Category: Chemicals


 

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Monsanto under investigation for ‘illegal dumping’

by SEAN POULTER

Last updated at 18:04 12 February 2007

 

Monsanto is under investigation amid allegations it sanctioned the dumping of toxic waste on sites across the country despite evidence that it would poison the landscape for generations.

The activities of the US chemical giant, best-known in the UK for its support of GM farming, are being examined by the government’s Environment Agency and public health bodies.

The focus of the investigation is a site in south Wales that has been called ‘one of the most contaminated’ in the country.

It appears that toxic chemicals were dumped in the Brofiscin quarry in the 1960s and 1970s despite the fact there was no licence for these materials and the site was not lined or sealed.

This meant a cocktail of highly poisonous chemicals has been able to escape into the environment and threatens to poison local streams and rivers.

The quarry, which is on the edge of the village of Groesfaen, near Cardiff, first erupted in 2003, spilling fumes over the surrounding area.

Since then surveys have found that 67 chemicals, including Agent Orange derivatives, dioxins and PCBs which could have been made only by Monsanto, are leaking from the site.

The Environment Agency says that if the dumping were to take place today there would be a criminal prosecution and civil action to raise the money needed to clean up the site.

However, it appears that much of the dumping was carried out during years when Britain’s regime for environmental protection was more lax.

Consequently, there are doubts as to how far any legal action can go or which companies should be liable for clean-up costs that are expected to run into tens of millions of pounds.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “Our overall aim is to understand the current risks to ground water and surface waters and to determine the most cost-effective way forward to protect the local environment and to recover costs from those liable.”

 

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Published on Mar 7, 2014

Fracking fluids dumped into the ocean
Environmentalists are trying to convince the EPA to ban the dumping of fracking fluids, in federal waters off the California coast. The Center for Biological Diversity claims that at least a dozen off shore rigs in Southern California are dumping wastewater right into the Pacific. RT’s Ramon Galindo has the story.
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RT’s Ramon Galindo talks about a recent legal petition by environmental groups in California calling for the Federal government to force an end to the practice of offshore fracking, and the dumping of hundreds of millions of gallons of fracking waste in the ocean every year.

Abby Martin calls out Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson for his blatant hypocrisy after filing a lawsuit against a fracking water tower being built near his property.

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Published time: February 27, 2014 01:20

A farmer tills a rice paddy field on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka (Reuters / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

A farmer tills a rice paddy field on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka (Reuters / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

A heretofore inexplicable fatal, chronic kidney disease that has affected poor farming regions around the globe may be linked to the use of biochemical giant Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide in areas with hard water, a new study has found.

The new study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Researchers suggest that Roundup, or glyphosate, becomes highly toxic to the kidney once mixed with “hard” water or metals like arsenic and cadmium that often exist naturally in the soil or are added via fertilizer. Hard water contains metals like calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron, among others. On its own, glyphosate is toxic, but not detrimental enough to eradicate kidney tissue.

The glyphosate molecule was patented as a herbicide by Monsanto in the early 1970s. The company soon brought glyphosate to market under the name “Roundup,” which is now the most commonly used herbicide in the world.

The hypothesis helps explain a global rash of the mysterious, fatal Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology (CKDu) that has been found in rice paddy regions of northern Sri Lanka, for example, or in El Salvador, where CKDu is the second leading cause of death among males.

Furthermore, the study’s findings explain many observations associated with the disease, including the linkage between the consumption of hard water and CKDu, as 96 percent of patients have been found to have consumed “hard or very hard water for at least five years, from wells that receive their supply from shallow regolith aquifers.”

 

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democracynow democracynow

Published on Feb 21, 2014

http://www.democracynow.org – We speak with a University of California scientist Tyrone Hayes, who discovered a widely used herbicide may have harmful effects on the endocrine system. But when he tried to publish the results, the chemical’s manufacturer launched a campaign to discredit his work. Hayes was first hired in 1997 by a company, which later became agribusiness giant Syngenta, to study their product, Atrazine, a pesticide that is applied to more than half the corn crops in the United States, and widely used on golf courses and Christmas tree farms. When Hayes found results Syngenta did not expect — that Atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs, and could cause the same problems for humans — it refused to allow him to publish his findings. A new article in The New Yorker magazine uses court documents from a class-action lawsuit against Syngenta to show how it sought to smear Hayes’ reputation and prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from banning the profitable chemical, which is already banned by the European Union.

