More than half U.S. waters too polluted to swim or fish


Peter Carr/The Journal-News

Back in 1972, U.S. legislators passed the Clean Water Act with a 10-year goal: Make it safe for people to fish and swim in the nation’s waters. Fifty years later, around half of all lakes and rivers across the country that have been studied fail to meet that standard, according to a recent report by the Environmental Integrity Project, a D.C. watchdog and advocacy nonprofit. Instead, they’re classified as “impaired” — meaning that their fish are inedible, their water undrinkable, they’re unsafe for humans to swim in and inhospitable to aquatic life.

The Clean Water Act delivered a major win — it laid the groundwork for essential enforcement on industry — but there were key failures. Most notably, legal loopholes continue to allow fertilizer runoff from farmland and manure runoff from factory farms. The pollutants, which are washed into watersheds, are considered the top cause of water pollution in the U.S., said Eric Shaeffer, executive director at the Environmental Integrity Project. The law’s inability to regulate this is its single biggest program failure, said Shaeffer. “The Clean Water Act doesn’t have effective regulation for dealing with cropland.” And powerful industrial groups continue to resist and delay implementation of further regulation…

The Environmental Integrity Project analyzed water data gathered from states through the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s where that headline up top comes from. Lots more numeric conclusions in the article. The one that makes me feel like I’m beating my head against a steel wall coated with used motor oil tells us … 700 years is the time it would take to achieve full restoration of currently impaired waterbodies under current pace of remediation.

PFAS contamination in the GOUSA

The number of U.S. communities confirmed to be contaminated with the highly toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS continues to grow at an alarming rate. As of August 2021, 2,854 locations in 50 states and two territories are known to be contaminated…

Information about sites newly added to the map comes from various PFAS detections reported to government agencies in Colorado, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and other states, as well as updated records from the Department of “Defense”.

The Environmental Protection Agency has known about the health hazards of PFAS for decades but has failed to limit PFAS discharges into the air and water or set cleanup standards…

EPA added 175 PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory, or TRI, in response to a congressional mandate. A listing in the TRI requires facilities to report releases of those PFAS into the environment. But many manufacturers appear to be taking advantage of a loophole to evade reporting requirements.

In October, the EPA released a PFAS Strategic Roadmap that includes accelerating efforts to set a national drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS by 2023.

So, after decades of tracking contamination, polluted drinking water…we’re getting a road map, maybe, in another year. Whoopee!

Please use the map in this article to see what things look like in your neck of the prairie. If you get a pop-up while using the map, refresh the page. That usually cleans it up.

Where I grew up…

Downwind and slightly downhill from two-thirds of Bridgeport, Connecticut’s, old industrial base. General Electric plant on the West side of Boston Avenue. Remington Arms on the East side. The facility originally built by Remington to fabricate rifles for the Russian Czar.

When I turned seventeen and it was time for me to go to work, I was hired on at GE as an apprentice machinist. Spent some of that time learning from the two machinists charged with maintenance and repairs for the Fan Dept. I remember finding the signature of one of the Russian workers supervising construction of the plant – carved into a wooden beam supporting the ceiling of our little subterranean workshop. We were in the first floor of one of the modules built to design for firearms and ammunition manufacture…underground. Four more stories above us.

The neighborhood was recognized years later as a cancer cluster, of course. By then we’d moved next to Roosevelt Forest north side of Stratford. Clean air to spare. A school system designed for more than the minimal education required for factory hands.

Just before the Lusitania disaster the Russian Czar emerged as a new customer for a million Russian rifles and one hundred million rounds of ammunition and he wanted them from UMC-Remington. (Marcellus Hartley) Dodge was worried that entering a contract with the Russians would put him in grave financial danger, but after the sinking of the Lusitania, he took the contract and planned to build a new plant in Bridgeport. Dodge raised $15 million dollars by selling gold bonds of his company and borrowed $15 million against his own preferred stock. He also gave his personal notes for thirteen million more. Dodge was one of the richest men from the richest families in the nation. He would become one of the great philanthropists of the early 20th century. Dodge took huge risks in borrowing, and expanding his operations. His planned building in Bridgeport would transform Bridgeport’s East Side. In the 1960s the old people on the East Side would say, “the Czar built that factory.” The Czar didn’t build that plant, Dodge did, but the Czar’s Great War munitions contracts were responsible for one of the largest, most unique factory buildings in the world. To build, Dodge bought land all around the location, including the last farms in the area. He would need massive amounts of acreage for the manufacturing facilities and housing for thousands of munitions workers..

All of my peers, friends and neighbors from those days are dead, now.

Air pollution from cars and trucks increases Alzheimer’s risk two ways

Researchers have found a link between traffic-related air pollution and an increased risk for age-related dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease…

Pamela Lein worked with atmospheric scientist Anthony Wexler…to develop a novel approach to study the impacts of traffic-related air pollution in real time. Researchers set up a rodent vivarium near a traffic tunnel in Northern California so they could mimic, as closely as possible, what humans might experience from traffic-related air pollution…

The researchers exposed male and female rats for up to 14 months to filtered air or polluted air drawn from the tunnel and delivered it to animals unchanged in real time. The subjects were divided into two groups: wild type rats and those that express Alzheimer’s disease risk genes that are relevant to humans…

“We saw that traffic-related air pollution accelerated Alzheimer’s disease characteristics not only in the animals who express the risk gene (which we anticipated) but also in the wild type rats,” Lein says.

