The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has continued to find high levels of perflourooctanic acid or PFOA in at least twelve water systems. These findings have raised major public concerns and have also prompted state officials and scientific researchers to work together to find potential solutions. Stricter environmental regulations on water treatment processes are one of the most anticipated outcomes.
PFOA are a known carcinogen and have been linked to kidney, bladder, liver, pancreatic, prostate and testicular cancers. The chemical can also result in high cholesterol, thyroid problems, ADHD, infertility, developmental disorders, and hypertension during pregnancy. It can also lead to digestive diseases like ulcerative colitis. It is estimated that 98% of Americans have trace amounts of PFOA in their bloodstream due to exposure to this chemical.
PFOAs were developed in the 1940s and were mainly used in the manufacturing of Teflon products, carpet, as well as weather resistant clothing. Use of the chemical has been slowly phased out over the past few decades due to legislation banning the use. Manufacturing companies are supposed to have finished discontinuing PFOA use completely by 2015.
Currently, New Jersey has some of the strictest limits on PFOA’s (even more so than the federal Environmental Protection Agency) which explains why the concentration levels of the chemical has sounded so many alarms. Environmental groups are pushing for the state of New Jersey to enforce even stricter regulations of PFOAs. Thos push comes due to the increasing amount of evidence showing the serious health risks associated with the acid. Currently, acceptable limits of the chemical are 40 parts per trillion, environmentalist would like this lowered to 1 part per trillion since health problems can begin to manifest at that level. For reference, 1.3 million New Jersey residents had blood containing 20 parts per trillion.
Even though the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has flagged twelve water supplies as containing PFOA levels above their allowance, they state that many other water supplies tested in the state also contain the chemical in lower concentrations. That means that those communities could also be at risk for some of the health risks.
PFOA water contamination is not limited to the state of New Jersey, in fact the carcinogen has been found in then water supplies of twenty seven states across the nation. A recent New York Times article discussing the PFOAs outside of a manufacturing plant in DuPont, West Virginia has thrust the current environmental issue to the public spotlight even more.
There are a few methods that can be used to help rid waterways of PFOA contamination despite its non-biodegradable nature. The first method is to mix non contaminated water into the water containing PFOAs. This dilutes the concentration resulting in lower part per trillion measurements. The other method is installing a carbon filtration system. The Greenwich Township in Gloucester County, New Jersey has just spent $1.4 million on carbon filtration systems for all three of their wells. These systems will be fitted and installed within the next few months.
It may come as a surprise, but construction waste is one of the greatest sources of land pollution in the world. For instance in 2003 construction waste material resulted in an estimated 164 million tons of waste in the U.S. alone. The staggering amount of trash often consists of hazardous waste materials that can be dangerous to the environment.
A new green construction trend offers a potential solution to cut down on waste. This new technique is known as modular construction. This technique involves creating buildings in sections or modules in a manufacturing plant off site. The modules are built using traditional assembly line technology. The sections are then shipped to the construction site and pieced together in order, like a puzzle. The modules can be used to construct a building no matter how big or small.
It is estimated that the modular construction movement could reduce building waste by as much as 90%. This reduction in waste is due to many factors. First, waste associated with weather protection is not created since the modules are built in an indoor factory setting. Secondly materials will not be stolen or damaged on job sites, meaning it will not have to be disposed of or replaced. Lastly, all excess project materials are not dumped at the end of the project in order to clear the job site. Instead the extra materials can be used in the next modular project.
Currently the majority of modular buildings are ones that can be relocated or moved. For instance many times modular homes are brought on site during remodels, relocations, and emergency situations. These buildings can be used, moved, and reused over and over again instead of being demolished. This makes them extremely environmentally friendly.
Proponents of modular construction are hoping that this same success can be implemented in more permanent structures.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently been cleared of accusations that they showed bias in a study that they conducted regarding large scale mining in the Bristol Bay area. The study specifically focused on potential water contamination and the lucrative salmon fishing in the area. The inspector general of the EPA was requested to conduct investigation by the state of Alaska, Pebble Limited Partnership (a company looking to expand its Pebble Mine), as well as Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., another mining enterprise.
The potential mishandling by the EPA began when sources revealed that an ex-EPA employee had sent an email from his personal email that advised that a tribal petition revised in order to give the EPA more power under the Clean Water Act. This increase authority would help the Agency protect Bristol Bay more easily.
Although the Inspector General was limited in the emails that he could review as almost two years of emails were missing and he could not view the employee’s personal emails, he determined there was no proof of illegal action. The Inspector General instead stated that the EPA employee used bad judgment and abused their power.
