‘Forever chemicals’ pollute water from Alaska to Florida

‘Forever chemicals’ pollute water from Alaska to Florida

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 22, 2020 SNIP: [V]arious forms of PFAS are still used in a spectrum of industrial and consumer products – from nonstick frying pans and stain-resistant carpets to food wrappers and firefighting foam – and have become ubiquitous. The chemicals enter the environment anywhere they are made, spilled, discharged or used. Rain can flush them into surface sources of drinking water such as lakes, or PFAS may gradually migrate through the soil to reach the groundwater – another key source of public water systems and private wells. For the same reasons the chemicals are prized by manufacturers – they resist heat, oil and water – PFAS also persist in the soil, the water and our bodies. More than 200 million Americans may be drinking PFAS-contaminated water, suggests research by the nonprofit Environmental Working group (EWG), an advocacy group which is collaborating with Ensia on its Troubled Waters reporting project. As studies continue to link exposures to a lengthening list of potential health consequences, scientists and advocates are calling for urgent action from both regulators and industry to curtail PFAS use and to take steps to ensure the chemicals already in the environment stay out of drinking water. PFAS dates back to the 1930s and 1940s, when Dupont and Manhattan Project scientists each accidentally discovered the chemicals. The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, now 3M, soon began manufacturing PFAS as a key ingredient in Scotchgard and other non-stick, waterproof and stain-resistant products. Thousands of different PFAS chemicals emerged over the following decades, including the two most-studied versions: PFOS and PFOA. Oral-B began using PFAS in dental...
Was Plastics Being Mixed With Oil In Mauritius Spill To Produce A Horror ‘Frankenstein Fuel’?

Was Plastics Being Mixed With Oil In Mauritius Spill To Produce A Horror ‘Frankenstein Fuel’?

SOURCE: Forbes and Woods Hole Institute DATE: November 3, 2020 SNIP: Fresh concerns have been raised by international experts about the type of oil spilled into the coral lagoons of Mauritius in August, and which continues to impact marine life in the region. Leading international scientists from both France and the United States late last week highlighted the highly ‘complex,’ ‘unusual’ and ‘surprising’ traits of the oil, which they have never seen in a major oil spill before. They have urgently called for samples of the original oil from the Wakashio to be sent to laboratories for further testing. Speculation continues to circulate about the mysterious oil that was in the Wakashio and which caused the environmental catastrophe in Mauritius this summer. It is likely to leave a devastating legacy for decades to come. Once more, questions are being raised about what could have been mixed with the ship fuel oil and why proper oil fingerprinting has still not been conducted. In major oil spills, cleanups would never have begun unless the basic characteristics of the oil are known – a process that takes mere hours. Each oil behaves very uniquely in different climates and regions, and even the UN’s shipping regulator, the IMO, admitted in August that they did not know how this oil would behave in Mauritian waters given the Southern Hemisphere’s winter conditions. That would make it all the more important to run an analysis of the characteristics of the oil before beginning any cleanup operation. This would be even more important given the acute toxicity that has led to over 50 whales and dolphins dying...
L.A.’s coast was once a DDT dumping ground. No one could see it — until now

