Sunday, August 15, 2010

Beyond knowledge and awareness...

Beyond the advent and arousal of consciousness about any issue that so directly impacts us and our well-being is the concern about what we are to do with the knowledge, the awareness, the enlightenment that arouses concern. This can further be translated into a variety of different things: from personal actions that directly influence the specific issue that is the cause of concern to a personal, professional, or social drive to spread, promote and propagate the message, the cause and the fear of an ultimate end.
It is obvious that there is a deemed necessity to play upon the inherent fears of an individual in order to better grasp their attention and interest. Therefore, the "end of the world" or "doomsday" scenario garners so much interest and publicity these days. From movies to pseud-scientific evidence proving the descent of man into the abyss of self-destruction, it all screams of one thing only: time to sit up and take notice before we all are too deep in the quick sand to be able to save ourselves. The message, albeit loud and clear, does not ring personal. Until and unless there is a cause, a reason, a drive that propels an individual to investigate or equip themselves with the knowledge of any of these ecological issues at hand, the chances for a global or individual consciousness to be aroused are slim. But such a cause that compels us to sit up and take notice can indeed catch our fancy. From the unusual increase of natural disasters to drastic climate changes, everything hits the point home.
In end, I would like to surmise that we should all strive to go beyond ourselves and take personal responsibility to equip ourselves with the tool of knowledge, but not stop there. It is just as important to translate this knowledge into action. The action of self activation and more prominent action of "word of mouth" marketing for all these global causes that concern each individual as well as all of humanity.

Water: The ultimate resource of life

Its unfortunate that we take something so essential for our way of life, in fact our very existence so lightly, as if it does not hold the value it does. This specific elixir of life that I am talking of is Water. Chemically described as H2O, aqua. Evolutionary biologists, along with several Greek Philosophers believe all life started with water. Anyways, it is important to understand the different variety of water and the state of these waters all around us. Before we dive into our pool of water pollution facts, it will be helpful to do a quick review of the different types of water in general:

Ocean Water: The vast majority of water on the planet is the salt water in the oceans and seas.

Fresh Surface Water: This is the fresh water in rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and similar bodies of water. (Almost all of these contain fresh water, though a few picture of spring/stream lakes contain salty water.) Technically, the world's ice caps and glaciers also fall into this category , and actually contain very, very large amounts of fresh water.

Groundwater: The majority of the planet's liquid freshwater is stored in underground aquifers. It's important to remember that groundwater pollution is very difficult to treat, and it doesn't just "flush out" on its own. Water that enters an aquifer remains there for an average of 1,400 years!

WATER POLLUTION FACTS FOR THE UNITED STATES

Water Pollution Fact #1

40% of America's rivers are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life.

Water Pollution Fact #2

Even worse are America's lakes—46% are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life.

Water Pollution Fact #3

Two-thirds of US estuaries and bays are either moderately or severely degraded from eutrophication (nitrogen and phosphorus pollution).

Water Pollution Fact #4

The Mississippi River—which drains nearly 40% of the continental United States, including its central farm lands—carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico each year. The resulting hypoxic coastal dead zone in the Gulf each summer is about the size of Massachusetts.

Endangered Rivers

The river-protection group American Rivers lists the primary water pollution threats for U.S rivers:
-- Polluted runoff from roads, parking lots, and neighborhood lawns
-- Runoff from farms (pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste)
-- Livestock damage to riparian areas (reduces near-stream filtering abilities)
-- Logging and mining operations

Of the 1200 species listed as threatened or endangered, 50% depend on rivers and streams. At least 123 freshwater species became extinct during the 20th century.

Source: American Rivers - River Facts page

Water Pollution Fact #5

1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, stormwater, and industrial waste are discharged into US waters annually. The US EPA has warned that sewage levels in rivers could be back to the super-polluted levels of the 1970s by the year 2016.

Water Pollution Fact #6

In any given year, about 25% of beaches in the US are under advisories or are closed at least one time because of water pollution.

This has just been a small overview of the pollution insults our waterways are suffering. When we remember that water is the stuff of life, we see that this is an insult to us, too. Given the grim situation and all the information I have come across over the course of the last few months, it has become more important to me to imply the technique of representational rediscription even if it means to say the same thing over and over again.

Source

Antibacterial socks may boost greenhouse emissions

* 13 August 2010 by Helen Knight
* Magazine issue 2773. Subscribe and save
* For similar stories, visit the Nanotechnology Topic Guide

ANTIBACTERIAL nanoparticles may have more of an impact on the environment than we thought, including potentially raising levels of greenhouse gases.

Silver nanoparticles are used as an antibacterial agent in a wide range of products, from odour-free socks to wound-healing bandages (see diagram). They can find their way into waste water, and have been shown to reduce the activity of bacteria used to remove ammonia when the water is treated.

So far most of the research on the environmental impact of nanoparticles has been carried out on single microbe or plant species within the laboratory. To try to pin down their action in a more realistic setting, Benjamin Colman, a chemist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues added a high dose of silver nanoparticles - 1.25 milligrams per gram of water - to microbes in a sample of stream water and soil kept within their laboratory. They also set up two outdoor tubs of plants. Treated sludge known to be free of nanoparticles was added to the soil in both tubs, while one tub was also dosed with 55 micrograms of silver nanoparticles per gram of sludge, a concentration similar to levels often found in waste water.

"We are trying to find out what happens when these silver nanoparticles get into the real environment," says Colman. "These particles are developed with the express purpose of killing things."

to read more: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727735.300-antibacterial-socks-may-boost-greenhouse-emissions.html

Saturday, August 14, 2010

NOAA Climate Report Says Last Decades Warmest Ever!

NOAA:

he 2009 State of the Climate report released today draws on data for 10 key climate indicators that all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. More than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries contributed to the report, which confirms that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years.

Based on comprehensive data from multiple sources, the report defines 10 measurable planet-wide features used to gauge global temperature changes. The relative movement of each of these indicators proves consistent with a warming world. Seven indicators are rising: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the Earth’s surface. Three indicators are declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the Northern hemisphere.

“For the first time, and in a single compelling comparison, the analysis brings together multiple observational records from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the ocean,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The records come from many institutions worldwide. They use data collected from diverse sources, including satellites, weather balloons, weather stations, ships, buoys and field surveys. These independently produced lines of evidence all point to the same conclusion: our planet is warming,”

The report emphasizes that human society has developed for thousands of years under one climatic state, and now a new set of climatic conditions are taking shape. These conditions are consistently warmer, and some areas are likely to see more extreme events like severe drought, torrential rain and violent storms.

“Despite the variability caused by short-term changes, the analysis conducted for this report illustrates why we are so confident the world is warming,” said Peter Stott, Ph.D., contributor to the report and head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution of the United Kingdom Met Office Hadley Centre. “When we look at air temperature and other indicators of climate, we see highs and lows in the data from year to year because of natural variability. Understanding climate change requires looking at the longer-term record. When we follow decade-to-decade trends using multiple data sets and independent analyses from around the world, we see clear and unmistakable signs of a warming world.”

While year-to-year changes in temperature often reflect natural climatic variations such as El Niño/La Niña events, changes in average temperature from decade-to-decade reveal long-term trends such as global warming. Each of the last three decades has been much warmer than the decade before. At the time, the 1980s was the hottest decade on record. In the 1990s, every year was warmer than the average of the previous decade. The 2000s were warmer still.

“The temperature increase of one degree Fahrenheit over the past 50 years may seem small, but it has already altered our planet,” said Deke Arndt, co-editor of the report and chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. “Glaciers and sea ice are melting, heavy rainfall is intensifying and heat waves are more common. And, as the new report tells us, there is now evidence that over 90 percent of warming over the past 50 years has gone into our ocean.”