Other EPA emails obtained through record requests having to do with Bristol Bay’s watershed revealed the potential veto of the Pebble Mine expansion before the plan was even complete. That same year the EPA suggested that restrictions be created that would block any further development of the mine. The restrictions were unusual in that they stemmed from a rarely enforced section of the Clean Water Act.
Pebble Limited Partnership has filed a lawsuit against the EPA stating that they cannot legally veto the mine expansion until the plan has been finalized. While the lawsuit continues the EPA must stop its work towards both new restrictions and the veto.
The Inspector General’s findings of no bias found in assessments of the Bristol Bay area and how it will be affected by a growing mining industry gives the EPA strength in this ongoing suit.
The California coastline has been slowly shrinking as a result of many current environmental issues as well as the increased number of sea walls being constructed. The California Coastline Commission (CCC) has begun to ask cities with beach from properties to calculate the monetary value of recreational activities. The CCC plans to take these figures and assign them any coastal residents that own a sea wall by charging them a permit. The permit fee will make up for the missed recreational dollars. The first city to test this fee will be Solana Beach, California.
Sea walls have been a controversial issue since the 1970s after the California Coastal Act was enacted. Environmentalists state that the walls prevent bluffs from naturally eroding and replenishing the beach sands. It is for this reason that residents already pay a sand replacement fee.
Based on assessments, Solano Beach was assigned a recreation fee of $870 per linear foot of sea wall. The fee will rise every year until it reaches $1,311 per linear foot by 2026. The average sea wall is fifty feet long. Base on that average length the fee would be between $43,500 and $65,550.
Coastline residents state that they do not mind paying a small fee for owning a sea wall to help lessen the negative environments affects, but feel that the recreation fee is completely ridiculous. Thy also state that their sea walls actually make the beach a much safer place for public recreation by preventing bluffs from collapsing. Five people have been killed in bluff accidents over the past twenty years in San Diego County alone.
Sea wall owners argue that they need the walls in order to prevent high tides and storms surges from damaging their homes and property. Others argue that shrinking coastlines due to sea walls is a moot point since rising sea levels due to climate change are much more detrimental.
Over 16,000 North Carolina residents are upset with Governor Pat McCrory’s energy plan that will be submitted in response to the federal government’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). The Clean Power Plan was created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce the carbon pollution produced by power plants in order to help combat climate change.
The Clean Power Plan which was officially passed in August 2015 by President Obama requires each state to reduce their carbon emission by at least 32% by 2020. The reduction will be based on the state’s 2005 level of pollution. States are allowed to create their own plans to reach this reduction goal, but must submit it by September 2016. The plan must also address three key issues; reducing emissions at coal energy plants, replacing coal plants with natural gas plants which produce less emissions, and working on developing sources of renewable energy.
North Carolina’s plan barely addresses the first issue of reducing coal plant emissions and does not really touch the others. State officials, including Governor McCrory feel that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is overstepping its legal jurisdiction with the Clean Power Plan. As a result McCrory does not think the state has to comply. North Carolina was one of twenty-four states that took the EPA to court to battle of the Plan’s legality. Ultimately the U.S. Court of Appeals sided with the EPA.
If North Carolina does not submit a plan that meets the EPA’s guidelines, the federal agency will put its own plan into place. This plan will force the state to meet all requirements, but will not be as beneficial to the state if they had created their own. North Carolina residents feel that the Governor’s plan was designed to fail and will do nothing more than waste tax payer dollars.
Governor McCrory also believes that not only is the Clean Power Plan is an overreach of power, but it will result in elevated electric rates. While this may be true, with the average power bill estimated to climb about $400 a year, the investment may be worth it in the long run. Not only will carbon emission be decreased, but the price of sustainable energy will also eventually fall after it is implemented successfully. The federal also offers incentive programs that could help offset some cost.
Those in favor of the CPP are urging the Governor to take this plan seriously and work on creating a compliant plan that will not only meet EPA requirements but have the state’s best interests at heart. If done thoughtfully, the move towards cleaner green power could stimulate the economy creating jobs and investing in the renewable energy industry.
Cleaner air would also improve the health of the community. Local doctors have stated that climate change has already led to created longer pollen seasons resulting in worsening conditions of asthma and allergy patients. There has also been an increase in illnesses caused by insects like Lyme disease and West Nile virus.
Others feel that climate change should be particularly important to the state as its coastal communities face increasing flood damage due to rising Sea levels. Not only could residents suffer property damage and loss, but the tourist industry could suffer as well.