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North Carolina riverbed coated by toxic coal ash, officials say

Fish and other aquatic life at risk in Dan river, about 70 miles from where massive Duke Energy spill occurred two weeks ago

  • theguardian.com, Tuesday 18 February 2014 15.37 EST
Duke ash spill
Officials said the coal ash is burying aquatic animals and their food. Photograph: Gerry Broome/AP

Federal officials said Tuesday that toxic coal ash has coated the bottom of a North Carolina river as many as 70 miles downstream of a Duke Energy dump where a massive spill occurred two weeks ago.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service advised that a massive pile of coal ash about 75ft long and as much as 5ft deep has been detected on the bottom of the Dan river near the site of the February 2 spill. Deposits varying from 5in deep to less than 1in coated the river bottom across the state line into Virginia and to Kerr Lake, a major reservoir.

Federal authorities expressed concern for what long-term effect the contaminants will have on fish, mussels and other aquatic life. Public health officials have advised people to avoid contact with the water and not eat the fish.

“The deposits vary with the river characteristics, but the short- and long-term physical and chemical impacts from the ash will need to be investigated more thoroughly, especially with regard to mussels and fish associated with the stream bottom and wildlife that feed on benthic invertebrates,” said Tom Augspurger, a contaminants specialist at the federal wildlife agency. Benthic invertebrates are small animals that live in the sediments of rivers and lakes, such as clams, worms and crustaceans.

 

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SFGate

Toxins leaking from 2nd pipe at NC coal ash dump

Updated 6:33 pm, Tuesday, February 18, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina officials said Tuesday that groundwater containing unsafe levels of arsenic apparently leaching from a Duke Energy coal ash dump is still pouring into the Dan River, which is already contaminated from a massive Feb. 2 spill.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered Duke to stop the flow of contaminated water coming out a pipe that runs under a huge coal ash dump at its Eden power plant. A nearby pipe at the same dump collapsed without warning two weeks ago, coating the bottom of the Dan River with toxic ash as far as 70 miles downstream.

State regulators expressed concern five days ago that the second pipe could fail, triggering a new spill. The water coming out of that pipe contains poisonous arsenic at 14 times the level considered safe for human contact, according to test results released by the state on Tuesday.

“We are ordering Duke Energy to eliminate this unauthorized discharge immediately,” said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources.

Video taken last week by a robot sent inside the 36-inch-wide concrete pipe showed wide gaps between seams through which groundwater is gushing in, likely from the toxic dump above.

Tests on water from the pipe before it goes under the dump showed none of the dangerous contamination detected at the other end. The concrete inside the pipe is heavily stained around the numerous leaks, suggesting the contamination is likely not new.

A state inspector received the video recorded by Duke during a Feb. 11 visit to the site, but did not review it until Thursday. On Friday night, the state agency went public with concerns about the pipe’s structural integrity.

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan quickly issued a statement, downplaying the risk.

“After reviewing the videotape, we determined that no immediate action was necessary,” it said.

In the wake of the initial spill, public health officials issued advisories telling people to avoid contact with the river water and not eat the fish.

Authorities said public drinking water in Danville, Va., and other communities downstream of the Duke plant remain safe. Heavy metals detected in the river at levels exceeding state and federal safety standards — including arsenic, lead and selenium — are being successfully filtered out of water drawn from the river at municipal treatment plants, they said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday a massive pile of coal ash about 75 feet long and as much as 5 feet deep has been detected in the river by the site of the Feb. 2 spill. Deposits varying from 5 inches deep to less than 1 inch coated the river bottom across the state line into Virginia and to Kerr Lake, a major reservoir.

Federal authorities expressed concern for what long-term effect the contaminants will have on fish, mussels and other aquatic life.

“The deposits vary with the river characteristics, but the short- and long-term physical and chemical impacts from the ash will need to be investigated more thoroughly, especially with regard to mussels and fish associated with the stream bottom and wildlife that feed on benthic invertebrates,” said Tom Augspurger, a contaminants specialist at the federal wildlife agency.

 

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VOA

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Workers inspect an area outside a retaining wall around storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, West Virginia, Jan. 13, 2014.