L.A.’s coast was once a DDT dumping ground. No one could see it — until now

SOURCE: LA Times DATE; October 25, 2020 SNIP: Not far from Santa Catalina Island, in an ocean shared by divers and fishermen, kelp forests and whales, David Valentine decoded unusual signals underwater that gave him chills. The UC Santa Barbara scientist was supposed to be studying methane seeps that day, but with a deep-sea robot on loan and a few hours to spare, now was the chance to confirm an environmental abuse that others in the past could not. He was chasing a hunch, and sure enough, initial sonar scans pinged back a pattern of dots that popped up on the map like a trail of breadcrumbs. The robot made its way 3,000 feet down to the bottom, beaming bright lights and a camera as it slowly skimmed the seafloor. At this depth and darkness, the uncharted topography felt as eerie as driving through a vast desert at night. And that’s when the barrels came into view. Barrels filled with toxic chemicals banned decades ago. Leaking. And littered across the ocean floor. “Holy crap. This is real,” Valentine said. “This stuff really is down there. “It has been sitting here this whole time, right off our shore.” Tales of this buried secret bubbling under the sea had haunted Valentine for years: a largely unknown chapter in the most infamous case of environmental destruction off the coast of Los Angeles — one lasting decades, costing tens of millions of dollars, frustrating generations of scientists. The fouling of the ocean was so reckless, some said, it seemed unimaginable. As many as half a million of these barrels could still be underwater...
Hurricane Laura’s Winds Are Now Long Gone, But Residents Fear The Toxic Sludge Left Behind

Hurricane Laura’s Winds Are Now Long Gone, But Residents Fear The Toxic Sludge Left Behind

SOURCE: BuzzFeed News DATE: September 5, 2020 SNIP: Leaks and spills have become part and parcel of hurricanes that hit Texas and Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. A Reuters analysis found that in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s punishing rain in the Houston area, at least 22,000 barrels of oil, refined fuels, and chemicals were spilled across the state. That was in addition to millions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of tons of other toxic substances. While Harvey had a widespread effect on Texas, the environmental damage paled in comparison to Hurricane Katrina. Researchers estimate that there were as many as 200 releases of hazardous chemicals, petroleum, or natural gas in the wake of that storm coming ashore south of New Orleans. John Pardue, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Louisiana State University, wrote in a piece for the Conversation about how the fire at BioLab [a chlorine plant which processes chlorine for swimming pools] may be just the tip of Hurricane Laura’s damage to the oil and petrochemical facilities. In that piece, Pardue points out that the storm’s strongest winds whipped through the Hackberry oil field, a marsh dotted with thousands of oil wells, storage tanks, and pipelines. Storage tanks have been known to be ripped from their moorings during hurricanes, releasing whatever toxins they had inside into the environment. The Gulf Coast is home to a dense network of oil and gas refineries and pipelines and increasingly the booming petrochemical industry. And the industrialization is growing. Using state permitting data, the Environmental Integrity Project showed that between 2012 and 2018, regulators in Louisiana and...
Cloud of Cancer-Causing Chemical Hangs Over the Houston Channel

Cloud of Cancer-Causing Chemical Hangs Over the Houston Channel

SOURCE: Bloomberg DATE: March 22, 2019 SNIP: Oil byproducts from a damaged storage facility contaminated the Houston Ship Channel and created a cloud of cancer-causing benzene over the waterway, the latest mutation of one of the worst Gulf Coast chemical disasters in more than a decade. The U.S. Coast Guard is forbidding vessel traffic on a stretch of the key industrial shipping route after a wall collapse and fire at Intercontinental Terminals Co.’s already-damaged chemical storage complex on Friday. A mix of toxic gasoline ingredients, firefighting foam and dirty water flowed from the site into the channel, and a benzene plume above the water poses a threat to ship crews, said Coast Guard Capt. Kevin Oditt. The channel … is the newest victim of a calamity that began unfolding almost a week ago when tanks holding byproducts of the oil-refining process at ITC’s facility erupted in flames. A mile-high plume of inky black smoke towered over the fourth-largest American city for days until crews extinguished the blaze on March 20. That was followed by benzene alerts that shut down Deer Park and other suburbs for half a day, the collapse of a containment wall and Friday’s new fires in three wrecked storage tanks and a drainage ditch. Nausea, headaches and other symptoms drove about 1,000 people to seek treatment at a pop-up clinic, with 15 of the most-severe cases loaded onto ambulances and hauled to hospital emergency rooms. “It’s been a never-ending, re-occurring case of things not working out as planned,” Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton said during a media briefing on Saturday. “There’s more tanks in there. Is...