This month, energy company, GasFrac, proposed what they claim is a cleaner and more environmental friendly method of hydraulic fracturing to decision makers in New York.
Canadian based GasFrac’s process uses only twenty percent of the liquid used in traditional fracking. Instead, a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) gel is used to break up the deposits of hard to reach natural gas. The LPG used in fracking returns to the surface in the form of propane.
The method overcomes three of the most often stated arguments against fracking: the need for millions of gallons of water to use in the process, the carbon footprint of transporting all of that water, and the cancer causing chemicals used in fracking that end up in the local groundwater.
GasFrac is poised to begin testing their gel based method in Pennsylvania, pending approval from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
The presentation put on for New York lawmakers was intended to convince them to green light operations in New York’s portion of the coveted Marcellus Shale. The Marcellus Shale is home to “the largest known reservoir of natural gas in America,” Linda Marsa, Discover; Fracking Nation.
With a growing number of critics asserting that natural gas derived from water and chemical based fracking is no cleaner than coal, GasFrac might be right on the money. LPG gel based fracturing could be the method that pushes fracking through the regulatory
The town of Carleton Place, Ottawa had plans to build a farmers market pavilion and parking lot for shoppers. Those plans were halted when the town discovered that the neighborhood contains a nasty dose of soil contamination and chemical vapors, left behind after a major chain department store sold its property to the town.
Recent tests of the soil beneath streets in the vicinity of the former Canadian Tire property have shown chemicals at levels up to five times higher than previously thought. The hazardous waste material plaguing the neighborhood is known as perc, short for perchloroethylene. Perc is a dry cleaning solvent and degreaser still widely used today. The problem with perc is that it is very harmful to humans, causing liver and kidney damage and according to the U.S. EPA, possibly cancer.
An environmental management consultant assigned to the case believes the contamination has been there for decades and involves roughly a 200 square meter area. According to the consultant’s report, “The chemical almost certainly leaked from a sewer under Lake Avenue East and into the surrounding soil. There are many risks involved in removing the contaminated soil, including the chance that the chemical could spread both vertically and laterally for a large distance.”
These risks are exactly why Carleton Place is cautious with its cleanup plans. After shooting down a proposal to simply leave the perc in the ground and monitor, the town is now considering removing it completely. Nevil Hunt of YourOttawaRegion.com reports, “The town has budgeted $1.5 million for the rehabilitation plan. That money will be used for property purchases…building removal, chemical clean up, and construction of the farmers market parking lot.”
A home on Tower Street in panoramic Westerly, Rhode Island with a property history of dangerous lead contamination was purchased by the town in a settlement agreement with two homeowners.
According to Dale Faulkner of the WesterlySun.com, “The Town Council voted unanimously Monday to authorize the purchase of 15 Tower Street from owners John. M. and Pamela H. Gourlay for $343,700, plus and an additional payment of $80,000 to the Gourlays for damages.”
Site assessments determined that the land pollution was caused by lead-based paint that fell from the municipal water tower that the street was likely named after.
Westerly officials bought the property in order to prevent the enormous costs associated with environmental lawsuits of this type in the state of Rhode Island. Without a specific clause in the town’s insurance policy, Westerly could potentially have been on the hook for nearly a million dollars. Faulker explains, “If the case went to court, the town would have been subject to a state-imposed interest rate of 12 percent per year on a financial judgment ordered by a judge. [Town Solicitor] Buck estimated the Gourlays could be awarded $450,000 to $900,000 if the case were decided in court.”
Aside from the preventative savings of settling with the Gourlays, the town will likely recover some money down the road when it is able to sell the Tower Street property. A thorough cleanup of the lead-contaminated soil will have to be done first and the cost of that is unknown at this time.
In light of everything, it appears the two-year long talks did lead to a settlement that the Gourlays are satisfied with and the town of Westerly can work into the budget. The land would have needed a remediation no matter what, so it basically came down to “do we want to go to court and pay almost a million dollars, or do we want to settle and pay about half that.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is strongly encouraging citizens of the Wall Township, Manasquan Borough and Sea Grit, New Jersey communities to attend a hearing pertaining to the environmental cleanup of a local Superfund site. The highly contaminated sites were once the location of dry cleaning businesses, White Swan Cleaners and Sun Cleaners. The EPA refers to the dry cleaning properties as “an astonishing toxic legacy” and one of the most contaminated Superfund sites in the nation.
Over thirty years of operation, the dry cleaners released alarming levels of contaminating compounds like perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE). Both of these hazardous waste materials have been found in soil and groundwater at the properties. Exposure to PCE and TCE has been closely linked to an increased risk of cancer as well as damage to the liver. The EPA states that a cleanup effort to prevent public health risks remains its number one goal. Surrounding buildings have tested positive for high levels of PCE and TCE vapor. In 2001 thirty-four out of five hundred households tested positive for this toxic vapor intrusion. The EPA immediately installed filtration systems in these homes and continues to perform air quality testing.
As a more permanent solution, the Environmental Protection Agency wishes to clean up the contaminated sites for an estimated $19 million. Several state-of-the-art techniques will be implemented to decontaminate the properties' groundwater and soil. First, soil will be run through a carbon filter using a large vacuum like machine to remove any toxins in their vapor form. Groundwater will be cleaned using a process called air sparging. This process injects air into the soil, creating vapor bubbles that can be filtered out of the water more easily. Other areas of groundwater will be treated at a plant to ensure it is free of all traces of PCE and TCE.
The final step in the New Jersey clean up is the continued testing of soil, groundwater, and air quality well into the future. This testing will ensure that no one is being exposed to the toxins and the public’s health is not at risk. The public is being urged to attend upcoming public hearings and express any questions, concerns, or comments regarding the cleanup effort.
Research has shown a significant link between forest debris and the health of fish in nearby waterways. The debris has proven to be an essential piece in the freshwater food chain. The debris feeds zooplankton and small fish. Larger fish then consume the zooplankton and grow to robust, healthy weights. Forest debris includes leaves and other vegetation waste that is washed downstream into fresh waterways. The leaves and other plants begin to break down along their journey.
Researchers studied Lake Daisy in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. They chose this lake since Sudbury was an area deeply affected by local nickel smelting plants. Acid rain resulting from the pollution had destroyed much of the surrounding forest leaving many of Daisy Lake’s shores barren. After decades of environmental regulations geared toward recovering the area, young vegetation has begun to populate the shore again, but the forest cover remains sparse.
Yellow Perch were studied from different areas of Daisy Lake. Each area had a different type of vegetation density. Carbon resulting from forest debris has a much different mass than carbon resulting from algae, so the researchers were able to study which form of carbon was more prevalent in baby Yellow Perch.
They determined that areas with sparse vegetation had baby Perch with a biomass of 34% from forest debris while baby Perch in the areas with forest had a biomass of 66%. Essentially these results show that fish consuming the most forest debris are of a much healthier weight. The smaller fish survive from algae based food and are often unhealthy, weak, and less likely to reproduce successfully. They are more easily caught by predators as well due to their weakness.
While forests disappear due to climate change, deforestation, fires, and other current environmental issues, less and less debris is available to flow downstream into lakes and ponds. Daisy Lake is located in what is known as a boreal region. Boreal regions contain almost 60% of the planet’s fresh waterways, which is why it is so worrisome that fish health may be in danger.
Residents and business owners who live and work in the Mississippi River flood region have more to deal with than property damage and the clear dangers that come with elevated water levels. This year, the river swelled to six times its normal size and came close to breaking the 1937 record of reaching 48.7 feet. Weather experts chalk the heavy flooding up to a combination of more snow than usual in the Midwest now melting into the Mississippi and an extremely rainy April down south. All of that extra water will leave more people than in normal years facing a less visible threat; the presence of toxic mold.
After the river crests and the floodwaters subside, thousands of homes and other buildings whose walls and basements had been engulfed in water, will be left to dry covered with various types of mold. Not all molds are harmful, but the EPA warns that there are human risks associated with the inhalation of mycotoxins released by mold.
Indoor molds have been known to cause adverse health effects that range from the fairly mild−irritation of the mucous membrane, skin rashes, nausea−to the downright severe such as immune system suppression, acute or chronic liver damage, central nervous system damage, endocrine effects, and even cancer. (Environmental news network)
For homes that were touched by the flood, the recommendation is that you first make all attempts to dry out the walls, floorboards, and ceilings by using dehumidifiers and fans. Towel off any household objects that can easily be dried by hand. It’s strongly recommended that home and business owners call a contractor to help with any sheetrock or carpeting that has been saturated by the flood water. Professionals can perform mold tests to find out for sure if mold is growing in the building and help a contractor locate fixtures that need to be removed.
The dangers that mold can bring to flood victims cannot be understated. In a year like this when the mighty Mississippi really flexed its muscle, more property owners than ever should take precautions for the health of their families and clientele.
Shell Oil caused the ground pollution of a 50-acre area known as the Carousel Tract neighborhood in Carson, California. At least this is what hundreds of area residents have been saying for two years. Now, the city of Carson is joining the fight and filing an environmental lawsuit of its own.
The residents, who filed suit against Shell in 2010, are relieved that now the city has taken a stance on their behalf since their litigation has been moving at a sloth’s pace through the court system. “Perhaps the judge will look at this and say, ‘Ok, the city is stepping in.’ That will give us a little more credibility,” says Barbara Post, president of the Carousel Homeowner’s Association.
Attorneys for the city of Carson allege that Shell left an oil tank farm that exposed the surrounding area to hazardous waste materials including benzene and methane. They claim, as is noted in the previous lawsuit, that Carousel Tract residents have been experiencing a laundry list of health problems since the contamination began. According to Sandy Mazza, of presstelegram.com, “Attorneys argue that people living there have suffered ailments including cancer, vertigo, arrhythmia and other problems because of the benzene, methane, and other chemicals.”
Shell, for its part, has been studying contamination in the soil of several Carousel Tract neighborhood homes, a move described by some as a stall tactic. The company will be soon be researching new methods of cleaning up the soil. A company spokesperson said, “Our position is that we’re moving forward with the cleanup and abatement order.”
All parties involved hope to finally put this behind them and bring the environmental safety level to where homeowners are not living in fear of their health. With two lawsuits pending, one involving the city, the people living in Carousel Tract should see positive results much more quickly.
A regional investigation into a scarcely-regulated industry brought officials all over New England and ultimately to a western Conn. city. A special look into a current environmental issue that Conn. Health I-Team writer Barbara Morgan describes as “a complete sleeper” showed that a specific type of laundry company is causing massive VOC pollution and breaking Clean Air Act laws.
The industry is a branch of laundry services that specializes in cleaning shop and printing towels—towels that after use, become soaked with an assortment of poisonous solvents. The towels are used by companies that operate and wipe down heavy machinery and have caused some corporations to fear the liabilities they present. One such company is Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. who explained that they would rather pay extra for pre-moistened, disposable towels that can immediately be thrown away as hazardous waste and always remain under Sikorsky’s control. There is so little regulation in laundering the towels that most New England states use a guideline called the one-drop test: “if a shop or print towel is dripping wet with solvent oil, paint, or other chemicals, a factory must treat it as hazardous waste. Otherwise, it can be washed, dried, and reused,” according to Morgan.
Investigators began to catch onto the trail of one violator named G & K Services at its Manchester, New Hampshire plant. The company was fined for several violations. More importantly, it led the EPA to look into G & K’s Waterbury, Conn. plant where an outstanding disregard for human and environmental safety was occurring.
The heavy-duty laundry cleaning facilities was discovered to have released copious amounts VOCs, noxious fumes and hazardous chemicals into the property during its years of operations.
According to Morgan in the Hartford Courant, “The moment Mark Spiro [air pollution control engineer with CT’s DEEP] walked into G & K Services, an industrial laundry in Waterbury, the steamy air stung his eyes and made his head ache. The place reeked of chemical solvents: methyl ethyl ketone, xylene, toluene—the sickly sweet scents of spray paint, permanent markers and model glue.”
VOCs were spewing through smoke stacks at the facilities and blanketing the neighboring buildings with horrible smells and dangerous chemicals. Although many VOCs dissipate as they reach the air, humans who come in contact with them have a high chance of ingesting powerful substances.
According to the investigation, “From October 2006 to October 2007, G & K in Waterbury produced an estimated 180 tons of VOCs, 130 tons over the legal limit.” “I’ve been here 25 years. I’ve been in enforcement my whole career. This is by far the worst case I’ve ever seen,” said Robert Girard, who works for the DEEP.
G & K’s Waterbury plant released not only the typical solvents one might expect at a shop and printing towel launderer, but also a dizzying amount of two especially dangerous chemicals: hexachlorobutadiene and isophorone diisocyanate, one of which is cancer-causing, and the other his extremely toxic.
The Harford Courant article quotes neighbor Marie DellAnno as saying the smell was “like lighter fluid but a thousand times worse” and made her dizzy and nauseous.
The company was not following any sort of safety and health program and did not use the one-drop test. They truly showed a complete lack of regard for anyone’s safety, least of all their workers. The state brought an environmental lawsuit against the company and the result was a settlement for $1.8 million dollars and the end of G & K washing the towels in Connecticut.
An environmental lawsuit is underway addressing an issue that plagues regions across the county; water contamination caused by storm water pollution. A number of plaintiffs are suing the owners of the Mosler Rock Ojai Quarry, a 30-acre Santa Barbara regulated minefield for what they say the company hasn’t done to protect environmental safety. The plaintiffs, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and Environmental Defense Center, allege that the Ojai Quarry has not taken measures to prevent rockslides and sediment from entering and polluting the Ventura River and because of this, the already endangered species living in the water are suffering.
“The Ojai Quarry has been recognized as one of the most significant sources of water pollution in the upper Ventura River watershed for several years. We have made every effort to work cooperatively with the facility’s owner to address our concerns, but storm water runoff from the Ojai Quarry is still laden with sediment and polluting our water. We hope this lawsuit will finally catalyze effective and enduring action by the Quarry,” said Kira Redmond, who is executive director for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.
According to the lawsuit, the Ojai Quarry has for years been unsuccessful in meeting environmental regulations for storm runoff contamination. Water sampling of the river has found high levels of pollution and it has killed off significant numbers of the highly-endangered Southern steelhead fish.
The lawsuit is not so cut and dry, however. Larry Mosler, who is the owner of the Mosler Rock Ojai Quarry, has stated strong frustrations over what he calls contradictory environmental regulations and the “tangled web” of agencies who are making demands of the company. According to Zeke Barlow of the Ventura County Star, “The DFG, LARWQCB and NOAA are looking into watershed issues, the DOC and OMR are examining how the mine operates, while the STTC fears the mine is harming Ojai’s quality of life. And don’t forget the VCAPCD, ACOE, VCWPD, VCRMA and a host of others that have some say in the operation of Mosler’s quarry.”
Is it negligence on Mosler’s part or is he so overwhelmed and confused by all the competing demands placed on his quarry that he simply doesn’t know which action to take to protect the Southern steelhead and its ilk? The lawsuit will sort out the details and most importantly, help Larry Mosler nagivate the complex regulatory requirements and put a rock-solid environmental management plan in place.
We all turn the faucet handle and know that water will undoubtedly come cascading out, but it important to note that water sustainability has risen to the top of the planet’s current environmental issues.
Several factors play into the vulnerabilities of water’s future. One is the sheer increase in demand for water as the planet’s population continues to grow. Not only is the population growing, but the demands for modern conveniences like indoor plumbing and modern irrigation have also increased. Secondly, climate change has increased the amount of water that is evaporated into the atmosphere. Changing climates have made the quantity and quality of planet’s water less predictable. Floods and droughts are anticipated to become more common. Lastly, many municipal water infrastructures are simply outdated. Out of date systems are not expected to handle the increased demands for water delivery and are extremely inefficient.
Despite all of the doom and gloom predictions, there are several things that can be done to keep water a sustainable resource. Many of the measures that can be taken start with residential end users, like you.
The Water Research Foundation conducted a comprehensive study in which it sampled households in 14 North American cities to come up with an accurate portrait of water used. The results of the study exposed that 61% of water is used indoors for things like laundry, the toilet, and showers. The remaining use was split 29% outdoors and 10% to leaks. Overall, the average American home uses approximately 255 gallons of water per day.
Indoor usage can be decreased through simple and inexpensive measures like decreasing shower length, ensuring loads of laundry are appropriately sized, and turning the faucet off when not in direct use. Residents can take conservation a step further by upgrading their appliances to energy star appliances and low flush toilets. Outdoor usage also has several solutions. Residents can simply choose climate appropriate landscaping that will require minimal watering. Several irrigation systems that conserve water can be installed including systems that collect and reuse rainwater as well.
The 10% of water usage resulting from leaks does not have as obvious solutions. Most leaks are not as simple as a dripping faucet and homeowners are unaware that they exist. Other larger leaks are in the water system infrastructure and are not easy to identify or fix.
The biggest issue in getting residents on board with water conservation efforts is, frankly it doesn’t pay. Residents spend quite a bit of money on upgraded appliance or irrigation systems for the yard and will see little financial incentive in doing so. It takes years to break even on the investment. Furthermore, many residents may want to make the switch, but cannot afford to do so. Still others don’t want to be inconvenienced by lifestyle changes.
Another step toward conserving water includes implementing environmental regulations. These regulations range from creating standards of plumbing and appliance efficiency to bans on water usage during periods of drought. Government reimbursement programs for water efficient construction, appliances, or agricultural techniques can also encourage change. While government regulation has had relatively successful results in many communities, residents are weary of the additional oversight into their lives.