͞While it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are heat related,” Lapointe said, “it is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather B.C. has experienced and continues to impact many parts of our province.”
The coroners service said between June 25 and July 1, 719 overall deaths were reported, which is three times the number that would be expected for the same period.
The U.S. is also being pummeled by heat, with the northwest and north-central U.S. feeling extreme temperatures. Many areas continue to experience temperatures in the 90s and 100s, according to the National Weather Service.
Scientists say the warming climate is making heat waves more frequent and intense. The health risks from them may also be greater early in the summer, when people are less accustomed to higher temperatures.
On September 29th, the first messages appeared on the Internet, drawing people’s attention to the state of the Khalaktyrsky Beach (Kamchatka Krai). Witnesses stated that the shore was covered with dead animals’ bodies. In addition, surfers complained about vision problems, symptoms of poisoning, and fever after contact with water. In a number of cases, after visiting a doctor, people were diagnosed with ocular chemical injuries.
On September 30th, the Acting Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of Kamchatka Krai reported, based on results of water sampling and quality assessments, that «… in one of the samples an excess of almost 4 times was found for oil products, in two samples – an excess of 2 times for phenols. During the extraction of samples, the glass of the chemical glassware was covered with an oily substance of a bright yellow color, which, may indicate the presence of a pollutant that is similar in properties to industrial oil.»
On October 1st, Kamchatka Interdistrict Environmental Prosecutor’s Office initiated investigation of the information spreading on media concerning pollution of ocean water in the area of Khalaktyrsky beach.
On October 2nd, the updated data of the chemical analysis of water samples confirmed an increase of approximately 2.5 times for phenols and 3.6 times for oil products.
On October 3rd, Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of Kamchatka Krai posted on Instagram the following statement: «The color of the water is normal, the smell of the air is normal, the beach is completely clean», which contradicts the testimony of divers claiming thousands of dead animals.
The fact that this pollution has been continuing for more than two weeks, despite the past two storms, may indicate that this is a leakage and not a one-time release of substance. Mass mortality of animals suggests that it can be an effect of a potent toxin.
Dead ringed seals, giant octopuses thrown out of the water were found on the shore, along with perished fish, mollusks, and sea urchins underwater. If the leakage does not stop, more animals of various species, from numerous invertebrates to large mammals such as killer whales, whose migratory routes pass close to the contaminated waters, could be affected.
Despite ongoing water quality assessments, the source and cause of the leakage remain unknown. Until it is detected and eliminated, the situation may worsen, and the destruction of the Kamchatka ecosystem will continue. In addition, with further development, the tragedy may spread to the water areas of the adjacent regions and/or the open sea, which lay beyond the territorial borders of Russian Federation.
We demand the measures to be taken to identify and eliminate the causes of the accident!
Radioactivity levels have spiked in the atmosphere over northern Europe, and that could indicate damage at a nuclear power plant in western Russia, according to a Dutch health agency that has analyzed the data. The radioactive spike suggests damage to a nuclear fuel element, the Associated Press reported.
However, the Russian nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom has denied problems related to facilities in Kola and Leningrad, the two nuclear plants operating in the region, according to TASS, a Russian news agency, as reported by the AP.
Several Scandinavian watchdog agencies detected the elevated levels of the radionuclides (or radioactive isotopes). Radionuclides are atoms whose nuclei are unstable; the excess energy inside the nucleus gets released through radioactive decay. In particular, concentrations of the radionuclides cesium-134, cesium-137 and ruthenium-103 rose in parts of Finland, southern Scandinavia and the Arctic, Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, wrote on Twitter. Though these pose no harm to humans, they are byproducts of nuclear fission, Zerbo wrote.
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“The radionuclides are artificial, that is to say they are man-made. The composition of the nuclides may indicate damage to a fuel element in a nuclear power plant,” an official with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, which analyzed the isotope data, said on Friday (June 26).
Because so few measurements have been taken, monitoring agencies weren’t able to identify a specific source, NIPHE officials said.
In recent years, another radioactive mystery cloud wafting over Europe was tied to Russia. In 2017, a plume holding 1,000 times the normal levels of ruthenium-106 was detected over Europe, The Washington Post reported. Russia denied any involvement, though a nuclear reprocessing plant in Russia was a strong suspect, according to a 2019 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
California’s giant sequoias can live for more than 3,000 years, their trunks stretching two car lengths in diameter, their branches reaching nearly 300 feet toward the clouds. But a few years ago, amid a record drought, scientists noticed something odd. A few of these arboreal behemoths inside Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks were dying in ways no one had ever documented—from the top down.
When researchers climbed into the canopies, they discovered that cedar bark beetles had bored into a few branches. By 2019, at least 38 of the trees had died—not a large number, but “concerning because we’ve never observed this before,” says Christy Brigham, the park’s chief of resource management.
Beetles have ravaged hundreds of millions of pines across North America. But scientists had assumed that stately sequoias, with their bug-repelling tannins, were immune to such dangerous pests. Worried experts are investigating whether some mix of increased drought and wildfire, both worsened by climate change, have now made even sequoias susceptible to deadly insect invasions.
The largest patch of old growth redwood forest remaining stands in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California. The world’s largest trees are dying, meaning that they’re releasing their carbon back into the atmosphere instead of storing it, which has previously unknown repercussions for climate change.
The stump of a giant sequoia tree, known as the Discovery Tree, located in Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
Photograph by (top) and Photograph by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel, Nat Geo Image Collection (bottom)
If so, these ancient sentinels would be just the latest example of a trend experts are documenting around the world: Trees in forests are dying at increasingly high rates—especially the bigger, older trees. According to a study appearing today in the journal Science, the death rate is making forests younger, threatening biodiversity, eliminating important plant and animal habitat, and reducing forests’ ability to store excess carbon dioxide generated by our consumption of fossil fuels.
“We’re seeing it almost everywhere we look,” says the study’s lead author, Nate McDowell, an earth scientist at the U.S. Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
More old trees dying, everywhere
To paint the most detailed picture of global tree loss to date, nearly two dozen scientists from around the world examined more than 160 previous studies and combined their findings with satellite imagery. Their analysis reveals that from 1900 to 2015, the world lost more than a third of its old-growth forests.
In places where historical data is the most detailed—particularly Canada, the western United States, and Europe—mortality rates have doubled in just the past four decades, and a higher proportion of those deaths are older trees.
“We will see fewer forests,” says Monica Turner, a forest ecologist at the University of Wisconsin. “There will be areas where there are forests now where there won’t be in the future.”
With 60,000 known tree species on Earth, those shifts are playing out differently across the planet.
In central Europe, for instance, “You don’t have to look for dead trees,” says Henrik Hartmann, with Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry. “They’re everywhere.”
In one recent year, following a week of excessive heat, hundreds of thousands of beech trees dropped their leaves. Bark beetles are also killing spruce, which is not unusual. But hotter weather weakens trees, making them more vulnerable and allowing the insects to multiply and survive through winter into the next year.
Even in colder regions, “You get a couple of hot years and the forests are suffering,” says Hartmann, who was not an author on McDowell’s study. “We’re approaching a situation where the forests cannot acclimate. There are individual species that are being driven beyond the threshold of what they can handle.”
That also may be true in some of North America’s treasured spots. For 10,000 years, fires have roared through Yellowstone National Park every 100 to 300 years. In 1988, such conflagrations caught the world’s attention as they charred and blackened 1.2 million acres.
Lodgepole pine forest burns in Yellowstone National Park.Photograph by Michael Quinton, Minden Pictures/Nat Geo Image Collection
Turner, the Wisconsin ecologist, has been studying the aftermath of those fires ever since. And the lessons aren’t quite what we once thought they were.
The heat from flames usually helps lodgepole pine cones release their seeds as their sticky resin melts. But in 2016, when those new forests were not yet 30 years old, a new fire raged inside an old burn site from 1988. Because we live in a hotter, drier world, the new fires burned more intensely—in some cases wiping out almost everything. The very process that usually helps create new forests instead helped prevent one from growing. “When I went back, I was just astonished,” Turner says. “There were places with no small trees left. None.”
Just last year, massive fires marched through a dry Australia, smoldered across 7.4 million acres in northern Siberia, and focused the world’s attention on blazes in the Amazon.
In parts of that rainforest, dry seasons now last longer and come more often. Rainfall has dropped by as much as a quarter and often arrives in torrents, bringing massive floods in three out of six seasons between 2009 and 2014. All that activity is altering the rainforest’s mix of trees. Those that grow fast and reach the light quickly, and are more tolerant of dry weather, are outcompeting species that require damp soils.
Moringa peregrina is an endangered tree in Jordan and Israel, where desertification is killing native trees. Photograph by Mark Moffett, Minden Pictures/Nat Geo Image Collection
The consequences of all these changes around the world are still being assessed. The first national look at tree mortality in Israel showed vast stretches disappearing, thanks largely to scorching heat and wildfires. In a country largely blanketed by stone and sand, forests mean a great deal. Trees support nests for eagles and habitat for wolves and jackals. They hold soil with their roots. Without them, plants that normally rise in trees’ shadows are suddenly exposed to higher temperatures and bright light.
“Trees are these big plants that design the ecosystems for all the other plants and animals,” says Tamir Klein at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Earlier this month Klein met with the Israeli forestry chief to talk about the country’s southern forests, which may not survive the century. “They came to me and asked, What are we supposed to do? We don’t want the desert to move north,” Klein recalls.
“We’re dealing with a very tough situation. It’s a race to the unknown.”
The seeds of the Science study were sown in the early 2000s when lead author McDowell moved to the southwestern U.S. to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Outside his office window he saw fields of dead juniper and piñon pine. An intense heat wave had wiped out 30 percent of the pines on more than 4,500 square miles of woodland. “I thought, as a tree physiologist I’m going to have a short stay here because they are all dead,” he remembers.