Workers inspect an area outside a retaining wall around storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, West Virginia, Jan. 13, 2014.

Jessica Berman

Experts are calling for a targeted strategy to restrict the use of toxic industrial chemicals, which they say are causing a “silent pandemic” of brain disorders in children worldwide.  Scientists are urging action as more so-called neurotoxins have been identified but remain largely unregulated.

A rise in the number of pediatric brain disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and autism, may be the result of increased use of unregulated toxic chemicals around the world.

In the past seven years, researchers have identified six new chemicals that have been shown to be capable of damaging the brains of developing human fetuses and young children. The discovery brings to twelve the number of confirmed neurotoxins.  Experts estimate one in six children worldwide suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Pediatrician Philip Landrigan, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said exposure to neurotoxic chemicals was a serious problem that has reached pandemic proportions.

“Injury to the human brain in early life leads to problems like loss of IQ, shortening of attention span, behavioral problems.  And these effects by and large tend to be permanent,” he said.

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Number of chemicals linked to problems such as autism DOUBLES in just seven years

  • Researchers warn that chemical safety checks must be tightened
  • Many substances are found in everyday items like food, toys and clothes
  • And the study warns that these findings are just the tip of the iceberg

By Damien Gayle

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The number of industrial chemicals known to trigger brain development problems like autism has doubled in just seven years, experts warned today.

A new study suggests toxic chemicals may be triggering increases in neurological disabilities among children, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia.

The researchers warn that chemical safety checks need to be tightened up around the world to protect our vulnerable youngsters from a ‘silent epidemic’ of brain disorders.

A tractor sprays barley crops: Pesticides are among the toxic chemicals which may be triggering neurological disabilities among children, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia

A tractor sprays barley crops: Pesticides are among the toxic chemicals which may be triggering neurological disabilities among children, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia

Their work also found that the list of chemicals known to damage the human brain but not regulated to safeguard children had also risen from 202 to 214.

These substances are found in everyday items including food, clothing, furniture and toys.

‘The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis,’ said Dr Philippe Grandjean, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

‘They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance.

‘Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.’

He and his co-authors are calling for universal legal requirements forcing manufacturers to prove that all existing and new industrial chemicals are non-toxic before they reach the market place.

In the EU, the Reach (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regulations already impose such rules.

But without them being applied globally, the world faces a ‘pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity’, warned Dr Grandjean.

‘Current chemical regulations are woefully inadequate to safeguard children whose developing brains are uniquely vulnerable to toxic chemicals in the environment,’ Dr Grandjean pointed out.

Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and cerebral palsy affect one in six children worldwide.

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EcoWatch

New Evidence Submitted in State Department Hiring of Oil Industry Consultant to Write Keystone XL Environmental Review

Sierra Club | February 12, 2014 10:34 am

 

Today Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth submitted evidence to the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General to support the ongoing inquiry into conflicts of interest and mismanagement in the environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The groups request that the Inspector General takes steps to ensure that the tainted Final Environmental Impact Statement, released on Jan. 31, is excluded from the agency’s National Interest Determination.

 

Untitled

Image courtesy of Friends of the Earth/ 350.org infographic

 

“The State Department hired an oil industry consultant to write the environmental review of Keystone XL without taking steps to guard against industry bias,” said Doug Hayes, Sierra Club staff attorney. “So it’s no surprise that the report attempts to minimize the pipeline’s massive carbon pollution and threats to human health and water quality. This flawed report should have no place in the decision making on this pipeline.”

 

In Aug. 2013, the State Department confirmed that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) had opened an inquiry into the agency’s hiring of the consultant Environmental Resources Management (ERM) to prepare the environmental review of the project. Evidence shows that ERM made false and misleading statements on its application for the contract.

 

“By hiring ERM, the State Department ignored its own guidelines and invited the fox into the hen house,” said Ross Hammond, Friends of the Earth senior campaigner. “ERM has an obvious self interest in making sure Keystone XL is built.”

 

“The process that allowed them to get this contract has been corrupt from day one and the American people deserve better from their government,” Hammond continued. “It’s up to the Secretary Kerry and the Inspector General to restore some integrity and accountability into the review process, not preside over a whitewash.”

