Archive for the ‘Pollution’ Category

Local water supply in rural India

Local water supply in rural India from the New York Times

  • Dr. Nocera at MIT is reserching the ability to capture energy through photosynthesis, so that we can harness solar energy at night
  • A cap and trade system for carbon emissions is looking like it is gaining consensus as the best option for  accounting for externalities of pollution, but how much will it cost our society?
  • More on green schools, this time talking about “the halo” system that enables natural light to shine into the classroom even on cloudy days at Da Vinci Arts Middle School in Portland, Oregon
  • Design your own graywater capture system!
  • Google tackles office greening in London. Best way to increase recycling? Take away trash cans at individual desks.
  • How can a hotel go green but still cater to visitor needs? Take a hole out of the soap bar…
  • A new analysis report was released recently, showing that India could face a severe water supply problem if they do not change their usage patterns soon

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Photo: Seiler

The debate between incineration and landfilling as a means to manage a community’s solid waste is a hot topic right now internationally. Can either be done responsibly? In the long run is it just polluted ground water versus polluted air? After digging deeper I believe that landfilling is the environmentally correct solution for most communities – but what about an island? Will the geographic location of an island community and its unique context ultimately be the differentiator?

I am currently working on an island project in the Pacific Ocean which will be home to 6,000 inhabitants within 15-20 years time. The approach to solid waste management here starts with reduction, reuse, and composting; but will have to end in either incineration or landfilling of the remaining +/- 20% of the island’s waste stream. Note that we are further exploring a mechanical biological treatment system which yields better than 85% diversion.

An incineration plant would burn solid waste and use the heat for energy production. This would produce diesel fuel-free energy (meaning fuel imports would be lower), and it would reduce the waste sent to landfills considerably. It would also greatly reduce cost of shipping waste off the island, would not leach into the ground water, and would produce little to no methane gas. Local pollution is a problem with incineration: heavy metals are mainly deposited in the nearby air and water, along with dangerous dioxins (that accumulate in food) and high levels of carbon dioxide emissions. Some of the pollutants released cause acid rain, and the mercury from incinerators can accumulate in the local fish population until it is a danger to humans. As an island set within an amazingly rich environment it is hard to support the development of such a facility. On a more global scale: the ash dumped into landfills is toxic waste and that burden would go onto those who dispose of it.

Landfilling the solid waste would bring almost no local pollution as the island itself is not geologically suitable for the development of a landfill site; and waste would need to be shipped to the mainland. It is known that this existing landfill site is taxed and has issues related to high methane gas emissions (the worst greenhouse gas) and contaminated water getting into the groundwater aquifer because of imperfect sealing. When using CO2 as an indicator greenhouse gas, it actually appears that shipping the waste is more harmful than the incineration of it.

The differentiator for this project may be that incineration leads to a disincentive for more environmentally friendly methods of waste disposal in the long run; while landfilling allows for more alterations within the waste system as the project develops and the population grows. Not an easy choice in any event – your thoughts / comments gladly accepted as we work toward a final solution…

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Green Dry Cleaning from goodwillnne.org

Green Dry Cleaning from goodwillnne.org

The EPA was supposed to appear in the DC appeals court Friday to defend its proposal to require PERC to be phased out of dry cleaners located in residential buildings by 2020.  They were being sued by the Sierra Club for not going further and requiring PERC to be phased out of all dry cleaning operations across the country.  The Sierra Club is arguing that there are already PERC alternatives readily available and economical and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be used everywhere.  Meanwhile, the National Cleaners Association has been saying that PERC is safe because there are controls now to prevent emissions.  The EPA has asked for the case to be removed from the docket on Friday so that they can revise their position, which may be a sign that the Obama administration is going to take a different tack on environmental legislation than the Bush administration did.

Its also a common sense one in my opinion.  I used to work for in environmental remediation and pretty much any site that had a history of dry cleaning had PERC in the soil and groundwater.  That was not coming for the air emissions, which are an issue while the dry cleaners is in operation, its coming from spills.  Unless the National Cleaners Association has a way to prevent spills and leaks in the PERC storage tanks on site, there is little guarantee of saftey using the product.  And PERC is incredibly difficult and expensive to remove once its in the groundwater.  Hopefully the EPA will acknowledge this and amend their position.

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It’s official: The local water board says the SF Bay is trashed, according to the SF Chronicle:

Tons of cigarette butts, diapers, crushed Styrofoam and plastic bottles and bags convinced the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board to vote unanimously to designate the edges of the central bay and the south bay, along with 24 rivers and creeks, as places in need of trash controls.

It used to be that just Lake Merritt was deemed “impaired” by the volumes of trash lining the shores, spoiling marine habitats and endangering wildlife. Not any more. Now dozens of Bay tributaries have received the same dubious distinction under the Federal Clean Water Act.

The designation is the first step in putting cities and counties on notice that the EPA could impose fines if they don’t clean up their act. But it could also provide funds to help them, and board members are hoping that $$ from the federal stimulus package will pay for structures beneath roads that capture trash in storm water.