McDowell and several colleagues began pondering how tree loss would alter forests’ ability to sequester CO2—and how to better predict such devastation in the future. A decade later, a co-worker examined tree rings and past temperature swings and found a relationship between heat and tree deaths. Then he simulated how the forest would change based on temperature projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The results suggested that by 2050, normal temperatures in the Southwest could be similar to rare past heat waves that led to severe tree-killing droughts. “That was really frightening,” McDowell says.
McDowell and other scientists began to look more broadly. Many people had assumed rising CO2 would feed tree growth. But as the planet gets hotter, the atmosphere sucks moisture from plants and animals. Trees respond by shedding leaves or closing their pores to retain moisture. Both of those reactions curtail CO2 uptake. It’s like “going to an all-you-can-eat buffet with duct tape over their mouths,” McDowell says.
In a tropical forest, the vast majority of tree mass can be in the top one percent of the largest trees. “These big old trees disproportionately hold the above-ground carbon storage,” says study co-author Craig D. Allen, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “When they die, it creates space for smaller trees, but they have much less carbon in them.”
That’s important, because most global carbon models used by the IPCC assume that forests will do far more to offset our fossil fuel use. The reality may be far less clear.
“When old trees die, they decompose and stop sucking up CO2 and release more of it to the atmosphere,” McDowell says. “It’s like a thermostat gone bad. Warming begets tree loss, then tree loss begets more warming.”
A mountainside is forested with golden larches the Italian Dolomites. Mature trees all over the world are dying off much more quickly than thought. Photograph by Martin Zwick, VISUM/Redux
While some significant change to forests is inevitable, Turner says cutting our fossil fuel emissionscan still make a huge difference. One scenario she has documented suggests that curbing CO2 in the next few decades could cut future forest loss in Grand Teton National Park by half.
In some cases, though, more radical solutions may be required.
In his meeting, Klein urged Israel’s forest leaders to consider planting acacia trees, normally found in the Sahara, in place of pine and cypress. They manage to keep growing even during the hottest days of the year.
“It is sad,” Klein adds. “It won’t look the same. It won’t be the same. But I think it’s better to do this than just have barren land.”
A small part of the Centralia mine fire after being exposed during excavation in 1969
View of smoke rising through a fissure in the ground in the closed-off area of former Pennsylvania Route 61. The melted snow, which covered the ground around it, shows areas where heat is escaping from the ground below.
The Centralia mine fire is a coal-seam fire that has been burning underneath the borough of Centralia, Pennsylvania, United States, since at least May 27, 1962. Its original cause is still a matter of debate. It is burning in underground coal mines at depths of up to 300 feet (90 m) over an 8-mile (13 km) stretch of 3,700 acres (15 km2). At its current rate, it could continue to burn for over 250 years. It has caused most of the town to be abandoned: the population dwindled from around 1,500 at the time the fire started to 5 in 2017, and most of the buildings have been levelled.
On May 7, 1962, the Centralia Council met to discuss the approaching Memorial Day and how the town would go about cleaning up the Centralia landfill, which was introduced earlier that year. The 300-foot-wide, 75-foot-long pit (91 m × 23 m) was made up of a 50-foot-deep strip mine (15 m) that had been cleared by Edward Whitney in 1935, and came very close to the northeast corner of Odd Fellows Cemetery. There were eight illegal dumps spread about Centralia, and the council’s intention in creating the landfill was to stop the illegal dumping, as new state regulations had forced the town to close an earlier dump west of St. Ignatius Cemetery. Trustees at the cemetery were opposed to the landfill’s proximity to the cemetery, but recognized the illegal dumping elsewhere as a serious problem and envisioned that the new pit would resolve it.
Pennsylvania had passed a precautionary law in 1956 to regulate landfill use in strip mines, as landfills were known to cause destructive mine fires. The law required a permit and regular inspection for a municipality to use such a pit. George Segaritus, a regional landfill inspector who worked for the Department of Mines and Mineral Industries (DMMI), became concerned about the pit when he noticed holes in the walls and floor, as such mines often cut through older mines underneath. Segaritus informed Joseph Tighe, a Centralia councilman, that the pit would require filling with an incombustible material.
The Buck Vein Outcrop A plume of smoke wafts from the ground. A DEP monitoring hole A DEP underground reading of 187 °F (86 °C)
This was a world where no human could live, hotter than the planet Mercury, its atmosphere as poisonous as Saturn’s. At the heart of the fire, temperatures easily exceeded 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit [540 degrees Celsius]. Lethal clouds of carbon monoxide and other gases swirled through the rock chambers.— David DeKok, Unseen Danger: A Tragedy of People, Government, and the Centralia Mine Fire (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986)
The town council arranged for cleanup of the strip mine dump, but council minutes do not describe the proposed procedure. DeKok surmises that the process—setting it on fire—was not specified because state law prohibited dump fires. Nonetheless, the Centralia council set a date and hired five members of the volunteer firefighter company to clean up the landfill.
A fire was ignited to clean the dump on May 27, 1962, and water was used to douse the visible flames that night. However, flames were seen once more on May 29. Using hoses hooked up from Locust Avenue, another attempt was made to douse the fire that night. Another flare-up in the following week (June 4) caused the Centralia Fire Company to once again douse it with hoses. A bulldozer stirred up the garbage so that firemen could douse concealed layers of the burning waste. A few days later, a hole as wide as 15 feet (4.6 m) and several feet high was found in the base of the north wall of the pit. Garbage had concealed the hole and prevented it from being filled with incombustible material. It is possible that this hole led to the mine fire, as it provided a pathway to the labyrinth of old mines under the borough. Evidence indicates that, despite these efforts to douse the fire, the landfill continued to burn; on July 2, Monsignor William J. Burke complained about foul odors from the smoldering trash and coal reaching St. Ignatius Church. Even then, the Centralia council still allowed the dumping of garbage into the pit.
A member of the council contacted Clarence “Mooch” Kashner, the president of the Independent Miners, Breakermen, and Truckers union, to inspect the situation in Centralia. Kashner evaluated the events and called Gordon Smith, an engineer of the Department of Mines and Mineral Industries (DMMI) office in Pottsville. Smith told the town that he could dig out the smoldering material using a steam shovel for $175. A call was placed to Art Joyce, a mine inspector from Mount Carmel, who brought gas detection equipment for use on the swirling wisps of smoke now emanating from fissures in the north wall of the landfill pit. Tests concluded that the gases seeping from the large hole in the pit wall and from cracks in the north wall contained carbon monoxide concentrations typical of coal-mine fires.
The Centralia Council sent a letter to the Lehigh Valley Coal Company (LVCC) as formal notice of the fire. It is speculated that the town council decided that hiding the true origin of the fire would serve better than alerting the LVCC of the truth, which would most likely end in receiving no help from them. In the letter, the borough described the starting of a fire “of unknown origin during a period of unusually hot weather”.
Preceding an August 6 meeting at the fire site which would include officials from the LVCC and the Susquehanna Coal Company, Deputy Secretary of Mines James Shober Sr. expected that the representatives would inform him they could not afford mounting a project that would stop the mine fire. Therefore, Shober announced that he expected the state to finance the cost of digging out the fire, which was at that time around $30,000 (roughly equivalent to $251,000 in 2019). Another offer was made at the meeting, proposed by Centralia strip mine operator Alonzo Sanchez, who told members of council that he would dig out the mine fire free of charge as long as he could claim any coal he recovered without paying royalties to the Lehigh Valley Coal Company. Part of Sanchez’s plan was to do exploratory drilling to estimate the scope of the mine fire, which was most likely why Sanchez’s offer was rejected at the meeting. The drilling would have delayed the project, not to mention the legal problems with mining rights.
At the time, state mine inspectors were in the Centralia-area mines almost daily to check for lethal levels of carbon monoxide. Lethal levels were found on August 9, and all Centralia-area mines were closed the next day.
Pressed at an August 12 meeting of the United Mine Works of America in Centralia, Secretary of Mines Lewis Evans sent a letter to the group on August 15 that claimed he had authorized a project to deal with the mine fire, and that bids for the project would be opened on August 17. Two days later, the contract was awarded to Bridy, Inc., a company near Mount Carmel, for an estimated $20,000 (roughly equivalent to $167,500 in 2019). Work on the project began August 22.
The Department of Mines and Mineral Industries (DMMI), who originally believed Bridy would need only to excavate 24,000 cubic yards (18,000 m3) of earth, informed them that they were forbidden from doing any exploratory drilling in order to find the perimeter of the fire or how deep it was, and that they were to strictly follow plans drawn up by the engineers[which?] who did not believe that the fire was very big or active. The size and location of the fire were, instead, estimated based on the amount of steam issuing from the landfill rock.
Bridy, following the engineering team plan, began by digging on the northern perimeter of the dump pit rim and excavated about 200 feet (61 m) outward to expand the perimeter. However, the project was ultimately ineffective due to multiple factors. Intentional breaching of the subterranean mine chambers allowed large amounts of oxygen to rush in, greatly worsening the fire. Steve Kisela, a bulldozer operator in Bridy’s project, said that the project was ineffective because the inrush of air helped the fire to move ahead of the excavation point by the time the section was drilled and blasted. Bridy was also using a 2.5-cubic-yard (1.9 m3) shovel, which was considered small for the project.
Furthermore, the state only permitted Bridy’s team to work weekday shifts which were eight hours long and only occurred during the day time; commonly referred to as “first shift” in the mining industry. At one point, work was at a standstill for five days during the Labor Day weekend in early September.[why?] Finally, the fire was traveling in a northward direction which caused the fire to move deeper into the coal seam. This, combined with the work restrictions and inadequate equipment, greatly increased the excavation cost. Bridy had excavated 58,580 cubic yards (44,790 m3) of earth by the time the project ran out of money and ended on October 29, 1962.