 

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NEAT leaders: TransCanada dupes landowners about eminent domain

New concerns over the Keystone XL oil pipeline are prompting leaders of the Nebraska Easement Action Team, or NEAT, to send a letter to President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and the Unicameral.

The letter expresses worry over TransCanada’s behavior and tactics in pursuing the proposed pipeline.

NEAT president Tom Genung, of Hastings, claims landowners are being misinformed about land seizures.

“Some of the land agents for TransCanada led landowners to believe that if they didn’t sign the initial proposal or the initial easement contracts that eminent domain would be implemented and that basically there would be no compensation,” Genung says, “which is not true at all.”

 

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JournalStar.com

Landowner group warns of perceived plans to bypass federal permit for Keystone XL

February 12, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

A Nebraska landowner advocacy group is warning state legislators and landowners to be aware that TransCanada, the company responsible for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, is offering easement agreements that mention bypassing the need for a presidential permit.

The Nebraska Easement Action Team Wednesday issued a strongly worded resolution condemning what it characterized as a history of deceptive practices by TransCanada and sought to bring attention to a sentence in a letter TransCanada sent this month to a Nebraska landowner.

The letter said if an easement was signed, paperwork wouldn’t be filed with the county recorder until TranCanada gets a presidential permit for the 1,179-mile pipeline or “modifies the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project in such a way that a presidential permit is no longer required.”

David Domina, an Omaha-based attorney who works with NEAT, said that single sentence changes the narrative TransCanada has put forth for years about building an international pipeline that requires a federal permit from Canada to refineries in Texas and Oklahoma.

“This (NEAT resolution) is intended as an alert to landowners and, frankly, to the members of the Legislature. There is something up. And we don’t know what it is,” Domina said. “This is not about the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project, this is about something new that isn’t being disclosed and we don’t know what it is.”

TransCanada Spokesman Shawn Howard said the company has no plans to avoid the need for a presidential permit.

 

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EcoWatch

Senior Officials Accused of Skewing Science to Benefit Keystone XL Pipeline

PEER | February 6, 2014 11:44 am

Managers within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) overrode their scientific experts to adopt an inaccurate map based upon a flawed model that significantly shrank the range of an endangered species, according to agency investigative reports released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The managers not only retaliated against scientists who voiced objections but rushed into publication of a bogus scientific journal article to cover their tracks.

abb2004

The American burying beetle is an endangered species threatened by the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The American burying beetle (ABB), a critically endangered species, has seen its range dwindle from 35 states to the plains of South Dakota, Arkansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma —areas in the proposed path for the $5.3 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Based on complaints from FWS scientists, specially convened Scientific Integrity Review Panels found two “high-level” officials guilty of scientific misconduct. The panels found that Dixie Porter, supervisor of the FWS Oklahoma Ecological services field office in Tulsa, OK, and Luke Bell, FWS Branch Chief for Threatened and Endangered Species and Contaminants:

  • Adopted flawed models that dramatically shrunk the known range of the ABB
  • Compounded their misconduct by improperly rushing an article into publication that both “knowingly impeded” the original panel investigation and also would “further degrade the endangered status of the ABB.…” Despite this finding, FWS has yet retract the paper.
  • Retaliated against line scientists who objected, including imposition of “several staff suspensions.”

This is the first time an Interior agency has upheld a scientific misconduct complaint under its relatively new Scientific Integrity policies. Yet FWS refused to release the reports to PEER under the Freedom of Information Act. PEER obtained them by filing an appeal with Interior’s Office of Solicitor, the administrative step before a lawsuit, and the solicitor ordered release of redacted versions of the reports.

 

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A photo of a whooping crane.

The Canada-to-Texas flight route of the critically endangered whooping crane passes along Keystone XL’s route for hundreds of miles. Conservationists worry about the impact of pipeline power lines.

PHOTOGRAPH BY PAT SULLIVAN, AP

Mel White

for National Geographic

Published February 14, 2014

Climate change has been the focus of much of the opposition to TransCanada‘s Keystone XL pipeline. But many conservationists are also concerned about more immediate environmental consequences.

