The people of Fayettville, North Carolina have growing concerns about a spreading chemical plume—and a severe lack of local and state funds to clean it up. The plume, which is polluted with tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, is located below a water storage tank that serves just fewer than 200,000 residents.
The industrial solvent PCE can cause health problems in humans if consumed over long periods of time including liver problems and even increased risk of cancer. The EPA’s standard for PCE levels in drinking water sits at 5 parts per billion; monitoring of a testing well next to the storage tank showed results of 2,300 times that acceptable limit.
A slurry wall, installed in the ground in 2011, was intended to add a layer of protection to the city’s water supply. To the dismay of state officials, the PCE was able to breach the underground clay wall.
As of yet, no contamination has been found in any water in the storage tank. What is protecting the drinking water stored in the massive underground tank? As reported by Andrew Barksdale for the Fayetteville Observer, “no contaminated groundwater has ever breached the storage tank, which has concrete walls between 12 and 22 inches thick that extend 7 feet below.”
Fayetteville and the State have a number of ideas on how to remediate the toxic chemical plume. The problem is that the budget barely allows enough to monitor the PCE for more than a few years. The plume, which originated from the former Texfi site, ranks 33 out of 500 hazardous waste sites in North Carolina and yet, the state has earmarked only $500,000 to deal with the pollution. According to state officials, “The trench, a sump pump and one year of maintenance on the new system will cost about $133,000, nearly depleting the money available for the Texfi contamination.” The officials were describing one of the most popular remediation suggestions.
One expert puts the estimate for a complete cleanup at $50 million. Without federal funding, Fayetteville will likely have to chase down enough state money to simply monitor the plume and deal with any catastrophes as they happen.
Patricia French is a homeowner in Brookfield Village, a little subdivision in the larger town of Westland, Michigan. She purchased her house in 2007 and at the time of sale, neither the seller nor the developer informed her of the true property history. The land Ms. French purchased is adjacent to a site contaminated with lead, arsenic, and possibly levels of methane that will require air quality testing.
The Brookfield Village homes sit on an area possibly also suffering from land pollution. The contamination is caused by the land’s proximity to a 28-acre parcel of land known as National Airport that was formally used as a “general and industrial landfill from 1958-65 and remnants of drums were removed in 1994,” according to an article in HometownLife.com.
Even though a remediation plan is underway, it is the lack of prior warning that upsets Ms. French. She said, “My concern is me and it’s a concern for other residents. No one told us about the contamination. They mayor (William Wild) said people knew about it. The developer knew about it.”
Aside from the health concerns that always come with living on a property contaminated with hazardous waste materials or naturally occurring toxins, the other downside is the effect it has on property values. French noted that “she would be legally required to disclose the nearby contamination, if she were to sell her home.”
She continues, “The developer told us it (the property) was a wetlands. My concern is that the city should have put up signs saying ‘don’t enter—it’s contaminated’ like they did at Cooper School.”
Hopefully Ms. French won’t have to worry for long. An environmental management plan is set to begin and “includes removing existing trees, regarding, installation of geotextile barrier which will be covered with top soil and grass, along with methane monitoring,” said the article.
The city of Green Bay, Wisconsin has reason to celebrate after they were recently awarded a federal grant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This $600,000 environmental grant will be invested in efforts to study whether former industrial areas in the city’s downtown show signs of contamination. These types of grants have become known as brownfield. Green Bay is using the land study as an important step towards the city’s economic revitalization.
The areas cited for the allocated grant funds include land along the East River and Fox River as well as near the University of Wisconsin’s Green Bay campus. This site in particular has already had $200,000 dedicated to it. The first site to be studied is that of the former Tillman Landscape Nursery. The site is not expected to have large amounts of soil contamination, but it is located central to the area that the city wishes to develop as soon as possible. EPA Regional Manager Susan Hedman applauds the city’s efforts by saying “We do not have to choose between a strong economy and a healthy environment.”
One of the main reasons that the city is so enthusiastic about the grant money is due to the overwhelming success of similar grant projects in past years. The best example of this success is that of an abandoned shopping mall that was transformed into the corporate headquarters of Schreiber Foods. The EPA grant money will be used to determine the level of contamination at these historically industrial sites as well as develop clean up plans so that development can move forward.
