Cheap drainage nets keep water pollution at bay in Australia

November 30, 2018 by  
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Water pollution is a growing crisis around the world, but one city in Australia is doing its part to tackle the huge surges of waste that come from stormwater drains. By using a somewhat obvious, simple and cost-effective system of nets, or “trash traps,” the City of Kwinana is moving to prevent waste from entering its waters. In Spring 2018, the City of Kwinana collaborated with supplier Ecosol to install two drainage nets in the Henley Reserve. The netting was simply attached to concrete drain pipes, and these nets have since collected 370 kg (about 816 lb) of waste, including plastic food wrappers and bottles. Related: Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution The system, including manufacturing, installation and additional labor, cost the municipality about $20,000 — prior to the nets, city workers would collect debris in the water by hand. The new system is picked up and cleaned out using cranes when the nets become full of waste. Then, the waste is sorted in a designated facility. Here, green waste is transformed into mulch, and other materials are separated into recyclable /non-recyclable. The City of Kwinana has considered the drainage nets a huge success, with plans to install three more nets in the nature reserve area over the next two years. “We know that the Kwinana community is very passionate about environmental initiatives and rallies around actions with positive environmental impact, and if it was not for the drainage nets, 370 kg of debris would have ended up in our reserve,” Mayor Carol Adams said. “The nets are placed on the outlet of two drainage pipes, which are located between residential areas and natural areas … This ensures that the habitat of the local wildlife is protected and minimizes the risk of wildlife being caught in the nets. To date, no wildlife has been caught up in either of the City’s nets.” The system took off on social media, in a viral storm that Adams said shows the importance for all levels of government to focus on initiatives to save the environment . + City of Kwinana Image via Shutterstock

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Cheap drainage nets keep water pollution at bay in Australia

Crude oil spill off Newfoundland coast deemed impossible to clean up

November 27, 2018 by  
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The SeaRose FPSO — a floating production, storage and offloading vessel in the White Rose oil and gas field near Newfoundland’s coast — spilled an estimated 66,000 gallons (250,000 liters) of crude earlier this month, making it the largest oil spill in the province’s maritime history. To make matters worse, according to Canadian provincial regulators, the huge spill cannot be cleaned up. The operator responsible for the incident is Husky Energy, and the spill happened when the vessel “experienced a loss of pressure” in an oil flowline. Husky Energy had halted production the day before due to bad weather , and the spill occurred when the company was preparing to restart production. Related: This magnetic wand cleans up oil spills in a snap Three days after the spill, the regulators reportedly did not see any signs of an oil sheen on the water . According to Scott Tessier, chief executive of The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), the absence of a sheen means the oil has broken down so much that it has become impossible to clean up. EcoWatch reported that Husky Energy has shut-in and secured all of its wells , and the company has also halted production and drilling operations. C-NLOPB, which is the federal agency that regulates petroleum production, has launched a formal investigation into the spill, and will release its findings once they are available. The board noted that this recent spill shows that we cannot underestimate the risks in offshore oil activity. It also said that it had deployed four surveillance flights and an offshore support vessel to assess the extent of the spill and look for effects on wildlife . At the time of writing, 14 seabirds have been impacted by the spill. Via EcoWatch , The Canadian Press and The Guardian Image via Catmoz

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Crude oil spill off Newfoundland coast deemed impossible to clean up