On October 29, just prior to the termination of the Bridy project, a new project was proposed that involved flushing the mine fire. Crushed rock would be mixed with water and pumped into Centralia’s mines ahead of the expected fire expansion. The project was estimated to cost $40,000 (roughly equivalent to $350,000 in 2019). Bids were opened on November 1, and the project was awarded to K&H Excavating with a low bid of $28,400 (roughly equivalent to $238,000 in 2019).
Drilling was conducted through holes spaced 20 feet (6.1 m) apart in a semicircular pattern along the edge of the landfill. However, this project was also ineffective due to multiple factors. Centralia experienced an unusually heavy period of snowfall and unseasonably low temperatures during the project. Winter weather caused the water supply lines to freeze. Furthermore, the rock-grinding machine froze during a windy blizzard. Both problems inhibited timely mixture and administration of the crushed-rock slurry. The DMMI also worried that the 10,000 cubic yards (7,600 m3) of flushing material would not be enough to fill the mines; thus, preventing the bore holes from filling completely. Partially filled boreholes would provide an escape route for the fire, rendering the project ineffective.
These problems quickly depleted funds. In response, Secretary Evans approved an additional $14,000 (roughly equivalent to $117,240 in 2019) to fund this project. Funding for the project ran out on March 15, 1963, with a total cost of $42,420 (roughly equivalent to $355,250 in 2019).
On April 11, steam issuing from additional openings in the ground indicated that the fire had spread eastward as far as 700 feet (210 m), and that the project had failed.
A three-option proposal was drawn up soon after that, although the project would be delayed until after the new fiscal year beginning July 1, 1963. The first option, costing $277,490, consisted of entrenching the fire and back-filling the trench with incombustible material. The second, costing $151,714, offered a smaller trench in an incomplete circle, followed by the completion of the circle with a flush barrier. The third plan was a “total and concerted flushing project” larger than the second project’s flushing and costing $82,300. The state abandoned this project in 1963.
David DeKok began reporting on the mine fire for The News-Item in Shamokin beginning in late 1976. Between 1976 and 1986, he wrote over 500 articles about the mine fire. In 1979, locals became aware of the scale of the problem when a gas-station owner, then-mayor John Coddington, inserted a dipstick into one of his underground tanks to check the fuel level. When he withdrew it, it seemed hot. He lowered a thermometer into the tank on a string and was shocked to discover that the temperature of the gasoline in the tank was 172 °F (77.8 °C).
Beginning in 1980, adverse health effects were reported by several people due to byproducts of the fire: carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and low oxygen levels. Statewide attention to the fire began to increase, culminating in 1981 when a 12-year-old resident named Todd Domboski fell into a sinkhole 4 feet (1.2 m) wide by 150 feet (46 m) deep that suddenly opened beneath his feet in a backyard. He clung to a tree root until his cousin, 14-year-old Eric Wolfgang, saved his life by pulling him out of the hole. The plume of hot steam billowing from the hole was measured as containing a lethal level of carbon monoxide.
A number of competing hypotheses have arisen about the source of the Centralia mine fire. Some of them claim that the mine fire started before May 27, 1962. David DeKok says that the bourough’s deliberate burning of trash on May 27 to clean up the landfill in the former strip mine ignited a coal seam via an unsealed opening in the trash pit, which allowed the fire to enter the labyrinth of abandoned coal mines beneath Centralia.
Joan Quigley argues in her 2007 book The Day the Earth Caved In that the fire had in fact started the previous day, when a trash hauler dumped hot ash or coal discarded from coal burners into the open trash pit. She noted that borough council minutes from June 4, 1962, referred to two fires at the dump, and that five firefighters had submitted bills for “fighting the fire at the landfill area”. The borough, by law, was responsible for installing a fire-resistant clay barrier between each layer of trash in the landfill, but fell behind schedule, leaving the barrier incomplete. This allowed the hot coals to penetrate the vein of coal underneath the pit and light the subsequent subterranean fire. In addition to the council minutes, Quigley cites “interviews with volunteer firemen, the former fire chief, borough officials, and several eyewitnesses” as her sources.
Another hypothesis is known as the Bast Theory. It states that the fire was burning long before the alleged trash dump fire. According to local legend, the Bast Colliery coal fire of 1932, set alight by an explosion, was never fully extinguished. In 1962, it reached the landfill area. Those who adhere to the Bast Theory believe that the dump fire is a separate fire unrelated to the Centralia mine fire. One man who disagrees is Frank Jurgill Sr., who claims he operated a bootleg mine with his brother in the vicinity of the landfill between 1960 and 1962. He says that if the Bast Colliery fire had never been put out, he and his brother would have been in it and killed by the gases. Based on this and due to contrary evidence, few hold this position, and it is given little credibility.
Centralia councilman Joseph Tighe proposed a different hypothesis: that Centralia’s coal fire was actually started by an adjacent coal-seam fire that had been burning west of Centralia’s. His belief is that the adjacent fire was at one time partially excavated, but it nonetheless set alight the landfill on May 27.
Another hypothesis arose from the letter sent to the Lehigh Valley Coal Company by the Centralia Council in the days after the mine fire was noticed. The letter describes “a fire of unknown origin [starting] on or about June 25, 1962, during a period of unusually hot weather”. This may make a reference to the hypothesis of spontaneous combustion being the reason for the start of the landfill fire, a hypothesis accepted for many years by state and federal officials.
The location at which the former roadbed of Pennsylvania Route 61 terminates due to the mine fire. As the joining row homes were demolished, the buttresses were constructed to support the walls of the remaining homes.
In 1984, Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts. Most of the residents accepted buyout offers and dispersed far away from the area (data from the 1990 United States Census shows that the nearby towns continued to lose population at the same rate as previous decades, suggesting the Centralians did not locate there). A few families opted to stay despite urgings from Pennsylvania officials.
In 1992, Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey invoked eminent domain on all properties in the borough, condemning all the buildings within. A subsequent legal effort by residents to have the decision reversed failed. In 2002, the U.S. Postal Service revoked Centralia’s ZIP code, 17927. In 2009, Governor Ed Rendell began the formal eviction of Centralia residents. In July 2012, the last handful of residents in Centralia lost their appeal of a court decision upholding eminent domain proceedings, and were ordered again to leave. State and local officials reached an agreement with the seven remaining residents on October 29, 2013, allowing them to live out their lives there, after which the rights of their properties will be taken through eminent domain.
The Centralia mine fire also extended beneath the town of Byrnesville, a few miles to the south. The town had to be abandoned and levelled.
The Centralia area has now grown to be a tourist attraction. Visitors come to see the smoke on Centralia’s empty streets and the abandoned portion of PA Route 61, popularly referred to as the Graffiti Highway.
As of April 2020, efforts began to cover up Graffiti Highway by the private owner of the road.
The fire and its effects were featured in 2013 on America Declassified on the Travel Channel, and on Radiolab’s Cities episode.
Photograph by Joel Sartore, Nat Geo Image Collection Read Caption
The spill drove a push in science and some changes in regulations, but the dangers of offshore drilling remain.
By Alejandra Borunda PUBLISHED April 20, 2020
The BP oil spill of 2010 started suddenly, explosively, and with deadly force. But the response has stretched out for years and scientists say there’s still much more we need to learn.
As a crew on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig worked to close up an exploratory oil well deep under the Gulf of Mexico, a pulse of gas shot up, buckling the drill pipe. The emergency valve designed to cap the well in case of an accident, the “blowout protector,” failed, and the gas reached the drill rig, triggering an explosion that killed 11 crewmembers.
Over the next three months, the uncapped well leaked more than 300 Olympic-sized swimming pools of oil into the Gulf’s waters, making it the biggest oil spill in United States history. The leak pumped out 12 times more oil than the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989.
U.S. Coast Guard fire boats crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010 near New Orleans. An estimated 1,000 barrels of oil a day were still leaking into the Gulf at the time. Photograph by U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images
The spill opened many people’s eyes to the risks of drilling for oil in one of the most ecologically rich, culturally important, and economically valuable parts of the world. But 10 years and billions of dollars in cleanup efforts later, many of the same risks that allowed the disaster to occur remain.
“It took the better part of six to seven years [after the disaster] to get in place the inspection of blowout preventers and rules about making drilling plans safer and putting commonsense regulations in place, but those have been rescinded,” says Ian MacDonald, a scientist at Florida State University. “So basically we’re back to where we were in 2010, in terms of regulatory environment.”
And in some ways, more is known now than ever before about the Gulf and how the spill affected its ecosystems.
“We’re just to the point now where we have enough data to recognize things we missed earlier, and there’s still a lot we don’t know,” says Samantha Joye, a marine scientist at the University of Georgia. “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Can this kind of spill happen again?
About 17 percent of the U.S.’s total crude oil production comes from offshore projects in the Gulf. Pipelines—26,000 miles of them—connect wells to the processing infrastructure that lines the coast. Before plummeting demand from the coronavirus pandemic drove already-low oil prices lower, the Gulf of Mexico was producing as much crude oil as it had in years.
“Even in times of low prices like today, offshore just keeps going on,” says Gregory Upton, Jr., an energy economist at Louisiana State University.
A severely oiled brown pelican is rescued in Queen Bess Island, Louisiana, after the oil spill.Photograph by Joel Sartore, Nat Geo Image Collection
And drilling for oil in deep offshore waters is inherently dangerous for the people working the platforms, as well as potentially for the environments they’re drilling in.
“Working on the ultra-deep stuff is pretty much like working in outer space,” say Mark Davis, a water law expert at Tulane University.
But conditions on the Deepwater Horizon rig were particularly concerning. After the spill, the commission created by the Obama administration to investigate the spill reached stark, damning conclusions. Many lapses in safety had contributed to the disaster, many of which traced back to a culture both within BP and the industry more broadly that did not value safety enough.
Boats used absorbent booms to corral the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Photograph by Tyrone Turner, Nat Geo Image Collection
A new agency, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), was created to track and enforce offshore drilling safety issues, something that had been handled by the same agency that approved leases to oil companies.
“Before Deepwater, there was this mentality that had set in in the 1990s and 2000s, that the oil and gas industry, as it was going farther offshore, was capable of self-regulating,” says Matt Lee Ashley, a researcher at the Center for American Progress. “Then Deepwater happened and burst that set of assumptions.”
BSEE announced a new set of safety rules for offshore operations in 2016. Among those rules was one that required blowout protectors—the piece that had failed at Deepwater Horizon—to be inspected by a third party, rather than self-certified by the drilling companies. But many of those rules, as well as other safety practices put in place after the disaster, have been weakened in recent years. Most notably, in 2019 the Trump administration finalized rollbacksof several components of the 2016 rules, including the independent safety certification for blowout protectors and bi-weekly testing.
Inspections and safety checks by BSEE have also declined some 13 percent between 2017 and 2019 and there have been nearly 40 percent less enforcement activities in that time compared to previous years, according to Lee Ashley’s analysis.
Today, more than 50 percent of Gulf oil production comes from ultra-deep wells drilled in 4,500 feet or more of water, compared with about 4,000 feet for Deepwater Horizon. The deeper the well, the more the risk: A 2013 study showed that for every hundred feet deeper a well is drilled, the likelihood of a company self-reported incident like a spill or an injury increased by more than 8 percent.
Terry Garcia, former deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a member of a major safety commission convened after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, worries that the safety changes in the years after the disaster didn’t extend broadly enough, either.
“We have this tendency to fight the last war, to prepare for the last incident that occurred,” he says. After the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, for example, new laws and regulations were enacted to deal with future tanker spills. But that focus on the future didn’t happen for oil rigs, and the next disaster is unlikely to look exactly like Deepwater.
A dead black drum fish floats through oiled waters in Grand Isle, Louisiana.Photograph by Joel Sartore, Nat Geo Image Collection
Another concern, says Scott Eustis, the science director at the Louisiana-based Healthy Gulf, a group that focuses on marine protection, comes from the ever-increasing pressures of climate change. Louisiana, which has the most comprehensive climate adaptation plan in the region, is expecting the number and intensity of major hurricanes to increasewithin the next 50 years. Each storm that blows through the Gulf threatens offshore drilling infrastructure.
“Since Deepwater Horizon, we’ve taken two steps forward and one step back, and that one step back is worrying because we could very much end up in a similar situation,” says Lee Ashley.
What we know about the spill’s effects
After the spill, BP agreed to pay out more than $20 billion in penalties and damages, with around $13 billion directed toward restoration and a vast research effort in the region.
But scientists realized they lacked much of the basic background science necessary to predict where, when, and how the oil would spread or what its impacts on the region would be.
At first, it was difficult even to assess how much oil spilled from the well. Early initial assessments were low—but satellite imagery revealed that there was much more oil than had been reported. The final tally showed that the spill dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil.
Oil continued to sink to the ocean floor for more than a year, a recent study shows. It changed the amounts of sediment collecting on the bottom of the sea for years afterwardand choked them of oxygen. Immediately after the spill, the 1,300 miles of contaminated coasts saw oil concentrations 100 times higher than background levelsl even eight years later, concentrations were 10 times higher than before the spill. And In February of this year, a study showed that the footprint of the oil spread some 30 percent wider than previously estimated, potentially contaminating many more fish communities than previously thought.
“It’s astounding,” says Joye. “We underestimated so many of the impacts when we were first looking.” Only after a decade of sustained observation, she says, have the true impacts of the spill started to become clear.
The paradoxical effect of the spill is that scientists know more about the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the physics, ecology, and chemistry of oil spills, than they ever would have otherwise.
The white sand beaches of Orange Beach, Alabama are covered with oil.Photograph by Tyrone Turner, Nat Geo Image Collection
It was clear from the moment the spill began that there were many basic science questions that were unknown about this area of the world, like ocean currents and wind patterns, knowledge gaps that hindered the recovery process.
“The first fundamental issue we faced in 2010 was a chronic lack of baseline data,” says Joye.
For example, no high-resolution map of the seafloor existed, information that would have helped scientists understand where the bottom-dwelling creatures of the Gulf might be affected. Driven by the disaster, federal scientists produced a map in 2016.
“It was crucial to be able to detect and predict where the oil would go,” says Oscar Garcia Pineda, a satellite expert. In 2010, it took days to get satellite images downloaded and processed; today the response time is about 20 minutes, he says. In conjunction with studies that used drifters, boats, drones, and other techniques, scientists have deepened their understanding of the Gulf’s restless movements.
But there’s much more still to learn, say Joye and MacDonald; it’s crucial to set up long-term monitoring programs so scientists can be better prepared for the inevitable next disaster.
“We need much better oceanographic data,” says MacDonald, “so we’re not trying to model after the fact whether Florida is going to get hit by this oil spill, or if it’ll go the other way.”
And other knowledge gaps also engender risk. For example, a 2004 hurricane triggered underwater landslides at another drilling site in the Gulf. The mudslide broke the drilling rig away from the well, leaving it leaking hundreds of barrels a day. But the mudslide risk across the Gulf hasn’t yet been thoroughly mapped out.
“There was a dearth of knowledge. It’s that old adage, ‘you can’t manage what you don’t understand’—well, you can’t protect what you don’t understand,” says Garcia. Why is there drilling in the Gulf of Mexico?
The reason the Deepwater Horizon well existed in the first place? Hundreds of billions of barrels of fossil fuel energy are buried deep beneath the Gulf’s seafloor.
Oil seeps from the floor of the Gulf naturally, in small volumes. The phenomenon has been long known to people who lived and traveled along its marshy shores and coastlines. Hernan de Soto, a Spanish explorer who sailed through the Gulf in 1543, used the gummy oil his sailors collected from the beaches to patch up his wooden ships. Tribal communities gathered tar that caught in the tangled cordgrass of the sandy barrier islands and used it for art and to waterproof pots.
Offshore drilling began in the late 1930s. The first site, Louisiana’s Creole platform, squatted just a mile and a half off the coast, its wooden legs sprouting up through water 14 feet deep.
By the 1950s, engineers were gaining ambition and confidence, nudging the limits of their drilling activities deeper and deeper, following the long, broad slope of the seafloor that tilted away from the Gulf’s shores. By 2000, over 300 operating oil rigs and thousands of platforms dotted the wide, shallow slope. But they pushed further, out to where the ground drops away sharply. Geologists’ glimpses into that underground world, from seismic observations and experimental drill holes, hinted at millions of barrels of oil lurking below, if only the drillers could get to it.
The Deepwater Horizon well, drilled in 2009, pushed the limits of that deep drilling. At its creation, it was the deepest well ever drilled, punching over 35,000 feet down into the ground below the sea, in water over 4,000 feet deep.
Target: Andrew R. Wheeler, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States
Goal: Stop allowing slaughterhouses to pollute waterways.
Every year, over 4,000 slaughterhouses dump loads of toxic waste into the water thanks to water pollution standards that have not been updated since the 1970s. Environmental and community groups are now collectively suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allowing slaughterhouses to pollute the country’s waterways and oceans. Demand that the EPA take a stand against this toxic problem.
Not only is the EPA’s refusal to update these standards dangerous for the environment, it is illegal. The Clean Water Act requires yearly reviews of pollution standards, which the EPA has declined to do. Thanks to their lax policies, the waterways become clogged with blood, oil, grease, and fats. The pathogens in these substances create the algae blooms responsible for the disappearance of various sea life and many rivers and streams are becoming public health hazards.
The EPA cannot continue to let this happen. Sign this petition to demand they comply with the law and update their water standards for slaughterhouses.
Dear Administrator Wheeler,
Slaughterhouses are releasing all manner of animal products and their pathogens into America’s waterways, thanks to outdated water pollution standards. Legally, you are required to review and update the water pollution standards for all facilities, but you have not updated the ones for the 5,000 slaughterhouses across the country. This has led to environmental destruction and created a public health hazard.
The standards for slaughterhouses have not been updated since the 1970s, and the waterways have suffered greatly for it. Animal byproducts and their pathogens clog the waterways, resulting in algae blooms that choke sea life and make rivers and streams into public health hazards. You cannot continue to allow this. It is the EPA’s responsibility to keep all aspects of the environment safe and clean, and you must update the standards for slaughterhouses to comply with the law.
(TMU) — We all know that consumerism is a force that’s destructive to the environment, but too frequently the blame is placed on cultural factors — for example, our personal habits as consumers.
However, the enormous burden placed on the environment is primarily due to the actions of the large corporations that manufacture and sell consumer goods like clothing.
The waste generated by the fashion industry is no secret. Even clothing industry magnate and designer Eileen Fisher famously admitted that “the clothing industry is the second-largest polluter in the world … second only to oil.”
Gaborone (Botswana) (AFP) – More than 100 elephants have died in two months in Botswana’s Chobe National Park due to drought, which has also affected wildlife in other countries in the region, the government said Tuesday.
Several southern African countries are enduring one of the worst droughts in decades, caused by months of over-average temperatures and erratic rainfall.
The drought has wilted grasslands and dried up water holes, making it increasingly difficult for animals to survive.
Botswana’s environment ministry said it has recorded a spike in the number of elephant and other animal deaths since May.
“More than one hundred elephants are estimated to have died naturally in the past two months,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that 13 deaths were recorded just this week.
In neighbouring Zimbabwe, Its wildlife agency has recorded at least 55 elephant deaths over the past month due to lack of food and water.
Preliminary investigations in Botswana have also suggested some of the elephants may have died from anthrax.
“Due to the severe drought, elephants end up ingesting soil while grazing and get exposed to the anthrax bacteria spore,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The animals are also travelling long distances in search of food which leaves some highly emaciated, ending in death.”
