Tag Archives: water contamination

‘This Is a Big Deal’: Fearing ‘Public Relations Nightmare,’ Pruitt’s EPA Blocked Release of a Major Water Contamination Study

Journalists, members of Congress, environmental and public health advocates, and water experts are all calling on the Trump administration to “immediately” release the report

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-15-2018

Screenshot: YouTube

Fearing a “public relations nightmare,” President Donald Trump’s White House and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the reign of administrator Scott Pruitt, blocked the release of a major water contamination story, according to emails obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists and reported on by Politico.

News of the Trump administration’s interference with a federal study on “a nationwide water-contamination crisis” infuriated reporters, politicians, experts, and advocates for public health and the environment. Friends of the Earth tweeted, “Scott Pruitt is more worried about journalists than poisoning millions of Americans.” Continue reading

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Monsanto Chemical May Leave Orca Pod ‘Doomed to Extinction’

By Carey Wedler. Published 5-10-2017 by The Anti-Media

An orca whale that washed up on the coast of Scotland last year was poisoned by environmental pollutants, according to a report released last week.

The Guardian reported last Tuesday that Lulu, the full-grown whale who died, “was a member of the UK’s last resident pod and a postmortem also showed she had never produced a calf. The pollutants, called PCBs, are known to cause infertility and these latest findings add to strong evidence that the pod is doomed to extinction.Continue reading

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Rejecting Snyder’s Claim, Experts Say Poisoning of Flint Blatant Racial Injustice

Meanwhile, research suggests Flint crisis ‘is not an isolated incident of poor public policies endangering the health of residents living in economically distressed communities.’

By Andrea Germanos and Deirdre Fulton, staff writers for Common Dreams. Published 1-22-2016

Photo: Jillian Hurley/Twitter

Photo: Jillian Hurley/Twitter

Experts are voicing strong disagreement with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who on Friday tried to argue that the lead poisoning plaguing the water of the majority-black city of Flint was “absolutely not” a case of environmental racism.

The Republican governor made the comment in an interview with MSNBC, adding that he’s “been devoted to helping” the city.

But that’s quite different from the way Paul Mohai, a professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, whose work focuses on racial and socioeconomic factors in pollution, see it. Continue reading

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The Looming Environmental Disaster in Missouri that Nobody is Talking About

By Claire Bernish. Published 1-2-2016 at AntiMedia

West Lake Landfill. The canal is filled to the brim and the canal to the right where the brown grasses are growing is being fed the overflow from the filled canal. Photo: Facebook

West Lake Landfill, 12-26-2015. The canal is filled to the brim and the canal to the right where the brown grasses are growing is being fed the overflow from the filled canal. Photo: Facebook

St. Louis, MO — What happens when radioactive byproduct from the Manhattan Project comes into contact with an “underground fire” at a landfill? Surprisingly, no one actually knows for sure; but residents of Bridgeton, Missouri, near the West Lake and Bridgeton Landfills — just northwest of the St. Louis International Airport — may find out sooner than they’d like.

And that conundrum isn’t the only issue for the area. Contradicting reports from both the government and the landfill’s responsible parties, radioactive contamination is actively leaching into the surrounding populated area from the West Lake site — and likely has been for the past 42 years.

In order to grasp this startling confluence of circumstances, it’s important to understand the history of these sites. Pertinent information either hasn’t been forthcoming or is muddied by disputes among the various government agencies and companies that should be held accountable for keeping area residents safe.
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Nuclear Waste Site Whistleblower ‘Vindicated’ With $4.1 Million Settlement

Walter Tamosaitis a ‘hero’ who helped stave off disaster, says Tom Carpenter of Hanford Challenge

Written by Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-14-15.

Sunrise at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington.  (Photo: Scott Butner/flickr/cc)

Sunrise at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington. (Photo: Scott Butner/flickr/cc)

Ending years of legal wrangling, a whistleblower who raised safety concerns regarding operations at the Hanford nuclear waste site in Washington has won a $4.1 million settlement, his lawyer announced Wednesday.

