Climate change has had an unusual effect on global jellyfish populations. Warming waters have caused over population, creating problems in the ocean as well as for humans. Large swarms of jellyfish have been clogging drainage systems of nuclear facilities as well as other industrial sites. The blooms, as they are commonly referred to, are throwing off an important balance amongst sea life and frankly proving annoying to humans looking to enjoy the ocean without being stung. Over fishing of their natural predators has also made the problem even worse.
Researchers in Israel believe that they have come up with a great solution to help alleviate the abundance of jellyfish. They began to experiment with using jellyfish bodies mixed with nanoparticles to create a super absorbent product called Hydramash. Once the jellyfish’ absorbent property was discovered, researcher began to think about how it could be applied.
The most obvious use for the hydramash was to replace the product currently used in disposable diapers. The switch could have a huge positive effect on the environment; significantly decreasing the amount of hazardous waste material that ends up in the landfill.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that approximately 18 billion diapers are disposed of in landfills per year, totaling 3.5 million tons of solid waste. Disposable diapers take hundreds of years to breakdown, making them a major source of land pollution. The absorbent jellyfish product is completely biodegradable over a thirty day period.
There are however some concerns over the use of Hydramash in this seeming perfect partnership. First, critics feel that perhaps it is not ethical to kill mass amounts of jellyfish for their absorbent properties, especially since they are overpopulating due to human interaction. Other critics feel that Hydramash could cause unexpected allergic reactions amongst children and more extensive research must be conducted.
The state of Ohio has some serious question for the oil and gasoline industry after experiencing a series of small earthquakes recently. It is believed that the earthquakes, usually a magnitude 3.0 or less, were a direct result of nearby fracking sites. The process of fracking involves injecting high pressured water and sand into the ground in order to forcefully extract oil deposits. The oil is then processed into usable fuel. Although earthquakes are normally natural occurrences, all of the commotion in the deep bedrock has resulted in manmade earthquakes. The change in underground pressure due to drilling is forcing tectonic plates to shift. Ohio is not alone in this phenomenon; states like Oklahoma have been drawing this conclusion for years.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has responded to the recent tremors, acknowledging a correlation with fracking practices and creating stricter regulations for the oil industry. Drilling has been stopped at all fracking sites near areas affected by quakes. These drilling sites must remain closed until they can prove that operations are secure and new regulations are followed. One of the ODNR’s new environmental regulations is the mandatory use of seismic monitors for any drilling site within a three mile area of a known fault line. This new policy is aimed at preventing any future and possibly more dangerous future tremors.
Fracking had begun to boom in Ohio with over 800 drilling sites across the state, many focused on the Utica and Marcellus Shale’s. The newly acknowledged link between fracking and earthquakes may slow this boom down. The ODNR as well as other Ohio officials will be paying closer attention to how the oil and gas industry conduct business. Quake concerns as well as previous concerns of water contamination will make the fracking sites more accountable for their practices.
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.
Unilever, a large manufacturer of toiletry and beauty products, has recently been held accountable for the dumping of wastewater into local Clinton, Connecticut waterways. The courts ruled that Unilever must pay a fine of $1 million for its wrongdoing. The company must also donate an additional $3.5 million to the Connecticut Statewide Supplemental Environmental Project Account. Of that hefty donation, $2.5 million will be used to fund climate and rising sea level research and education. The remaining million dollars will be split between the creation of a new fish way and various other environmental projects in Clinton, CT. Unilever is also going to be on probation for the next three years, with the Environmental Protection Agency checking up on the company’s environmental compliance.
The courts came to this ruling after finding Unilever guilty of allowing its wastewater to be released directly into local waterways, bypassing the treatment process. Federal and local investigators speculate that the practice of releasing this waste water continued over a two year period. Environmental investigators also believe that the company was intentionally releasing the contaminated water and never reported it. This is an accusation that Unilever continues to deny. The company claims that the damaged drainage system was the result of vandals and that they were unaware of the improper disposal of any wastewater. After all was said and done, the company pled guilty to several counts of violating several environmental regulations in the Clean Water Act.
Waste water produced by the manufacturer flowed very quickly and often overpowered the aging system in need of repair. If the system became overwhelmed the waste water was trucked to a treatment facility at a cost of $1,500 a truck. This cost as well as the costs associated with repairing the system may have been enough of a reason for Unilever to release the overflow into Clinton’s storm drains. The irony lies in the much larger price tag associated with the obvious violations. The Unilever plant in Clinton has since shut its doors, closing down in 2012 so the company could make many of its processes more efficient.
The waste water that was released into storm drains and local waterways ultimately made its way to the Long Island Sound. Unilever states any water contamination that may have resulted from their faulty waste water system has not harmed the Long Island Sound or any of the plants or animals living in it. They also state that no drinking water was ever contaminated.
The State of Connecticut as well as the federal government hopes that this most recent punishment will serve as important example to other manufacturing companies. Cynthia Giles, the Assistant Administrator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said it best when she stated that “America’s communities deserve clean water, free from contaminants in illegal wastewater discharges. Protecting these communities means holding violators accountable, both for illegal discharges and for failure to report them.” The decision should lay the groundwork for some important precedence.
It seems as though spring has sprung and the birds are out in full force chirping away. With that said it is the perfect time to discuss the creepy crawly creatures that those birds love to snack on; worms. As unappealing as they may be to the majority of people, worms play a huge role in many ecosystems across the globe. Worms are nature’s decomposition experts, a trait that has put them in danger, but could also make them an important piece to the future of the disposal of hazardous waste material.
Earthworms are facing danger in many parts of the world, including the U.S., with the increased use of pesticides on crops. Worms are known for adapting to almost any environment that they are exposed to, which is exactly what they have done in soil heavy with pesticides. The problem is that the worms use so much of their energy adapting to pesticides that their growth is significantly stunted. In most cases they are half of the weight and size of a standard worm. Researchers also believe that the lack of energy has led to a lack of reproduction. Upon site assessments, it has become clear that worm populations in these fields have dropped significantly. The worms are not only decomposing less soil because they are smaller, but there are also far fewer of them to accomplish this.
Common earthworms my also play an important part in the planet’s future as research is being done to study their ability to break down heavy metals and other pollutants. So far all studies have pointed in a positive direction. South American researchers have conducted experiments in which worms decompose large amounts of metals as toxic as mercury, lead, and arsenic in as little as two weeks. With an increased amount of metals in the landfill each year the inexpensive option of turning to an innovative worm solution may be a wise choice. The creatures could break heavy metals down before they ever reached underground aquifers or other waterways, proving a highly efficient and economical new method of toxic waste removal.