Tag Archives: Ecology

New Mexico nuclear plant workers exposed to radiation

New Mexico nuclear plant workers exposed to radiation 2 New Mexico nuclear plant workers exposed to radiation

Positive results for radiation exposure were found in 13 workers following a leak at the United States’ first underground nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad, New Mexico, an Associated Press report stated.
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Officials said that all employees were checked for external contamination before they left the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) facility the day the leak occurred, but that biological samples were also taken to test for the possibility that they were breathing in radioactive particles.

The US Department of Energy and the Nuclear Waste Partnership, which manages the plant’s daily operations, are expected to hold a press conference on Thursday to discuss the test results.

“It is important to note that these are initial sample results,” the DOE and Nuclear Waste Partnership said in a joint statement. “These employees, both federal and contractor, will be asked to provide additional samples in order to fully determine the extent of any exposure.”

According to CNN, Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) spokesman Donavan Mager said the number of people exposed to radiation could not be confirmed due to the privacy rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. He did say the test results suggest exposure to the synthetic, radioactive metal americium.

The preliminary test results come just days after more airborne radiation was detected in the area surrounding the plant. Earlier this month, WIPP officials noticed a sharp rise in radiation levels, which they connected to a leak inside one of its underground tunnels. The plant is one of three deep nuclear repositories around the globe, storing nuclear waste 600 meters below the earth’s surface.

Since the WIPP’s creation in 1999, this is the first time it has been known to release any radioactive material. Officials told the AP that it may take weeks to learn what caused the leak. Even before this incident, a salt truck caught fire in a separate part of the facility, but that is believed to be unrelated.

Despite the record levels of radiation detected around the area, the DOE stated the readings fall “well below” the standards outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency, and that they do not pose a public or environmental threat.

New Mexico nuclear plant workers exposed to radiation New Mexico nuclear plant workers exposed to radiation

On Monday, the DOE’s Joe Franco and the NWP’s Farok Sharif held a community meeting to ease public fear over the situation. In response to a question from a local resident, Franco said, “there is no risk from this event that would be a hazard to you or your children.”

Regardless, the AP noted that Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) will ask the EPA to send portable air monitors to Carlsbad as a precaution.

“The health and safety of the Carlsbad community and WIPP personnel are my top priority,” he said.

Source: RT

Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels, rainwater

Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels rainwater Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels, rainwater

A Cape Coral, Florida woman living “off the grid” was ordered last week by a magistrate to hook up to utilities to comply with city codes or risk eviction from her home.
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Special Magistrate Harold S. Eskin ruled Thursday that Robin Speronis violated city codes by refusing to connect to the Cape Coral’s water system. Eskin ordered Speronis to pay for water service, adding that her sewer access would be capped until she did, The News-Press reported.

“I am in compliance,” Speronis told the News-Press. “I’m in compliance of living … you may have to hook-up, but you don’t have to use it. Well, what’s the point?”

In addition, her alternative source of energy must be approved by the city, Eskin ruled. The city contends that using rainwater and solar energy violates the International Property Maintenance Code, which is used in many US and Canadian communities. It “states that properties are unsafe to live in if they do not have electricity and running water,” according to Off The Grid News, though Speronis has both electricity and water.

florida off grid utilities Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels, rainwater

Eskin also pointed out that several liens were placed on her home given Speronis had used drains but without paying water bills.

“This resident provided testimony at the code compliance hearing that she has been living in the home for the past year and using the city’s wastewater system without paying for the service,” said Connie Barron, a spokeswoman for Cape Coral.

Yet the Magistrate said the city abused its authority by not giving Speronis proper notice of the supposed violations. Speronis was given an eviction notice in November.

City spokeswoman Barron said the sewer would have been capped sooner, but the city decided to wait for the code hearing. The city had actually overlooked Speronis’ setup until she did an interview with a local television station regarding her living arrangements.

Eskin did admit, though, that the city’s code may be obsolete.