Walter Tamosaitis, an engineer, worked over four decades for Hanford subcontractor URS (now AECOM), a subcontractor to Bechtel. Tamosaitis, the LA Times explains,

had been leading a team of 100 scientists and engineers in designing a way to immobilize millions of gallons of highly toxic nuclear sludge as thick as peanut butter. The sludge, which could deliver a lethal dose of radiation to a nearby person within minutes, is stored in leaking underground tanks near the Columbia River in Washington state.

The radioactive waste at the site “is legacy of the Cold War, when the site housed nuclear reactors churning out radioactive plutonium for thousands of American atomic bombs,” the Center for Public Integrity explains. Now, the site is “the largest environmental cleanup project in the world.”

Tamosaitis’ problems erupted in 2010, when, as the Tri-City Herald reports, he

raised a concern that technical issues, including some related to keeping waste well-mixed within the plant, had not been resolved as Bechtel National was working to meet a deadline, according to court documents. At risk was an incentive payment of $6 million to be split between Bechtel and URS, with much of it dependent on resolving the mixing issue by the end of July 2010.

[…]

A few days after Tamosaitis discussed his concerns, he was removed from the project and escorted from vitrification plant offices, according to court documents.

Fifteen months later, he was fired.

“I was fired because I raised nuclear safety issues about the Hanford site,” Tamosaitis has said.

“We are very pleased that Walter can get on with his life after five years of litigation, and that he has been vindicated,” stated Jack Sheridan, the attorney representing Tamosaitis. “This settlement sends a message to whistleblowers everywhere that integrity and truth are worth fighting for, and that you can win if you don’t give up.”

Tom Carpenter, Director of Hanford Challenge, which advocates for safe cleanup of the site, said following the settlement that Tamosaitis is “a hero who staked his career to raise nuclear safety issues that could have resulted in a catastrophe down the road.”

“His concerns have led to the Department of Energy to abandon a dangerously defective design, and to call attention to the abysmal treatment of employees who bring forward safety issues,” Carpenter added. “The public owes Walt a debt of gratitude for his sacrifices.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Chevron Whistleblower Leaks ‘Smoking Gun’ in Case of Ecuadorian Oil Spill

Videos sent to Amazon Watch described as ‘a true treasure trove of Chevron misdeeds and corporate malfeasance’

'The videos are a true treasure trove of Chevron misdeeds and corporate malfeasance,' said Kevin Koenig of Amazon Watch. 'And, ironically, Chevron itself proved their authenticity.' (Screenshot from The Chevron Tapes)

‘The videos are a true treasure trove of Chevron misdeeds and corporate malfeasance,’ said Kevin Koenig of Amazon Watch. ‘And, ironically, Chevron itself proved their authenticity.’ (Screenshot from The Chevron Tapes)

Written by Lauren McCauley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published April 8, 2015.

In what is being described as “smoking gun evidence” of Chevron’s complete guilt and corruption in the case of an oil spill in the Ecuadorian Amazon, internal videos leaked to an environmental watchdog show company technicians finding and then mocking the extensive oil contamination in areas that the oil giant told courts had been restored.

A Chevron whistleblower reportedly sent “dozens of DVDs” to U.S.-based Amazon Watch with a handwritten note stating: “I hope this is useful for you in your trial against Texaco/Chevron. [signed] A Friend from Chevron.” Continue reading

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We Don’t Need Your Secret Formulas

One of our favorite topics is fracking and the harm it does to the environment. We’ve discussed how fracking can poison the groundwater and aquifers in the areas where it goes on. We’ve found evidence of gas (notably methane) getting into and contaminating the water supply through poor cement jobs or fractured pipe at fracking wells. However, we’ve never had a way to prove that other chemical contamination was a direct result of fracking, or was caused by some other unknown factor. That is, we haven’t until now.

By Jason Shenk. CC BY 2.0

By Jason Shenk. CC BY 2.0

In a study published on Monday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers have identified geochemical tracers that can identify flowback fluids from hydraulic fracturing that have spilled or otherwise released into the environment, and can distinguish between those fluids and contamination that results from other processes.

