Florida has become well known for its blue lagoons and crystal clear springs, but these waterways are facing an increasingly bleak future. Manatee Springs was once one of the most majestic waterways in the state, but has since become significantly less attractive with globs of algae atop the water and less wildlife in its ecosystem. A group of state legislatures has banded together across party lines to help pass an amendment aimed at cleaning up these important waterways.
Fertilizers and animal waste from local farms have polluted these oases’ leaving significant water contamination. The heavy nitrates in fertilizer killed natural vegetation as well as many fish. These same fertilizers have caused massive algae blooms, overwhelming the lagoon and depleting the water of much of its oxygen.
Protecting these spring and lagoons is not only important to the state of Florida’s environment, but it is also vital to the tourist economy. Each year thousands of tourist travel to the springs to dive and see the underwater caves, swim, and partake in all sorts of other recreational activities.
If the legislators accomplish their goals major funding would be allocated to the cleanup of springs across the state. Stricter environmental regulations would be enacted to prevent future contamination. These regulations would be prioritized on an individual basis, for instance springs that have the highest levels of fertilizers and nitrates would have a different cleanup plan than those that are being pumped dry for human consumption. The legislation wishes to address each waterway in the most efficient manner so that they can return to their former glory as soon as possible.
The proposed legislation will face much opposition as well. Despite the good intentions many Florida residents do not wish to have any additional funds allocated to the effort. They are also not looking forward to limiting their water consumption or having their septic systems regulated.
Home Improvement superstore, Lowe’s has come under fire this month for several environmental compliance violations. Lowe’s first settled a lawsuit with the State of California, agreeing to pay $18.1 million. In the same month, the company settled a federal suit with a $500,000 payout to several states.
The California case stemmed from a lengthy investigation by the Department of Toxic Substance Control in which the dumpsters and trash bins of many retailers were inspected. Upon investigation, it was discovered that Lowe’s had been throwing out hazardous waste in the trash, allowing it to make its way to the landfill. The company improperly disposed of fertilizer, paint, batteries, and other chemicals at least 118 stores in California for at least 7 years.
Lowe’s has agreed to pay the state of California $12.85 million covering fines associated with the grievances. The home improvement giant will also pay out an additional $2.1 million to help fund future environmental projects in the state, as well as $3.2 million to future waste reduction projects. Lowe’s has also agreed to follow all environmental regulations and has instituted many companywide policies to comply. The company was also said to have been completely cooperative during the investigation and judicial process.
While the California case was being settled, Lowe’s also settled a case with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This case involved Lowe’s use of contractors who did not comply with the Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule. This investigation came at the tips of consumers who noticed that lead paint and dust did not appear to be properly handled while work was being done. Upon investigation these observations were substantiated, it was also discovered that paperwork was not being filed properly regarding lead disposal. The violations occurred in at least nine different states. Lowe’s has since changed its policy on hiring contractors only using those who can prove they are familiar with lead safety. The company also paid a $500,000 fine to the federal government.
After such an expensive month of April one can only hope that Lowe’s has decided to become proactive in its compliance to environmental regulation, instead of adopting safe practices after the fact.
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.