Sinkhole sucks millions of gallons of fertilizer wastewater into Florida drinking water


Click to enlargeJim Damaske/AP

The hole in the middle of that now-empty pond is 45 feet in diameter

❝ More than 200 million gallons of contaminated wastewater from a fertilizer plant in central Florida leaked into one of the state’s main underground sources of drinking water after a huge sinkhole opened up beneath a storage pond…

Mosaic, the world’s largest supplier of phosphate, said the hole opened up beneath a pile of waste material called a “gypsum stack”. The 215 million gallon storage pond sat atop the waste mineral pile…

“Groundwater moves very slowly,” said David Jellerson, Mosaic’s senior director for environmental and phosphate projects. “There’s absolutely nobody at risk.”…

Does that mean he’s drinking water from a local source — every day?

❝ The sinkhole, discovered by a worker on 27 August, is believed to reach down to the Floridan aquifer, the company said in a news release…

The Floridan aquifer is a major source of drinking water in the state. One of the highest-producing aquifers in the world, it underlies all of Florida and extends into southern Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

According to the University of Florida, it’s the principal source of groundwater for much of the state, and the cities of Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Tampa, and St Petersburg all rely on it. The aquifer also supplies water to thousands of domestic, industrial and irrigation wells throughout the state…

❝ The incident comes less than a year after Mosaic, one of the world’s largest fertilizer makers, settled a vast federal environmental lawsuit with the US Environmental Protection Agency in which the company agreed to nearly $2 billion in fixes, improvements and cleanups at its plants…

The usual lies will continue from free market politicians and libertarians who hold that voluntary policing, self-regulation is all that corporate exploiters ever need. That lawsuit after lawsuit is required on an annual basis to acquire any level of environmental safety and sanity doesn’t seem to dent the myths that insulate conservative brains from reality.

Tiny rocket company targets 100 launches a year

Preparing for launch
Preparing for launch

Alone in the Mojave desert, the tiny rocket stood barely as tall as a basketball goal backboard. Launch control was a laptop inside a nearby bunker, and the small gathering of aerospace engineers and investors seemed almost like a rocket hobby club as it watched the vehicle soar to about 5,000 feet before parachuting back to Earth. But this scene may have represented something much more than that. With its small-scale test Saturday, the company Vector Space Systems took another step toward upending the rapidly expanding small satellite launch market.

…Within about five years Vector intends to launch as many as 100 of its 13-meter-tall Wolverine vehicles annually, with a capability to put a 50kg satellite into low-Earth orbit. The company aims to fill a niche below the current generation of launchers being developed by companies such as RocketLab and Virgin Galactic, with rockets capable of delivering 200 to 250kg satellites to low-Earth orbit.

So far, it seems like a good bet. On Tuesday morning, Vector announced that it has acquired its first customer, Finnish-based Iceye, to conduct 21 launches of the company’s commercial synthetic aperture radar satellite constellation. “Getting your satellite into orbit is one of the biggest challenges for new-space companies, but there just isn’t the launch capacity right now,” Iceye Chief Executive Rafal Modrzewski said in a news release.

The two companies are already working together. According to Jim Cantrell, chief executive of Vector Space Systems, Saturday’s test flight in Mojave, California, carried a prototype of an Iceye microsatellite core computing and communications systems to see if it would survive launch conditions (it did). Vector’s sub-scale launcher, named the P-20, also tested some prototype upper stage engines…

Vector remains on track for its first orbital launch in 2018, Cantrell said, and the company aims to increase the launch cadence to about 100 vehicles per year by 2020 or 2021. Perhaps the biggest issue is range constraints — making sure the company has clearance from launch site officials. While Vector may do some launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, it will primarily operate from Alaska, which has a much less crowded range. That works out well, Cantrell said, because many of the polar orbits desired by customers are easier to reach from northern latitude launch sites.

Good luck, gang. No need to rely on being the biggest to be profitable.

Any good reasons why Florida hasn’t allowed in the CDC’s emergency response team to fight Zika?


Reuters/Paulo Whitaker/file photo

The state of Florida, the first to report the arrival of Zika in the continental United States, has yet to invite a dedicated team of the federal government’s disease hunters to assist with the investigation on the ground, health officials told Reuters.

Coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since the state reported possible local Zika transmission on July 19 has been conducted largely at a distance, they said. That is surprising to some infectious disease experts, who say a less robust response could lead to a higher number of infections.

While Florida has a strong record of battling limited outbreaks of similar mosquito-borne viruses, including dengue and chikungunya, the risk of birth defects caused by Zika adds greater urgency to containing its spread with every available means, they say. Other states have quickly called in CDC teams to help track high-profile diseases.

You only have a small window. This is the window” to prevent a small-scale outbreak from spreading, said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine…who expressed impatience with the pace of the Florida investigation.