Duke University geochemist Avner Vengosh, who co-led the research, said; “By characterizing the isotopic and geochemical fingerprints of enriched boron and lithium in flowback water from hydraulic fracturing, we can now track the presence of ‘frac’ fluids in the environment and distinguish them from wastewater coming from other sources, including conventional oil and gas wells. This gives us new forensic tools to detect if frac fluids are escaping into our water supply and what risks, if any, they might pose.”

One of the big issues with fracking is that companies weren’t required to disclose the chemicals that make up their fracking fluids- in fact, it’s a crime to do so in North Carolina. With the tracers though, scientists no longer need to know the chemical makeup of the fluid to determine whether or not it’s getting into the environment.

Duke University geochemist Avner Vengosh told ThinkProgress; “This is one of the first times we’ve been able to demonstrate that, here, you have a spill in the environment, and yes, this is from fracking fluid and not from other source of contamination. It’s a pretty cool way to overcome the issue of trade secrets.”

Occupy World Writes applauds their ingenuity. We further call on all state and federal environmental agencies to require and administer these tests in all areas where fracking is taking place. Will it be expensive? Not half as expensive as letting our water become contaminated would be.

We don’t need your secret formulas to be able to tell if you’re poisoning us or not.

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Killing A Planet

logoOn Tuesday, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) released the latest Living Planet report, Living Planet 2014. Published every two years, the WWF says it “gives us a picture of the changing state of global biodiversity and the pressure on the biosphere arising from human consumption of natural resources.”

This year’s report points out, as so many reports have done recently, the harm we humans are doing to the planet and the creatures who live on it. The Living Planet Index (LPI) measures more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, and it’s declined by 52 per cent since 1970.

This means that in the last 40 years (or less than two human generations), the population of vertebrate species have dropped by over half because of us. Whether it’s us hunting them for food, or polluting and/or destroying their habitats, we’ve managed to kill off over half the animal population.

Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF, said; “We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now.”  He also stated that more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, and that food and energy needs to be produced sustainably.

Professor Ken Norris, director of science at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), said; “If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news. But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.”

Another index in the report calculates humanity’s “ecological footprint”, in other words, the scale at which it is using up natural resources. As it stands, we are cutting down trees faster than they regrow, catching fish faster than the oceans and lakes can restock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, and emitting more carbon dioxide than the forests and oceans can absorb.

The report concludes that today’s average global rate of consumption would need 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it. Four planets would be required to sustain US levels of consumption, and 2.5 Earths to match UK consumption levels.

The choice couldn’t be much clearer. We either change the way we live, or we die. We either work towards providing equal rights and opportunities for our fellow men, or we go further down the rabbit hole of income and social inequality where a very few people own everything while the rest of us fight for the scraps. We either stop destroying the earth with our wanton waste and pollution, or the earth will destroy us. And, we need to do it now.

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Acid Washed

Buenavista (Cananea) copper mine. Photo by NASA International Space Station (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Buenavista (Cananea) copper mine. Photo by NASA International Space Station (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

We write a lot about spills and other environmental disasters that happen in the U.S. and Canada, but we don’t report very often on things happening south of the border. However, we ran into a story out of Mexico which, as is typical with our media, isn’t getting half the coverage it should.

On August 7, a pipe either blew out or became unseated, allowing over ten million gallons of toxic wastewater containing sulfuric acid and heavy metals to spill out of a leaching pond at the Buenavista copper mine in Cananea, Sonora – about twenty five miles south of the U.S. border near Nogales, Arizona – into the Bacanuchi River.

As seems to be the case so often in these events, the company who operates the mine (Grupo Mexico; one of the world’s largest copper producers) did not immediately notify government officials of the leak. Only after residents of the area had noticed a reddish color to the water (in some places, it was orange) and a foul smell to it did Grupo Mexico report the spill. By then, the spill had moved into the Sonora River, causing authorities to keep 88 schools closed, as well as shut off the water supply to 20,000 people in seven towns.

