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.

A clear contrast of sustainable and unsustainable farming — in 20 seconds!

❝ A clear contrast of sustainable and unsustainable farming practices — in 20 seconds! Of course, there are scores of variables when it comes to sustainable farming, but this little video shows the huge difference between no-till and conventional farming:

no-till-v-conventional
Click to access video and the complete article

❝ The video starts on a no-till field — one that isn’t ever plowed. Instead of tilling, or turning over the soil to kill weeds, farmers plant directly into the thatch of grasses and usually use an application of herbicide to knock down weeds. When farmers leave fields bare, like in the other field, soil washes away and local waters are polluted.

Some farmers on this silly little planet continue to grow no till-crops decades after the invention of machines that increase profits. And also require tons of added and otherwise unnecessary chemicals to produce those crops.

Air pollution recognized as a risk factor for diabetes


Click to enlarge

“Whether the disease becomes manifest and when this occurs is not only due to lifestyle or genetic factors, but also due to traffic-related air pollution,” said Professor Annette Peters, director of the Institute of Epidemiology II at Helmholtz Zentrum München and head of the research area of epidemiology of the DZD.

For the current study, she and her colleagues…analyzed the data of nearly 3,000 participants of the KORA study who live in the city of Augsburg and two adjacent rural counties. All individuals were interviewed and physically examined. Furthermore, the researchers took fasting blood samples, in which they determined various markers for insulin resistance and inflammation. In addition, leptin was examined as adipokine which has been suggested to be associated with insulin resistance. Non-diabetic individuals underwent an oral glucose tolerance test to detect whether their glucose metabolism was impaired.

The researchers compared these data with the concentrations of air pollutants at the place of residence of the participants, which they estimated using predictive models based on repeated measurements at…up to 40 sites…in the city and in the rural counties.

“The results revealed that people who already have an impaired glucose metabolism, so-called pre-diabetic individuals, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution,” said Dr. Kathrin Wolf, lead author of the study. “In these individuals, the association between increases in their blood marker levels and increases in air pollutant concentrations is particularly significant! Thus, over the long term — especially for people with impaired glucose metabolism — air pollution is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.”

The authors are also concerned that the concentrations of air pollutants, though below EU threshold values, are still above the proposed guidelines of the World Health Organization… As a consequence, they demand changes in government policy: “Lowering the threshold for acceptable air pollution levels would be a prudent step,” said Dr. Alexandra Schneider, who was also involved in the study. “We are all exposed to air pollution. An individual reduction by moving away from highly polluted areas is rarely an option.”

Many folks currently focussed on the political battle over climate change have been at it for a long time. The crap air we’re all faced with as “normal” has been anything but normal for decades. Because we’ve moved slightly back from acid rain and a Love Canal in every backyard doesn’t mean we’ve won anything more than individual battles. Though significant, the full extent of poisoning of the Earth’s air breathers, water-drinkers, continues to demand a critical political movement against the polluters and their acolytes.

A century of American garbage

The average American tosses 4.4 pounds of trash every single day. It may not seem all that astonishing on the surface, but with 323.7 million people living in the United States, that is roughly 728,000 tons of daily garbage – enough to fill 63,000 garbage trucks.

That is 22 billion plastic bottles every year. Enough office paper to construct a 12-foot-high wall from Los Angeles to Manhattan. It is 300 laps around the equator in paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons. It is 500 disposable cups per average American worker – cups that will still be sitting in the landfill five centuries from now.

Approximately half of the 254 million tons of yearly waste will meet its fate in one of the more than 2,000 active landfills across the country – and you probably live, work or socialize closer to one than you may think.

Same as it ever was. Imagine some future epoch when paleontologists and anthropologists mine the Great American Midden.

Radioactive waste ready to re-surface with global warming


One of eight nuclear power plants left behind under the ice and snow

In 1951, the United States government made a pact with the Danish government to begin building camps and testing sites throughout Greenland to protect themselves from arctic Soviet attacks.

Camp Century, built 125 miles inland from Greenland’s shores, was built within the ice, housing up to 200 soldiers, testing construction in the arctic, drilling some of the first ice cores and even testing secret nuclear missiles.

But in 1967, Camp Century, and other camps, were decommissioned and closed. All but the nuclear reactor cores were left, to live forever, forgotten beneath the ice. Or so they thought.

A new study published…in the journal Geophysical Research Letters says that we shouldn’t forget about the stuff, some of it toxic and radioactive, because Greenland is melting. The scientists, from York University in Toronto, estimate with a business-as-usual climate model, the site will be melting in the next 75 years. Outside experts say it could be even sooner than that.