Time to put the flame out scented candles can cause disease and poor air quality

November 27, 2018 by  
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Candle season is in full effect as winter days quickly approach. Candles are a great accent to incorporate into home decorations and also to photograph as the little flickering flames in the jar illuminate dark evenings at home. Scented candles are nice to look at and even nicer to breathe in, but your favorite candle can cause more damage than you imagine. In the age of social media influencers and luxury brands promoting their one-of-a-kind scents, it’s no wonder why  candle sales are soaring . But there is a dark truth hidden behind the feel-good aromas and warm coziness that candles convey — disease and  pollution . The majority of manufactured candles are made from paraffin wax, which is a byproduct in the petroleum refining chain. In a sense, it’s the bottom of the barrel or the worst of the worst. When certain candles are burned, they release toluene and benzene, both of which are known carcinogens . Related: Handmade fruit candles look realistic enough to eat In a study by Southern Carolina State University , researchers compared petroleum-based and vegetable-sourced candles to determine their emissions. Researchers let candles burn for up to six hours in a small box and collected and analyzed air quality . The study concluded that candles that are paraffin-based (the most popular kind) emitted toxic chemicals such as toluene and benzene. “The paraffin candles we tested released unwanted chemicals into the air. For a person who lights a candle every day for years or just uses them frequently, inhalation of these dangerous pollutants drifting in the air could contribute to the development of health risks like cancer, common allergies and even asthma,” said Ruhullah Massoudi, a chemistry professor at Southern Carolina State University. “None of the vegetable-based candles produced toxic chemicals.” Fragrance is also dangerous, because “over the past 50 years, 80 to 90 percent of fragrances have been synthesized from petroleum and some of the commonly found harmful chemicals in fragranced products include acetone, phenol, toluene, benzyl acetate and limonene,” according to a 2009 study,  Fragrance in the Workplace is the New Second-Hand Smoke by the University of Maryland. A 2001 EPA  report mentions that burning candles indoors can cause air pollution and “may result in indoor air concentrations of lead above EPA-recommended thresholds.” The lead found in the soot comes from the metal-core wicks that help keep the wick upright. If you must keep a candle or two in your home, the safest option is to purchase unscented organic soy or beeswax candles. Essential oil diffusers are also a great way to keep your home smelling fresh this holiday season or year-round. Via Treehugger Images via Tatlin

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Time to put the flame out scented candles can cause disease and poor air quality

Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

September 28, 2018 by  
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Wetlands around the world are disappearing at an alarming rate. New research shows that these valuable ecosystems are vanishing at a rate three times that of forests . Unless significant changes are made, the disappearance of wetlands could cause severe damage around the globe. The Global Wetland Outlook , which was completed by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, found that more than a third of the wetlands on Earth have disappeared over a 45-year period. The pace that wetlands are vanishing jumped significantly after the year 2000, and regions all over the planet were impacted equally. Unfortunately, there is a handful of reasons why wetlands are diminishing around the world. This includes climate change , urbanization, human population growth and variable consumption patterns, all of which have contributed to the way land is used. Related: Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals There are several different types of wetlands found on Earth, including marshes, lakes, peatlands and rivers. Lagoons, coral reefs , mangroves and estuaries also fall into the wetland category. In total, wetlands take up more than 12.1 million square kilometers, an area larger than Greenland. Wetlands are crucial, because they provide almost all of the world’s access to freshwater — something that is key to survival. Humans also use wetlands for hydropower and medicines. From an environmental perspective, wetlands help retain carbon and regulate global warming . They also serve as the ecosystems for 40 percent of living species on Earth, providing food, water, breeding spaces and raw materials for these animals to live. If the wetlands keep vanishing at the current rate, many species will go as well. “The Global Wetland Outlook is a wake-up call — not only on the steep rate of loss of the world’s wetlands but also on the critical services they provide. Without them, the global agenda on sustainable development will not be achieved,” said Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We need urgent collective action to reverse trends on wetland loss and degradation and secure both the future of wetlands and our own survival at the same time.” With wetlands in danger of disappearing, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has pledged to make saving these regions a top priority. The parties involved with the group have targeted 2,300 sites for protection and hope to expand that to include more wetlands around the globe. + Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Image via Jeanethe Falvey / EPA

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Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold

September 21, 2018 by  
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New data suggest that flooding in the Amazon River has dramatically increased by as much as five times in both intensity and frequency in the last 100 years. Scientists analyzed data points from the past century and believe the increase in flooding is linked to global warming. Scientists have measured the river’s water levels for 113 years at the Port of Manaus in Brazil . Over time, they found that large flooding events and extreme droughts have gone up over the past 20 to 30 years. In the early part of the century, massive floods only happened about once in every 20-year period. That number has increased to one major flood every four years. Related: High tide coastal flooding in US has doubled in the past 30 years The researchers believe the uptick is related to an oceanic system called Walker circulation, which describes air currents created by temperature fluctuations and pressure changes in the ocean , specifically in tropical locations. The Pacific Ocean has been cooling while the Atlantic Ocean has been getting warmer, which creates these circulating air currents. These changes are affecting the surrounding environment, including precipitation in the Amazon basin. Scientists are not sure why the Atlantic Ocean has been warming up. They do, however, believe that global warming is contributing to the temperature changes, but in a more indirect way. They theorize that global warming has shifted wind belts farther south, which pushes warm water from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. This creates an opposite effect of El Niño and results in more rainfall in the Amazon. Flooding along the Amazon River lasts weeks on end. Not only does it spread disease and contaminate water supplies, but it also destroys farms and homes. Right now, there is no indication that the flooding will decrease. This past year, water levels rose above the flood range, and scientists believe the water levels will only get higher as the years progress. Via EurekAlert! Images via Dave Lonsdale and NASA

