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.
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.
As far as sustainable business practices go, sometimes it seems like we’ve heard them all. Oftentimes the practices are complex, expensive, and time consuming to begin. But southern Missouri area businesses have recently begun considering an idea that has gone largely undetected by the mass media.
A byproduct synergy network, as it is called, is a deceptively simple system that goes back to the basics that we all learned in the early days of saving the earth awareness: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Byproduct synergy networks are groups of businesses in a geographical area that offer their unwanted, unneeded, or used materials to other businesses in the area. Similar to a clothes swap among friends, the system allows other businesses to put materials into production that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill. “This could divert tons of waste from a landfill,” Sue Adams of Able Manufacturing and Assembly tells the Associated Press. Network members save money on costs of materials as well so it works out for the earth, and for the budget.
Joplin, Missouri area businesses began talks to work out details of starting a byproduct synergy network that would closely replicate those in use in other areas of the country including Houston, Chicago, and Kansas City.
I can’t help but thinking, “why didn’t I think of that?” and with a little time, it is likely that many other regional businesses will as well.
A group of Pittsburgh environmentalists are outraged over decades of ground pollution and water contamination by Pittsburgh Plate Glass. PPG was the largest plate glass company in the world before its demise in 1992. Located about 40 miles from Pittsburgh, PPG had been polluting the area with lead, arsenic, mercury, copper, and manganese. A pipeline dug by the company flowed waste into a private dumping area. It is this toxic waste dump that has been silently leaking for years now.
The environmental safety of tested areas is so unhealthy that fish cannot even survive in some parts of the Allegheny River which are adjacent to PPG’s former factory. According to studies of the contamination, “The research crew developed irritation of the mucous membranes while in close proximity to the cliff face, additionally on pair of nitrate gloves dissolved during sampling in a dug hole.”
Area residents and environmental groups are frustrated not only by the pollution, but by the glaring fact that PPG has known about the problem since the 1970s. The DEP ordered the plate glass manufacturer to clean up the toxic waste in 1971 but a cleanup has not happened.
Now, those angered by the violations are filing a lawsuit against PPG. PennEnvironment’s Erika Staaf says, “The time for action is now. Our environmental laws are meaningless if polluters can violate them with impunity. When persistent violations are not addressed by the government, our federal environmental laws allow private citizens to enforce the law.”
Staaf describes the hazardous waste pollution as covering an area of 77 acres and causing the pH of some parts of the Allegheny to reach “as high as 12.69, about the same as bleach. Ammonia has a pH of about 11.”
Should the people of Western Pennsylvania have to live with a river with waters as harmful as bleach and ammonia? This lawsuit aims to say, no! and it will be interesting to follow this case and see if PPG finally rewrites its messy property history.
A hot current environmental issue that has been simmering for the last few years is the dilemma of whether or not coal ash, or fly ash as it is also known, should be classified as hazardous waste material and consequently subject to environmental regulations.
The main arguments for not changing the status of coal ash are the inevitable cost increases to companies who produce it as well as the not-so-realistic notion that it is does not pose a threat to environmental safety.
Just as the cost increases involved with the disposal of coal ash as hazardous waste are very real, there is a growing harsh reality of what it is doing to cause air and land pollution and especially water contamination. The facts are stacking up higher than the smoke stacks from whence it came.
A new study at Duke University that involved the testing of “more than 300 water samples from 11 water bodies across the state [of North Carolina], finding several cases where levels of contamination far exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for safe drinking water and aquatic life,” according to Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies.
Coal ash has managed to slip through the regulatory process in spite of the fact that it is known to contain a bevy of harmful elements including arsenic, heavy metals, and radioactive materials.
Even more disturbing than simply finding high amounts of coal ash pollution in the state’s bodies of water, is the fact that some of those bodies of water are used for human consumption. “Some of the coal ash-contaminated water bodies supply drinking water to North Carolina communities. For example, the study found that samples of water trapped in sediments in Mountain Island Lake- a primary source of drinking water for Charlotte, N.C. and nearby communities- contained up to 250 parts per billion of arsenic, which is known to cause cancer and other health problems. That’s about 25 times higher than current EPA standards for drinking water and nearly twice the EPA standard for aquatic life. Duke Energy’s Riverbend Steam Station and its two coal ash ponds are located near the lake, which provides cooling water for the plant,” said Sturgis.
It is certainly not just Duke Energy that is practicing this method. Coal energy supply companies almost routinely dump coal ash into the environment in one way or another. The same I.S.S. article names Progress Energy, which operates several power stations near recreational lakes, as another contributor to water contamination. In reality though, it is the whole industry that needs some stricter levels of environmental regulations.
A majority of both partisan groups block legislation that would allow the EPA to classify coal ash as hazardous waste material. A growing number of groups are becoming more vocal about wanting clean waterways, however, and it’s not easy to ignore. Sturgis said, “more than 300 public interest groups from 43 states sent a letter to the Senate opposing the bill [which would block the EPA from regulating], noting that it ‘leaves our water sources open to contamination with dangerous heavy metals.’”
An Ohio based law firm, Wright & Shulte LLC, has spearheaded the legal representation of individuals interested in filing suit against a West Virginia plant. Most recently the firm has begun to represent an individual with the complaint of “severe and permanent personal injuries, pain, suffering, and emotional distress” which resulted from the exposure to toxic chemicals in the district’s water supply.
The DuPont Washington Works Plant has been accused of leaching a toxic chemical known as C8 into several Ohio and West Virginia water districts during operation. C8 is a chemical most commonly used in the manufacturing of Teflon. There are direct links between C8 exposure and the development of several potentially fatal health issues. These illnesses include kidney or testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis (a chronic digestive disorder), thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure during pregnancy known as preeclampsia. The connection between these illnesses and C8 was substantiated by the C8 Science Panel in October 2012.
In 2005 the DuPont Washington Works Plant reached a settlement in a 70,000-party class action suit. One of the settlement stipulations of the class action suit was that any individual has the right to file future suit against DuPont if they meet certain criteria. The first criteria being that he individual must be living in one of the six exposed water districts. Secondly, the plaintiff must be suffering or have passed away from an illness directly linked to C8 exposure. Lastly, the individual must have lived in the contaminated district before December 3, 2004. Wright & Shulte LLC is currently looking for additional plaintiffs meeting these requirements to file future lawsuits against DuPont.
All pending lawsuits allege that the DuPont Washington Works Plant was aware that C8 exposure could be harmful since the 1980s. Furthermore, cases allege that the Plant knew that it was releasing the toxic chemical into the Ohio River contaminating surrounding water districts. The plant is also accused of knowing that a carbon absorption treatment system would have drastically reduced the amount of C8 released into local waterways, but refused to implement the system. The Plant chose to do nothing to stop, slow, or remedy the contamination issue.