Anthrax is an infectious disease found naturally in soil. It is generally contracted by herbivores and is a common cause of death for both wild and domestic animals around the world.
The environment ministry said it would be burning “anthrax related carcasses” to prevent the disease from spreading to other animals.
It warned the public not to touch any animal carcasses they might find and report them to the authorities.
Posts by Alex Larson →
Photo by jonathan leonardo on Unsplash
Carnival Corporation will now have to pay $20 million after a court filing submitted on Monday said Carnival released food waste and plastic into the ocean, failed to accurately record waste disposals, created false training records, and secretly examined ships to fix environmental-compliance issues before third-party inspections without reporting its findings to the inspectors.
The violations took place on Princess Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival.
The settlement reached this week will require Carnival to pay $20 million within seven days, receive additional inspections, invest in more resources to ensure compliance with its probation, reduce the number of single-use plastic items on its ships, and establish teams to improve waste management. If the requirements are not met, they will have to pay penalties of $1 million to $10 million per day.
U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz approved the terms of the deal during a hearing Monday in Miami. She had appeared to grow increasingly frustrated as the company has continued to defy environmental regulations over the past couple decades.
“You not only work for employees and shareholders. You are a steward of the environment,” she told Carnival CEO Arnold Donald, who attended the hearing with other senior executives. “The environment needs to be a core value, and I hope and pray it becomes your daily anthem.”
In 2013, a whistleblowing engineer exposed the illegal dumping of contaminated waste and oil from the company’s Caribbean Princess ship. He told authorities that engineers were using a special device called the “magic pipe” to bypass the ship’s water treatment system and dump oil waste straight into the ocean. The company also tried to cover up this practice from investigators, according to the Justice Department.
Millions of dollars in sweets are sold by Hershey’s, Mars, Mondelēz and Nestlé every Easter — more, even, than Halloween. Sweets that contain palm oil born of rainforest destruction.
With commitments to “No Deforestation” but no adequate system in place to actually track where destruction is going down, these candymakers continue to profit off of a bitter fate for rainforests, and for the tigers, orangutans, elephants, and people that depend on them.
To Hershey’s, Mars, Mondelēz and Nestlé:
For years RAN and its partners have been monitoring your supply chains and exposing the connection between your candies and rainforest destruction in Indonesia’s endangered Leuser Ecosystem.
Instead of making excuses, candymakers must track where destruction is taking place and prove to customers that Conflict Palm Oil isn’t ending up in your sweet treats.
Your companies claim to be committed to “No Deforestation” — but you have failed to take responsibility for knowing what’s happening at the forest floor and intervening to stop forests from falling for Conflict Palm Oil.
This Easter, I’m calling on Hershey’s, Mars, Mondelēz and Nestlé to use the billions of profits made off candy and chocolate to establish a proactive, transparent monitoring system. This system must show consumers where the palm oil that candymakers use is grown, and the actions that each company is taking to track where forests fall and to intervene to keep forests standing.
An environmental crisis continues in the Solomon Islands as for more than month, a cargo ship off the coast of Rennell Island in the Kangava Bay has been leaking oil into the waters. This site also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site as it is the world’s largest raised coral atoll.
The ship, a 740-foot-long ship called the Solomon Trader ran aground on February 5, 2019 where it was carrying more than 700 metric tons of oil according the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said Tuesday. So far, CNN affiliate Radio NZ has reported that the wreck has released more than 100 tons of oil into the sea that holds one of the most important coral atolls in the world.
While a large amount of the oil still remains in the ship, there is a high risk that the remaining oil on board could leak into the sea. According to the DFAT, the oil had spread about three and half miles and has begun to wash up onshore.
Speaking to the New York Times, Simon Albert, a marine ecologist at the University of Queensland explained that the spill is likely to cause long therm damage to the coral and local ecosystem.
When coral comes in contact with oil, it can either kill the coral polyps direct or significantly impact reproduction, growth, and behavior over the a long period of time. What this means is that this coral, which is already struggling to survive due to bleaching events and ocean acidification, will be impacted for generations of coral to come.
While the future will be problematic, there are already environmental impacts occurring according to Radio NZ. Loti Yates, the director of the Solomon Islands Disaster Management Office, told them that dead fish have been washing up on beaches.
“There are dead fish and crabs and all that,” Yates said. “The fumes that is coming out from the oil is also affecting communities and I just had a report it’s also impacting on the chicken and birds.”
The site is the largest raised coral atoll in the world, according to UNESCO, which said in a statement this week the leak is taking place just outside the World Heritage site.
The ship ran aground when it was attempting to load cargo of bauxite in the Solomon Island when Cyclone Oma pushed in into a reef. The ship is based out of Hong-Kong and insured by a Korean company.
Thus far, the company attempted to try and use a tugboat to move the ship but this only made matters worse as it pushed it further into the reef. Since then, Australian officials are supporting the Solomon Islands in efforts to mitigate ecological damage. The DFAT said the Australian government has deployed special equipment and an eight-person response crew from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
The companies are now working on transferring the remaining 600 metric tons of fuel oil on the ship to different tanks which will be pumped onto a separate barge that is en route.
They’ve also started deploying oil spill booms to contain the spread, and have begun cleaning along the shoreline, the statement said.
Katherine Martinko feistyredhair January 11, 2019
The balloon bubble is about to get popped as the anti-plastic movement gathers force.
When a night club in the Philippines announced that it would host an enormous balloon drop on New Year’s Eve in an attempt to break a Guinness World Record, there was international outrage. The spectacle was decried by Greenpeace Philippines as “nothing short of an arrogant and senseless enterprise” and the Climate Reality Project blasted it as “wasteful, unsustainable, and ecologically apathetic.”
The club, Cove Manila, was initially defensive, saying the event would be held indoors and, because the 130,000 balloons were made of biodegradable latex, they would be recycled afterward. But then the government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources sent a letter to the night club, asking it to reconsider. A spokesperson urged the club to “redirect their efforts towards more sustainable, environmentally-friendly activities that the majority of Filipinos will enjoy and be proud of.” Shortly after, Cove Manila said it had voluntarily canceled the balloon drop.
This interesting news story is a sign of changing times and a glimpse of a not-so-distant future in which balloons will be reviled in much the same way as disposable plastic straws are now. This night club is not the only place where balloon-centered events are no longer allowed. Last year Clemson University announced it would end the tradition of releasing 10,000 balloons into the air before football games. The anti-balloon website Balloons Blow has an ongoing list of “balloon releases averted.” The Associated Press describes other newly implemented limitations:
“In Virginia, a campaign that urges alternatives to balloon releases at weddings is expanding. And a town in Rhode Island outright banned the sale of all balloons earlier this year, citing the harm to marine life.”
What’s unique about balloons, however, is that there’s no obvious replacement for them, unlike straws, which can be recreated in paper, metal or glass and work in exactly the same way. Balloons – unless we go back to the days of inflated pig bladders… just kidding! – must cease to exist for now, and we have to learn that it’s still possible to have a fun party without them. (The Cove Manila people did. They still had an awesome New Year’s Eve bash.)
It’s important, too, not to fall for the greenwashed ‘biodegradable latex’ label because it means very little. As Quartz reported about the Cove Manila controversy, “Purchasing, transporting, inflating, and discarding 130,000 rubber orbs, even if they are made from earth-friendly latex, results in significant waste.” While latex is biodegradable in theory, every balloon reacts differently depending on where it lands. And you can’t avoid the fact that you’re still sending trash up into the air to fall back to earth at some point, to the detriment of wildlife. There’s no way to make this OK other than to stop doing it. (Read more about why latex balloons are not environmentally friendly.)
I predict this is something we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the next year. First it was the Straw Wars; next up are the Balloon Battles.
by: Care2 Team
recipient: The Pebble Beach Company and other coastal and riverside golf coursesmore
Pebble Beach is world-renowned for being one of the most beautiful golf courses on Earth. The golf resort is dotted with million dollar mansions and frequented by some of the wealthiest people on the planet. It truly is a golfer’s paradise.
But right off the coast, where the links turn into the sea, that paradise has been lost.
Two years ago, a young 16-year-old freediver named Alex Weber was swimming off the coast in Carmel Bay. Weber says she had been diving since she was a young child, so the underwater world was nothing new to her. But this time she saw something she didn’t expect. Instead of sand covering the seafloor, she saw nothing but golf balls — thousands and thousands of them.
Weber knew this wasn’t good. Golf balls are covered in plastic, and like any plastic material that finds its way into the sea, they degrade over time, releasing microplastics and other toxins into the ocean that marine life ingest.
Weber knew just what she had to do — with help, she initiated her own golf ball clean up effort to rid Carmel Bay of its golf ball scourge. Over the following two years, she and her helpers removed around 50,000 balls — more than 2 tons of them.
Weber said that even as they made their regular diving trips out to remove more golf balls, they could hear the “plink, plink” of more balls hitting the ocean from golfers at nearby resorts.
The Pebble Beach Company (PBC) — owner of Pebble Beach and two other courses along the coast including The Links at Spanish Bay and Spyglass Hill — charge big money by offering a chance to play at this stunning course. They can charge exorbitant green fees ($525) because the links are pristine and beautiful. But management has failed to keep the entire area in equally as tip-top shape. For PBC officials, out of sight means out of mind. Over the years they have allowed thousands of golf balls to pollute California’s shore. That is unacceptable.
The PBC must take responsibility for the golf ball pollution caused by their guests and rid the sea floor of them at once. Additionally, they should take extra steps to make sure more balls don’t make their way into the sea, perhaps by erecting a net to stop stray balls.
Sign the petition to tell PBC and other coastal and river golf courses to clean up their mess. Photo credit: The Plastic Pick-Up.
Last year we pledged to make two massive changes that both presented enormous technical challenges: removing plastic packaging from our Iceland own label range by 2023, and removing palm oil as an ingredient from our own label range by the end of 2018.