Florida on Friday said that four cases of Zika in the state were likely caused by mosquito, the first sign that the virus is circulating locally, though it has yet to identify mosquitoes carrying the disease.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said the state health department was working with the CDC as it continues its Zika investigation…Dr Marc Fischer, a CDC epidemiologist, has gone to Florida at the state’s request.

But the state has not invited in the CDC’s wider emergency response team of experts in epidemiology, risk communication, vector control and logistics…

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the agency has several teams ready for when states request help with Zika, including Florida…

“Florida does what Florida does,” said one public health expert familiar with the investigation. “If I were health commissioner, I would have asked for their (CDC’s) help immediately.”

Still Floriduh, ain’t it. Even more so with Rick Scott in charge.

When will police departments stop using cheapo drug tests that give false positives?


Mr. Rushing buys a doughnut every other weekOrlando Sentinel

Daniel Rushing probably won’t be eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts in his car any more.

The 64-year-old was arrested on drug charges when Orlando police officers spotted four tiny flakes of glaze on his floorboard and thought they were pieces of crystal methamphetamine…

Cpl. Shelby Riggs-Hopkins wrote in an arrest report that during a traffic stop on 11 December she noticed the flakes on the floorboard. Two roadside drug tests were positive for the illegal substance and Rushing was arrested. But a state crime laboratory test cleared him several weeks later.

“It was incredible,” Rushing said. “It feels scary when you haven’t done anything wrong and get arrested … It’s just a terrible feeling.”

It started on a Friday afternoon when Rushing dropped off a neighbor at a hospital for a weekly chemotherapy session. Then, he drove to a convenience store to pick up a friend who needed a ride home.

Riggs-Hopkins said she was staking out the area for drug activity. Rushing told her he had a concealed weapons permit, according to an arrest report. She asked him to step out of his car and noticed a “rock like substance” on the floorboard.

“I recognized through my eleven years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer the substance to be some sort of narcotic,” she wrote…

Uh-huh.

Riggs-Hopkins and other officers spotted three other pieces of the substance.

“I kept telling them, ‘That’s … glaze from a doughnut,” Rushing said.

He was charged with possession of methamphetamine with a firearm and spent 10 hours in jail before being released on bond.

The Florida’s law enforcement department told the newspaper that an analyst in its Orlando crime lab did not try to identify what police found in the car, only to determine whether it was an illegal drug. They determined it was not and three days after Rushing’s arrest the state attorney’s office dropped the charges.

Mr. Rushing is going to sue the city. The coppers – of course – say the bust was lawful. Going by the book is sufficient as far as they’re concerned.

I think he should sue them for stupid. And probably for cheap. For using a test that gives false positives for doughnuts.

Thanks, Honeyman

Florida just flushed its collective toilet onto the beaches


Water sample at Fort Myers beachCheryl Cagle Jones

Just in time for tourist season, both of Florida’s coasts are being flooded by dark, polluted water that’s killing ocean creatures and turning away would-be swimmers, fishermen, and other visitors.

Last month was South Florida’s wettest January since 1932. Because of the heavy rain, the water levels in Lake Okeechobee in central Florida rose to about a foot above what’s normal for this season. On top of that, water managers began to pump dirty water from flooded farms into the lake, adding more pollution to a body of water that already contains fertilizers and other chemicals from the state’s cattle and sugar industries.

At the same time, officials began to worry that the rising lake waters would put stress on its aging dike, so they decided to drain the lake toward the east and west coasts. Some 70,000 gallons per second flowed into the St. Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee River all the way through to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. And as the toxic runoff spreads, it’s threatening sea grasses and oyster beds and is adding to harmful algae growth.

Now the tourism industry and small businesses on the coasts are worried that they’re going to see their business slump as a result of the pollution. Local politicians are calling on Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency, and mayors are traveling to Washington, D.C. to demand action from Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers…

According to David Guest, managing attorney of the Florida branch of the environmental law group Earthjustice, the pollution is not going to end any time soon…The lake is basically a toilet,” Guest says. Florida’s powerful sugar industry has stood in the way of the state purchasing land south of the lake that could be used to build a waterway to direct dirty water to the Everglades, cleansing it along the way.

Enjoy your Spring Break, gang. Let us know how if the beaches in Florida smell as bad as the state politics.

Dumb crook of the day

Authorities say an 18-year-old man drove a stolen car to police headquarters to pick up court papers about a previous auto theft he was involved in — documents that were found in yet another stolen car.

Carnell Eugene Butler now faces charges in three stolen car cases.

St. Petersburg police say officers found a stolen Infiniti on Sunday. Inside, they found Butler’s documents related to a June auto theft arrest.

Detectives contacted Butler, who arranged to pick them up. When he arrived at police headquarters, a detective arrested Butler and found keys to a Hyundai Sonata in his pocket. The car was located a block away.