“We didn’t anticipate that. The big, exciting discovery is that traffic-related air pollution is a risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. This is important because this pollution is everywhere and could explain the increased number of people impacted by Alzheimer’s disease across the world.”

What remains unclear is which component of that pollution is predominately responsible for the effects on the brain. There are gases, particulate matter, road dust, tire wear, vibration, and noise involved in traffic-related air pollution.

“The next set of studies is to try and tease apart specific components of traffic-related air pollution that drive these Alzheimer’s disease traits,” Lein says. “Or is it the collective mix that causes the damage?”

The good news is that these studies provide a baseline comparison for traffic pollution after we complete the changeover to electric vehicles. Then we can finish the task by reducing elements other than vehicle power-plants causing pollution.

Rediscovering American pollution hidden for decades

Marine scientists say they have found what they believe to be more than 25,000 barrels that possibly contain DDT dumped off the Southern California coast near Catalina Island, where a massive underwater toxic waste site dating back to World War II has long been suspected…

Historical shipping logs show that industrial companies in Southern California used the basin as a dumping ground until 1972, when the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, also known as the Ocean Dumping Act, was enacted…

Disposing of industrial, military, nuclear and other hazardous waste was a pervasive global practice in the 20th century, according to researchers.

Resting deep in the ocean, the exact location and extent of the dumping was not known until now.

Just a suggestion … Reflect upon all the governments in power in Washington over all these decades. A certain number of politicians in charge knew about this. Probably gave their permission. Another number knew … said something like “Shucks. I don’t like this!” And did nothing.

I have to wonder, once again, if there is a more useless job description than “elected official”

Tiny bits of plastic are a significant part of global pollution

Ocean plastic pollution is an urgent and global problem … Most of the attention paid to the issue has focused on daily-use goods such as food and consumer product packaging. However, Pew found that tiny fragments known as microplastics make up significant amounts of ocean plastic pollution that are often not accounted for in pollution estimates or possible solutions …

Although there is no standard definition of microplastics, they are commonly defined as plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters—about the diameter of a standard pencil eraser. Despite their size, studies have shown that microplastics are major contributors to plastic pollution and are found widely in the environment—from high up Mount Everest to the deep sea—and even in humans and other animals …

Alarming studies regularly come out with new information about the impacts and growing scale of the microplastics problem, but there is still hope for fixing it. With concerted action that begins now, we can greatly reduce the plastic pollution flowing into our lands, rivers, and oceans over the next two decades.

RTFA, learn more about the problem and check out some of the latest ideas on how to counter this flavor of pollution. Too many of our politicians think the only side they need to defend is the one that brings jobs to their local voters … and campaign dollar$ into their bank account.

EPA underestimates pollution from oil and natgas production — A LOT!

The Environmental Protection Agency is underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas production in its annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, according to new research from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The research team found 90 percent higher emissions from oil production and 50 percent higher emissions for natural gas production than EPA estimated in its latest inventory…

The research team, led by Joannes Maasakkers, a former graduate student at SEAS, developed a method to trace and map total emissions from satellite data to their source on the ground…

…Researchers compared…simulations to satellite observations from 2010-2015. Using a transport model, they were able to trace the path of emissions from the atmosphere back to the ground and identify areas across the US where the observations and simulations didn’t match up.

“When we look at emissions from space, we can only see how total emissions from an area should be scaled up or down, but we don’t know the source responsible for those emissions,” said Maasakkers. “Because we spent so much time with the EPA figuring out where these different emissions occur, we could use our transport model to go back and figure out what sources are responsible for those under- or over-estimations in the national total.”

The biggest discrepancy was in emissions from oil and natural gas production.

You know what the next question should be. “What will federal regulators do with this understanding of much greater pollution coming from oil and natgas production?”

Eh?

Illegal truck mods pollution = same as 9 million extra pickups


Pollution porn

…According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, diesel trucks with disabled emissions controls are far more widespread than you might think and emit more pollution than the diesel engines that got Volkswagen such hefty fines.

According to the EPA’s Air Enforcement Division, the use of aftermarket emissions defeat devices by diesel truck owners rivals that problem. In a report first obtained by The New York Times, it estimates that 550,000 medium trucks have had their emissions systems tampered with over the last decade—fully 15 percent of the diesel trucks on US roads…

…Specifically, the EPA says it’s only counting tampering where all of a truck’s emissions controls are removed, as opposed to mods that leave “emissions controls hardware intact and operational.”

…The EPA report says that 570,000 tons of excess NOx and 5,000 tons of excess diesel particulates are the result over the course of these trucks’ lifetimes. Or to put it another way, “due to their severe excess NOx emissions, these trucks have an air quality impact equivalent to adding more than 9 million additional (compliant, non-tampered) diesel pickup trucks to our roads.”

Pleased to see EPA differentiates between gonzo drivers looking to turn their diesel pickups into power hogs regardless of how they get there…vs. the case I imagine is at least as frequent of folks simply trying catch a bit more reliability, easier starting, better fuel economy than the sometimes mediocre design and craftmanship allocated for in truck manufacturers’ budgets.