Why so hard? Because both plastics and palm oil are effective, versatile and cheap. As a result, they have become the default setting for the whole food industry. When we set out to make the changes we wanted, we were asking suppliers to participate in nothing short of a revolution. As a responsible retailer, we were conscious of our duty of care to ensure that we did not push any of them too hard by demanding that they achieve the impossible.
We have also always been aware that hard-pressed consumers don’t have a load of spare cash to pay more for their food, however much of a good cause they may think plastics and palm oil removal to be. Hence we pledged to make the changes without increasing prices, and to bear the considerable costs ourselves. In the case of palm oil removal alone, we have invested several million pounds of our own money to achieve the switch. We also obviously needed to ensure that our new palm oil-free recipes tasted at least as good – or better – than the ones we replaced.
Palm oil was the more demanding deadline, and when we made our announcement in April we always knew that it was going to be a massive challenge to remove it from all our own label food by 31 December 2018. Because it’s not just a matter of replacing one ingredient with another; in many cases suppliers have had to invest – with our support – to change their whole production process. In a few cases they simply couldn’t do it at all, and we have had to seek completely new suppliers, adding further time and cost.
Nevertheless, we did it – or did we? There have been some murmurings in the media so let me be totally honest here about what we have done and what we still need to do.
We sell 911 Iceland own label lines and every single line manufactured after 31 December 2018 does not contain palm oil as an ingredient. Where it previously did or might have done, we have marked it with a ‘No Palm Oil’ flash.
Until yesterday, our website erroneously listed some fresh and chilled food own label lines – including hot cross buns – as containing palm oil, because of a technical failure that meant that our ingredients lists had not been updated. No such products were actually on sale, and the website has now been corrected.
Frozen food has a long shelf-life, and food banks do not welcome donations of bulk frozen products, so we had a simple choice with those products made with palm oil before 31 December 2018 that had not been sold by then: leave them to sell through in our stores or throw them in the bin. If we had opted for the latter we would have been lambasted – quite rightly – for creating avoidable food waste. So there are still around 30 Iceland frozen own label lines, mainly desserts and pastry products, listed on our website as containing palm oil, and they will continue to do so until stocks are exhausted. They will sell through in the next few weeks and be replaced in stores with new recipe lines carrying our ‘No Palm Oil’ flash.
Finally, there were a handful of products that our suppliers simply could not switch by 31 December. So, to meet our pledge, we have temporarily moved these out of own label into brands. We have always been completely transparent about the possible need to do this, and have done it in the knowledge that it will adversely affect our sales, because unrecognised brands never sell as well as our trusted own label.
We are working hard with existing or new suppliers to get 17 of these frozen and chilled lines back into Iceland own label as soon as we can, and expect to accomplish this by April 2019.
There are a further 15 chilled lines where we and our suppliers have reluctantly concluded that it simply isn’t technically feasible to replace palm oil with another ingredient, or where doing so would result in a massive increase in cost that neither we nor our customers would be able to bear. These will continue to be sold as branded products – along with the hundreds of other branded lines containing palm oil that we always recognised we would have to continue to sell. Palm oil is in half of everything that supermarkets sell, and it would be commercial suicide not to offer our customers the leading brands they want to buy.
So yes, we did tick the box and stop using palm oil as an ingredient in all our own label food made after 31 December 2018, exactly as we promised. It has been very hard, and very costly, and in some cases the change will take a few more weeks to work through. But customers can already see major progress in our stores with many products bearing our ‘No Palm Oil’ flash, and those who share our concern about tropical deforestation now have a choice where there was none before.
The noise we have made about palm oil has also had the beneficial effect of contributing to pressure on the palm oil industry to clean up its act, and deliver a genuinely sustainable product to the mass market. If they are fulfilled, recent commitments from both the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) and Wilmar (the world’s largest palm oil trader) will bring us much closer to the ‘no deforestation’ goal that has always been our aim.
Sea Hugger started this petition to Phillip Morris International
4.5 Trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide each year (thetruth.com). Cigarette butts are 98% plastic and take up to 10 years to degrade. Cigarette butts are the most common form of human-made litter in the world, and are the worst ocean contimanant (forbes.com).
We demand that Phillip Morris International, the largest tobacco company, take responsibilities for the pollution they cause by creating a cigarette filter that is biodegradable, or removing the filters from their products entirely. Research has shown that filtered cigarettes are no safer than unfiltered cigarettes (newyorksmokefree.com)
Sea Hugger is a nonprofit organization working to end the environmental devastation of marine plastics through education, promoting plastic alternatives, sponsoring recycling programs abroad, and hosting beach cleanups. To learn more, please visit http://www.seahugger.org
A new bill has been introduced that aims to reduce cigarettes on Florida beaches. Sarasota House Republican Joe Gruters is looking for the state to bank smoking on all public beaches through bill SB218, which would fine first-time violators $25 or 10 hours of community service.
If Florida passes the bill, it would go into effect July 1st, 2019.
The bill may face potential problems as this isn’t the first time representatives have tried to restrict smoking on beaches in Florida. In 2017, a law that was in place for five years and banned smoking in Sarasota County public parks and beaches was tossed out by a judge whom declared it unconstitutional on the grounds that local jurisdictions couldn’t ban something that was legal on a state level.
Hopefully though, with the potential ban being state wide this time, there will not be another loop-hole that would allow the bill to be thrown out if it does get through the legislatures.
Florida would not be the only state with this ban in place as New Jersey recently banned smoking in public beaches which carries a fine of $250.00
Cigarette butt continue to be the largest single polluter in the ocean damaging habitats, poisoning fish and costing tax dollars for cleanup and disposal, according to environmental experts.
Outside of direct pollution on the beach, cigarettes make their way to the sea due to countless storm drains, streams and rivers around the world. The waste often disintegrates into microplastics easily consumed by wildlife. Researchers have found the detritus in some 70 percent of seabirds and 30 percent of sea turtles.
As Florida holds some of the most visited and popular beaches in the world, banning smoking would be a huge win in helping to contain ocean pollution.
A rescue boat races to the scene of an oil tanker fire off the Hong Kong coast Tuesday. Hong Shaokui / China News Service / VCG via Getty Images
An oil tanker caught fire off of Hong Kong’s Lamma Island Tuesday morning, leaving one person dead and two missing.
“We could see that the victim who passed away had been burned,” police representative Wong Wai-hang said in a briefing reported by The New York Times. “There were clear injuries on his head and fractures in his hands and feet.”
An additional 23 crew members were rescued from the water. Four were injured and one was being treated in intensive care.
The explosions were strong enough to be felt by residents of the nearby island, CNN reported.
“My windows shook really badly but (there) was no wind,” Lamma resident Deb Lindsay told CNN. “I thought there had been an earthquake!”
Lamma Island residents worried about a potential oil spill reaching their coastline. Southern Lamma Island hosts a protective nesting site for green turtles, a severely endangered species. An endangered colony of white dolphins also calls Hong Kong waters home.
Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department told CNN that cleaning vessels had been immediately placed on standby but that no oil spill had yet been detected. Some liquid was seen spilling from the boat, but it was unclear if it was oil or water from firefighting, and there was no oil residue on the water around the vessel.
The boat had been refueling in Hong Kong on its way to Thailand from the southern Chinese city of Dongguan, The New York Times reported.
The Fire Services Department’s division commander of marine and diving Yiu Men-yeung told The South China Morning Post that the boat was tilted 30 degrees as of Tuesday evening but was at no risk of sinking.
However, officials said the boat was too hot to tow away immediately, or to board to discover the cause of the fire, and would need several days to cool down.
One fire department insider with 30 years of experienced explained to the South China Morning Post that fighting fires on oil tankers was especially challenging:
“Depending on the situation, the two major fireboats spray foam to coat the tanker and suppress combustion. Other fireboats use water jets to cool the vessel,” the insider said, on condition of anonymity.
“It has taken [firefighters overseas] several days or even a few weeks to extinguish oil tanker fires in worst-case scenarios. It is definitely not easy.”
by: Joe Sireno
recipient: Citizens of Vernon Township, NJ, Sussex, NJ
9 SUPPORTERS in Sussex
2,715 SUPPORTERS – 20,000 GOAL
STOP THE WASTE DUMP – SAVE VERNONS WATER SUPPLY!
For years a resident of our town has been profiting by turning his residentially zoned property into a construction waste dump. Every day dump trucks, some without license plates or surface graphics identifying their ownership, show up at 3 Silver Spruce Lane in Vernon, dumping loads of mixed construction waste of seriously questionable content. The only way to confirm if there is or is not a significant danger to the health of the citizens and especially the children of Vernon is to do independent water well, water run-off and deep core soil testing on a scheduled basis underneath the mountains of waste created by this practice.
What’s at stake: Nothing less than the safety of our water supply, the health of our children, the value of our homes and our community’s ability to grow and thrive. Numerous attempts have been made to seek proper redress by various good citizens of our town like Peg and Pat Destasi and many others. Mayor Harry J. Shortway and congressman Josh Gottheimer are fully aligned with our cause and have acted aggressively on our behalf to the extent possible so far. Now it’s time for all of us to stand up, be counted and to join this important effort.
We, the citizens of Vernon, NJ, therefore demand the NJDEP take immediate action to halt any further dumping on Mr. Joseph Wallace’s property or any other tract of land within the boundaries of Vernon, NJ until such time as a thorough and exhaustive testing is done to the earth and water beneath the sites used for the dumping of waste. If pollutants are found that compromise soil and or water, we further demand that the NJDEP permanently stop the dumping, enforce all appropriate laws and require the immediate remediation of the sites in question.
PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION TODAY! Join us as we demand legal actions be taken by the NJDEP. Please “like” our Facebook Page for news, public meeting dates and updates on our progress.