Green Bay officials also feel an immense sense of pride in that politicians were able to successfully work with the EPA to accomplish a common goal. Mayor Jim Schmitt stated “government can work together. It just takes the right leadership and the right focus.”
A massive fire erupted at a warehouse storing thousands of tires in the small Connecticut town of Torrington about one week ago. The fire took an entire day to extinguish, requiring dozens of fire crews from surrounding towns. All the while the flames billowed black smoke for miles. Although this fire in particular seemed to be under control and continues to be managed, it makes one wonder about what happens to the environment both during and after a massive tire blaze. All the smoke and stink cannot be healthy, that why it is important to discuss the environmental dangers that can result from the burning of tires.
Tires by themselves are not considered to be hazardous waste material by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Once the tire begins to burn, it is then considered a highly dangerous form of waste releasing heavy metals and oil. In fact, a single standard car tire can produce almost two gallons of oil. With that said, think about the method most used to extinguish a fire; water. Once water is mixed with the toxic ash and oil it has the potential to be carried to drainage systems and local waterways.
It is for this reason that the Connecticut Department of Environmental and Energy Protection (DEEP) immediately set up booms and other barriers to prevent contaminated runoff water from entering the water table.
Burning tires also release air pollution, which is usually fairly evident through the thick black smoke that is created. One of the worst tire fires in the nation occurred in 1983 in Rhinehart, Virginia. An estimated 7 million tires were burned at this site. The fire smoldered for about 9 months before all hot spots were extinguished. During this time a smoke cloud that spanned 3,000 feet up and 50 miles across resulted. Two bordering states were also affected by the amount of air pollution resulting from the massive fire. Rhinehart is now the location for one of the federal governments Superfund sites aimed at cleaning up the area.
The EPA suggests that the best way to help decrease the environmental effects of tire fires is to prevent them from occurring. The Agency recommends that an individual or business does not keep piles of scrap tire, but rather reuses or recycles them. Tire piles can be accidents waiting to happen. Companies that cannot avoid this are to follow strict environmental regulations on how to stack tires in as safe a manner as possible. For instance, tires cannot be piled to the ceiling or too close to one another. This prevents the likelihood of a tire fire from spreading to another stack or igniting the entire building.
The market for used and recycled tire has shown some promise as they are now often shredded and used in playground construction, sports courts or tracks, and road construction. Recycling tires not only decreases the likelihood of a devastating fire, but it also significantly cuts down on the amount of land pollution in a community.
Washington State University has teamed up with the Center for Environmentally Sustainable Transportation in Cold Climates to explore new green deicing options. Associate professor Xianming Shi not only heads the University research, but is also the assistant director of the Center.
Currently, approximately 17 million tons of salt are used in the Unites States each winter. Traditional sodium chloride road salt remains king since it accomplishes its job effectively. A one mile stretch of road receives about 4 tons of salt a year per lane, with well over 90% being washed into the environment after application.
Excess road salt runs off into nearby waterways resulting in water contamination. The salinity of waterways and delicate ecosystems are increased significantly. As a result of the changes many plants and animals are affected.
The solution toward greater environmental safety in the future while keeping the roads safe for drivers during the winter has two pieces. First, alternative deicing methods must be explored. There are several criteria for a new deicing option, one being that the product has to make economic sense for tight local, state, and federal budgets. In that same vein, the alternative has to have a long shelf life so that it can be stocked piled and used as needed. The chemical must also respond to a variety of road temperatures and cannot be overly corrosive to the roadways or to vehicles driving. Professor Shi has developed a deicer made from vodka distillery waste. Other alternatives include beet or tomato juice. Communities across the Northern United States are experimenting with all sorts of kooky alternatives as well.
Professor Shi and his team’s research have led to the development of a smart snowplow that not only measures the temperature of the roadway, but also measures the amount of deicer remaining on the road from a previous application. This will result in less wasteful applications. If perfected the effects on both the environment and on government budgets could be reduced. Lastly, Shi has been testing concrete that would be ice resistant. Particles are added to the wet cement that prevent the ice from adhering to the surface.
