Category: Earth

What Halliburton fracking chemicals polluted an Ohio waterway?

On the morning of June 28, a fire broke out at a Halliburton fracking site in Monroe County, Ohio. As flames engulfed the area, trucks began exploding and thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals spilled into a tributary of the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water for millions of residents. More than 70,000 fish died. Nevertheless, it took five days for the Environmental Protection Agency and its Ohio counterpart to get a full list of the chemicals polluting the waterway. “We knew there was something toxic in the water,” says an environmental official who was on the scene. “But we had no way of assessing whether it was a threat to human health or how best to protect the public.”

This episode highlights a glaring gap in fracking safety standards. In Ohio, as in most other states, fracking companies are allowed to withhold some information about the chemical stew they pump into the ground to break up rocks and release trapped natural gas.

The oil and gas industry and its allies at the American Legislative exchange Council (ALEC), a pro-business outfit that has played a major role in shaping fracking regulation, argue that the formulas are trade secrets that merit protection. But environmental groups say the lack of transparency makes it difficult to track fracking-related drinking water contamination and can hobble the government response to emergencies, such as the Halliburton spill in Ohio.

This was true when I worked along the Gulf of Mexico decades ago. Ain’t nothing changed especially.

Trade secrets claims are a ruse to keep folks concerned with a living in a safe environment from finding out what crap the drilling companies are pumping into Mother Earth. Industry competitors will find out what they’re using for drilling and fracking if it appears to provide an advantage. Believe me.

No – the scumbags all the way up to the top of Halliburton and the American Petroleum Institute consider nothing to be as critical as optimizing the profits they suck from the ground. Whatever crap they leave behind, which poisons remain behind or pose a danger above-ground like the Monroe County fire – is only a concern if it makes a difference in dollar$ in their quarterly report to Wall Street and shareholders.

Worried about hobbling government response to emergencies? Go high enough up the state and federal food chain and the only handicap you’ll run into is making the mistake of thinking that hand is out to greet you. That palm is there to be greased with green.

Pic of the Day

solar filament eruprs
Click to enlargeImage Credit: NASA’s GSFC, SDO AIA Team

What’s happened to our Sun? Nothing very unusual — it just threw a filament. [Kind of like a plasma furball]

Toward the middle of 2012, a long standing solar filament suddenly erupted into space producing an energetic Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). The filament had been held up for days by the Sun’s ever changing magnetic field and the timing of the eruption was unexpected. Watched closely by the Sun-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, the resulting explosion shot electrons and ions into the Solar System, some of which arrived at Earth three days later and impacted Earth’s magnetosphere, causing visible aurorae.

Loops of plasma surrounding an active region can be seen above the erupting filament in the ultraviolet image…

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Single tree grows 40 kinds of fruit

In an ongoing series on hybridizing fruit trees, Syracuse University sculptor Sam Van Aken’s Tree of 40 Fruit is true to its name. Most of the year, it looks pretty ordinary, but in the spring, the tree blossoms display various tones of pink, crimson, and white. Then, from July through October, it bears 40 different types of stone fruit, including almonds, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums.

The feat is accomplished by grafting together several different varieties, including native fruit, heirlooms, and antiques, some of which are centuries-old…

His main source is an orchard at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, which he leased when he heard the orchard was to be torn down. After developing a timeline of when each of the 250 varieties blossom in relation to each other, he would graft a few onto the root structure of a single tree. When his “working tree” was about two years old, he would add more varieties onto the tree as separate branches — a technique called “chip grafting,” Science Alert explains. A sliver that includes a bud is inserted into an incision in the working tree and then taped in place. After it heals over the winter, the branch becomes just another normal branch on the tree, to be pruned as usual.

So far, 16 of these Trees of 40 Fruit have been grown, each taking about five years. He picked stone fruits because they’ve got a lot of diversity and they’re inter-compatible.

A praiseworthy enterprise.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Mayfly hatch blankets towns along the Mississippi River

Residents along the Mississippi River would rather do without this rite of summer, the annual mayfly hatch that fills the air with insects and leaves surfaces of cars and just about everything else with a slimy mess.

A hatch starting at about 8:45 p.m. CT Sunday was so prolific that it created a bow echo on radar, similar to one that would be made in a significant rainstorm, according to the La Crosse, Wis., office of the National Weather Service. A weather service employee captured some images of the short-lived insects covering nearly everything in their path…

Typically, mayflies emerge in three or four hatches from June to August along the upper Mississippi, but water temperature plays a big role in when the larvae mature. The delay of warm weather in the spring may have contributed to Sunday’s massive, simultaneous hatch.

Up and down the river, the mayfly hatch has been a problem. About 80 miles upriver from here, police in Trenton, Wis., say mayflies may have triggered a three-vehicle crash Sunday…

The road about 50 miles southeast of Minneapolis had become slick from the mayflies Sunday evening, causing at least one of the drivers involved in the crash to lose control of her vehicle. Visibility was limited at the time of the crash because to the massive cloud of mayflies in the air, police said.

RTFA article and enjoy the video of LaCrosse radar recording a flying infestation as dense as a rainstorm. :)

Offshore wind farms provide feeding opportunities for seals – and more

New research has revealed offshore wind turbines may act as artificial reefs and seals have been deliberately seeking out the structures whilst hunting for prey.

Dr Deborah Russell carried out research with her team from the University of St Andrews where they gathered data from GPS devices attached to seals in the North Sea. The findings were published in the journal Current Biology.

The movements of Harbour and Grey seals were tracked and the researchers found a proportion of the seals continued to return to offshore wind structures. This suggested seals forage around wind farms and underwater pipelines along British and Dutch coasts.

Russell said, “I was shocked when I first saw the stunning grid pattern of a seal track around Sheringham Shoal – an offshore wind farm in Norfolk.

“You could see that the seal appeared to travel in straight lines between turbines, as if he was checking them out for potential prey and then stopping to forage at certain ones.”

She added, “The behaviour observed could have implications for both offshore wind farm developments and the decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure.”

A study published in the journal of Applied Ecology in May suggested that renewable energy projects could help certain marine species settle in new areas and thrive.

The first thing I learned about offshore structures when I started work down along the Gulf of Mexico was that the best fishing spots in the Gulf were underneath well producing platforms. Between structure and shade which offered temperature gradients, you always had better luck catching your limit next to an oil platform.

The shade was nice, too.

Thanks, Mike