When Hurricane Florence flooded the Carolinas in September, the rivers turned from blue to a sickly gray. The water ran so thick with soil, dead leaves, and pollution that you could see murky ink blots forming from outer space. Duke Energy admitted that the intense floodwaters had caused a breach in one of its dams, setting loose a gross sludge known as coal ash — a toxic byproduct of burning coal.
Laden with arsenic, lead, mercury, and other toxins, coal ash tends to be stored near low-income communities and communities of color. For this reason, Mother Jones reporter Julia Lurie noted that the sludge has “quietly become one of America’s worst environmental justice problems.”
Scientists have found a new, unlikely tool to help track the spread of coal ash contaminants: fish bones. Researchers at Duke University discovered that the pearlescent, calcified structure in a fish’s inner ear — known as the otolith — can provide a picture of coal ash contamination in rivers and lakes.
Looking at the otolith under a microscope, you can see a new layer laid down for almost every day of the fish’s life, says Jessica Brandt, the lead author of the new Duke study. “They grow like tree rings,” Brandt says. The layers contain a lot of information, from the fish’s age to its migration patterns — as well as if and when it came across coal ash contamination.
This knowledge could help researchers track changes over time with more accuracy and ease. “If you go and collect a water sample at any given point, you’re only getting information for the time of collection,” explains Brandt, who is also a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey.
The scientists from Duke examined fish from two North Carolina lakes with a history of coal contamination, Mayo Lake and Sutton Lake (the lake that was contaminated by coal ash from a Duke Energy plant during Florence). In the wake of the hurricane, Duke Energy claimed that the leaked coal ash posed no environmental or health risks. But experts aren’t convinced.
“The fact that we are finding fish, which is the top of the predator system, with a ‘fingerprint’ suggests that the system is already affected by coal ash,” said Avner Vengosh, one of the authors on the study and a professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University. Exposure to coal ash can lead to cancer and a number of other long-term health problems.
Vengosh’s previous research on coal ash was used in a lawsuit in 2017, when a judge ordered the Tennessee Valley Authority to clean up coal ash that had been leaking into nearby rivers in eastern Tennessee for decades. The ruling was recently overturned by a higher court. Still, the more we know about coal ash contamination, the better. Perhaps the pearly, inner ear of fish could also prove to be a useful tool for protecting people from the dangers of coal ash.
A dolphins beaked is closed shut by a plastic piece, leading to its death. Papa Bois Conservation Facebook.
In a photo shared on the Facebook page of Papa Bois Conservation, it appears to show what is a dolphin dead after a plastic bottle ring got caught on the dolphins beak.
In the Facebook post, the group writes that the animal starved after being unable to open its mouth. “A plastic bottle cap ring got caught on this dolphin’s beak. It starved to death. Isn’t it time to use a reusable bottle.”
Plastic continues to be a major concern to the health of the oceans as levels continue to increase to levels never before seen daily.
At the current pace, plastic in the ocean is expected to outweigh fish by 2050 and that will only increase exponentially if there is not a plan put in place.
Cities and countries around the world are slowly starting to take notice but at a rate which is much to slow to prevent incidents such as this.
The best thing you can do is to reduce your overall plastic usage, talk to anyone and everyone you can, and write to your local businesses, politicians and anyone of influence to try and help end this crisis
If we are unwilling to change for ourselves, lets do it for the rest of the planet.
Your weekly story of the fight between wildlife and plastic continues here. In yet another incident, an aquarium in South Africa has shared a video on their Facebook page showing them pulling a plastic bag and other trash from a sea turtle’s throat.
In yet another troubling reminder of the hazards that plastic products can pose to marine life, an aquarium in South Africa has shared a video online that shows a plastic bag and other trash being removed from a sea turtle’s throat.
According to Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, the turtle was found washed up on a beach in the town of Struisbaai earlier this month. Showing signs of sickness, the turtle was rushed to the aquarium where veterinarians took a look at the reptile.
According to the aquariums blog page, they suspected a possible lung infection or pneumonia so they started the animal with antibiotics. Over the next couple of days, the team notice the turtle was still becoming weaker. Five days after its arrival, a study was done to investigate if the turtle possible had a blockage.
The video reveals a large piece of black plastic being removed from the animals throat, which was identified to be a plastic bag.
Unfortunately, even after the surgery, the turtle is still in critical condition and the rehabilitation team is monitoring the progress of it.
The oceans are facing a tremendous problem right now in fighting plastic in the ocean. At the current pace, plastic in the ocean is expected to outweigh fish by 2050 and that will only increase exponentially if there is not a plan put in place.
The best bet, stop using plastics. More countries around the World have started to ban plastics in some form but not enough is being done. You can make an immediate impact by choosing items that are not made out of plastic, not using any plastic bags and re-use any item if you have no other choice but purchasing plastic.
by: Mighty Earth
recipient: Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard and Michelin Executives more
6,119 SUPPORTERS – 7,000 GOAL
Tires are killing our forests. Natural rubber is grown on plantations around the world and 70% of that rubber is used in tires. Unfortunately, without significant changes to the way rubber is harvested, natural forests the world over are in danger. That means no habitat for endangered animals like the tiger, and it means more threat from climate change.
Tire companies, like Michelin, are putting forward a platform that claims to be a global solution to support deforestation-free rubber. The only problem?
They’re not going far enough. Rather than a real, long-term solution, these companies are heading towards greenwashing. We can’t let them get away with it.
That’s why we’re putting pressure on these companies to do more. But we can’t do it alone.
Mighty Earth has launched an international campaign to hold tire companies accountable. Will you join us as we urge these corporations to do more to stop deforestation?
Dear CEO Jean-Dominique Senard and Michelin Executives,
The production of rubber is a growing driver of deforestation across Africa and Southeast Asia. The natural rubber used in tires endangers animals like gibbons and elephants, and forces people off of the lands they’ve lived on for generations. Deforestation also causes massive amounts of carbon emissions and, at a time when urgent action is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change, corporations must step up to the plate and lead where governments are failing.
Michelin, as one of the largest tire companies in the world, is in a unique position to lead the world into a future where deforestation and natural rubber production are no longer intertwined.
With our climate, vital ecosystems, and human rights at stake, it is essential that the tire industry — as the largest consumer of rubber worldwide — act to address this issue on a global scale. Unfortunately, current attempts by the tire industry to adopt a global platform on sustainable natural rubber leaves key stakeholders, like non-governmental organizations and small-scale farmers, out of the decision-making room. This approach, bolstered by the Tire Industry Project, of which Michelin is a member, threatens progress and would certainly lead to greenwashing and even more destruction.
The time for action is now. Michelin has already demonstrated a commitment to addressing this issue. We urge you to take the next step to ensure this global platform’s success by taking a stand against greenwashing.
Campaigns Lab started this petition to Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Last autumn, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) equipment was responsible for causing 17 out of 21 wildfires in Northern California. The exact cause of the Camp Fire and other fires blazing across California right now are largely unknown. But one thing is clear, PG&E will be responsible for $15 billion in damages caused last year. If PG&E is found responsible for causing the Camp Fire, that number could double. Customers could be left paying the bill through increased rates, or via a tax bailout if PG&E is forced into bankruptcy.
Communities suffering from fire damage shouldn’t have to foot the bill. There’s no time like the present to hold PG&E accountable, and demand they make their power lines safer.
PG&E equipment ignited those 2017 fires thanks to poor maintenance and failure to remove debris. Power lines running through dried tree limbs, over crowded lines, and bent poles all put Californians in harm’s way. Before the Camp Fire started, PG&E reported damage and an outage to one of the transformers in Paradise, CA. Investigations are still underway. Infrastructure shouldn’t put communities in peril. PG&E needs to better maintain power lines by removing tree debris and making sure power lines are secure.
Nearly all of Northern California’s 2017 wildfires were caused by unsafe PG&E power lines and utilities equipment. Who knows how many of this fall’s fires will be caused by PG&E? PG&E needs to make their power lines safer, now.
Now that California’s wildfire season is year-round, it’s never been more important for PG&E to make their equipment safe and help prevent fires. Communities and lives are at stake. Tell PG&E to make their grid safe.
Single-use plastic costs little to companies, but the real price is paid by our planet and communities. For far too long, big companies have made big money forcing plastic packaging into our lives, most of the time without giving us the choice to avoid it.
Corporations like Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Mars, Kraft Heinz, Mondelez, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson and Johnson, and Danone are increasing the amount of single-use plastic and, even if they claim to know little about where their plastic ends up, their solutions have only been related to recycling.
The truth is that recycling is not the solution: over 90% of the plastic ever made has not been recycled, it sits in landfills, ends up in the environment, or has been incinerated and dispersed toxic pollution back to our environment. We cannot simply recycle our way out of the plastic pollution crisis.
Our planet can’t take anymore. We need urgently to stop plastic pollution at its source. It’s time for corporations to move away from single-use plastic altogether.
We ask the CEOs of Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Mars, Kraft Heinz, Mondelez, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson and Johnson, Danone:
to be transparent about the plastic they use and produce
to commit to reduction and set annual targets for reducing their plastic footprint
to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastic by the end of 2019
to invest in reuse and new delivery systems
The plastic pollution crisis is massive, and beach cleanups and recycling are simply not enough. We need real solutions now!
Add your name to demand that companies take responsibility for the plastic pollution crisis they helped create!
Another study has cast doubt on the environmental safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, the most frequently used weedkiller in the world.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) exposed bees to glyphosate and found that it reduced the beneficial bacteria in their guts, making them more susceptible to disease.
“We need better guidelines for glyphosate use, especially regarding bee exposure, because right now the guidelines assume bees are not harmed by the herbicide,” UT graduate student and research leader Erick Motta said in a UT press release. “Our study shows that’s not true.”
The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday, exposed bees to glyphosate amounts that occur on crops and roadsides and then assessed their gut health three days later.
Of eight common gut bacteria, four were reduced following exposure to glyphosate. The exposed bees also had higher mortality rates when subsequently exposed to the widespread pathogen Serratia marcescens.
