Pain, cancer, death: Michigan families devastated by toxic chemicals in their water

Pain, cancer, death: Michigan families devastated by toxic chemicals in their water

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 10, 2020 SNIP: In the years before 2017, Sandy Wynn-Stelt and her husband had suspicions about the water they drew from a well on their House Street property in the Michigan town of Belmont. She attributed the bad taste to it being well water, but the “weird film” on their morning coffee was difficult to explain. By June 2017, state officials alerted her that PFAS from a nearby, decades-old dump belonging to Wolverine World Wide, a shoe giant best known for the Hush Puppy brand, had contaminated their well. Tests found shocking levels. The Environmental Protection Agency’s PFAS advisory water limit is 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Health officials found levels in the well as high as 90,000 ppt. Wynn-Stelt told the Guardian she now suspects the PFAS-laden product Wolverine uses to make its shoes water and stain resistant was behind that weird film. “I now know it was probably Scotchgard,” she said. Wynn-Stelt and her neighbors in this small west Michigan community are among the PFAS crisis’s human toll – those suffering the horrors that await humans with too much of the toxic chemical in their bodies. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of about 5,000 fluorinated compounds dubbed “forever chemicals” because they don’t naturally break down and there’s no known way to destroy them. They’re found in everything from food packaging to clothing to eyeliner to firefighting foam. The chemicals are also strongly linked to cancer, low birth weight, autoimmune disorders, thyroid issues, and a range of other serious diseases. By the time Wynn-Stelt learned of the contamination, it...
Dominion fires oilfield worker after he saved 50 waterfowl

Dominion fires oilfield worker after he saved 50 waterfowl

SOURCE: WyoFile DATE: January 7, 2020 SNIP: Dominion Energy fired an oilfield worker in Rock Springs after the employee saved an estimated 50 waterfowl from wastewater ponds. Adam Roich said he’s rescued about that many waterfowl in the last five years after they landed in tainted ponds at his worksite about 50 miles south of Rock Springs. He would take the oil-slicked birds to a company facility, wash them with Dawn household soap, warm them in his truck, then set them free on clean water, he told WyoFile in an interview. “I got fired a couple days before Christmas for rescuing these guys throughout the years,” he posted recently on Facebook above many photographs of his avian patients. “I only did what I thought was right.” Dominion terminated Roich on Dec. 19 for violating company policy, according to a letter obtained by WyoFile. His firing followed an internal investigation, the seven-sentence letter read. Dominion wouldn’t say why it fired Roich, calling the issue “an internal matter.” Roich described a sad scene at the water’s edge: “They’d get oil on their feathers,” he said. “They’d just go to the bank and sit there. They’d freeze to death if I didn’t grab them.” Four ponds, the largest about the size of a football field, dot the Canyon Creek energy field complex along the southern border of the state, Roich said. “It’s really toxic water,” he said. “Slicks of oil on them accumulate over time.” A net covers one of them, Dominion’s Porter wrote. A BirdAvert system uses radar to deploy plastic falcons, strobes and falcon screeches to scare waterfowl away from...
World Gone Wrong: an Environmental Diary of 2019

World Gone Wrong: an Environmental Diary of 2019

SOURCE: CounterPunch DATE: January 3, 2020 The ultimate Faster Than Expected (or perhaps Worse Than You Can Possibly Imagine) list to sum up the awfulness of 2019. READ IT! A sampler: + There are fewer North Atlantic Right Whales left in the world than sitting members of Congress. They may well go extinct in our lifetimes. + The Arctic is now warming so quickly that 14,000 tons of melted ice is gushing into the oceans every second. + At least 305 wolves were killed in Montana in 2017-18, nearly 36% of the entire population. Now a pair of bills offering bounties to encourage people to kill even more wolves. + In 2018, USDA’s Wildlife “Services,” mercenaries for Big Ag, killed 22,000 beavers, 515,000 red-winged black birds, 19,000 mourning doves, 17,000 black tailed prairie dogs, 552 great blue herons, 357 wolves, scores of owls and much more. + At least 500,000 Texans live in communities with contaminated ground water. + 45 million gallons: the amount of water Nestle takes each from the San Bernardino National Forest. + $0: the amount of money Nestle pays for taking 45 million gallons of water each year from the San Bernardino National Forest. + By 2070, Joshua Tree National Park won’t have any Joshua trees and Glacier National Park won’t have any glaciers. But there’ll still be cannonballs and headstones at Gettysburg–if they don’t build condos over them + The loss of the reflective cover provided by Arctic Sea will accelerate the pace of global warming by at least 25 years: “Losing the remaining Arctic sea ice and its ability to reflect incoming solar...
New Zealand glaciers turn brown from Australian bushfires’ smoke, ash and dust

New Zealand glaciers turn brown from Australian bushfires’ smoke, ash and dust

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 1, 2020 SNIP: Snow and glaciers in New Zealand have turned brown after being exposed to dust from the Australian bushfires, with one expert saying the incident could increase glacier melt this season by as much as 30%. On Wednesday many parts of the South Island woke up to an orange haze and red sun, after smoke from the Victorian and New South Wales blazes drifted east on Tuesday night, smothering many parts of the island for most of the day. On Thursday, pictures taken from the Southern Alps showed the smoke haze carrying particles of dust had tinged snow-capped mountain peaks and glaciers a shade of caramel, with former prime minister Helen Clark expressing concern for the long-lasting environmental impacts on the mountains. “Impact of ash on glaciers is likely to accelerate melting,” Clark tweeted. “How one country’s tragedy has spillover effects.” There are more than 3,000 glaciers in New Zealand and since the 1970s scientists have recorded them shrinking by nearly a third, with current estimates predicting they will disappear entirely by the end of the century. Professor Andrew Mackintosh is head of the school of earth, atmosphere and environment at Monash University, and the former director of the Antarctic Research Centre. He said in nearly two decades of studying glaciers in New Zealand he had never seen such a quantity of dust transported across the Tasman, and the current event had the potential to increase this season’s glacier melt by 20-30%, although Mackintosh stressed this was no more than an estimate. Mackintosh said the whiteness of snow and ice reflected the...
The missing 99%: why can’t we find the vast majority of ocean plastic?

The missing 99%: why can’t we find the vast majority of ocean plastic?

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 31, 2019 SNIP: Every year, 8m tons of plastic enters the ocean. Images of common household waste swirling in vast garbage patches in the open sea, or tangled up with whales and seabirds, have turned plastic pollution into one of the most popular environmental issues in the world. But for at least a decade, the biggest question among scientists who study marine plastic hasn’t been why plastic in the ocean is so abundant, but why it isn’t. What scientists can see and measure, in the garbage patches and on beaches, accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total plastic entering the water. So where is the other 99% of ocean plastic? Unsettling answers have recently begun to emerge. What we commonly see accumulating at the sea surface is “less than the tip of the iceberg, maybe a half of 1% of the total,” says Erik Van Sebille, an oceanographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “I often joke that being an ocean plastic scientist should be an easy job, because you can always find a bit wherever you look,” says Van Sebille. But, he adds, the reality is that our maps of the ocean essentially end at the surface, and solid numbers on how much plastic is in any one location are lacking. It is becoming apparent that plastic ends up in huge quantities in the deepest parts of the ocean, buried in sediment on the seafloor, and caught like clouds of dust deep in the water column. Perhaps most frighteningly, says Helge Niemann, a biogeochemist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea...