A recent oil spill in the Alaska has Hilcorp, the company that owns the pipeline, scratching its head as to what happened. The pipe that sprung the leak is a section of the North Slope pipeline has had no nearby field activity disturbing it. In fact the pipe had been inspected the night before. No individuals or equipment had any contact with the pipe, so the cause is truly still mystery.
Cleanup crews have had to halt their efforts due to extreme blizzard conditions in the area of Alaskan tundra. Before ceasing cleanup efforts crews took the appropriate measures to preserve the spill site. One method included spraying the area down with water to create an icecap over the site. Before the cleanup was stalled 4,000 gallons of spilled fluids were vacuumed up. Upon initial site assessments, crews believe that 38,800 square feet have been contaminated, with the majority of the oil pooling below the damaged pipe. Some fluid was blown further by strong wind gusts.
Hilcorp, a Houston based oil company is relatively new to the North Slope area where the pipeline is located. With that said they are being commended for their quick response to the spill. The company quickly sealed off the 15 foot section of the pipe affected using valves. They then plugged the hole with a wooden stopper and wrapped the pipe, preventing any continued leaking. By the following day they had installed an alternative pipeline so that production could continue as usual. If the pipe was lift untreated an ice plug can result and damage the pipeline even more.
Once blizzard conditions have cleared federal regulators are expect to inspect the leak site and better determine the scope of the damage done. The broken pipe will then be removed from the site and carefully studied so that a cause for the leak can be determined.
Several environmental groups have filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after the federal agency officially legalized the use of an insecticide known as flupyradifurone. The environmental groups, including the Center of Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, and the Defenders of Wildlife argue that the EPA is violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing the insecticides to be used.
The EPA approved the use of flupyradifurone as a replacement to another insecticide known as neonicitoids, which had been ravaging North American bee populations in recent years. The reason that flupyradifurones are a good replacement for neonicitoids is that they function in the same manner. Unlike most pesticides which merely coat the plants surface, flupyradifurones enter all of the plant’s tissues. This makes it much more successful in killing crop pests. Flupyradifurone has proven to be completely nontoxic to bee colonies while successfully protecting crops from pests like aphids, thrips, and whiteflies. The insecticide is diverse in the variety of crops it protects, including citrus groves, cotton fields, and potato patches.
The environmental groups suing the EPA do not feel that flupyradifurone is the ideal replacement, since it may unintentionally harm endangered species. All insect that feed on the treated crops as well as any species that rely on those insects for a food source could be affected. One example the groups provide is the Karner blue butterfly, an endangered species that could face extinction due to the insecticide’s use.
The groups feel that they EPA did not perform its legal due diligence in consulting with the U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service about the potential affect that flupyradifurone could have on the environmental safety of endangered species. They also feel that the while the insecticide may be non toxic to bee colonies, there are thousands of other solitary bee species that do not colonize that were left out of the research process.
The EPA now has sixty days to respond to the complaint before going to court.
Centuries of heavy shipping traffic have created a significant number of current environmental issues in the Great Lakes Region. Arguably the most environmentally devastating issue has not resulted from a massive chemical spill, or pollutant as most would expect. The biggest environmental issue has instead come as a result of the hundreds of invasive plant and animal species that have been introduced to the area. Most of the species were introduced unintentionally by ships transporting goods across the Great Lakes and have flourished in the areas climate ever since.
Invasive animal species like the Asian Carp and Zebra Mussel have wreaked havoc on the Great Lakes’ natural food chain. Exotic plants species have been equally as damaging. The phragmites, also known as the common reed as well as several other grasses and cattails have taken over many of the lake banks. The plants have overtaken native plants, starving them of soil, nutrients, and sunlight. With native plants being killed, animals that rely on them for food or habitat also suffer. Aside for ecosystem changes, the physical land is also being put in danger. Many native plants have root systems designed to keep the Great Lake shores strong. Without these root structures erosion can easily occur allowing banks to wash away.
Overgrowth of the common reed and other invasive plants can also affect the economics of the surrounding tourist industries. Not only may the lakes be less aesthetically pleasing to tourists, but boating and water sports become more difficult and potentially dangerous with large plant overgrowths in the way. Obviously fishing becomes less enjoyable when all the fish have died.
With so much at stake, environmentally and economically, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), United States Coast Guard, as well as the states in the Great Lake region have teamed up to attack the problem.
The Coast Guard has initiated strict environmental regulations regarding ballast water. Ballast water is the water taken in or emptied from cargo ships as they load or unload shipments in order to keep a steady weight. It is estimated that about 30% of the invasive species in the Great Lake region came via ballast water. Since the 1990’s ships have been banned from releasing any ballast water while in the Great Lakes, a regulation enforced under felony penalty of law.
While all environmental groups feel as though prevention of introducing invasive species into the region is the best way to combat the problem, they recognize it is too late in many instances. A few weeks ago the EPA provided the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative with approximately $8 million to help deal with the invasive species epidemic. The Great Lake Restoration Initiative includes; Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New York, and Wisconsin. The majority of the funds will be used by state and municipal environmental groups to restore the lakes by removing invasive species. The remaining funding will go towards research of how to prevent future infestations of invasive species. A long term plan is vital to the cleanup program’s success.
Oregon City, Oregon has been fined by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to pay $6,000 for leaking approximately 1,750 gallons of raw sewage into a tributary of Newell Creek. The leak occurred in a pipe leading into the Barclay Hills Sanitary Sewer Pump Station. State law declares the leaking of any raw sewage into rivers or other bodies of water illegal.
Oregon City acknowledges the spill and states that it took immediate action upon realizing the sewage pipe had broke. The city fixed the pipe quickly and made the leak public, notifying any residents living nearby and posting warning signs throughout the community.
Raw sewage in a local waterway could prove dangerous for not only the environment, but also to the health and safety of the human population. Sewage can carry pathogens and bacteria, both of which can result in consumer illness, discomfort, and even death. Most commonly, consumers of contaminated water will experience mild to severe gastrointestinal issues. Heavy metals and other toxic waste materials can also be found in sewage and lead to more serious health conditions like cancer.
Fortunately, there have not been any reports of individuals becoming ill due to the consumption of contaminated water. This is in large part to the city’s quick efforts to fix the leak and warn resident. The Department of Environmental Quality has recognized the efforts made by the city. The DEQ states that they took that into consideration when calculating a fine and enforcing the city’s’ environmental compliance. Oregon City also has the opportunity to appeal if they choose to before the end of the month, but it seems likely they will pay the fine and move forward. The city may do so by ensuring that all of its other sewer lines are well maintained to prevent any future leaks.
Paper manufacturing company 3M has recently adopted a series of completely new policies regarding which suppliers they will conduct business with.
3M’s new environmental regulations include requiring all 5,000 of its suppliers in over 70 different countries to provide transparent information of all practices, procedures, and sources of their wood fiber. If a supplier does not comply or fails to collect its wood in a sustainable manner, 3M promises to cut ties with them indefinitely. Suppliers must not be linked to deforestation, the illegal harvesting of wood, or intentionally violating any other environmental policies in place. Suppliers must not infringe on the rights of an areas native people, log on conserved forest or peatlands, and must not destroy the habitats of endangered species. 3M promises that it will issue a report twice a year outlining all of the data collected from its suppliers as well as how all of its new environmental sustainability policies are being implemented.
3M had long been scrutinized for outdated practice and a lack of transparency in their dealings with paper and pulp suppliers. Environmental group, ForestEthics, based out of California began an aggressive campaign against 3M several years ago. The campaign included protests and outrageous publicity stunts. One of the most infamous stunts took place at an annual 3M meeting in Texas. Outside the meeting a group of protesters dressed as caribou while others played the role of loggers chasing them with large faux chainsaws. The protest was meant to demonstrate the practices of a Canadian based supplier that 3M had done business with. The Canadian company has been blamed for deforestation in areas that caribou call home.
The adoption of such strict environmental policies by a company as large as 3M sets an important example for many corporations who may be apprehensive about doing so. 3M has an impressive global reach and feels that they can hold its suppliers accountable while continuing to remain a profitable company. The hope is for a ripple effect to occur and suppliers participating in sustainable practices become the expected norm. The company famous for making Post-Its and Scotch tape can now consider itself a leader in being an environmentally sustainable corporation.
ForestEthics is pleased with 3M’s decision to move forward as an environmentally proactive company and has since ended its campaign against them. In fact the group has been involved in some of the policy adoption and participated in joint press conferences with the paper giant.