When you think about the word asbestos, you likely also think of words like: deadly, cancer, and keep it the heck away from me.
Quite understandable then, why a group of Holbury, England families are enraged that an asbestos transfer station opened up shop on land bordering their yards separated only by a fence. Employees of the station, Solent Environmental Solutions (SES), move about the property donning full protective gear including face masks and special suits.
SES maintains that the business operates within strict guidelines required by the permit it was granted seven months ago. The company tries to reassure its neighbors that they face no risk of asbestos exposure despite their proximity to SES. Managing Director Brian Jones told residents at a public meeting, “If what we are doing is unsafe, we wouldn’t have received the necessary permit.”
Holbury residents are not buying it, arguing that their gardens and their children come into close contact with the fence that separates the properties.
The concerned homeowners formed the Anti Asbestos Alliance and are keeping up a fight to have the transfer station shut down. According to Chris Yandell of thisishampshire.net, members of the Alliance express concerns that SES “cannot explain why they go to such great lengths to protect their own staff from the potentially deadly dust if there is no risk of it leaking into the air.”
Ian Chiddicks of SES responds, “ the wearing of the masks was simply ‘best practice’ adopted throughout the industry. “
However safe SES affirms to be, the friendly Holbury homeowners stand together in saying “Won’t you not be my neighbor?
The health of Lake Champlain, Vermont’s largest and the United States’ sixth largest lake, has been suffering from the affects of agriculture for decades. Runoff from the manure used to fertilize farms has been causing water contamination of phosphorous.
Some phosphorous in lake water is normal; and some amount of the mineral will always find its way into Lake Champlain with agriculture being such a fundamental part of Vermont’s economy. The problem with excessive phosphorous is that when the levels go too high, a breeding ground for algae is created. Lake Champlain has been hosting yearly blooms of blue green algae, a type which contains certain toxins. According to LakeChamplainCommittee.org, “Algae toxins present a potential hazard to swimmers and their pets, and could affect drinking water collected during bloom periods.” The aglae blooms can also be harmful to the fish population.
Some critics are offering a drastic suggestion to curtail the amount of manure that makes its way into the water; make 100 percent of Vermont’s farms to go organic. If the long-shot decision was actually made, environmental regulations would require the remaining 80 percent of traditional dairy farms to convert to organic standards.
James H. Maroney, who is the most vocal of the organic supporters, believes that a sound environmental management plan would also call for “a strict limit of no more than one cow for every two acres of cropland upon which the cow’s manure is spread and her feed is grown.” (source: Burlington Free Press)Maroney also believes that Vermont should regulate the sale of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers.
As firmly as the “go organic” crowd is on its stance, many more Vermonters are opposed to the idea. Some argue that manure runoff is not the only cause of phosphorous buildup in the lake. Molly Walsh of Burlington Free Press cites, “stormwater run-off from roads, lawns, housing and commercial development," as additional contributors.
Philip Livingston, a Vermont dairy farmer feels strongly that farmers are already taking measures to curb the manure problem. They have developed innovative spreading techniques that use the fertilizer at peak times. They also install better storage systems and plant grass buffers “between fields and waterways and plant cover crops such as winter wheat or rye after the corn harvest to help reduce soil erosion,” says Walsh.
The bottom line, Livingston says, is that there is just not enough market demand for organic dairy products to support the entire state of Vermont going organic. Doing so would create a glut in the supply chain and that would be detrimental to the farmers.
It’s not a question of whether or not there is too much phosphorous pollution in Lake Champlain. Everyone is in agreement on that. The question is what can the state do about it? What do you think? With the majority of the water contamination undoubtedly coming from farm runoff, what can farmers to do curtail the problem? Should the state intervene?
Eight Newark, Ohio families are being told they must move out of their homes as the houses they have been living in are dangerously contaminated with TCE. The families are not just moving out temporarily; the buildings they now call home are destined to be razed so a thorough hazardous waste material remediation of the land can begin.
The houses are situated next to the Ohio Department of Transportation site, a place with a property history that shows nearly 50 years of water contamination and land pollution. For half a century workers at the site used trichloroethylene, or TCE, “to test asphalt and store machinery” said Jason Lenhart of the Advocate. It was common practice to use TCE before environmental regulations regarding the substance became more rigid. TCE is known to cause a host of health problems in humans including cancer.
The water contamination was first discovered when a golf club maker applied for a business loan in the 1990s. The bank performed legal due diligence and a site assessment found high levels of TCE in the groundwater.
In spite of tougher regulations, yearly sampling shows that levels of TCE at the DOT site are increasing. To protect the neighbors who are at a real risk of inhaling the dangerous chemical, the state’s EPA has decided to purchase their properties and knock down the buildings.
According to EPA spokesperson Erin Strouse, “It’s not clear what health problems, if any, can be attributed to the chemicals in the groundwater. In about a month, ODOT and the Ohio EPA will have results from monitors residents were asked to place in their homes.”
Air quality testing will show if the homeowners and their families have been exposed to elevated levels of TCE, due to their unfortunate proximity to the DOT site.
Amid fears that the toxic plume could migrate up through cracks in the foundations or through sump pumps, the EPA is planning to purchase the eight properties at fair market value by the end of the year.
Could the West Coast be on the verge of a green environmental trend for carbon offsetting? The state of California is about a year away from passing some of the nation’s toughest environmental regulations regarding greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists have been exploring many creative options to offer companies who will need to comply with the new standards soon. Most companies are anxious over how they will come up with the funds to purchase new efficient machinery and institute the processes that will meet the green house gas emission limits. In many cases the cost can simply not be met, which is why they turn to carbon offset programs as a much cheaper alternative.
The traditional option for a company to offset their carbon foot print was to fund the planting of a forest in order to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. An easier and cheaper option lies in the San Joaquin Valley in the form of a tall reed known as tule. The reed grows to about twelve feet and once it dies breaks down into peat soil. Tule grows extremely quickly and sucks a large amount of carbon dioxide out the air and traps it. The plant is also native to the area and has been for approximately 10,000 years.
Tule fields not only offer companies an alternative option in offsetting their carbon footprint, but it offers farmers in the San Joaquin Valley a unique opportunity to make money off their land. Farmers can rent their fields for this purpose in what has become known as carbon ranching. At the same time, this land would no longer be available for farmers to use for their own crops. The key to making this a viable option would be making it profitable.
There is also the risk that what the reeds pull out of the atmosphere in carbon dioxide could end up creating too much methane once they begin to decay. Once again this solution will only be successful if a delicate balance is met.
University of California at Berkeley professor Whendee Silver explains: "So that's part of the reason we're looking at this. How much methane comes out, how much carbon gets stored in, and is it sustainable? Can we keep that positive balance of carbon coming in?"
Oil spills are usually associated with large cargo ships that ooze into the sea or oil pipelines leaking uncontrollably, but there is another danger chugging along. Recent derailments across the United State and Canada have shed some light on the dangers associate with cargo trains hauling crude oil and other flammable chemicals.
The issue over the rails was thrust back into the limelight following the derailment of a train in Virginia that was carrying 15 cars of crude oil. Three of those cars fell down an embankment into the James River, spilling crude oil into the water. The train cars also caught fire. As a result of the burning crude oil billows of thick smoke blackened the skies, forcing nearby residents to be evacuated. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is monitoring the air pollution that resulted. The oil spilled into the James River could result in serious water contamination.
The Virginia derailment makes the sixth derailment of trains carrying crude oil in less than a year, the worst being a train in Quebec that resulted in an explosion that killed 47 people last July. The increase in derailments is likely due to several factors. First there has been a major increase in the demand to transport crude oil by train. Secondly, the cars used in the transportation of oil are often outdated, older models that need to be replaced. Lastly, there is simply a lack of regulation regarding the transport of crude oil by railway, especially since many tracks are located in close proximity to large residential areas, rivers, and other areas that would be vulnerable to a spill.
Environmentalists have been pushing towards slowing the growth of crude oil shipments as well as creating a regulation process to increase safety. Companies with a high stake in this new transportation venture state that they are already making an effort to work with government officials to come up with environmental regulations. They also emphasize that an increase in crude oil transport by rail could have extremely positive effects on the nation’s economy. If many outdate rail cars are replaced to meet environmental compliance standards, the industry which construct them would boom.