…The scientists estimate that there are 53,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 63,000 gallons of waste water and sewage, and unknown amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls and radioactive coolant. While the site is currently under more than 100 feet of snowfall, fallen since the 1960s, the pollutants will not stay hidden forever.

With the pollutions’ reemergence, the study authors believe this could bring up questions of who is accountable for cleaning up the site. The United States built the site, with the Danish government on a Danish territory, which is now under self-rule.

“It’s a new breed of political challenge we have to think about,” lead author and climate and glacier scientist William Colgan said…

If scientists had their way, responsibility would ultimately accrue to those who put dangerous materials in place. The United States government? That’s another story. The bifurcated clown show in Congress will ultimately decide on the budget – if any – for responsible action. Regardless of which party sits in the White House.

Given our nation’s track record, domestic and foreign, for action on radioactive pollution foisted on communities in the name of our “peace-loving” military – I ain’t too hopeful.

Raising speed limits is irresponsible — states keep doing it, of course

Cars are America. America is freedom. It’s no accident that the country’s foundational myths are written in road trips. The Oregon Trail. Sal Paradise and his Cadillac. That time your stoner college roommate decided to drive his crap can from Jersey to LA.

And freedom is getting faster, at least in the West. In April 2015, South Dakota became the fifth state in three years to increase its daytime interstate speed limit to 80 miles per hour or more. On some sections of Texas road, 85 is de rigueur.

The economic and emotional justifications for the trend were neatly laid out by The Idaho Statesman editorial editor Robert Ehlert: “The 80 mph speed limit is an antidote to those high airline ticket prices and nickel-and-dime onboard fees,” he wrote….“The 80 mph speed limit is symbolic of my individuality and freedom … This is the West. This is the way we roll.”

But a raft of research shows that when speed limits go up, so do fatalities—along with financial costs and environmental hazards. A 2009 study published in the American Journal of Public Health estimates speed limit increases were responsible for 12,545 deaths and 36,583 injuries between 1995 and 2005. The number of rural interstate fatalities we can blame on higher speed limits jumped 9.1 percent during that time.

Why, then, have speed limits — and especially speed limits in rural areas — rocketed in recent years? Partly, it’s that speeding exists in a cultural gray area. Everybody does it, so why not change the rules to reflect that? More crucially, it’s a result of regional politics, where geography, ideology, and antipathy for regulation make higher limits a win. Especially for politicians.

…Higher maximums mean wider gaps in speed between individual cars. That’s less safe for everyone. A recent analysis led by Wayne State civil engineers found that fatality rates on roads with limits of 75 mph or higher are double those on interstates where things move more slowly.

Higher speed limits come with a financial cost, too. Changing the rules doesn’t just mean repainting the signs. State DOTs have to revamp the infrastructure, making road curves smoother and adding crash pads to medians, for example, to make driving faster safer. Faster driving means maintenance costs go up, too. In 2014, researchers working with Michigan’s DOT found that upping rural interstate speed limits from 70 to 80 mph would save 15.4 million passenger vehicle hours a year, but would also cost $163.88 million annually for the design’s estimated 25-year lifespan.

And of course, driving faster burn more fuel. That’s why Congress set the national speed limit at 55 mph in 1978….That same Michigan DOT report estimated raising freeway speeds would increase the state’s annual fuel consumption by 68.7 million gallons — about $257.5 million worth of the good stuff (at 2012 prices). And if the money part doesn’t get you, remember that 68.7 million gallons of gas is equal to 1.3 billion pounds of CO2 emissions.

None of that counts the economic and societal costs of crashes themselves — $836 billion in 2010, according to the feds.

Opportunism is practically a genetic trait in American politicians. It wanders from knee-jerk support for bigoted laws to stuff so stupid that only differences between the two parties keep them in place. Here in New Mexico our silly-ass rule allowing a “social pass” for students who can’t read up to their grade level – if mommy and daddy complain – is opposed by Republicans. So, Democrats still support it.

And so it remains on Freeway speeds. I admit I used those higher speeds to advantage when I was on the road. I have all the rationales, e.g., I drove a car engineered for cruising speeds higher than the average American car, I had the skills and experience to drive at those speeds. Last fender-bender I suffered was a guy making an illegal turn who drove into my rear fender – in 1978. And driving 700-1100 miles/week, the time savings were significant.

Still, I would have been in less danger and less dangerous to other drivers at a reduced pace. I would have complied.