More and more, Americans are witnessing the impacts of climate change in their own backyards, including sea-level rise, longer growing seasons, changes in river flows, increases in heavy downpours, earlier snowmelt and extended ice-free seasons in our waters. People are searching for relevant and timely information about these changes to inform decision-making about virtually all aspects of their lives. To help keep citizens and businesses informed about climate, NOAA created the Climate Portal at http://www.climate.gov. The portal features a short video that summarizes some of the highlights of the State of the Climate Report.

State of the Climate is published as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and is edited by D.S. Arndt, M.O. Baringer, and M.R. Johnson. The full report and an online media packet with graphics is available online: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/bams-state-of-the-climate.

Article by NOAA

Posted by Dele Balogun

Bolivian Ambassador on Climate Negotiations

Corporate interests, economy, profits have more weight in the negotiation than preserving life and biodiversity and Mother Earth … there are too many things in the negotiation that really make things even worse.

August 10, 2010 — Democracy Now! – Even as the world faces a series of extreme weather events that scientists warn is related to global warming, international climate negotiations are moving at a glacial pace. The latest round of climate talks in Bonn, Germany, ended last week, and diplomats have just one more short meeting in China in the coming months to hash out their differences before the critical high-level climate conference in Cancún, Mexico, at the end of the year.

At the meetings in Bonn, the negotiating text got a lot bigger, and a number of proposals from developing countries were added into the controversial agreement that came out of the divisive Copenhagen summit last year. Some fear the new text could slow down talks in Cancún, but others say the concerns of the majority of the world’s countries are finally represented in the text.

For more on what this means for a binding global agreement on climate change, I’m joined here in New York by ambassador Pablo Solón, Bolivia’s permanent representative to the United Nations. He was just in Bonn last week.

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/8/10/bolivian_un_ambassador_despite_extreme_weather#

Post: Dele Balogun

41 Countries Oppose Water UN Water Rights Declaration

These are the 41 countries that abstained in the July 28 UN General Assembly vote on Bolivia’s resolution to recognize access to water and sanitation as basic human rights.


Rather than honestly vote “no,” they abstained to avoid being labelled as opponents of access to water, but many made statements that reveal their hostility to the very idea of recognizing water as a human right. Among others:

Canada complained that the resolution “appeared to determine that there was indeed a right without setting out its scope.”

The UK said “there was no sufficient legal basis for declaring or recognizing water or sanitation as freestanding human rights, nor was there evidence that they existed in customary law.”

The U.S. said “there was no ‘right to water and sanitation’ in an international legal sense, as described by the resolution.”

Australia “had reservations about declaring new human rights in a General Assembly resolution.”

The abstainers:

* Armenia
* Australia
* Austria
* Bosnia and Herzegovina
* Botswana
* Bulgaria
* Canada
* Croatia
* Cyprus
* Czech Republic
* Denmark
* Estonia
* Ethiopia
* Greece
* Guyana
* Iceland
* Ireland
* Israel
* Japan
* Kazakhstan
* Kenya
* Latvia
* Lesotho
* Lithuania
* Luxembourg
* Malta
* Netherlands
* New Zealand
* Poland
* Republic of Korea
* Republic of Moldova
* Romania
* Slovakia
* Sweden
* Trinidad and Tobago
* Turkey
* Ukraine
* United Kingdom
* United Republic of Tanzania
* United States
* Zambia

Pakistan and Russia Show Future of Climate

If you are not at least a little bit scared about the Russian heatwave or the huge floods in Pakistan, then you really should be. Extreme and dangerous weather events will be far more common in a warmer world.

These devastating fires and floods are a taste of our future climate — unless we can force a political breakthrough on climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions sharply.

The disasters of the past few weeks sound an unmistakable warning: we’ve emitted so many greenhouse gases already that we are losing a safe climate.

Russia has not gone through a comparable heatwave in the past 1000 years, said the Russian Meteorological Centre on August 9.

The centre’s Alexander Frolov told newsagency RIA Novosti: “We have an 'archive' of abnormal weather situations stretching over a thousand years. It is possible to say there was nothing similar to this on the territory of Russia during the last one thousand years in regard to the heat.”

Moscow’s previous record high temperature was set in 1920. By August 6, the record had been broken five times in 11 days. By August 10, Muscovites had been through 28 consecutive days of higher than 30°C temperatures, said meteorologist Jeff Masters on the Weather Underground blog.

At least 50 people have died directly from more than 500 fires consuming vast tracts of forest and numerous peat bogs. But thousands more in major cities are dying due to intense heat and suffocating smog.

On August 10, Moscow health chief Andrei Seltsovky said deaths in the city had doubled to an average of 700 a day. The city’s morgues were close to overflowing, AP said.

The August 9 New York Times quoted Russian health officials who said “the effect of the fine particles and carbon monoxide in Moscow’s smoky atmosphere was comparable to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day”.

Some economists have estimated Russia’s economic losses from the heatwave could reach US$15 billion, said AFP on August 11. This will deal a further blow to an economy that was already reeling from the global economic crisis. Last year, Russia’s economy shrunk by 7.9%.

Hardest hit is agriculture. Drought and fire damage will cut Russia’s grain harvest by up to a third, AFP said.
The drop in Russia’s grain harvest is also likely to push up food prices worldwide — disastrous news for the world’s estimated 1 billion malnourished people.

Earth Policy Institute president Lester Brown said on August 10 that the Russian experience shows how global warming will worsen global food shortages.

“The global balance between grain supply and demand is fragile and depends largely on climate”, he said. “If we continue with business as usual on the climate front, it is only a matter of time before what we are seeing in Russia becomes commonplace.”

Meanwhile, floods in Pakistan have affected about 20 million people. The disaster has already been called “Pakistan’s Katrina”.

The August 9 London Telegraph called the floods “the greatest humanitarian crisis in recent history”.

United Nations spokesperson Maurizio Giuliano told the paper: “This disaster is worse than the tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake.”

The Pakistan Labour Relief Campaign summed up some of the devastation on August 7: “More than 650,000 houses have collapsed, mainly in villages. Thousands of hectares of crops have been destroyed due to flood water. Livestock, household goods, clothes, shoes and other items have been destroyed. Residents of villages are without drinkable water, food, shelter and in need of clothes.

“In particular, the situation is dire for children and women in desperate need of food and clothing. Disease is spreading fast due to the lack of drinkable water. Flu, fever, diarrhea and cholera have been noted and are spreading.”

The abnormal monsoon rains have also hit India and China hard. Xinhua reported on August 10 that the death toll from rain-induced landslides in the north-west province of Gansu has reached 702. A further 1042 people were still missing.

This follows huge floods in southern China in June that killed more than 130 people and displaced 800,000.
Extreme weather events have also plagued other continents in recent months. Drought has hit western Africa, leaving 10 million people in the Eastern Sahel region hungry, the June 3 British Guardian said. North-east Brazil was hit by massive floods in the same month. More than 1000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead.

The eastern European country of Belarus recorded a new extreme temperature record on August 6 with a high of 38.7°C. It was the 17th nation to break high temperature records in 2010 — more than any other year.

On August 7, Masters said these 17 nations make up 19% of the Earth’s land surface. “This is the largest area of Earth’s surface to experience all-time record high temperatures in any single year in the historical record”, he said.

“Looking back at the past decade, which was the hottest decade in the historical record, 75 countries set extreme hottest temperature records (33% of all countries.) For comparison, 15 countries set extreme coldest temperature records over the past 10 years (6% of all countries)...