The mine offered to provide water to the public, but did not come close to meeting local demand. The amount supplied was barely enough for drinking requirements, and far short of the amount needed for bathing and other such essentials. iIn some places the price of a gallon of water went from $1.50 to more than $9.

This last Friday, Sonoran state authorities said that the mine is still causing pollution and the facility’s owners are blocking the work of investigators probing the accident.  At a press conference, Carlos Arias, director of the state civil protection agency, said “As of this moment, the government of Sonora (state) totally breaks off any relationship with the mining company.”

Environmental issues are nothing new for Grupo Mexico. In 2009, Asarco, the American subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, paid the U.S. government $1.9 billion to settle claims for hazardous waste pollution across 19 states; a record settlement at the time. That same year, over 200 serious health hazards at the Buenavista copper processing facilities (the same facilities that had the spill we’re discussing) were reported by a Cananea occupational health and safety (OHS) team.

This whole story is too familiar to us. Once again, we see a large corporation have an accident that has turned into an environmental disaster due to the corporation’s incompetence and/or unwillingness as far as planning for and reacting to the accident goes. When are we going to say enough is enough?

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How Not To Be Awakened

TransCanada Building, Calgary. Photo by Qyd (talk · contribs) (Own work (Own photo)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

TransCanada Building, Calgary. Photo by Qyd (talk · contribs) (Own work (Own photo)) CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In case you’ve never noticed (or if you’re new here), we write a lot about pipelines. Like any other addict who knows that his or her habit is bad for their health, but continues with it anyways, we as a society are dependent on our fossil fuels. As with any other addiction, there’s an infrastructure in place for getting the product (in this case, oil and/or gas) into the hands of the addict. And, just as in the drug trade, there’s often what the military calls “collateral damage” among the residents of the area where such infrastructure is operating.

On Tuesday, we saw a prime example of this in Benton Township, Michigan. Sometime around 2 AM, a natural gas line operated by TransCanada (yes, the same company whose oil is the prime mover of the Keystone XL proposal) started leaking. This in turn led to an evacuation of residents within a one mile area of the leak  – such a wonderful thing to wake up to, no?

Vic Rogers, who lives on the property where the leak occurred, described what happened; “If you ever hear lightning strike and hear the big boom afterwards that’s what it sounded like. After that it was like a train or a jet engine roar. Everything started to shake and vibrate I looked out the window and I could see this plume of black debris.”

15 hours later, the approximately 500 people who had evacuated were allowed to return home. Yesterday, TransCanada went into full damage control mode. TransCanada spokesperson Gretchen Krueger said; “Our focus right now is on the community and on people, Yesterday was responding to the event and today is responding to the community and we want to be here for them to answer those questions.” It seems to us as if we’ve heard this exact same script recited by the gas and oil companies before – I wonder if TransCanada has the walrus listed in their response plan too. But, I digress…

Pipelines leak. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when and how much. TransCanada doesn’t have a stellar record as far as safety goes, either. In late 2012, the Canadian national energy-industry regulator (NEB) announced that it was performing a major audit of TransCanada’s Canadian operations after confirming a whistleblower’s story documenting repeated violations of pipeline safety regulations.

Last summer in testimony before a Canadian Senate committee, Evan Vokes, a pipeline safety whistleblower and materials engineer, said that TransCanada “has a culture of non-compliance,” which he blamed on a “mix of politics and commercial interests that has resulted in false public claims of exceptional industry practice when the reality is that industry struggles to comply with code and regulation.” In other words, business as usual.

Accidents like this are a prime example of why Keystone XL is a bad idea. We can’t trust TransCanada to be proactive as far as the environment goes, and their safety record is lackadaisical, to put it mildly. The pipeline has no upside for America whatsoever; we’d be carrying Canadian tar sands oil down to the Gulf refineries to be processed and exported on the global market. The reduced refinery capacity brought about by the tar sand oil having priority could lead to higher gas prices here ion the US. And, the profit goes back to Canada, while we assume all the risk.

Does that sound like a good deal to you? We thought not…

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