More studies, same result — Fracking ain’t likely to harm groundwater


But, the rest of it?

One of the stock charges used by those who campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas drilling is that it endangers groundwater supplies. And yet the pile of studies largely refuting this fear-mongering keeps growing by the year.

In the past month alone, two major studies — one by Yale University and the other by Colorado State University — reached similar conclusions about two different centers of drilling, the first in northeastern Pennsylvania and the second in northeastern Colorado, mainly in Weld County.

The Yale-led study — the largest of its kind, according to a university press release — found “no evidence that trace contamination of organic compounds in drinking water wells near the Marcellus Shale” resulted from underground migration of the chemicals.

When the researchers did find “low levels of organic compounds” near a natural gas well, it was caused by “surface releases” — in other words, spills and accidents above ground that can be readily addressed and treated.

And the study found no dangerous level of any compound, based on federal or state exposure standards.

The CSU study also found “no evidence of water-based contaminants seeping into drinking water,” the university said. And while researchers detected non-toxic methane seepage in 2 percent of the wells, they concluded that it likely stemmed from “compromised well casings.”

“With regard to the really bad stuff — the bariums, chromiums and other soluble contaminants that people have been worried about getting into their water — [Professor Ken] Carlson’s team didn’t find any,” CSU added.

Carlson added that “well casing requirements and monitoring have tightened up significantly since the 2009 regulations,” so methane seepage is fated to become even rarer as the years pass.

I’d be the last to give drillers a pass for living up to safety and health standards in oil and gas fields. I’ve worked in the industry and nothing much more than a fast buck is in the mind of drilling companies. They need regulating and the regulations need enforcement. But, Luddite blather isn’t going to change real problems – while being caught in mythical fears puts folks who care in the same class as Tea Party bigots.

I’d rather see environment activists stick to real science and fight a principled, educated fight.

Today is World Toilet Day and one billion people have nowhere to go


REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Some 2.4 billion people around the world don’t have access to decent sanitation and more than a billion are forced to defecate in the open, risking disease and other dangers, according to the United Nations.

Launching its World Toilet Day campaign for Nov 19, the UN said poor sanitation increases the risk of illness and malnutrition, especially for children, and called for women and girls in particular to be offered safe, clean facilities.

“One out of three women around the world lack access to safe toilets,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. “As a result they face disease, shame and potential violence when they seek a place to defecate.”

Even where there are toilets around the world, some hardly warrant the name, as illustrated by Reuters in a photo essay from around the world…

The UN says that while there is sufficient fresh water on the planet for everyone, “bad economics and poor infrastructure” mean that every year millions of people – most of them children – die from diseases linked to poor sanitation, unhygienic living conditions and lack of clean water supplies.

One of those times when it’s hard to speak of moral imperatives – living in a nation that thinks “moral imperatives” are code words for ancient bigotry and superstition run rampant.

Still, we are keepers of our sisters and brothers on this small ball of mud, 3rd from the sun. The good fortune – and accident of birth – we enjoy includes the responsibility to provide aid and comfort to all who share this ride through an infinite universe.

UPDATE: Here’s a Reuters photo essay to accompany this article. Worth seeing.

Been watching “Manhattan” on TV? Deadly crud still hasn’t been cleaned up!

The federal Department of Energy has estimated that it will cost $1.2 billion to clean up all the radioactive and hazardous waste at Los Alamos, but New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn says he believes that amount is “far too low.”

Flynn, speaking at a meeting of a Los Alamos National Laboratory citizens advisory board here Thursday, called the DOE’s cost projection “a bare minimum.”

Flynn said the parties involved need “to have an honest conversation about the extent of the problem.” LANL is expected to receive $181 million in federal funds for environmental remediation in the next federal budget year…

And Flynn said any assumption that the state Environment Department will accept the cheapest so-called cap-and-cover contamination remedies from DOE “is misplaced.”

Flynn’s comments came as part of the first public discussion of plans to revise the 2005 legal agreement between the state and DOE over cleanup of LANL’s legacy waste dating back to the 1940s Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb.

Under the 10-year-old consent order that ended a legal fight between New Mexico and the feds, cleanup of the lab’s 40-square-mile site was supposed to be completed by this year. But that didn’t come close to happening and the two sides are preparing to negotiate revisions.

RTFA for lots and lots of details.

Most of this crappola goes back 75 years. No one on Earth expects the US Government or the Pentagon to be in a hurry to live up to their responsibilities at contaminating the planet; but, you’d think they’d do something about the little county in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico – that they own lock, stock and barrels of radioactive goo.

Everyone in Los Alamos knows about most of the stuff buried under the town itself. Which fast-food restaurants where you only use the drive-up window. But, I continue to be surprised by the highest-paid help in the entire United States sticking around for those paychecks when they learn what they’re sleeping and living over.

Coppers confuse soap and cocaine — here comes the lawsuit!

A New York man who spent 29 days in jail after Pennsylvania state police mistook homemade soap for cocaine has filed a lawsuit.

Alexander Bernstein says he had to pay thousands of dollars in court costs and missed Thanksgiving with his toddler before the charges were dropped. He’s seeking damages exceeding $150,000. State troopers and the field test manufacturer are named in the suit filed last week.

Bernstein was a passenger in a Mercedes-Benz police pulled over for speeding near Allentown in November 2013.

Troopers smelled marijuana, searched the car and found packages the driver said was homemade soap, but tested as cocaine. Lab tests later showed it was soap.

The driver was charged with marijuana possession and speeding.

The tale gives me a special chuckle because I went through exactly the same rigmarole BITD. Didn’t spend days in the slammer, just hours in a holding cell at an airport in Scotland. No right to sue because immigration coppers are above the law. Even the requirement to identify themselves by name.

But, they turned me loose when the tight-ass chief copper who’d never heard of a cold-water detergent like Woolite decided to test the powdered white substance he found in a plastic bag in my backpack – himself. His mates told me he sneezed soap bubbles for five minutes.