They’re worried about the pipeline construction’s impact on wildlife and ecosystems, and of possible spills of the heavy crude oil that will flow through the pipeline at the rate of 830,000 barrels a day. (See related: “Interactive: Mapping the Flow of Tar Sands Oil.“)

Some people, seeing a map of the pipeline’s proposed 875-mile route through the Great Plains, may picture the region in the terms of 19th-century explorers who called it the “great American desert”: a barren land lacking in natural-history interest. In fact, though the vast herds of grazing animals that Lewis and Clark saw are greatly diminished, rich ecosystems endure. And while the pipeline route crosses some agricultural land, much of it would traverse natural habitats in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska where harmful effects on native animals and plants could—some say would, inevitably—occur. (See related, “Oil Flows on Keystone XL’s Southern Leg, But Link to Canada Awaits Obama Administration.“)

A photo of the Yellowstone River in Montana

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANNIE GRIFFITHS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Rich ecosystems surround the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers (the latter is pictured here). Keystone XL would cross both rivers in Montana.

Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers

The Keystone XL route crosses the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, two of more than 50 crossings of perennial streams. Both rivers are home to the federally endangered pallid sturgeon, a bizarre-looking fish up to six feet long adapted to life in large rivers with silty bottoms. A serious oil spill has the potential to damage or even destroy habitat for this species. Such a spill could also harm habitat for least terns and piping plovers, two birds that nest along rivers and that have suffered serious declines in recent decades.

And pipelines do fail, conservationists note. The failure in 2010 of an Enbridge pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil triggered the costliest onshore oil spill in U.S. history, contaminating 40 miles of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River and surrounding wetlands. Last year, another pipeline carrying Canadian oil, Exxon-Mobil’s Pegasus line, ruptured in a the small Arkansas town of Mayflower, affecting wetlands connected to the largest man-made game and fish commission reservoir in the United States. (See related, “Oil Spill Spotlights Keystone XL Issue: Is Canadian Crude Worse?”) Officials are still reckoning the lingering environmental damage after massive and expensive cleanup efforts.

In its recent Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, the State Department admits that oil spills will occur and are a danger, but asserts that current technology and rigorous inspections make the odds of a serious spill remote. (See related, “3 Factors Shape Obama’s Decision on Keystone XL Pipeline.”)

Davis Sheremata, a spokesperson for TransCanada, said Keystone will incorporate construction and maintenance techniques more advanced than those of earlier pipelines. Safety measures “are the culmination of six years of consultation between TransCanada, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and many other federal and state environmental agencies,” he said. “The required environmental protection and pipeline safety measures set a new, and very high, standard unequaled by any other pipeline project.”

Whooping Crane

One of the greatest conservation concerns about the immediate effect of the pipeline centers on the critically endangered whooping crane. Most of these tall white birds nest in Canada and migrate through the central United States to and from their wintering grounds on the Texas Gulf Coast. The cranes’ flight route passes directly along the pipeline route for hundreds of miles.

It’s not the pipeline itself that’s of greatest potential danger to the cranes, though. Pumps needed to keep the thick Canadian oil flowing through the pipeline require power lines to supply them with electricity, and conservationists wonder what will happen when more than 300 miles of new power lines appear in formerly wide-open spaces in the birds’ flight path.

“The whooping crane is a species that we’ve really homed in on,” said  Jim Murphy, senior counsel for the National Wildlife Federation. “Power lines account for about 40 percent of juvenile whooping crane mortality, which is a big deal when you’re talking about a bird that has a population of about four hundred in the wild. Those concerns have never really been taken seriously.”

TransCanada’s Sheremata said his company and pipeline contractors “have committed to incorporate a number of conservation measures to prevent potential direct or indirect impacting to the whooping crane.” Measures include installing and maintaining avian markers (conspicuous objects designed to make lines more visible to flying birds) at pump stations “to reduce impacts to whooping cranes from power lines.”

Male Greater Sage Grouse

PHOTOGRAPH BY TOM WALKER, VISUALS UNLIMITED/CORBIS
A male greater sage-grouse does a mating display. The proposed route passes within a few miles of dozens of grouse “leks,” sites where males dance to attract mates.

Greater Sage-Grouse

Although the greater sage-grouse isn’t officially an endangered species, many bird experts believe it should be. They claim it has been kept off the list for fear of political backlash in conservative western states, where farming and ranching might face restrictions.

There’s no question that the grouse has suffered from loss of habitat: 20 of 27 known population groups have declined since 1995. The pipeline route passes within a few miles of dozens of grouse leks (sites where males “dance” to attract mates); ornithologists fear that noise from construction, roads, and pumping stations could affect breeding success of these notoriously shy and easily disturbed birds.

In addition, power-line towers serve as hunting perches for eagles and hawks, which prey on grouse. In treeless areas where grouse live, towers will bring new threats and greater potential mortality by providing raptor lookouts where formerly there were none.

A photo of a Swift Fox.

PHOTORGAPH BY JIM BRANDENBURG, MINDEN PICTURES/CORBIS
A swift fox stands alert in the South Dakota prairie.

Swift Fox

The swift fox, a small canine of grassland regions, is another controversial species that the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity believes belongs on the endangered-species list. The CBD finds it “dumbfounding” that Keystone XL environmental-impact statements fail to address the pipeline’s effects on the fox.

“It’s like they took a map and drew a pipeline along the remaining locations of known bands of the swift fox,” said Amy Atwood, senior attorney for the CBD. “That’s where the fox lives, because those are the areas that are not being used for agriculture and are on public land. That’s where pipeline companies like to site things these days to minimize landowner conflict or having to deal with eminent domain. And that’s where the wildlife is. They’ve been pushed out of other areas.”

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Ogallala Aquifer

 

From Wikipedia:

 

The Ogallala Aquifer is a shallow water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States. One of the world’s largest aquifers, it underlies an area of approximately 174,000 mi² (450,000 km²) in portions of eight states: (South DakotaNebraskaWyoming,ColoradoKansasOklahomaNew Mexico, and Texas). It was named in 1898 by N.H. Darton from its type locality near the town ofOgallala, Nebraska. The aquifer is part of the High Plains Aquifer System, and rests on the Ogallala Formation, which is the principal geologic unit underlying 80% of the High Plains.

 

About 27 percent of the irrigated land in the United States overlies the aquifer, which yields about 30 percent of the ground water used for irrigation in the United States. Since 1950, agricultural irrigation has reduced the saturated volume of the aquifer by an estimated 9%. Depletion is accelerating, with 2% lost between 2001 and 2009[ alone. Certain aquifer zones are now empty; these areas will take over 100,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall.

 

The aquifer system supplies drinking water to 82 percent of the 2.3 million people (1990 census) who live within the boundaries of the High Plains study area.

 

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Starving hives: Pesticides cause bees to collect 57% less pollen, study says

Published time: February 02, 2014 21:15
Edited time: February 04, 2014 09:23

Reuters / Leonhard Foeger

Reuters / Leonhard Foeger

While some scientists hailed the findings, pesticide makers remained unimpressed

In a spin-off of their earlier study, a team of British scientists have revealed how the neurotoxic chemicals contained in agricultural neonicotinoids affect the very basic function of the honeybees – the gathering of pollen, or flower nectar.

“Pollen is the only source of protein that bees have, and it is vital for rearing their young. Collecting it is fiddly, slow work for the bees and intoxicated bees become much worse at it. Without much pollen, nests will inevitably struggle,” explained University of Sussex professor Dave Goulson, who has led the study. His comments were made in a statement released alongside the research.

Goulson’s latest paper called “Field realistic doses of pesticide imidacloprid reduce bumblebee pollen foraging efficiency” was published at the end of January in peer-reviewed journal Ecotoxicology.

The scientists exposed some of the studied bees to low doses of imidacloprid and tracked their movement with the help of electronic tags. Unexposed bees were also tracked, and each insect flying out and returning to a hive was weighed to find out the amount of pollen it gathered.

It turned out that bees exposed to the neonicotinoid brought back pollen from only 40 percent of their trips asopposed to 63 percent of useful trips which their “healthy” counterparts undertook.
Intoxicated bees cut the amount of pollen gathered by nearly a third – overall, the comparative study showed that the hives exposed to the pesticide received 57 percent less pollen.

“Even near-infinitesimal doses of these neurotoxins seem to be enough to mess up the ability of bees to gather food. Given the vital importance of bumblebees as pollinators, this is surely a cause for concern,” Hannah Feltham of the University of Stirling, another member of the research team, stated.