Environmental groups say the vote is a good first step in eliminating plastic bags and street trash from falling into the bay. They also want stormwater permits issued that will require “measurable, enforceable reductions in trash:”

“Citizens are shocked when they realize how much trash is in the bay,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, the nonprofit that has been spearheading an anti-trash campaign over the past two years.

The list of recommended cleanup sites includes some that Sherwood has worked with including Strawberry Creek in Berkeley and Colma Creek in San Mateo County, where we helped write a “GreenStreets Design Guidebook” that demonstrates appropriate stormwater filtration and mitigation strategies to keep our waterways clean.

With the EPA poised to mandate that cities regulate trash or face heavy fines, now would be a good time to start implementing these programs.

While it’s great that volunteers picked up 125 tons of trash – including 15,000 plastic bags – from SF Bay on last year’s Coastal Cleanup Day, it’s pathetic that we let that amount of garbage get anywhere near our vital sources of water.

Shouldn’t it be government’s job to help keep all that trash out of our waterways in the first place?

Hopefully soon, it will be.

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Photo of “Spiral Jetty” taken by easea on Flickr

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  • Marseille, France, may be sending water via tanker ship to Barcelona, Spain, to help ease their drought until their long term solution of a desalination plant is completed next year. Marseille’s water consumption is about half the amount of water per person per day than Barcelona.
  • Since the federal government has not established clear mandates for greenhouse gas emissions, there are an increasing number of U.S. states seeking their own emissions cap and renewable energy initiatives.
  • The American Museum of Natural History is celebrating World Water Day this Saturday with free events all day long. If you’re in the NY area, its worth checking it out.
  • Garrison Keillor speaks out against bottled water. And makes the point that old school conservatives would have been against the bottled water movement, with big corporations trying to gouge the little guy by selling him stuff he doesn’t need.
  • This past week was World Water Week, and to raise awareness, The Tap Project has been implemented at restaurants across the country, charging customers $1 for a glass of tap water. (via epiblog)
  • The USPS has started a trial program to provide free electonics recycling through the mail, via free postage paid envelopes available at the post offices in the pilot program. Currently available in 10 areas across the county, including DC, but could expand nationwide if it is a success. (via Lifehacker)
  • Scientists are mystified by some recent data provided by 3,000 scientific robots that have been providing temperature information from all over the ocean, since the data seems to show that the ocean hasn’t warmed up over the last few years, even though the sea level has risen a lot.
  • Broadway East is a new restaurant that opened recently in NYC that is dedicated to wholesome ingredients and sustainability. It composts, filters and carbonates its own water, and donates its waste cooking oil for use as biodiesel.
  • Professor John Anthony Allan from King’s College London and SOAS has been named the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate for his innovation of the “Virtual Water” concept, i.e. the concept that products we eat or make have a water use associated with its manufacture and shipping, which isn’t always obvious.
  • Rick Cook of Cook+Fox talks with gbNYC about green building in NYC and their new residential building, The Lucida, on the Upper East Side.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions in China have now surpassed the volume emitted in the US, previously the largest greenhouse gas emitter, and are growing 10 times faster than the US as well.
  • A carbon trading exchange opened as part of the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday, allowing investors to buy carbon futures, betting on how expensive it is to pollute.

Image from the UN campaign for the International Year of Sanitation, commemorated tomorrow with World Water Day

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  • Many are concerned about pollution discharge levels from biofuel plants across the Midwest. Spills from these plants are hazardous to bird and fish habitats found in contaminated bodies of water.
  • Residential parking permits may come to NYC.
  • A study conducted in Indiana, where they just started practicing Daylight Savings everywhere in the state starting in 2006, shows that Daylight Savings may not save energy costs afterall.
  • Private land conservation easements may not last forever. And it might not prevent drilling for resources underground the conserved land.
  • The EPA announced an 11% cut in allowable smog standards, from 84 ppb to 75 ppb, though it is still higher than scientist recommended standards of 60-70 ppb. There is no timeline on when this standard would go into effect.
  • WR Grace has agreed to pay a fine of $250 million to help clean up the asbestos contaminated site in Libby, Montana, the largest fine every ordered by the Superfund program.
  • Another case of failing infrastructure in the US is the prospect of the transportation system being heavily impacted by climate change. Increased heat can lead to stress on bridge joints, among other problems. And melting of permafrost in the Arctic can wreak havoc on foundations.
  • As the biofeul market becomes larger and plays more of a role in the US economy, drought can have even more of an effect on the economy than in the past, driving up food and oil prices alike.
  • The New York Mets new stadium may not be seeking a LEED rating, but that’s not stopping them from integrating a number of green features into the design, such as a green roof on the administration building and waterless urinals and other water saving devices that should save 4 MGD a year.
  • The largest salmon stock collapse in 40 years is occurring in the Pacific, leading to officials closing fishing activities up and down the Pacific coast.
  • The Bush administration may have tried to suppress a report showing strong evidence of injury due to pollution in the Great Lakes region.

Photo of permafrost from the International Polar Foundation

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