As High-Tide Flooding Worsens, More Pollution Is Washing to the Sea

As High-Tide Flooding Worsens, More Pollution Is Washing to the Sea

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: March 14, 2019 SNIP: With global sea levels steadily rising — already up 8 inches in the past century and now increasing at an average of 1.3 inches per decade — the incidence of high-tide “sunny day” or “blue sky” flooding is on the rise, especially along the U.S. East Coast. Those flooding events now routinely wash over sections of cities, and when the waters recede they take with them an excess of nutrients and a toxic mix of pollutants that flows into rivers, bays, and oceans. As high-tide flooding worsened in Norfolk, Virginia in recent years, Margaret Mulholland, a biological oceanographer at Old Dominion University, started to think about the debris she saw in the waters that flowed back into Chesapeake Bay. Tipped-over garbage cans. Tossed-away hamburgers. Oil. Dirty diapers. Pet waste. [S]he decided to sample those waters. Until Mulholland… few if any researchers had examined exactly how much pollution this sunny day flooding was creating. And what Mulholland found shocked her. Analysis of water samples indicates that one morning of tidal flooding along the Lafayette River in Norfolk poured nearly the entire annual U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allocation of nitrogen runoff for the river — 1,941 pounds — into Chesapeake Bay. Mulholland is focused on measuring nitrogen, including ammonium, because of its effect on algae blooms, which create oxygen-depleted dead zones in bay waters. She said that other pollutants — including oil, gasoline, and trace metals — are also washing into waterways, as evidenced by the petroleum sheens visible on the water during high-tide flooding. “We can see it, and it would be...
Plastics: The New Coal in Appalachia?

Plastics: The New Coal in Appalachia?

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: February 25, 2019 SNIP: Along the banks of the Ohio River here, thousands of workers are assembling the region’s first ethane cracker plant. It’s a conspicuous symbol of a petrochemical and plastics future looming across the Appalachian region. More than 70 construction cranes tower over hundreds of acres where zinc was smelted for nearly a century. In a year or two, Shell Polymers, part of the global energy company Royal Dutch Shell, plans to turn what’s called “wet gas” into plastic pellets that can be used to make a myriad of products, from bottles to car parts. Two Asian companies could also announce any day that they plan to invest as much as $6 billion in a similar plant in Ohio. There’s a third plastics plant proposed for West Virginia. With little notice nationally, a new petrochemical and plastics manufacturing hub may be taking shape along 300 miles of the upper reaches of the Ohio River, from outside Pittsburgh southwest to Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. It would be fueled by a natural gas boom brought on by more than a decade of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a drilling process that has already dramatically altered the nation’s energy landscape—and helped cripple coal. But there’s a climate price to be paid. Planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the Shell plant alone would more or less wipe out all the reductions in carbon dioxide that Pittsburgh, just 25 miles away, is planning to achieve by 2030. Drilling for natural gas leaks methane, a potent climate pollutant; and oil consumption for petrochemicals and plastics may account for half...
‘Moment of reckoning’: US cities burn recyclables after China bans imports

‘Moment of reckoning’: US cities burn recyclables after China bans imports

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 21, 2019 SNIP: The conscientious citizens of Philadelphia continue to put their pizza boxes, plastic bottles, yoghurt containers and other items into recycling bins. But in the past three months, half of these recyclables have been loaded on to trucks, taken to a hulking incineration facility and burned, according to the city’s government. It’s a situation being replicated across the US as cities struggle to adapt to a recent ban by China on the import of items intended for reuse. The loss of this overseas dumping ground means that plastics, paper and glass set aside for recycling by Americans is being stuffed into domestic landfills or is simply burned in vast volumes. This new reality risks an increase of plumes of toxic pollution that threaten the largely black and Latino communities who live near heavy industry and dumping sites in the US. About 200 tons of recycling material is sent to the huge Covanta incinerator in Chester City, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, every day since China’s import ban came into practice last year, the company says. Some experts worry that burning plastic recycling will create a new fog of dioxins that will worsen an already alarming health situation in Chester. Nearly four in 10 children in the city have asthma, while the rate of ovarian cancer is 64% higher than the rest of Pennsylvania and lung cancer rates are 24% higher, according to state health statistics. Once burned, plastics give off volatile organics, some of them carcinogenic. The dilemma with what to do with items earmarked for recycling is playing out across the US....
Is Drilling and Fracking Waste on Your Sidewalk or in Your Pool?

Is Drilling and Fracking Waste on Your Sidewalk or in Your Pool?

SOURCE: TruthOut DATE: February 21, 2019 SNIP: They’ve spread it on roads. They’ve irrigated almond farms and fruit groves with it. The oil and gas industry’s liquid waste has been used for a variety of commercial and industrial purposes over the years. But never has the “beneficial use” of this waste stream been so grossly applied, or so close to home, as it is today. Meet Eureka Resources and Nature’s Own Source. Both of these companies have attracted attention by processing liquid waste from oil and gas operations and creating commercial products for use in pools and on roads, sidewalks, patios, stairs or anywhere else a consumer may put it. Cargill purchased 4,700 tons of salt from Eureka between May 2015 and December 2016. One of Cargill’s meat processing plants, Cargill Meat Solutions in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, is less than 10 miles away from Eureka’s wastewater treatment facility, and “processes about 1,500 head of cattle per day,” according to Cargill’s website. In an email, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) wrote that Cargill “advised the Department” that Eureka’s “[c]rystallized sodium chloride” is used by Cargill “to prepare and treat animal hides, resulting from Cargill’s meat packing operations. Cargill prepares the animal hides using one of Eureka’s salt products for commercial sale.” Eureka’s frack salt is also approved for sale as a pool salt. The investigative news team at Public Herald exposed that Eureka’s byproduct is packaged and sold as Clorox Pool Salt. Workers at Eureka’s Standing Stone facility package the salt in Clorox bags and pallet them for shipment via an “unnamed third-party distributor to be sold at regional stores...
Great Barrier Reef authority gives green light to dump dredging sludge

Great Barrier Reef authority gives green light to dump dredging sludge

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 20, 2019 SNIP: The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has approved the dumping of more than 1m tonnes of dredge spoil near the reef, using a loophole in federal laws that were supposed to protect the marine park. Acting on concerns from environmentalists, the federal government banned the disposal of dredge spoil near the reef in 2015. But the ban applied only to capital dredging. Maintenance work at ports – designed to remove sediment from shipping lanes as it accumulates – is not subject to it. On 29 January the marine park authority granted conditional approval for North Queensland Bulk Ports to continue to dump maintenance dredge spoil within the park’s boundaries. The permit was issued just days before extensive flooding hit north and central Queensland, spilling large amounts of sediment into the marine...