“Reasonableness and code requirements don’t always go hand-in-hand … given societal and technical changes (that) requires review of code ordinances,” said Eskin, who actually dropped two of three counts against Speronis.

Speronis’ attorney posited that there’s a conflict in the city’s code, given Speronis has been ordered to hook up to the water system despite city officials’ admittance that she does not have to use it.

“It was a mental fistfight,” Speronis’ attorney Todd Allen said of Eskin’s review of the case. “There’s an inherent conflict in the code.”

For her part, Speronis said she does not intend to hook up to the city’s water system, vowing to appeal the Magistrate’s ruling.

“I know how to live off the grid completely and in a sanitary way,” Speronis said in response to the city’s action, according to The News-Press. “That’s what seven months living in the woods taught me. I do have an alternative toilet from my days of living in the woods.”

The Cape Coral resident said she will dispose of waste just as dog owners do for pets. She also plans to collect wastewater in containers for use in her garden.

Speronis already collects rainwater for bathing and other uses, all while generating electricity with solar panels.

“What happens in the courtroom is much less important than touching people’s hearts and minds,” she told Off The Grid News. “I think that we are continuing to be successful in doing just that and I am so pleased — there is hope! [Friday] morning, as I took my two hour walk, there was a young man, unknown to me, who drove by me, tooted his horn and said, ‘Robin, congratulations on your victory yesterday, keep up the fight and God bless you.’ That is beautiful.”

Source: RT

Exxon CEO: Don’t frack in my backyard

Exxon CEO says Dont frack in my backyard Exxon CEO: Dont frack in my backyard

The CEO of ExxonMobil – the top producer of natural gas in the US – has joined a lawsuit that challenges the construction of a water tower connected to hydraulic fracturing operations near his Texas home, given that it may reduce the property value.
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CEO Rex Tillerson and other plaintiffs claim the hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – project will cause unwanted noise and traffic associated with trucking water from the 160-foot tower to the drilling site, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The tower will provide water “to oil and gas explorers for fracing [sic] shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” according to the lawsuit. The water tower is owned by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation.

Tillerson’s lawyer claims the noise, traffic, and actual fracking does not bother the ExxonMobil CEO, stating that it is the possible depreciation of his $5 million property in Bartonville, Texas that he is worried about.

Fracking is the controversial process of injecting water, sand, and various chemicals into layers of rock, in hopes of releasing oil and gas deep underground. Fracking in a single well can take millions of gallons of freshwater.

Tillerson himself has excoriated fracking regulations amid the practice’s boom across the country.

“This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012, Reuters reported.

In another 2012 interview – with the Council on Foreign Relations – Tillerson said that natural gas production today has been revamped with new technologies, “so the risks are very manageable.”

Yet fracking’s popularity with energy behemoths like ExxonMobil is finding resistance across the US based on more than property values and noise complaints.

Fracking is exhausting water supplies in areas of the country that are suffering from chronic shortages, including Texas.

The practice has also been linked to an upsurge of earthquakes in many areas of the nation.

A recent study showed that the fetus of pregnant woman living within a 10-mile range of a fracking well is in much greater danger of congenital heart defects (CHD) and neural tube defects (NTD).

Another recent study found that chemicals used in fracking are suspected of being endocrine disruptors, which “could raise the risk of reproductive, metabolic, neurological and other diseases, especially in children who are exposed to” the materials.

On Thursday, a letter signed by over 1,000 doctors and health professionals was sent by Environment America to President Barack Obama, highlighting many other damaging health and environmental effects associated with fracking.

The group’s concerns about fracking included drinking water contamination, carcinogenic air pollution, acute and chronic health effects, and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Given this toll of damage, the prudent and precautionary response would be to stop fracking,” the letter reads. “Instead, the oil and gas industry is seeking to expand fracking at a frenzied pace, even into areas that provide drinking water for millions of Americans.”

Those living within a half-mile of a fracking site “had a higher excess lifetime risk of developing cancer than people living farther away,” the letter says.

For its part, ExxonMobil told The Wall Street Journal that it “has no involvement” in Tillerson’s lawsuit.

As ThinkProgress points out, there is reason to believe that Exxon’s oil and gas development projects have compromised human health and the environment, much less hurt property values.

One recent example is the company’s spill of up to 7,000 barrels of tar sands oil in a neighborhood of Mayflower, Arkansas nearly one year ago. Locals are still suffering from dizziness, headaches, and nausea – prompting many to move away if their homes aren’t already severely damaged.

“I have friends who still live here. They don’t have a place to go. They have small children…and they’re all sick,” one Mayflower resident told RT recently.

ExxonMobil pays Tillerson $40.3 million a year.

Source: RT

Children exposed to more brain-damaging chemicals than scientists thought

Children exposed to more brain damaging chemicals than scientists thought Children exposed to more brain damaging chemicals than scientists thought

A troubling new study has found that the number of chemicals capable of impairing child development worldwide is more than double what was previously believed, according to a new story by Time Magazine.
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Back in 2006, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai pinpointed five industrial chemicals that they linked to brain disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), reduced IQ, and more.

These chemicals were lead, methlymercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (a coolant fluid in motors), arsenic (found naturally and also in pesticides), and toluene (in paint thinner, nail polish, and more).

In a review of their 2006 study, though, the same scientists have now discovered brain development in children could be negatively disrupted by another six chemicals. These chemicals are: chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, fluoride, manganese, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, tetrachloroethylene.

Alarmingly, the researchers discovered that manganese and fluoride, both of which are present in drinking water, can lead to poorer performance in school, lower math scores, and increased hyperactivity. High levels of fluoride, in particular, are potentially capable of lowering a child’s IQ by seven points.

Chlorpyrifos, meanwhile, is a common pesticide that is still used in public areas and in agriculture despite the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency banned it from residential areas in 2001. According to a report by CNN in 2012, even low levels of chlorpyrifos could result in disrupted brain development.

“It’s out there and we do not know what the longer term impact is of lower levels,” Virginia Rauh, professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told CNN. “But it does seem to be associated with cognitive damage and structural changes in brain.”

As RT reported this week, some health experts believe the increased rate of severe birth defects in rural Washington state could possibly be linked to prolonged exposure to pesticides, though officials have been unable to determine the precise cause.

Despite the researchers’ claim that these new chemicals can contribute to brain disorders, they admitted they could not prove a direct causal link between a chemical and any one health issue. Still, they are pushing for increased public awareness considering the potential risks.

“The consequence of such brain damage is impaired [central nervous system] function that lasts a lifetime and might result in reduced intelligence, as expressed in terms of lost IQ points, or disruption in behavior,”the study reads, cited by Time and published in the Lancet Neurology journal.

In terms of defending children from exposure, the scientists said one roadblock is the fact that regulatory agencies require a vast amount of proof in order to place restrictions on chemicals. In some cases, the EPA has even raised the level of pesticides permitted on crops grown in the United States.

“Our very great concern is that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognized toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, truncating future achievements and damaging societies, perhaps most seriously in developing countries,” the authors of the study wrote. “A new framework of action is needed.”

Source: RT

TEPCO reveals record cesium level in Fukushima No. 1 well

fukushima1 TEPCO reveals record cesium level in Fukushima No. 1 well

A record high level of radioactive cesium has been found in groundwater beneath the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it operator TEPCO revealed.
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On February 13, Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported 37,000 becquerels of cesium-134 and 93,000 becquerels of cesium-137 were detected per liter of groundwater sampled from a monitoring well earlier that day.

Water samples were taken from the technical well, located next to the second power unit, some 50 meters from the coast. These figures (the total reading) are the highest of all the cesium measurements taken previously.

Experts do not rule out that radioactive water is leaking from an underground tunnel, which is located close to the second power unit on the seashore.

However, no exact reason for such a significant increase of radioactive cesium content in the groundwater has been given so far.

Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun reported that the amount of radioactive chemicals seems to be increasing. On Feb. 12, the same sampling well had produced a combined cesium reading of 76,000 becquerels per liter.

Earlier Japan’s nuclear regulator slammed the stricken Fukushima plant operator for incorrectly measuring radiation levels in contaminated groundwater at the site.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) accused TEPCO of lacking basic understanding of measuring and handling radiation almost three years since the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

On Thursday, fears of new leaks surfaced in Japanese media, as the same newspaper reported two cracks in a concrete floor of the No. 1 facility near radioactive water storage tanks.

TEPCO suggested some contaminated water from the melting snow may have seeped into the ground through the cracks, stretching for 12 and 8 meters.

The leakage of radiation-contaminated water is posing a major threat to Japan’s population and environment and to the international community since the March 2011 disaster.

Source: RT

Fracking is draining water from US areas suffering major shortages – report

fracking water drought shortages Fracking is draining water from US areas suffering major shortages   report

Some of the most drought-ravaged areas of the US are also heavily targeted for oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing – a practice that exacerbates water shortages – according to a new report.
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Three-quarters of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled in the US since 2011 were located in areas of the country facing water scarcity, according to research by the Ceres investor network. Over half of those new wells were in areas experiencing drought conditions.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in those wells required the use of 97 billion gallons of water, Ceres found.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.

Lubber warned that the fracking boom across the US puts the industry on a “collision course” with other water users.

Fracking is the highly controversial process of injecting water, sand, and various chemicals into layers of rock, in hopes of releasing oil and gas deep underground. Fracking in a single well can take millions of gallons of freshwater. Much of the drilling has occurred in areas mired in multi-year droughts.

Half of the 97 billion gallons of water used since 2011 for fracking have gone to wells in Texas, a state in the midst of a severe, years-long drought. Meanwhile, oil and gas production through fracking is on track to double in the state over the next five years, the Guardian reported.

The report also found that rural communities in the Lone Star State are being hit hard by the fracking bonanza occurring especially in the Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas.

“Shale producers are having significant impacts at the county level, especially in smaller rural counties with limited water infrastructure capacity,” the report said. “With water use requirements for shale producers in the Eagle Ford already high and expected to double in the coming 10 years, these rural counties can expect severe water stress challenges in the years ahead.”

Levels of vital aquifers that serve local communities near Eagle Ford have dropped by up to 300 feet in the last few years.

Many small communities in areas of heavy fracking in Texas are in dire need of water, as supplies have run out in some places or will dry up soon in others. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says 29 communities across the state could run out of water in 90 days, and that many reservoirs in west Texas are at around 25 percent capacity.

In December, the San Antonio Express-News found that fracking was using more water than previously thought. The newspaper reported that in 2012, the industry used around 43,770 acre-feet of water in 3,522 Eagle Ford fracking wells – about the same usage of 153,000 San Antonio households.

“The oil and gas boom is requiring more water than we have,” Hugh Fitzsimons, a Dimmit County rancher and a director of the Wintergarden Groundwater Conservation District, told the Express-News. “Period.”

A separate study published this week found that the industry does a very poor job recycling fracking water in Texas. Researchers at the University of Texas’ Bureau of Economic Geology found that 92 percent of water used in 2011 to frack Barnett Shale in north central Texas was “consumed,” and not recycled. Only about five percent of all water used for fracking in that area has been reused or recycled in the “past few years.”

Other states do not fare well in the Ceres report, either. In Colorado, 97 percent of wells were in areas strapped for water, as demand for fracking water in the state is expected to double to six billion gallons – twice the annual use of the city of Boulder – by 2015.

In California, 96 percent of new wells were located in areas where competition for water is high. A drought emergency for the entire state – which has traditionally dealt with water-sharing and access problems – was declared last month.

The report found similar high percentages of wells built in other states – such as New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – where water shortages exist.

“It’s a wake-up call,” said Prof. James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine, according to the Guardian. “We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimize any damage.”

Source: RT