It, too, had been reported stolen.

Butler is being held without bond

Cripes! They got the kid on a three-fer.

Let’s frack the Everglades — Whoopee!

Renewed hunts for oil in sensitive Florida ecosystems have environmental groups raising questions about the state’s regulation of the oil and gas industry.

A Miami company, Kanter Real Estate LLC, has submitted a permit application to drill an exploratory oil well on the eastern edge of the Everglades.

Meanwhile, federal approval is pending for a seismic survey meant to locate new areas for drilling in the Big Cypress National Preserve, a freshwater swamp whose health is vital to the neighboring Everglades and to native wildlife, including the endangered Florida panther.

The state recently issued a wetlands activity permit to Fort Worth, Texas-based Burnett Oil Co. Inc. for the survey that would cover 110 square miles within the preserve. Florida and the National Park Service are requiring a number of steps to ensure minimal harm to wildlife and the environment, but the proposal worries critics who have complained that lax oversight of previous drilling operations left ecologically sensitive areas vulnerable to contamination…

Environmental groups argue that Florida’s regulations currently only cover conventional drilling methods, not the “acid stimulation” that prompted last year’s violations or other advanced extraction techniques.

“We’ve learned that Florida’s oil and gas laws are extremely antiquated and rudimentary and don’t address new techniques such as fracking,” said Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida…

The state has gone on record opposing some methods of seismic testing, but it has not objected to the Burnett project.

In a statement, John Kanter said the application is “one of the first steps in a long-term plan that includes proposed mining, as well as water storage and water quality improvement components that have the potential for assisting with Everglades Restoration…”

Environmental groups and some local elected officials say any drilling expansion threatens the region’s water supply and Everglades restoration plans.

If the potential for profit exists, the state, any industry involved, will work as hard as possible to come down on the side of the folks turning a profit. Ain’t nothing new. Just happens a lot more often in states with citizens dull enough to prefer the political party least interested in human beings – between the two we’re allowed.

Don’t let Armadillos spit on you in Florida!


Click to enlargeGetty Images

For once…Florida citizens are not the focus of a news story. Instead, Florida armadillos are in the spotlight.

Local health officials are warning Floridians to stay away from the animals after nine people were infected with leprosy after coming into contact with the leathery armored creatures.

Typically, Florida sees just 10 cases of leprosy in a year. The centuries-old bacterial infection, also known as Hansen’s disease, causes nerve damage and disfigurement and was once a considered a sentence to death or life in isolation. Thanks to antibiotics, the disease is now treatable and only rarely spreads from person to person in the U.S., typically via coughing or sneezing.

A 2011 genetic study found that armadillos naturally harbor the bacteria that causes the illness in humans, and they may be responsible for some infections, though it is far less common for leprosy to be spread that way.

But that’s what seems to be happening in Florida.

“New homes are being developed, and we are tearing down armadillos’ homes in the process,” said Dr. Sunil Joshi…of the Duval County Medical Society. “Now these creatures are coming out in the daytime, and the people who are getting exposed are those working outside.”

Armadillos aren’t native to Florida, but the cat-sized mammals are now common throughout the state, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission…“Especially if they’re trying to get out of a cage they can spit on you,” said Florida wildlife trapper Kyle Waltz.

The bacteria that causes leprosy can lie dormant for years, according to the CDC, and it may take up to a decade for symptoms to appear. Most of the human population isn’t susceptible to the disease, and fewer than 300 new cases were reported in the U.S. in 2010…As many as 2 million people have been permanently disabled by the disease worldwide.

One of the instances where you don’t want to be the exception that proves the rule.

Flesh-eating bacteria invades Florida


Yum!

A terrifying deadly flesh-eating bacteria that lives in the warm waters off the coast of Florida has killed two people and infected seven so far this year.

Vibrio vulnificus is found naturally in warm marine waters and it poses a grave risk to beachgoers and consumers of shellfish that they may not be even aware of. A total of 32 cases of the bacteria were reported in 2014 in Florida, with about 85 percent of the infections happening during the summer months and into the fall when beaches become packed, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as reported by Fox News.

Eating raw shellfish is the most common way to contract the bacteria, according to Florida Health Department spokeswoman Mara Burger in a statement. If you ingest the bacteria, you will experience vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. If you suspect you have it, get treatment immediately because it can result in death…

The best way to avoid getting it is to avoid raw shellfish and to thoroughly cook any shellfish you intend to consume, and eat it quickly after consuming it. Also, be careful to avoid cross-contamination of raw shellfish with cooked foods.

But that’s not the only way the bacteria can get in your bloodstream. If you are swimming and you get a puncture wound from a stingray or tilapia, the bacteria can make its way into your bloodstream, which can be very serious and may require amputation.

So, enjoy summertime in Florida.