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Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold

Charming home uses local, natural materials to pay homage to a chestnut tree

September 21, 2018 by  
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Young Czech architecture firm Valarch Studio has completed a modest yet elegant family house built largely of timber to reference the property’s old chestnut tree in the garden. Named the Chestnut House, the home spans a compact footprint of just 840 square feet and comprises two sections: a larger living area and a smaller, green-roofed technical area united via a multifunctional vestibule. All building materials were locally sourced whenever possible with an emphasis on natural materials. When Valarch Studio was tapped with turning the small site, a former recreation area, into a place for a family home, the team’s attention was captured by the large chestnut tree growing in an overrun field. The architects decided to use that tree as a focal point for the property and allowed it to dictate the orientation and overall atmosphere of the home. “The dark brown house surrounded by the lush green landscape mirrors a chestnut breaking out of its thorny green shell,” the architects said. “It is built of raw, untreated wood with burnt lining to complement the solid chestnut tree.” Timber also lines the minimally detailed interiors, which are fitted with large windows that flood the rooms with natural light and frame views of the lush outdoors. The interior layout is split into two sections joined together with a vestibule that includes wood storage and extends into an outdoor covered terrace with seating. The living areas, located at the heart of the home, are housed in a double-height space with a small loft guestroom above. The master suite and kid’s bedroom are located on the north side of the house. Related: Compact Karst House offers a contemporary twist on classic countryside living in Slovenia Completed for a cost of approximately $160,000 USD, the Chestnut House was built with wood framing and a steel skeleton and elevated on iron and concrete supports. + Valarch Studio Photography by Jakub Skokan and Martin T?ma / BoysPlayNice

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Charming home uses local, natural materials to pay homage to a chestnut tree

Hurricane Florence could cause dangerous floods of toxic sludge and animal waste

September 12, 2018 by  
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Torrential rains are not the only thing Hurricane Florence will bring once it hits landfall. The massive storm is expected to dump record amounts of rain in the southeastern United States — rain that could overflow toxic chemical waste and animal manure sites along the coast, increasing danger to both public health and the environment. One toxic waste site in North Carolina is particularly vulnerable to the incoming storm. Two years ago, the state tasked Duke Energy Corp. with cleaning up coal-ash ponds in the area following a major spill, because the ponds posed serious hazards to nearby communities. Close to 40,000 tons of toxic waste was dumped near the town of Eden, North Carolina. State officials ordered the company to clean up the ponds by the summer of 2019. Although Duke Energy Corp. has started the cleanup process, it is nowhere near the finish line. The company is currently in the middle of cleaning up the sites and will not be finished by the time Hurricane Florence rolls in. Given the condition of the ponds, excess rain from the hurricane could lead to overflow, dumping the waste into the surrounding environment. Related: Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence North Carolina is also home to lagoons that contain manure from the state’s hog and poultry industries. Hurricane Florence could overwhelm these lagoons with massive amounts of rain, which would dump the animal waste into surrounding waterways. If that happens, the state would be facing a major environmental disaster. That is, of course, if Florence stays on its current path and hits North Carolina. Hurricane Florence is growing in both strength and size as it prepares to make landfall. If the storm continues at its current pace, it could be the strongest hurricane to reach the Carolinas in the last 30 years. With Florence getting closer every day, about 1 million residents have already evacuated. Via Bloomberg Images via NASA and NOAA

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Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence

September 11, 2018 by  
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Hurricane Florence is on a collision course with the southeastern United States. The immense and powerful storm will create high winds and surges along coastal towns and cities, but scientists are more concerned about how much rain Florence might produce — and the increased frequency of similar storms as a result of climate change . James Kossin, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , said flooding is the biggest risk with the incoming hurricane. Florence is moving so slow across the ocean that it might come to a near standstill once it hits land, moving somewhere around two to three miles per hour. If that happens, Florence could hit cities on the East Coast with record rainfall. Related: 2018 hurricane season may be worse than last year A similar situation occurred last year when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. The massive storm slowed almost to a halt in the Houston area, dumping more than 60 inches of rain in some locations. The excess rain led to 93 deaths and completely shut down certain areas. With Hurricane Florence set to repeat history, scientists believe slow moving storms may become the new norm — and it is all thanks to climate change. Kossin and his team published a study this year that showed cyclones are moving slower on average. In fact, hurricanes have undergone a decrease in speed by about 10 percent over the past 70 years. Kossin believes climate change is slowing down wind currents, which hurricanes use to travel across the ocean. Once the storms stall over land, they continuously dump rain and produce record flooding. The only exception to this trend is in the Indian Ocean, where wind currents have remained strong. Along with slowing down hurricanes, climate change is creating larger and more intense storms as ocean waters warm. The added warmth creates more fuel for the storms as the water evaporates. Harvey and Florence are two examples of this, and scientists believe that trend will continue until we begin to cut down greenhouse gases. + NOAA Via NPR Image via NOAA

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Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

September 10, 2018 by  
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An oil company based out of Texas has confessed to a faulty pipeline leaking 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into an Indiana river. Buckeye Pipe Line, based out of Houston, admitted that it detected a pressure loss in its fuel line last week. A break in the line poured thousands of gallons of fuel into a river near Decatur, Indiana, a town with slightly less than 10,000 people. Buckeye Pipe Line closed its line as soon as it detected the leak. Unfortunately, the leak still dumped thousands of gallons of jet fuel into St. Marys River, which runs about 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Officials in Decatur installed booms in the river to help stop the spread of the fuel while workers skimmed it from the surface of the water with vacuums. Related: TransCanada natural gas pipeline explodes in West Virginia The mayor of Decatur, Kenneth L. Meyer, believes removing the fuel will take weeks. The Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) is monitoring the situation and checking fuel levels in businesses and homes close to the spill site. The EPA is also checking the quality of water at different spots further downstream to determine how far the spill has traveled. Residents of Decatur first learned about the spill late Friday night after the local police issued a warning. The Decatur Police Department told citizens to stay away from the river until the cleanup was over. Buckeye Pipe Line is not planning on re-opening the line until the pressure issue is dealt with and everything is safe to run. Although 8,000 gallons of jet fuel ended up in the river, the EPA does not believe the town’s water supply will be affected by the spill. Residents might, however, notice a change in air quality . Meanwhile, this spill offers environmentalists further evidence of the dangers of new oil and gas pipelines. Via Associated Press and EcoWatch Image via  Ray Bodden

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Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution

July 31, 2018 by  
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Dhruv Boruah, a former management consultant turned environmental hero is cleaning up the Thames River in London on a floating bicycle. The endeavor, named The Thames Project , is more about striking up conversations with passersby and raising awareness than it is about removing all of the plastic waste from the canals — an impossible feat for the one man show that is Boruah. The self-constructed rig, made up of a bamboo bicycle with yellow floats on either side, a rudder and a pedal-powered propeller in the front, has retrieved thousands of kilograms of plastic waste since beginning the project in 2017. “It’s a great conversation starter, and then I can tell them about my work, the plastic and how it all starts here in the canals,” he told CNN while on one of his “off-road cycling” missions. Related: A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal The 35-year-old philanthropist was impassioned by a yacht racing expedition from London to Rio de Janiero that left him thinking a lot about the dangers of plastic pollution . It was on this undertaking that Boruah had learned of the fortunate rescue of two turtles who were tangled in plastic in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. “Plastic is now in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat,” he explained. “You have to care because it’s about you, your health and the health of your children. Why are we destroying this planet for them?” Boruah’s bicycle nets are often filled with single-use plastic items such as styrofoam containers and water bottles. These get broken down into tiny microplastics over time that not only pollute the oceans, but also affect our air and food. When he is not striking up conversations with curious onlookers, Boruah is working with councils, businesses and communities to educate and encourage them to take action against plastic pollution. + The Thames Project Via CNN Images and video via Dhruv Boruah

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