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- Jon Queally, staff writer

Almost half (47%) of all U.S. wells are being developed in regions with high to extremely high water stress. This means that more than 80 percent of the annual available water is already allocated to municipal, industrial and agricultural users in these regions. (Source: Ceres)The irony of fracking: It destroys the natural resource it needs most. The tragedy for those living nearby fracking operations: That natural resource is the fresh—and increasingly scarce—water supply on which they, too, depend.

And not only does fracking—or hydraulic fracturing—demand enormous amounts of fresh water no matter where it takes places, a troubling new study released Wednesday found that a majority of places where the controversial drilling technique is most prevalent are the same regions where less and less water is available.

Overlay the regions where most of the fracking is being done in North American with the places experiencing the most troubling and persistent water resource problems and the resulting picture becomes an alarm bell as politicians and the fossil fuel industry continue to push fracking expansion as the savior for the U.S. and Canada’s energy woes.

According to the report, Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers (pdf), produced by the non-profit Ceres investor network, much of the oil and gas fracking activity in both the U.S. and Canada is happening in “arid, water stressed regions, creating significant long-term water sourcing risks” that will strongly and negatively impact the local ecosystem, communities, and people living nearby.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Ceres President Mindy Lubber, in announcing Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers. “Barring stiffer water-use regulations and improved on-the-ground practices, the industry’s water needs in many regions are on a collision course with other water users, especially agriculture and municipal water use.”

Richard Heinberg, senior fellow of the California-based Post Carbon Institute and author of a recent book on the “false promise” of the fracking industry, says the irony of the study’s findings “would be delicious if it weren’t so terrifying.”

“Nationally,” according to Heinberg, “only about 50 percent of fracking wastewater is recycled. Billions of gallons of freshwater are still taken from rivers, streams, and wells annually for this purpose, and—after being irremediably polluted—this water usually ends up being injected into deep disposal wells. That means it is no longer available to the hydrological cycle that sustains all terrestrial life.”

Click here to look at Ceres’ interactive map on fracking and water use.

The study drew on industry data detailing water usage from from 39,294 oil and gas wells from January 2011 through May 2013 and compared that information with “water stress indicator maps” developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

What it found:

Over 55 percent of the wells hydraulically fractured were in areas experiencing drought and 36 percent overlay regions with significant groundwater depletion – key among those, California which is in the midst of a historic drought and Texas, which has the highest concentration of shale energy development and hydraulic fracturing activity in the U.S.

Specifically:

In Texas, which includes the rapidly developing Eagle Ford and Permian Basin shale plays, more than half (52 percent) of the wells were in high or extreme high water stress areas. In Colorado and California, 97 and 96 percent of the wells, respectively, were in regions with high or extremely high water stress. Nearly comparable trends were also shown in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Among hundreds of hydraulic fracturing companies whose water use was evaluated, those with the highest exposure to water sourcing risk are Anadarako (APC), Encana (ECA), Pioneer (PXD) and Apache (APA). Most of the wells being developed by each of these companies are in regions of high or extreme water stress. The top three service providers, Halliburton, (HAL) Schlumberger (SLB) and Baker Hughes (BHI), handled about half of the water used for hydraulic fracturing nationally and also face water sourcing risks.

Although water use for hydraulic fracturing is often less than two percent of state water demands, the impacts can be large at the local level, sometimes exceeding the water used by all of the residents in a county.

“It’s a wake-up call,” Professor James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine, told the Guardian. “We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimise any damage.”

The irony of the latest findings, explained Heinberg in an email to Common Dreams, is based on the fact that “much of the fracking boom is centered in the western United States—Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California—which just happens to be drying up, likely as a result of climate change. And that climate change, in turn, is happening because we’re burning fossil fuels like oil and natural gas.”

Heinberg observed that the Ceres report is largely written from the standpoint of the oil and gas companies—using much of their data—and directed at those who may be invested or would like to invest in the continuation or proliferation of the industry. However, he indicated, detailing the increasing difficulties the industry and its investors are likely to experience in sourcing water for their operations is still valuable for those opposed to fracking.

“In California, where I live,” he said, “we’re experiencing a 500-year drought. The grape-wine industry here in Sonoma County is facing disaster. Farmers in the Central Valley are weighing whether to plant at all this year. The fact that California’s Democratic governor [Jerry Brown] wants to spend what little water we have on fracking—which will only make our climate problems worse—makes the report frighteningly relevant.”

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- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin speaking at a press conference following the Jan. 9 Elk River spill. (Photo via The Lincoln Journal)Seeking the opinions of ‘stakeholders’ for new proposed legislation meant to prevent future toxic chemical leaks like the January 9 Elk River spill, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin invited a host of industry leaders and trade associations to weigh in.

However, notably absent from the talks were any environmentalists or public health officials, according to an investigative report by the Charleston Gazette published Tuesday.

West Virginia journalist Ken Ward Jr. reports:

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce was invited. So were the Oil and Gas Association and the Coal Association. Trade associations representing grocers, manufacturers, trucking firms and energy companies were included, according to the Governor’s Office.

But the chief lobbyist for the West Virginia Environmental Council — the environmental community’s umbrella lobby group at the Capitol — said that his organization wasn’t included in the governor’s meeting.

“Neither I nor anyone else I know of in the environmental community knew about that meeting,” Garvin said Monday. “You telling me about it is the first I’ve heard about that meeting.”

“If you want a bill that protects clean water, you should probably listen to people who advocate for clean water, not the polluters,” said West Virginia Sierra Club leader Jim Kotcon at a public hearing Monday night.

At the same meeting, West Virginia Coal Association Vice President Chris Hamilton said that he and other industry leaders “stand ready to offer our resources and expertise” in crafting the legislation.

The Gazette learned of the Jan. 20 closed-door meeting through documents released in a Freedom of Information Act Request about the proposed legislation.

The bill reportedly creates a new regulatory program for aboveground chemical storage tanks—such as the Freedom Industries tanks from which 10,000 gallons of coal cleaning chemicals spilled into the regional water supply.

Also included in the documents were “email messages in which several prominent industry lawyers and lobbyists offered suggestions for the governor’s legislation,” Ward reports.

Both the governor’s bill, introduced on Jan. 22, and one passed a week later by the state Senate included versions of those recommendations.

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February 4, 2014

Tomblin meeting on chemical tank bill excluded environmentalists

By Ken Ward Jr.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two weeks ago, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin held a news conference to announce his legislative response to the Elk River chemical leak. The governor unveiled proposed legislation aimed at creating a new regulatory program for aboveground chemical storage tanks.

“This proposed legislation includes reasonable, commonsense provisions to regulate aboveground storage tanks across the state, including those located in areas of critical concern near our public water supply and distribution systems,” the governor said at the Jan. 20 news conference.

A day earlier, a select group of business lawyers and industry lobbyists met with the governor’s staff and officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection to go over the governor’s bill.

“See everyone there and please be prepared to discuss the bill section by section,” Jason Pizatella wrote in an email message announcing the meeting.

Pizatella called the event a meeting “with the stakeholders.”

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce was invited. So were the Oil and Gas Association and the Coal Association. Trade associations representing grocers, manufacturers, trucking firms and energy companies were included, according to the Governor’s Office.

But the chief lobbyist for the West Virginia Environmental Council — the environmental community’s umbrella lobby group at the Capitol — said that his organization wasn’t included in the governor’s meeting.

“Neither I nor anyone else I know of in the environmental community knew about that meeting,” Garvin said Monday. “You telling me about it is the first I’ve heard about that meeting.”

Asked what discussions the environmental council had about the governor’s bill prior to its unveiling at that news conference, Garvin said, “There were none.”

Garvin said that environmental group lobbyists weren’t asked by the Governor’s Office for their input as the bill was developed, and had only brief, informal discussions with DEP officials prior to the legislation being introduced.

“I’ve had some just offhand discussions with DEP,” Garvin said. “Other than that, we really weren’t given an opportunity to just sit down and tell the DEP or the governor what we thought.”

Pizatella’s announcement of the “stakeholders” meeting, held at the state Lottery Commission building on Pennsylvania Avenue on a Sunday afternoon, was among the records released by the Governor’s Office in response to a Freedom of Information Act request about the chemical tank legislation.

Also included were email messages in which several prominent industry lawyers and lobbyists offered suggestions for the governor’s legislation — before the bill was finalized Jan. 20 or introduced Jan. 22.

Read More Here

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