“Earth has now seen four consecutive months with its warmest temperature on record, and the first half of 2010 was the warmest such six-month period in the planet's history.

“It is not a surprise that many all-time extreme heat records are being shattered when the planet as a whole is so warm. Global warming ‘loads the dice’ to favor extreme heat events unprecedented in recorded history.”

All these unprecedented weather events are occurring now, when average global warming is still less than 1°C. The British Met Office predicts the Earth will be 4°C warmer by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise — meaning the cases of dangerous weather events will be greatly multiplied.
But if the reality of climate change is frightening, then the do-nothing response of the world’s richest and most powerful governments is scandalous.

As Russia burned and while Pakistan was submerged, a new round of international climate talks took place in Bonn, Germany. But once again, rich countries stalled on an agreement to cut emissions.

Bolivia’s permanent representative to the UN, Pablo Solon, told Democracy Now on August 10 that he “heard speeches in Bonn relating the situation in Pakistan, but the concrete pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are the same [as] one year ago”.

“It’s unbelievable”, he said. “And still, developed countries have put on the table targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that will increase the temperature dramatically during the coming years and during this century.”

Loopholes in the Bonn negotiating text would mean that if countries adopted the proposed agreement, emissions could still rise by 4% to 8% on 1990 levels, the June 9 Guardian revealed.
Solon said so little progress had been made in Bonn because “corporate interests, economy, profits have more weight in the negotiation than … to preserve life and biodiversity and Mother Earth”.

As the next round of negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, approaches in November, Solon called for “a lot of pressure around the whole world if we want really to have a greenhouse gas emission reduction that saves life”.

Author: Simon Butler

Posted by Dele Balogun

Benefits of Glass Recycling

Recycling has a lot of benefits that many people don't know. Here's some of the glass recycling benefits..

Glass Recycling is Efficient and Sustainable; Saves Energy and Natural Resources

By Larry West, About.com Guide


Glass recycling is good for the environment.. A glass bottle that is sent to a landfill can take up to a million years to break down. By contrast, it takes as little as 30 days for a recycled glass bottle to leave your kitchen recycling bin and appear on a store shelf as a new glass container.

Glass recycling is sustainableGlass containers are 100-percent recyclable, which means they can be recycled repeatedly, again and again, with no loss of purity or quality in the glass.

Glass recycling is efficient.. Recovered glass from glass recycling is the primary ingredient in all new glass containers. A typical glass container is made of as much as 70 percent recycled glass. According to industry estimates, 80 percent of all recycled glass eventually ends up as new glass containers.

Glass recycling conserves natural resources. Every ton of glass that is recycled saves more than a ton of the raw materials needed to create new glass, including: 1,300 pounds of sand; 410 pounds of soda ash; and 380 pounds of limestone.

Glass recycling saves energy. Making new glass means heating sand and other substances to a temperature of 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit, which requires a lot of energy and creates a lot of industrial pollution. One of the first steps in glass recycling is to crush the glass and create a product called “cullet.” Making recycled glass products from cullet consumes 40 percent less energy than making new glass from raw materials, because cullet melts at a much lower temperature.

Recycled glass is useful. Because glass is made from natural materials such as sand and limestone, it glass containers have a low rate of chemical interaction with their contents. As a result, glass can be safely reused. Besides serving as the primary ingredient in new glass containers, recycled glass also has many other commercial uses—from creating decorative tiles and landscaping material to rebuilding eroded beaches.

Glass recycling is also simple, as I pointed out at the beginning of this article. It’s simple because glass is one of the easiest materials to recycle. For one thing, glass is accepted by almost all curbside recycling programs and municipal recycling centers. About all most people have to do to recycle glass bottles and jars is to carry their recycling bin to the curb, or maybe drop off their empty glass containers at a nearby collection point.

If you need an extra incentive to recycle glass, how about this: Several U.S. states offer cash refunds for most glass bottles, so in some areas glass recycling can actually put a little extra money in your pocket.

source : http://environment.about.com/od/recycling/a/benefits_of_glass_recycling.htm

UN Declares Water a Human Right

It has been a long time coming, but on July 26th, 2010, the UN General Assembly:

"Declares the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights."

Thank you.

Nearly twelve years ago, I wrote a peer-reviewed article entitled "The Human Right to Water," published in the journal Water Policy. In that article, I argued that:

"Access to a basic water requirement is a fundamental human right implicitly and explicitly supported by international law, declarations, and State practice. Governments, international aid agencies, non-governmental organizations, and local communities should work to provide all humans with a basic water requirement and to guarantee that water as a human right. By acknowledging a human right to water and expressing the willingness to meet this right for those currently deprived of it, the water community would have a useful tool for addressing one of the most fundamental failures of 20th century development."

The world had previously acknowledged rights to health, well being, food, freedom from political persecution, and much more. But not water and sanitation.

Dele Balogun

Willamette River has been a transportation route for ages

This was a very interesting article:

Today we enjoy the Willamette River for its beauty, wildlife and recreational value.

Yet long before the railroads and the interstate took over that position, that wide beauty and myriad tributaries were the major highways for the people who lived in the valley.

Since time immemorial, the Kalapuya, Chinook and Clackamas tribes fished the river and transported trade goods and crops. In spring these native peoples gathered camas along the smaller streams that feed into the river and hunted game.

The tribes gathered at Champoeg to trade goods including camas cakes, dried salmon and baskets. Such commerce also provided social benefits when other tribes and extended families met.

For many generations, the rhythm of our river remained unchanged apart occasionally overflowing its banks.

Then in the 19th century, valuable beaver and otter furs lured trappers — both to catch and trade. Around 1812, North West Company sent trappers into the Willamette Valley to set up a trading post named Wallace House. This settlement, near present-day Keizer, facilitated trade and processing of furs caught in the valley.

From there the trappers transported the furs by canoes down the river to their base headquarters at Astoria.

In 1824, the British Hudson Bay Company built Fort Vancouver, operated by John McLaughlin, to be its Northwest headquarters for the fur trade. Many trappers chose not to return to eastern Canada and instead remain with their native wives in the Northwest. McLaughlin set these trappers to grow grain in the fertile valley.

Yearly, these novice farmers grew a surplus of wheat and oats near present-day St. Paul, Gervais and St. Louis. The rich valley soil, the gentle swell and swale of the land known as French Prairie, and the river transportation made farming successful.

Next came Methodist missionaries. Although sent to minister to the native tribes, the Methodists also touted the valley's richness and started the migration of pioneers along the Oregon Trail.

Those who arrived first took land close to the river so that they could easily get their wheat, oats, fruits and vegetable to markets.

Read more: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20100808/NEWS/8080334/1001/news#ixzz0weU9AjVy

Lampreys in Danger

The air has been buzzing over the lately about the lamprey. These ancient fish aren’t that pleasing to the eye and don’t swim like normal fish (the suck their way upstream). Both of these factors have contributed to the rapidly diminishing numbers of lamprey in Oregon rivers. In the 1960’s, somewhere around 400,000 lampreys swam up the Columbia River each summer. These numbers dwindled to 117,000 in 2003 and 14,000 in 2008. These low numbers are especially surprising since last year a new duct was built so that lampreys could make their way up the river more easily. Since lampreys aren’t especially good swimmers and rely on sucking their way up the river near the bottom of the stream in the slower moving waters, they have a difficult time climbing the ladders built to help the salmon migrate upstream.
Lampreys have been around for 360 million years which is about 354 million years longer than salmon. Their life cycle also differs from the salmon in that their larvae spend six years feeding in the bottom of streams and rivers until they change into adults and are carried out to sea where they spend around three years feeding off of the blood of other fish. Since they move more slowly than salmon, they are eaten by a number of other fish and mammals. When the number of lampreys in the river dwindles, these fish and mammals will likely turn to salmon for their meals.
Aside from their important place in the ecosystem, lampreys are an important fish to many Northwest tribes. They are used as food, as medicine, and for ceremonial purposes in these different cultures. The Umatilla tribe uses their oil to cure earaches and their skin as bandages. If lampreys go extinct, this cultural element will be lost.
There is currently a push to research lampreys more thoroughly, though there is a definite lack of funding at the moment. The numerous fish ladders and dams throughout the Pacific Northwest are being looked at and adapted when possible. The most difficult barrier to overcome is the protection of salmon. Any changes that are made to these fish ladders or dams must not hinder salmon in any way since salmon are already under a great deal of protection by the government.
Reference: http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2010/08/lamprey_population_drops_preci.html

Interesting information about water pollution

Check out our website at: http://ecomergeriverpollution.weebly.com/
for more information

Carla Titus

Hybrid Cars and the Environment

Hybrid cars are increasingly being touted as the cars of the future. They are supposedly extremely environment-friendly vehicles. The following article examines the relationship between hybrid cars and the environment.


A lot of people around the world are increasingly taking interest in the concept of hybrid cars. Hybrid cars are being promoted as a feasible solution to the world's fuel problems. At the same time, they are said to be less-damaging to the environment, as compared to cars which run entirely on gasoline. But before I move on to the relationship between hybrid cars and the environment, let me first introduce you to the concept of a hybrid car.

What is a Hybrid Car?
For those of you who are new to the concept of hybrid cars, here is a short introduction. A hybrid car is quite similar to a gasoline-powered car except that, in this case, there are two or more sources of power (unlike regular cars which have one common power source - gasoline or diesel). In a hybrid car, one source of power is generally gasoline, whereas the other power sources could be any of the following:
Solar energy
Pressurized or compressed air
Electric batteries
Fuel cells
Liquid petroleum gas (LPG)
Liquified nitrogen
Hydrogen
Alternative fuels and biofuels
Wind energy
Manpower
From the above list, it is quite clear that there can be quite a few options when it comes to multiple power sources for a hybrid vehicle. Over the past few years, automobile companies around the world have been testing and trying out various power source combinations in an effort to come up with the best possible power source from the overall perspective of cost, effectivity and efficiency. You can read more on the Toyota Prius, which is an extremely popular hybrid car in the United States. Let us now have a look at the interrelation between hybrid vehicles and the environment.

Hybrid Cars and the Environment
Rather than bothering you with the technicalities regarding how does a hybrid car work, I will instead, focus on how and why they are beneficial to the environment. Are they really a savior to the world's fuel problems? Or are they all hype and no substance? How will they impact the environment and the prevailing pollution levels? Let us try and answer all these questions.

Positive Impact of Hybrid Cars on the Environment
How do hybrid cars help the environment? The answer to this question can be understood in its totality by comparing the effects of both, hybrid cars and gasoline-powered cars on the environment

By Aldanah Bin Muammar

HYBRID CARS FOR THE BETTER ENVIRONMENT

Nowadays, the world becomes worse and worse. One of many things which cause the world becomes like that is global warming. Because of it, the temperature is not controlled. Sometimes we feel very cold, and sometimes we may feel so hot. This condition makes the diseases grow rapidly. Actually, there are many ways to solve this problem, for example is clean the environment or reducing the pollution. For the pollution, there are some ways more to reduce it. One of those ways is, using the hybrid car. It is used for reducing the air and sound pollution. Maybe, some of them still don’t know about the hybrid car. This kind of car is a car which uses one of more distinct power sources. Actually, the using of hybrid technology is used not only for a car but also for the other vehicles.
In this case, the one or more power source means that the car is not depended on one source. We can see nowadays that there are many cars which just use gasoline which pollute the environment. In hybrid concept, a car can be installed with two or more power source such as gasoline and hydrogen or electricity and gasoline. In those examples, we can see that gasoline is combined with the other power source. With that condition, we can limit the using of the gasoline which can be dangerous for the environment.

By Aldanah Bin Muammar

Diesel VS Hybrid VS Ethanol, which is best?

According to a new study, diesel tops hybrids and ethanol isn't even really in the game. Researchers at the Rand Corporation did a cost-benefit analysis of the top near-term alternatives to standard gasoline power-trains that looked at fuel savings, technology costs and performance. They also factored in societal costs in the form of noxious pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions and energy security costs. The analysis was performed for a mid-sized car, a mid-sized SUV and a large pickup truck.

Based on the consumer factors, modern clean diesels yielded net savings over the life of the vehicle ranging from $460 to $2,289 for the different vehicle types. Hybrids yielded smaller but still net positive savings of $198 to $1,066. In spite of the relatively small cost premium to create an E85 capable vehicle, ethanol on the other hand cost substantially more over the life of the car. Thanks in part to the increased fuel consumption of E85, it will cost from $1,034 to $1,632 more than gasoline to operate.

When societal costs are examined the finishing order remains the same although they shift a bit toward the negative. The hybrid car was actually a net negative in this case at $317 more than a gasoline equivalent. The ethanol combination ranged from $1,046 more for cars to $2,049 for pickups. Unless cellulosic ethanol can become mainstream, this fuel simply does not look like a good idea.

By Aldanah Bin Muammar

Hybrids Good for the Environment?

I have always wondered if Hybrids are really better for the environment. I know they save us in gas fumes from the battery pack that is in the vehicle. This saves the over all pollution in the air. The general concept is that the vehicle uses less gas by using the battery pack as energy to run the motor.
For people that don’t know what a Hybrid vehicle is - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Hybrid electric vehicle, increasingly common automobiles which employ both a traditional internal combustion engine and an electric motor/generators for provide motive force.
I currently work for a fleet leasing company and have seen a lot of new orders come in for the Hybrids. Every ordering cycle there are new hybrids being offered by the manufacturers. There are a lot of our customers that have started adapting a hybrid only policy. They will only allow their employees to order a Hybrid vehicle for gas savings and to provide cleaner air to the environment.
I just have always wondered what happens to the vehicle when it is time to be retired and sent to the junk yard. Will the battery packs be removed and if so can they be recycled? For instance in the Ford Escape Hybrids the battery pack is in the back of the vehicle, which is considered the trunk and close to the gas tank. This has always been a mystery to me. We might not have an answer for this yet as I haven’t seen many hybrid vehicles being taken to the junkyard yet.
I wonder if it might be a revloution in the future that car dealers pushed the hybrids on consumers and in the end the effects of the battery pack are worse for the environment then just driving a vehicle that used only gasoline. If anyone can answer this quesiton for me I would greatly appreciate it.

By Aldanah Bin Muammar

Drinking water incidents due to chemical contamination in England and Wales, 2006–2008

I was reading this article and I thought it was worth sharing.


Drinking water incidents due to chemical contamination in England and Wales, 2006–2008
By Karthikeyan Paranthaman; Henrietta Harrison
Courtesy of Journal of Water and Health
Dec. 1, 2009


Contamination of drinking water by microbiological and chemical agents can lead to adverse health effects. In England and Wales, the Chemicals Hazards and Poisons Division (CHaPD) of the Health Protection Agency provides expert advice on the consequences to public health of chemical contamination incidents affecting drinking water. In this study, we extracted data from the National Database on the type and nature of drinking water contamination events reported to the CHaPD between 2006 and 2008. Eighty-two incidents with confirmed chemical contamination were identified. Among the 70 incidents where data was available, 40% (28/70) of incidents related to contamination of drinking water provided by private suppliers, 31% (22/70) were due to contamination occurring close to the point of consumption (i.e. near consumer) and 29% (20/70) related to incidents where public water supplies were identified as the contaminated source. For the majority of incidents, little or no information was available on the critical exposure variables such as duration of contamination and actual or estimates of the population affected. Reassuringly, the levels of exposure in most incidents were considered unlikely to cause serious immediate or long term ill health effects. Recording of exposure data for reported contamination incidents needs to be improved.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Columbia River Crossing: How do we find out what the environmental impact is?

Plans to build a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River have been in the making for years at this point. I’m not going to discuss all of the pros and cons of this project here because there would be far too many to count. Instead I would like to take a look at the process of determining the environmental impact of this project. Since this construction involves the Department of Transportation, the project must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). What this entails, in part, is an assessment of the environmental impact of the construction and the eventual production of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project released their draft EIS on May 2, 2008 and a document correcting certain errors in this draft was released on May 23, 2008. This draft EIS was released to help inform the public about what the research says about the environmental impact of this bridge is going to be and what the different options for building are. The final EIS is expected to be published this year.

When looking at the environmental impact of the project, it must always be compared to what the impact of not building or a “no build” would be. In this case a no build would mean that the bridge would not be replaced. In addition to the no build option there are four different alternatives for building this bridge:

The first option is replacing the bridge entirely and the new bridge would include a lane for buses and a lane for pedestrian and bike traffic. The pedestrian and bike traffic lane would potentially be a separate structure.

The second option would be to replace the existing bridge structure and add a lane for light rail as well as a lane for pedestrian and bike traffic.

The third option would be to build a new bridge for southbound traffic but keep the existing bridge for northbound vehicles. The pedestrian and bike lane would be on the currently existing bridge.

The fourth option, similar to the third, would include a new bridge for southbound traffic, the existing bridge for northbound, and a lane for light rail on the new bridge. The pedestrian and bike lane would be on the existing bridge.
You can find out more or view the draft EIS for free by contacting the CRC office. Their email is feedback@columbiarivercrossing.org and their toll free phone number is 866-396-2726. You can also visit their website at www.columbiarivercrossing.org.

Keeping Oregon Rivers Clean by Protecting Salmon


Portland State University was recently awarded the Salmon Safe Campus Certification becoming the first university campus with this distinction. This made me wonder which other areas of Portland had been identified or modified to be safe for salmon.  On the Salmon Safe website (www.salmonsafe.org) I found that in 2008, Portland’s 35- acre South Waterfront became the first urban neighborhood to receive this certification.  Since this area of the Willamette River is known for its past as an area of heavy pollution due to commercial shipping, this distinction is kind of a big deal.  According to this website, the water coming from the South Waterfront is as clean as if no construction or development had occurred in that area.  This area has incorporated green practices into their landscaping and developed bioswales to help clean the water before it reaches the river. 
            The Oregon Convention Center was certified by Salmon Safe in August of 2010 and was the first convention facility to be certified.  The interesting thing about the OCC is that it is continuing to work with Salmon Safe to ensure that its future practices are in keeping with the regulations of this organization. OCC has recently installed new water fixtures that use less water and have developed a system for their rainwater runoff that will take it through a rain garden system to be filtered. They have also reduced their use of pesticides and fertilizers.
             It’s easy to see how Portland State University has made efforts to join these areas and others in being safe for Salmon.  Portland State has a number of eco roofs and rainwater harvesting systems.  Even the new Rec Center is able to maintain the status of  “Green Building” though it contains a swimming pool!  Keeping the salmon in Oregon rivers safe is a big step towards eliminating longstanding polluted areas in these rivers.

For more information, check out Portland State’s Stormwater Management Plan: http://www.pdx.edu/sustainability/water

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Portland's Bridges

The City of Portland is known for its bridges and the river that they span, the Willamette. Portland is also known as an extremely eco friendly city. But it hasn’t always been this way. Portland Harbor, located on the lower Willamette River between Sauvie Island and Swan Island, is currently undergoing an extensive cleanup. This area of the river was heavily trafficked by commercial ships for over one hundred years and we are starting to see the repercussions. This site was named a “superfund” site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Being qualified as a superfund site has put Portland Harbor at the center of a number of efforts to clean this area up. The Portland Bureau of Environmental Services was chosen to represent the Lower Willamette Group, a group of Portland Harbor business who have volunteered to help in the first phase of cleanup. Right now they are trying to figure out what the extent of the damage to this area is after such an extended period of pollution.


The long amount of time that this area was used for commercial ships is not the only contributing factor to pollution in this area. The City of Portland owns combined sewer overflows (CSO) that drain into Portland Harbor which could also be contributing to the superfund status of this site. Stormwater runoff is a more serious issue than many people realize when it comes to pollution. It can have a strong negative effect on wildlife and fish in the area.

Portland is currently working with the Oregon DEQ or Department of Environmental Quality to determine the extent of the damage in the area. One of the questions they are trying to answer is whether or not stormwater runoff is contributing to the overall contamination of sediment in the lower Willamette River. They are also working on a strategy for maintaining cleanliness in this part of the Willamette after the cleanup process for this section of the river has been completed.

From a less scientific point of view, we can tell that Portland Harbor is a dangerously contaminated segment of the river based on the level of PCBs found in fish caught there. Special recommendations have been drawn up for this section of the river by the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS). Carp Catfish, and Bass contained the most amount of contamination.

With all of this in mind, it isn’t hard to see how Portland has achieved its status as an eco friendly city. It’s important to remember where we came from, however. Portland’s need as much attention as its future when it comes to environmental issues. Hopefully one hundred years from now the amount of cleanup that will need to be done for our generation will be less than what is required for Portland Harbor.



Refererences:

http://www.portlandonline.com/bes/index.cfm?c=32138

http://www.portlandonline.com/bes/index.cfm?c=32138&a=174599

Right in our own Backyard

Over the course of the last few months, I have been exposed to various different aspects of water pollution, specifically river pollution, the effects thereof along with the causes. But it is a whole different story when the issue comes right to your own door-step. It becomes personal then.
Recycling and garbage has been a growing hot issue all around us and there has been a growing movement towards consciousness of these issues so vital to preserving the balance of our delicate ecosystems. Waste management, then, has profound impact on this topic. So, it was fascinating to recently learn of the ongoing debate and litigation over the import of Hawaii's garbage to the landfills in the Northwest. According to this report, the contract to export Hawaii's garbage to the landfills around here in Northwest is being discussed. As the article states, this will entail "...shipping up to 150,000 tons a year of its mounting garbage -- potentially intermixed with invasive plant seeds and insects -- more than 2,500 miles to Astoria, then up the Columbia River to Longview, then offloading to rail or truck for a ride through the Columbia River Gorge, and then on to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Washington's Klickitat County."
Can you imagine the impact this can potentially have on the sanctity of our water resources? As this blog points out the potential side-effects of landfills on the water systems around them and add to that the transportation of that huge an amount of garbage along the rivers. It is easy to comprehend the dangers and possible concerns we are dealing with here.  As the website highlights: "
The atmosphere often takes a hit when it comes to landfill gases, but water is also a very real risk. The initial problem is with watercourses. This includes everything from the ditches located near the landfill to the rivers and streams miles away. The rain will wash over the landfill, allowing debris, but more commonly toxins, to wash into these watercourses.
In addition, water emissions may happen at a much lower level. If groundwater is polluted at a landfill site, the water can penetrate into the strata below the surface of the Earth, polluting some of the most important sources of fresh water."
So it is personal this time. The issue regarding how garbage can effect our water sources and the balance of nature around us does make one sit up and take notice of what exactly is going on right in our own backyard.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pollution in Southern Alberta Rivers causing feminization of fish.

Recent research and testing of the native minnow known as the longnose dace has shown elevated levels of a protein called hepatic vitellogenin. This protein is normally only found in the blood females is used by the females to produce eggs. Up to 44 percent of the male fish tested were showing eggs present in their testes. This will greatly affect their reproductive ability and cause a severe decline in the fish population.

The researchers claim that the fish are being exposed to estrogen or something that looks like estrogen to the fish. The most commonly found pollutants in the rivers were synthetic estrogen (most likely from birth control pill compounds and hormone therapy drugs); bisphenol A which is used in making plastics; and certain types of natural and synthetic steroids which are by-products of agricultural run-off and cattle production.

Further research is to be conducted on the causes of this finding.

Gender-bending fish on the rise in Southern Alberta

By Rose Sanchez
Southern Alberta

University of Calgary researchers have discovered chemicals present in southern Alberta rivers which are responsible for the feminization of fish.

“What is unique about our study is the huge geographical area we covered,” says co-author Lee Jackson, about the research paper results published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. “We found that chemicals — man-made and naturally-occurring — that have the potential to harm fish were present along approximately 600 kilometres of river.”
An initial study done by an undergraduate student a number of years ago, looked at the effects of chemicals on fish in the Red Deer River.

Researchers expanded on that and focused on two rivers in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, the Red Deer and Oldman rivers.

“We didn’t have any results in mind, we were letting the fish tell us the message,” says Jackson, who is also executive director of Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets, a research facility that develops and tests new approaches for treating wastewater. It will be located at the City of Calgary’s new Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The message from the fish tested, which were native minnow known as longnose dace, was clear. At 14 of 15 locations, the male dace showed elevated levels of a protein called hepatic vitellogenin, which is normally only found in the blood of females and used by females to produce eggs.

“... it tells us the fish are exposed to estrogen or something that looks like estrogen to the fish,” explains Jackson.

Water from the rivers was analyzed for organic contaminants commonly found in wastewater or rivers impacted by human and agricultural activity. Found in the water were synthetic estrogens, (such as birth control pill compounds and hormone therapy drugs); bisphenol A which is used in making plastics; and certain types of natural and synthetic steroids which are by-products of agricultural run-off and cattle production.

In some sites up to 44 per cent of the male fish had eggs in their testes, effecting their reproductive ability. Fewer male fish able to reproduce means fewer fish born into the population in the future.

“The situation for native fish will likely get worse as the concentration of organic contaminants will become more concentrated as a response to climate change and the increase in human and animal populations,” says Jackson.

Researchers were also surprised by the results downstream of two communities, south of Fort Macleod and Lethbridge.
“Most notably, we saw a significant increase in a specific protein marker for the presence of compounds with estrogen-like activity,” says co-author Hamid Habibi. “Our results showed females make up 85 per cent of the population of longnose dace. In the upstream locations, females comprise 55 per cent of the population.”

Jackson likened the research project to that of peeling away the layers of an onion. Now that researchers have the pattern of fish effected and the contamination, work can be done to learn more detail about the chemicals causing the skewing of sex ratios in river fish populations and ultimately how that may effect human populations.

Also, a student this fall will use the information gathered so far to learn how the fish may be moving between the different sampling sites.

“The ultimate hope is that regional agencies in coming up with new policies will use this document,” says Jackson, about the research paper, which was also co-authored by Ken Jeffries of the University of B.C. and Michael Ikonmou of the Institute of Ocean Sciences.

Researchers will be able to continue further studies when the new research facility linked to the Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment Centre, is operational in two to three years. Different fish will be able to be stocked in experimental streams and the effects of chemicals found in water studied further.

http://www.prairiepost.com/news/se-alberta-news/35-general/1466-gender-bending-fish-on-the-rise-in-southern-alberta.html

Posted by Danielle Ritter

Monday, August 9, 2010

Water Pollution: What we can do to help!


How can we help prevent water pollution? Many of us are under the impression that pollution is something we can’t stop or it takes too much effort to do, so we decide to ignore the problem. Little changes around your home can make a great difference for the environment. Following is an article by Robert Goo:

Dos and Don'ts Around the Home

The importance of education in bringing nonpoint source pollution under control is a recurring theme in this issue of EPA Journal. The reason for this is pragmatic—what you don't know can hurt the environment. When rain falls or snow melts, the seemingly negligible amounts of chemicals and other pollutants around your home and premises get picked up and carried via storm drains to surface waters. The ramifications include polluted drinking water, beach closings and endangered wildlife.
So what can you do to help protect surface and ground waters from nonpoint source pollution? You can start at home. Begin by taking a close look at practices around your house that might be contributing to polluted runoff. You might need to make some changes. The following are some specific tips to act on—dos and don'ts, organized by categories, to help you become part of the solution rather than part of the problem of nonpoint source pollution.

Household Chemicals

Take care when disposing of household hazardous waste.
  • Be aware that many chemicals commonly used around the home are toxic. Select less-toxic alternatives. Use non-toxic substitutes wherever possible.
  • Buy chemicals only in the amount you expect to use, and apply them only as directed. More is not better.
  • Take unwanted household chemicals to hazardous-waste collection centers; do not pour them down the drain. Pouring chemicals down the drain could disrupt your septic system or contaminate treatment plant sludge.
  • Never pour unwanted chemicals on the ground. Soil cannot purify most chemicals, and they could eventually contaminate runoff.
  • Use low-phosphate or phosphate-free detergents.
  • Use water-based products whenever possible.
  • Leftover household pesticide? Do not indiscriminately spray pesticides, either indoors or outdoors, where a pest problem has not been identified. Dispose of excess pesticides at hazardous-waste collection centers.

Landscaping and Gardening

Compost yard scraps and kitchen waste.
  • When landscaping your yard, select plants that have low requirements for water, fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Cultivate plants that discourage pests. Minimize grassed areas, which require high maintenance.
  • Preserve existing trees, and plant trees and shrubs to help prevent erosion and promote infiltration of water into the soil.
  • Use landscaping techniques, such as grass swales (low areas in the lawn) or porous walkways, to increase infiltration and decrease runoff.
  • Other landscaping tips:
    • Install wood decking, bricks or interlocking stones instead of impervious cement walkways.
    • Install gravel trenches along driveways or patios to collect water and allow it to filter into the ground.
    • Restore bare patches in your lawn as soon as possible to avoid erosion.
    • Grade all areas away from your house at a slope of one percent or more.
  • Leave lawn clippings on your lawn so that nutrients in the clippings are recycled and less yard waste goes to landfills.
  • If you elect to use a professional lawn care service, select a company that employs trained technicians and follows practices designed to minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Compost your yard trimmings. Compost is a valuable soil conditioner that gradually releases nutrients to your lawn and garden. (Using compost will also decrease the amount of fertilizer you need to apply.) In addition, compost retains moisture in the soil and thus helps you conserve water.
  • Spread mulch on bare ground to help prevent erosion and runoff.
  • Test your soil before applying fertilizers. Over-fertilization is a common problem, and the excess can leach into ground water or contaminate rivers or lakes. Also, avoid using fertilizers near surface waters. Use slow-release fertilizers on areas where the potential for water contamination is high, such as sandy soils, steep slopes, compacted soils and verges of waterbodies. Select the proper season to apply fertilizers—incorrect timing could encourage weeds or stress grasses. Do not apply pesticides or fertilizers before or during rain because of the strong likelihood of runoff.
  • Calibrate your applicator before applying pesticides or fertilizers. As equipment ages, annual adjustments might be needed.
  • Keep storm gutters and drains clean of leaves and yard trimmings. (Decomposing vegetative matter leaches nutrients and can clog storm systems and result in flooding.)

Septic Systems

Proper septic system maintenance helps protect water quality.
Improperly maintained septic systems can contaminate ground water and surface water with nutrients and pathogens. By following the recommendations below, you can help ensure that your system continues to function properly.
  • Inspect your septic system annually.
  • Pump out your septic system regularly. (Pumping out every three to five years is recommended for a three-bedroom house with a 1,000-gallon tank; smaller tanks should be pumped more often.)
  • Do not use septic system additives. There is no scientific evidence that biological and chemical additives aid or accelerate decomposition in septic tanks; some additives can in fact be detrimental to the septic system or contaminate ground water.
  • Do not divert storm drains or basement pumps into septic systems.
  • Avoid or reduce the use of your garbage disposal. (Garbage disposals contribute unnecessary solids to your septic system and can also increase the frequency your tank needs to be pumped.)
  • Don't use toilets as trash cans! Excess solids can clog your drainfield and necessitate more frequent pumping.

Water Conservation

Look for the EPA WaterSense label to choose quality, water-efficient products.
Homeowners can significantly reduce the volume of wastewater discharged to home septic systems and sewage treatment plants by conserving water. If you have a septic system, by decreasing your water usage, you can help prevent your system from overloading and contaminating ground water and surface water. (Seventy-five percent of drainfield failures are due to hydraulic overloading.)
  • Use low-flow faucets, shower heads, reduced-flow toilet flushing equipment, and water-saving appliances such as dish- and clothes washers.
  • Repair leaking faucets, toilets and pumps.
  • Use dishwashers and clothes washers only when fully loaded.
  • Take short showers instead of baths and avoid letting faucets run unnecessarily.
  • Wash your car only when necessary; use a bucket to save water. Alternatively, go to a commercial carwash that uses water efficiently and disposes of runoff properly.
  • Do not over-water your lawn or garden. Over-watering can increase leaching of fertilizers to ground water.
  • When your lawn or garden needs watering, use slow-watering techniques such as trickle irrigation or soaker hoses. (Such devices reduce runoff and are 20 percent more effective than sprinklers.)
Pick up dog waste and dispose of it properly.

Other Areas Where You Can Make a Difference

  • Clean up after your pets. Pet waste contains nutrients and pathogens that can contaminate surface water.
  • Drive only when necessary. Driving less reduces the amount of pollution your automobile generates. Automobiles emit tremendous amounts of airborne pollutants, which increase acid rain; they also deposit toxic metals and petroleum by-products into the environment. Regular tune-ups and inspections can help keep automotive waste and by-products from contaminating runoff. Clean up any spilled automobile fluids.
  • Recycle used oil and antifreeze by taking them to service stations and other recycling centers. Never put used oil or other chemicals down storm drains or in drainage ditches. (One quart of oil can contaminate up to two million gallons of drinking water!)

Community Action

Planting trees is one way to take action in your community.
  • Participate in cleanup activities in your neighborhood.
  • Write or call your elected representatives to inform them about your concerns and encourage legislation to protect water resources.
  • Get involved in local planning and zoning decisions and encourage your local officials to develop erosion and sediment control ordinances.
  • Promote environmental education. Help educate people in your community about ways in which they can help protect water quality. Get your community groups involved.
For more information on how you can help, contact your State Water Quality Coordinator or Local Cooperative Extension Officer.
(Goo is an Environmental Protection Specialist in EPA's Nonpoint Source Control Branch.)

Carla Titus

Creating a Rain Garden for Storm Water Runoff


       A rain garden collects storm water runoff from paved surfaces and rooftops, filtering the polluted water before it flows down to our streams, rivers and cherished water sources.  Rain gardens are beneficial to the environment and can be a beautiful landscape feature in your yard as well.  Simple to create, rain gardens are typically shallow depressions in the earth that contain plants, flowers, and small bushes. 
         When soil and plants are not present, rainwater will fall to pavement and rooftops, becoming contaminated with oil, chemicals and other harmful contaminants.  This polluted water is rushed down storm water systems, direct on the path to soiling our water.  With a rain garden, the water is held for a longer period of time and absorbed into the surrounding soil.  The plants help to filter out pollutants in the water and the water is purified in the process. 
         How to create your own rain garden:  Select an area around your home that is down grade from gutters or adjacent to your driveway.  This will ensure that the natural flow of storm water reaches your garden.   Estimate the size of your garden, which is typically the 1/3 the size of your roof.   Your garden needs to be around 8 inches below your lawn level.  The best soil for rain gardens is fast-drying sandy soil so that the water will drain slowly.  The edges of your garden should be slightly raised, particularly around areas that slope down heavily beyond your garden.  Use organic compost and native plants, grasses and shrubs. 
         Rain gardens mimic Mother Nature’s intentions for rain and water purification, helping to keep our water sources clean and free of industrial hazards.  At the same time, you get to enjoy the benefits of a low-maintenance garden that attracts wildlife to your home. 
        
Post by:  Brandy Unrein

BP Oil Spill Update!

Nearly four months after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico the struggle against the BP oil spill is nearly finished, in one sense. BP’s ruptured well is no longer leaking. In fact, it hasn’t leaked since July 15th.

With the well capped from the top, BP is now moving in for the final bottom kill– completion of a relief well that should seal the problem for good. On Monday administration officials announced that sometime late this week the teams drilling the relief well should be in position to penetrate the original Macondo well shaft.

President Obama even stated, “What is clear is that the battle to stop oil from flowing into the Gulf is just about over.” But the war against the BP spill, the worst environmental disaster in US history, will continue. The struggle to clean up the mess and restore the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people in the Gulf region has just begun. The next step in the cleanup process is to focus on the areas ashore that have been impacted.

If its part, BP announced Monday that it had made an initial deposit of $3 billion into a planned $20 billion spill recovery fund. Another $2 billion will be added in the fourth quarter of this year said BP officials. After that, the firm will add another #1.25 billion every quarter until the $20 billion limit is reached (for more information on the BP budged, check out BP news).

With the source of the leak almost controlled, the areas onshore are being looked at. There are still tarballs washing up on beaches in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Teams are also working in the fragile marsh areas that extend from the eastern end of Mississippi Sound around to Timbalier Bay and Terrebonne and areas to the west. This is where the largest areas of oiled marshes.

The government estimates that 4.9 million barrels of oil flowed into the Gulf as a result of the BP spill. Much of that has been burned off, skimmed up, or has evaporated, although the exact amount remains a contentious issue. But the US estimates that about one-quarter of the oil spill total remains a threat to shore.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Time is ignorant to catastrophe

I was reading Time magazine and came across just another article about the tragedies of The Deep Horizon BP oil spill… so I thought. The article’s title is “Big Spill, Little Damage?” by Michael Grunwald. As I read on, I found that the article was claiming that the damage to the Gulf is not as bad as most claim. It states, “Yes, the spill killed some birds – but so far, fewer than 1% of the number killed by the Exxon Valdez” Grunwald continued to claim, “assessment teams have found only about 350 acres of oiled marshes, when Louisiana was already losing about 15,000 acres of wetlands every year.” While he does state that the long-term effects of the BP spill is unknown, he quotes Paul Kemps statement that compared it to “a sunburn on a cancer patient.” The largest oil spill in U.S. history and Time magazine is trying to brush it off as an overblown media story? I always thought Time magazine was a respectable magazine, but this article is very ignorant. They didn't even take into consideration the effect on the human species. The humans who are in the greatest danger due to the BP oil spill are the people who are working to stop the leak and clean up the spill. As oil evaporates it creates a vapor that resides just above the water or ground. This vapor can travel with the wind, and it can be inhaled in dangerous levels. Because oil spill workers are the closest to these vapors, they are in the greatest danger. This can lead to dangerous respiratory problems and lung damage. Typically, oil spill workers are aware of the potential for health issues, and they take precautionary measures, such as the appropriate protection gear. Most oil companies and oil spill cleanup related companies require this, and train their employees in the use of this equipment and other protective measures as well.
Posted by Hyun Yu

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Water unsafe to drink in Da’an, China

Manganese levels in the water supply to the residents of the Da’an town of Guandong providence have tested much higher than the maximum allowed by the government. This prompted the government to issue emergency notices to the area’s 10,000 residents stating not to drink the water. The town draws its drinking water from the Bao River and the cause of the contamination is still under investigation. Many of the residents have decided to head to the mountains and collect their drinking water from natural springs.

Tap water in south China town contaminated

By TINI TRAN
Associated Press Writer
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010 - 4:57 am
BEIJING -- Some 10,000 residents in a southern China town have been told not to drink tap water after tests showed it was contaminated by a heavy metal, a local official said Wednesday.
Tests showed the amount of manganese in the water supply to some residents of Da'an town in Guangdong province was much higher than the maximum allowed by the government, said a town official who only gave his surname, Wang.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the level of manganese in the water was 12 times higher than the government safety level, which allows 0.1 milligrams per liter (2.1 pints).
Heavy metals are a category of elements often used during industrial processes that can be toxic to human health. Though small amounts of manganese are essential to the body, chronic exposure to large amounts can cause neurological problems, including hallucinations, forgetfulness and nerve damage.
Emergency notices were put out Tuesday in the town, warning residents not to drink tap water until further notice, Xinhua said. "We're trying to remedy the situation and will keep you posted," said one notice.
Environmental pollution in China has increased in recent years as the country's rapid economic development continues virtually unchecked. Industrial disasters are common, with several major incidents in recent weeks, including a massive oil spill off the northeastern coast and a chemical spill when barrels of toxins were swept by floodwaters into the Songhua River.
Local official Wang said the tap water was processed by the Da'an Water Factory, one of the town's two water suppliers. The plant uses the nearby Bao River as its water source. Tap water is usually tested monthly, he said.
"The investigation for the cause of the contamination is still under way," he said.
Local residents have shunned the tap water, heading into the nearby mountains to collect natural spring water, Xinhua said.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/08/04/2935597/tap-water-in-south-china-town.html#ixzz0vmJVky2P

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

ITS JUST SO FASCINATING!

Water pollution is a very important topic!!!!! Can this be expressed enough?? Okay in high school my favorite subject was English because it was simple and I was good at it. My least favorite was science because in my opinion it was boring- but we didn’t talk about the relevant stuff like water pollution, and the changes that the earth is going through at this very moment- or even how it affect my life! When I was in biology, and chemistry we learned about atoms, and protons and neutrons, and different animal kingdoms, and so on, but I wish we would have learned about interesting things that actually affect us, because then maybe I would have liked science just a little bit more.
I have been doing the research of various rivers and how water pollution affects it, and for my own curiosity, I had to look up water pollution in Oregon. I just had to. I found out that despite the fact that post people (including myself) believe that the largest source of water pollution comes from a pipe, such as from factories and sewage treatment plants, but in actuality the largest source of water pollution in Oregon’s rivers, lakes, and streams come from surface water runoff. This is a type of pollutions that comes from a variety of sources and can be hard to detect and control.
When it rains, water washes over driveways, roofs, agricultural lands, streets, lawns, constructions sites, logging operations picking up soil, garbage and toxics. The amount of pollution carried by rainwater, snowmelt, and irrigation water slowing into streams and lakes, and through the soil into groundwater is much lager than pollution from industry.
I was amazed at these facts. How often do people consider these things? As one walks by a construction site how often does the impact of the water pollution cross their minds?? These are the types of things that we, and future generations are responsible for reducing, and maybe preventing! We all know that it rains a lot in Oregon- My usual thoughts are about how much I like the smell, and hate having wet and dirty shoes, but never the results of the pollution that is caused. The amazing thing about technology these days is that we can spread the word quickly! We can do something now! My thought is that this is what should be taught in science classes!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

TOXINS OKAY WITH EPA?

EPA agrees with BP on the massive use of toxic oil dispersants? Once again, the Government is in bed with “Big Corporations”. This is outrageous. I can’t believe that the very agency entrusted to protect us and the environment from pollution, is “OK” with BP dumping over a million gallons of untested chemicals into the gulf. This is EPA’s mission statement which is laughable, The mission of EPA is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment -- air, water and land -- upon which life depends. Corexit the oil dispersant chemical used by BP to break up oil along the Gulf, contains dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, a detergent chemical that is also found in laxatives. How is this not toxic to fish and other life within the waters? The testing that has been done, don’t show long-term effects. Corexit breaks down the oil into very small droplets so that it doesn’t clump up and wash to shore. This may save the shore line and larger mammals such as birds getting soaked in oil. However, fish and other animals that live in the water will eventually breath and swallow this chemical along with the small droplets of oil. How is this helping? BP has just created yet another problem, both financially and environmentally.

Check this video out:


Posted by Hyun Yu

Mississippi river water quality

Many Mississippi River water quality issues of today resemble the issues of the early 1970s, when the Clean Water Act was being drafted, but their relative importance has shifted in the past 35 years. Water pollution control measures (e.g., the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, discussed further in Chapter 3) have reduced point source pollutant inputs from industrial and municipal discharges. This has, in turn, reduced many serious water quality problems such as oxygen depletion caused by organic wastes, thermal pollution, oil slicks, phosphate detergent wastes, and sediments from larger construction sites. In addition, removal of lead from gasoline and the banning of some industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides such as chlordane, aldrin, dieldrin, and DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichlorethane) have greatly reduced the amount of toxic substances in the Mississippi River. Pretreatment programs in larger cities have reduced discharges of heavy metals and other toxic materials from municipal wastewater treatment plants (see Chapter 4, Box 4-1 for further discussion of water quality improvements under Clean Water Act-related projects).
Despite these advances, the Mississippi River today is affected by water quality problems and challenges that include nutrients, sediments, toxics, and fecal bacteria. Toxic substances—metals and organic chemicals—are primarily legacy contamination issues, although there are continuing inputs, especially of pesticides. These substances have chronic ecosystem and human health impacts and are difficult to address, because river bottom sediments are the primary reservoir and source of these materials in many reaches of the river. High counts of fecal bacteria, once a public health problem at raw sewage discharges all along the Mississippi River, were substantially reduced with the implementation of secondary sewage treatment in many areas. Today, some parts of the river—mainly near large municipalities—still experience fecal bacteria counts that exceed water quality standards.
Fecal bacteria and new inputs of toxic substances can be controlled through existing mechanisms in the Clean Water Act. By contrast, water quality problems related to nonpoint source inputs—especially (1) nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural runoff and other agriculture activities, and (2) sediments, from upland or farmland erosion and river bed and bank erosion—are not as readily addressed by existing mechanisms. Accordingly, this report focuses primarily on Mississippi River water quality problems as they relate to nutrients and sediments.

TABLE 2-1 Relative Proportions of the Mississippi River Watershed Within Its Larger Subbasins

Watershed Land Area (%) Discharge (%)
Upper 15 19
Missouri 42 13
Ohio 16 38
Arkansas 13 10
Lower Mississippi 7 13
Red 7 7
SOURCE: Reprinted, with permission, from Turner and Rabalais (2004). © 2004 by Springer Netherlands.

Carla Titus