Air pollution linked to preterm births, billion$ in healthcare costs

Ambient air pollution cost the United States $5.09 billion dollars in medical expenses and lost economic productivity related to preterm birth in 2010…

Of that total, $760 million was attributed to direct medical costs, according to Leonardo Trasande, MD, of NYU School of Medicine, and colleagues, writing in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Their study combined air pollution data from the…EPA with figures on preterm births from the Institute of Medicine…

This is the first study to estimate the burden of preterm birth and trace it to a particular environmental source,” he said. “Previous studies have taken small populations and found an association – what we did was look at it on a national scale and put a cost to society in terms of direct medical care of children who have preterm birth and associated medical conditions, but also loss of IQ and loss of economic productivity that can ultimately be traced to preterm birth.”

Specifically, Trasande’s team focused its research on fine particulate matter, which has been linked to preterm birth in prior studies. They found that 12% of births in the U.S. in 2010 were preterm, and estimated that 3.32% of all preterm births could be attributed to fine particulate matter…

Trasande said that while air pollution is a problem in the U.S., it is even worse in developing countries, so he would like to see these analyses repeated there.

How many years does it take for someone to get studies like these rolling. I grew up in a time and place in the United States when coal-powered industry was king. When you got up in the morning, opened your bedroom window for a breath of fresh air – and scraped the soot off the window sill so it wouldn’t blow into the room.

We knew damned well it wasn’t doing us any good. And no one in politics, in government, would speak up.

Republicans now control the Air Quality Board in a polluted region — scrap the regulations!


Click to enlargePhoto by Robert Donovan

On Friday, Southern California’s air quality board voted during a closed-door meeting to forcefully roll back pollution regulations in favor of regulations backed by oil refineries and other polluters. At the same time, the board also voted to dismiss their executive officer Barry Wallerstein, who had presided over the board since 1997.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District board manages pollution in a four-county region of Southern California, including some of the most polluted areas in the country. Under Wallerstein’s tenure, the number of days that air quality exceeded federal standards dropped by a third, but environmental and public health groups are quick to note that Southern California’s pollution levels are still far from meeting federal health standards…

Republicans took control of the air quality board in February, and new members have not been shy about their intentions to bring a more industry-friendly approach to pollution control. All seven of the board’s Republicans voted to dismiss Wallerstein, narrowly beating out opposition from the board’s five Democrats and one independent.

The board also voted eight to five not to reconsider a controversial December vote, which approved the adoption of an industry-backed plan to regulate pollution from refineries, power plants, and other major facilities. The plan would delay installation of pollution controls at the region’s six major oil refineries, something that environmental and public health groups worry will slow progress toward meaningful pollution reductions in the area. The regulations are backed by Western States Petroleum Association and other industry groups.

This is what pigs do when they are put in charge of the farmyard.

Exxon Mobil’s insane sophistry arguing against action on climate change

Exxon Mobil has devised a bizarre new argument to wriggle away from its shareholders’ demands: Humanity can’t fix the problem we created, so we shouldn’t even try. Yep — as it turns out, Exxon Mobil’s shareholders care a lot more about climate change than the company itself does.

The planet’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company challenged a resolution about climate change regulations from its own shareholders on Friday, arguing that it’s a practical improbability that the emissions-restricting goals set forth by the recent climate accord in Paris will actually be achieved. Therefore, Exxon Mobil says, it shouldn’t have to address the impact that the regulations would have on its business…

The resolution, originally brought by the New York State Comptroller and four other Exxon Mobil shareholders earlier this week, had asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to force the company to address how its business would be impacted by climate mitigation efforts. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office manages a state pension fund that has a large stake in the oil and gas giant, told Reuters that investors “need to know how Exxon Mobil’s bottom line will be impacted by the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and what the company plans to do about it.”

For decades, other investors have been filing resolutions asking Exxon Mobil to take action on climate change, with most of them falling on deaf ears…

With Exxon Mobil blatantly ignoring climate science on one hand and giving up on emissions regulations on the other, the company seems to have flipped from willful ignorance to purposeful complacency. We’re not sure which one is worse, but either way: Exxon Mobil is clearly a nightmare for the planet.

When criminals own the cops, crime becomes a perfectly normal way of life. And business.

Pic of the day


Click to enlargeAP

This 2013 file photo shows an 80-foot thick coal seam at Cloud Peak Energy’s Spring Creek strip mine near Decker, Montana. As far as US energy barons like the Koch Bros. are concerned it may as well be gold.