The study’s authors wondered if glyphosate exposure could be a factor in the decline in U.S. bee populations and recommend that farmers and gardeners stop using glyphosate on flowering plants favored by pollinators.
“It’s not the only thing causing all these bee deaths, but it is definitely something people should worry about because glyphosate is used everywhere,” Motta said.
Monsanto, the company that made Roundup before being acquired by Bayer AG, disputed the findings.
“Claims that glyphosate has a negative impact on honey bees are simply not true. No large-scale study has found any link between glyphosate and the decline of the honeybee population. More than 40 years of robust, independent scientific evidence shows that it poses no unreasonable risk for humans, animal, and the environment generally,” a Monsanto spokesperson said in a statement reported by The Guardian.
RMIT University in Melbourne chemist Oliver Jones also expressed skepticism that the study meant glyphosate was actively harming bees in the environment.
“To my mind the doses of glyphosate used were rather high. The paper shows only that glyphosate can potentially interfere with the bacteria in the bee gut, not that it actually does so in the environment,” he told The Guardian.
Other studies have shown that glyphosate can harm bees and other animals, however.
A study published in July found glyphosate exposure harmed bee larvae and another, published in 2015, found bees exposed to levels present in fields had impaired cognitive abilities that made it harder for them to return to their hives, The Guardian reported.
A further study of rats also showed glyphosate exposure harmed gut bacteria.
“This study is also further evidence that the landscape-scale application of large quantities of pesticides has negative consequences that are often hard to predict,” University of Sussex Professor Dave Goulson told The Guardian.
Glyphosate’s impact on human health has been in the news in recent months after a jury decided in favor of a California groundskeeper who claimed that Roundup exposure caused his cancer and ordered Monsanto to pay him $289 million in damages.
Glyphosate is making its way into human guts too. A recent study found Roundup traces in popular oat-based snacks and cereals.
Tankers carrying tar sand oil are a serious threat to the habitat of endangered orcas. Yet Alberta is planning the world’s largest open-pit tar sand mine. If realized, it would wipe out 292 square kilometers of forests and wetlands and be a disaster for the climate. Tell Canada to keep tar sand in the ground!
News and updates Call to action
To: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna
Teck Resources’ planned Frontier Tar Sand Mine would be an ecological disaster with a global impact. Keep tar sand in the ground.
The pipelines needed to export tar sand oil are environmental disasters waiting to happen: the Trans Mountain Pipeline crosses the Rocky Mountains to British Columbia’s Pacific coast. Oil spills are virtually pre-programmed, and a tanker accident could devastate the coastline and the habitat of 75 endangered orcas.
Further inland, the tar sand mining industry is turning swathes of northern Alberta, Canada, into a wasteland: Forests are being felled to make way for open-pit mines. Tailing ponds contain water laden with heavy metals. Refineries pollute the air.
Tar sand oil is the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel, and extracting and refining it requires far greater amounts of energy than conventional oil. This project would make a mockery of Canada’s commitment to protect the climate – leaving it in the ground is the only sane option.
UNESCO is alarmed by the prospect of the mine: the guardians of World Heritage Sites see grave danger for Wood Buffalo National Park at the mouth of Athabasca River. The river is already polluted by existing oil sand mines and its condition would become much worse.
Local people are also impacted by the environmental destruction. The Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations reject the project and have declared the land north of Firebag River to be a no-go area. This has not stopped the mining company from running roughshod over the rights of the indigenous peoples.
There will be an official hearing for the pipeline project at the end of September. Together with our Canadian partners, we want to bring international pressure to bear against the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. Please sign our petition: Tell the Canadian government to keep tar sand in the ground!
Canada’s boreal forests
Canada’s forests cover an area of 347 million hectares. Of those, 270 million hectares are boreal coniferous forests. Only Russia and Brazil have more forest. 94 percent of all forests in Canada are on public land. Politicians have a great influence over whether they are protected or open to exploitation by business.
The boreal forests of pine, spruce, fir and larch are the habitat of caribou, wolves and numerous bird species. Countless lakes, rivers and mountain ranges form a diverse mosaic of natural spaces. The forests are also a crucial bulwark against climate change, storing twice as much carbon as tropical forests.
Between 1990 and 2015, Canada’s forest area decreased by 1.2 million hectares, mainly due to logging, mining and hydropower projects. In many cases, the ecological impact is greater than the immediate physical one. For example, relatively narrow strips of land are cleared for roads, but caribou generally do not cross them and thus lose large parts of their habitat. They also keep at least 500 meters away from any disturbances of their environment. While the tar sands themselves cover an area of 475,000 hectares, their full exploitation would thus impact an area of 12,5 million hectares.
Wood Buffalo National Park in danger
At 44,807 square kilometers, Wood Buffalo National Park is Canada’s largest national park and largest UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also encompasses the world’s largest inland delta at the mouths of the Peace and Athabasca rivers.
Wood Buffalo National Park was established in 1922 declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
UNESCO describes the protected area as “the most ecologically complete and largest example of the entire Great Plains-Boreal grassland ecosystem of North America, the only place where the predator-prey relationship between wolves and wood bison has continued, unbroken, over time”.
The national park is also the only breeding habitat in the world for the endangered whooping crane (Grus americana). Experts estimate the population to be no more than 250 adult individuals.
Canada’s oil reserves
Canada’s tar sand deposits underlie more than 140,000 square kilometers of northeastern Alberta – an area larger than England. The country’s oil reserves are estimated at 170 billion barrels, putting it in second place after Saudi Arabia.
In 2016, Canada produced 2.8 million barrels of crude oil a day, 2.4 million of which come from tar sands. Current plans are to boost production to 5.1 million barrels a day by 2030, with 3.7 million from tar sands.
Three tons of sand – one barrel of oil
Tar sand is often called “oil sand”, a misleading term that trivializes the harmful chemical process required to extract oil from the bitumen in the sand. Two to three tons of sand are needed to obtain just one barrel of oil (159 liters). Processing the sand consumes up to five times more energy than the extraction of conventional oil. The fuel also emits 23 percent more greenhouse gases.
According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), 12 billion barrels of tar sand oil have been extracted since 1967. As a result, 6.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide have been released into the atmosphere.
Strip mining tar sand not only devastates vast swathes of land, it also causes serious water pollution on a large scale. The contents of the tailing ponds, which presently cover 176 square kilometers, could bury London under a layer of toxic sludge nearly one meter deep. The muck contains heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic, as well as carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. A study by the University of Toronto has shown that up to 1,000 times more toxins evaporate from the ponds than previously assumed. According to the Pembina Institute, 11 million liters of the toxic brew seep into the groundwater and pollute the Athabasca River every single day.
Athabasca River polluted
Fish in the Athabasca river and delta show striking deformations. Among the indigenous Mikisew Cree First Nation living downstream, certain cancers occur at up to seven times the national average rate. Locals in the town of Fort Chipewyan put the numerous deaths down to heavy metals in the environment. The Canadian government does not see a connection. Critics have described the government’s cavalier attitude toward the plight of the indigenous peoples as racist.
To date, the United States has been the main consumer of Canadian oil. Demand is falling, however. The U.S. has been pushing the extraction of oil and gas via fracking with the aim of becoming independent of foreign oil, a policy that has received added impetus under President Donald Trump.
Oil pipelines crossing the continent
Canada is planning major pipelines to transport the crude oil.
The Trans Mountain Expansion Project of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline has already been approved and is supported by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The pipeline links Alberta’s oil fields to the Pacific Coast. However, the provincial government of British Columbia is trying to foil the construction with proposed environmental regulations.
The Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, which will head south toward the U.S., has already been approved. The planned 2,700 km Keystone XL pipeline would also link Canada’s tar sand fields to refineries in Texas.
The oil industry has been calling for a pipeline to the east to export tar sand oil to Europe. In late 2017, however, the TransCanada group bowed to public pressure and dropped its Energy East project to the Atlantic coast.
To: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna
Dear Prime Minister,
Dear Minister McKenna,
Canada is among the countries with the most extensive forests on the planet. The old-growth rainforests of British Columbia, the maple tree forest in Quebec, and the boreal forests in the North are habitat for countless plant and animal species. The forests and wetlands store huge amounts of carbon and play an important role in mitigating climate change on a global scale.
It is crucial that Canada protect its forests – yet you have not been living up to this responsibility.
The tar sand areas in Alberta are the most horrible and obvious example of this lack of responsibility. For many years, vast forest and wetlands areas have been destroyed for open-pit mines and the production of the dirtiest fossil oil in the world. The Athabasca river has been poisoned, caribou and bear habitat has been destroyed and First Nations rights have been violated.
Teck Recourse’s proposed Frontier tar sand mine would damage Canada’s climate change commitments. From the year 2026 on, Teck plans to produce 260,000 barrels oil per day – over the course of 50 years. The approval of this new project would perpetuate the burning of fossil fuels despite the urgent need for humanity to switch to renewable energy as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the climate.
Furthermore, the tar sand mine project would be harmful to the habitat of significant plant and animal species, to the Athabasca River and other water resources, and to the Wood Buffalo National Park UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Considering the existing and potential damage and harm, we ask you kindly to:
stop Teck Resource’s proposed Frontier tar sand mine and tar sand exploitation in general.
stop the construction of oil pipelines like Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain that are connected with tar sand exploitation.
protect the Wood Buffalo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
protect Canada’s forests, wetlands, rivers and lakes.
respect the rights of First Nations and Métis communities who oppose tar sand mining and oil pipelines.
Your government was praised during the Bonn climate summit when announcing an end to burning coal. That pledge would be hypocritical, however, if you continue keep supporting tar sand exploitation. Canada can neither achieve its climate targets under the Paris Agreement nor its national climate plan if it exploits tar sand further.
Please live up to your responsibility to protect Canada’s forest and the global climate: keep tar sand in the ground!
“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard