December 2011


I wanted to end the year with something positive like I did the Friday before Christmas. But this has been a meditation on national environmental events and it would be impossible no matter what the topic to not post about this. I mean how inept must you be to erect a WOOD scaffolding in a shipyard let alone one around a rubber coated nuclear submarine. A shipyard where they do things like weld, work with rivets and cut steel. How could they not start a fire. The good news is that no exterior fire is ever going to get inside an nuclear submarine. The bad news is that the rubber is probably filled with top secret exotic toxic materials which could kill or sicken the workers and people who live in nearby towns. Welcome to 2012 everyone.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/officials-say-russian-nuclear-submarine-on-fire-in-arctic-shipyard-no-leak-or-casualties/2011/12/29/gIQAd9YYOP_story.html

Jan M. Olsen contributed to this report from Copenhagen.

Russia says nuclear sub fire has been doused, no radiation leak

 

By Associated Press, Published: December 29 | Updated: Friday, December 30, 6:28 AM

MOSCOW — Firefighters extinguished a massive fire aboard a docked Russian nuclear submarine Friday as some crew members remained inside, officials said, assuring that there was no radiation leak and that the vessel’s nuclear-tipped missiles were not on board.

Military prosecutors have launched an investigation into whether safety regulations were breached, and President Dmitry Medvedev summoned top Cabinet officials to report on the situation and demanded punishment for anyone found responsible.

The fire broke out Thursday at an Arctic shipyard outside the northwestern Russian city of Murmansk where the submarine Yekaterinburg was in dry-dock. The blaze, which shot orange flames high into the air through the night, was put out Friday afternoon and firefighters continued to spray the vessel with water to cool it down, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

Russian state television earlier showed the rubber-coated hull of the submarine still smoldering, with firefighters gathering around it and some standing on top to douse it with water.

Seven members of the submarine crew were hospitalized after inhaling poisonous carbon monoxide fumes from the fire, Shoigu said.

An unspecified number of crew remained inside the submarine during the fire, Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. He insisted there never was any danger of it spreading inside the sub and said the crew reported that the conditions on board remained normal.

Konashenkov’s statement left it unclear whether the crew were trapped there or ordered to stay inside.

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Go there and read. More next year.

 

 

 

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I had never heard of coal seam gas before so this is a real education for me. Thanks to The Wilderness Society for that.

http://www.wilderness.org.au/regions/new-south-wales/pillaga-coal-seam-gas-project-an-environmental-disaster

Pilliga coal seam gas project an environmental disaster

The Pilliga Scrub is one of Australia’s bush icons. At over 500,000 hectares – two thirds the size of Belgium – it is the largest temperate woodland in eastern Australia.

It is one of 15 national biodiversity hotspots identified by the Federal Government, and is home to threatened species such as the Regent Honeyeater and the endemic Pilliga Mouse.

Now mining company Eastern Star Gas wants to turn the Pilliga into a massive industrial development zone.

Eastern Star has plans for a huge 1100 well coal seam gas development in the Pilliga. The destruction of the Pilliga is the first big step to seeing our natural forests and rural land covered with gas wells.

This gas field will fragment 85,000 hectares of forest, including a protected area, and this is just the beginning.

The Pilliga project also involves gas pipelines sited along environmentally-sensitive travelling stock routes and across prime agricultural land, against the wishes of local farmers. The associated export terminal at Newcastle will threaten the Kooragang RAMSAR wetland.

Allowing coal seam gas developments in the Pilliga threatens the Great Artesian Basin with the existing dozen-well project already discharging waste water into the Murray-Darling Basin.

Communities across Australia are worried about coal seam gas projects polluting their local water supplies with toxins and salt. If the Pilliga project is built, there’s no telling what the impacts on water in north west NSW will be. The Pilliga coal seam gas project is an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

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Hunter Heritage Centre,
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Newcastle, NSW, 2300
Phone: 02 4929 4395

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Go there and read. More tomorrow.

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You can read either article below. The facts stay pretty much the same but  each has one of my favorite pictures of the horrible damage. The overhead shot is the most compelling:

http://www.global-adventures.us/2010/04/05/aral-sea-shocking-disaster/

Then there is the “boats and camels” shot:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/07/16/the_world_s_worst_ongoing_disasters?page=0,3

The World’s Ongoing Ecological Disasters

While it’s probably still too soon to celebrate, BP appears to finally be getting the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico under control. But many of the world’s greatest environmental catastrophes continue, with no end in sight.

BY JOSHUA E. KEATING | JULY 16, 2010

UZBEKISTAN/KAZAKHSTAN

Disaster: The shrinking of the Aral Sea

Going since: The 1960s

Damage done: Straddling the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth-largest inland water body and home to at least 20 species of fish and a thriving coastal economy in the surrounding towns. In the early 1960s, the Soviet government built more than 45 dams and 20,000 miles of canals in an effort to create a cotton industry on the desert plains of Uzbekistan, depriving the sea of its main sources.

Over the next three decades, the sea shrank to two-fifths its original size, turning fishing villages into barren desert outposts. Thanks to the high salt content in the remaining water, all 20 fish species are now extinct. Drinking water supplies in the area are dangerously low and the ground contains dangerous pesticides from the cotton farms. When the wind sweeps across the now-dry sea bed, it spreads up to 75 million tons of toxic dust and salt across Central Asia every year.

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Go there and read. More tomorrow.

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Damming large rivers to generate electricity seemed like a good thing when there were only 1 billion or 2 people on the planet. But now with a planet nearing a human die back at 7 billion people and having stressed the planet to nearly its bursting point they are causing more problems then they are worth. I only include a couple of paragraphs here but you have to love, “making America the most damming country” part. You go girl..

http://www.internationalrivers.org/africa/environmental-impacts-large-dams-african-examples

Environmental Impacts of Large Dams: African examples

October 1, 1996
Lori Pottinger

Some 40,000 large dams, most of which were built in the past 50 years, now obstruct the world’s rivers. More than 400,000 square kilometers––an area larger than Zimbabwe, and 13 times the size of Lesotho––have been inundated by reservoirs worldwide. The world’s largest impoundment, the 8,500 sq.km. Volta Reservoir behind Ghana’s Akasombo Dam, flooded 4% of that nation’s land area. In the United States, whose 5,500 large dams make it the second most dammed country in the world, we have stopped building large dams, and are now spending great amounts of money trying to fix the problems created by existing dams.

The Environmental Consequences of Big Dams

Although the impacts of large dams have been well documented for some time now, in case after case, new ones are proposed whose environmental impacts are downplayed or even ignored. A 1990 internal survey of World Bank hydroelectric dam projects showed that 58% were planned and built without any consideration of downstream impacts, even when these impacts could be predicted to cause massive coastal erosion, pollution and other problems.

The following are some of the more serious environmental impacts of dams on rivers and the life they support. I have concentrated on the kinds of impacts that might affect the Orange River watershed, leaving out other major dam–caused problems that have affected rivers under different ecological circumstances.

Effects on River Systems

Reducing the flow of water from a river changes the landscape it flows through, which in turn can affect the ecosystem’s flora and fauna. A dam holds back sediments, especially the heavy gravel and cobbles. The river, deprived of its sediment load, seeks to recapture it by eroding the downstream channel and banks, undermining bridges and other riverbank structures. Riverbeds are typically eroded by several meters within a decade of first closing a dam; the damage can extend for tens or even hundreds of kilometers below a dam. Within nine years of closing Hoover Dam in the US, the riverbed below the dam had lowered by more than 4 meters. Riverbed deepening will also lower the groundwater table along a river, threatening vegetation and local wells in the floodplain and requiring crop irrigation in places where there was previously no need. The depletion of riverbed gravels reduces habitat for many fish that spawn in the gravelly river bottom, and for invertebrates such as insects, molluscs and crustaceans. Changes in the physical habitat and hydrology of rivers are implicated in 93% of freshwater fauna declines in North America.

Before the Aswan High Dam, the Nile River carried about 124 million tons of sediment to the sea each year, depositing nearly 10 million tons on the floodplain and delta. Today, 98% of that sediment remains behind the dam. The result has been a drop in soil productivity and depth, among other serious changes to Egypt’s floodplain agriculture. The Aswan Dam has also led to serious coastal erosion, another problem stemming from the loss of sediments in a dammed river. Another example of this problem is along the mouth of the Volta River in Ghana. Akosombo Dam has cut off the supply of sediment to the Volta Estuary, affecting also neighboring Togo and Benin, whose coasts are now being eaten away at a rate of 10–15 meters per year. A project to strengthen the Togo coast has cost US$3.5 million for each kilometer protected. The story is the same on coastline after coastline where dams have stopped a river’s sediments.

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Go there and read. More tomorrow.

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OK, yesterday was a feel good day. Maybe a feel good weekend, but now back to the environmental disasters. This latest oil spill in Nigeria is not like the one in the Gulf of Mexico or the Exxon Valdez in Alaska. Still it was from a fixed well to a fixed vessel. This is ineptitude of huge proportions. It is in a country that has a history of destroying the environment and its own people. On the day when the Pope preaches against violence, they blow up a Catholic Church. Nice.

http://www.advisorone.com/2011/12/26/bombs-oil-spill-shake-nigeria

Bombs, Oil Spill Shake Nigeria

Offshore leak stems from flexible export line to tanker

By

December 26, 2011

Nigeria was hit with a double whammy over the past few days: first an oil spill that could develop into its worst since January of 1998, and then a series of Christmas Day bombings that escalated the strife in the oil-rich country.

Production on the deepwater oil project was shut down as Royal Dutch Shell worked to contain the spill, which it said resulted from a leak in the flexible line between a tanker and the production facility.

Thus far neither disaster has had much effect on the price of oil, but with many markets closed, in the U.S. and U.K. for the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays, that could change on Tuesday. Prices were up a bit in Asian markets over supply concerns.

Bloomberg reported that the spill, which began last week, originated at the Bonga deepwater project, which produces 200,000 barrels a day. Production was shut down before the leak reached 40,000 barrels, Shell said in the report. Mutiu Sunmonu, Shell’s chairman for Nigeria, said in a statement last week, “The sheen has thinned considerably due to a combination of natural factors and dispersant application, and in places is breaking up, all of which should aid further dissipation.”

Bonga is the first deepwater discovery of oil for Nigeria, and it produces nearly 10% of the nation’s crude oil. It is located approximately 75 miles off the Nigerian coast. Nigeria is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the U.S., having provided 826,000 barrels from the beginning of this year through September, the latest month for which figures are available from the U.S. Energy Administration.

Five ships were deployed by Shell to spray dispersants; the company also brought in experts to combat the spill, which could be the worst since an Exxon Mobil Corp. spill in January of 1998 lost approximately 40,000 barrels from the Idoho platform on the southeastern coast of the country. At that time, oil slicks were reported as far west as Lagos.

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Go there and read. More tomorrow.

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I was going to post about the Nigerian oil spill in my continued meditation on environmental disasters in the recent years BUT its Christmas weekend eve. So instead I am posting a happy event. The White River is now free flowing after they punched a hole in the Condit Dam and this spring salmon will flow down the White River for the first time in 100 years. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it and Happy Holidays to the rest.

http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/environment/freshwater/us-condit-dam-salmon.html

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For text see:

http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/cwp/condit.html

Condit Dam Removal Project

Breaching Event

Updated! 10/24/2011 Condit Dam was breached a little after Noon on Wednesday, October 26, 2011. During the event approximately 750 acre feet of water was drained into the White Salmon River downstream of the dam and into the Columbia River. Flows from the breach of the dam are anticipated to transport a plume of accumulated sediment from the reservoir causing turbid water.

Over the course of the next 10 months, dam removal will be conducted and restoration of the former reservoir area completed.

See more project info on the Pacificorp website.

Project Overview

The Condit Hydroelectric Project is located 3.3 miles upstream from the confluence of the White Salmon and Columbia Rivers. Constructed between 1911 and 1913 by Northwestern Electric Company it has been operated by PacifiCorp since 1947. PacifiCorp has chosen to remove the dam rather than seek fish passage required under a new federal dam license.

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) conducted necessary environmental reviews and issued regulatory approvals associated with the project, including granting a Section 401 Water Quality Certification. The 401 certification under the federal Clean Water Act certifies that water quality standards and other water-protection regulations are met during dam removal and subsequent restoration. The 401 outlines the steps PacifiCorp must take to protect water quality during dam removal.

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Go there, view and read. More next week.

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I still have strong doubts about the claims that the northwest section of the US got slimed by radiation from Fukushima. But the plant is a big environmental mess that could last 30 years. Then there is the millions of tons off debris that has smashed around the edge of the pacific garbage gyre and is barreling towards  Alaska and Washington state. That could do real damage. Some of it has already washed ashore. Once it is done there it will move on to hit Hawaii and ultimately end up in the gyre it avoided the first time. It wasn’t their fault but they still messed up the pacific ocean. A little future planning might not hurt.

http://www.medicaldaily.com/news/20111219/8322/fukushima-radiation-epa-death-united-states-nuclear-meltdown-japan-tsunami-earthquake.htm

Study Connects U.S. Deaths to Fukushima, Contradicts EPA Reports

By Adam Daley

A new study set for publication tomorrow in the International Journal of Health Services found there may be a connection between an estimated excess of 14,000 deaths in the U.S. and the radioactive fallout from explosions at Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, an argument in direct conflict with reports from the Environmental Protection Agency.

In the 14 weeks after Fukushima fallout arrived in the U.S., deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rose 4.46 percent from the same period in 2010, or roughly 14,000 deaths. The rise in reported deaths after Fukushima was largest among U.S. infants under age one.  The 2010-2011 increase for infant deaths in the spring was 1.8 percent, compared to a decrease of 8.37 percent in the preceding 14 weeks.

“This study of Fukushima health hazards is the first to be published in a scientific journal. It raises concerns, and strongly suggests that health studies continue, to understand the true impact of Fukushima in Japan and around the world,” said co-author Joseph Mangano, MPH, MBA, and Executive Director of Radiation and Public Health Project. “Findings are important to the current debate of whether to build new reactors, and how long to keep aging ones in operation.”

Six days after the meltdowns in Japan, scientists detected a plume of toxic fallout in the U.S. According to the EPA, all of the radiation levels detected were “very low, well below any level of public health concern.”

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Go there and read. More tomorrow.

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This all began as a lark. I was bored and could come up with anything interesting that I wanted people to see and think about so I typed in environmental disaster in the google field and picked the one that looked interesting. But it has turned out to be quite fun in a macabre sort of way. Look it is bad enough that Brazil is dozing the rain forest or planting crops in the pantanal; bad enough that they have dammed the Amazon and are running their surface fleet on ethanol. Now they are tossing oil in the ocean.

http://digitaljournal.com/article/314763

Oil spill disaster in Brazil: This time Chevron is to blame

Andre

By Andre C James

Nov 20, 2011 in World
+
In yet another environmental disaster, off shore oil drilling has caused 416,400 litres of oil to flood into the sea 370km (230 miles) off the Brazilian coast.
Chevron claims full responsibility for the disaster that occurred almost 2 weeks ago and has made assurances that the underwater rupture had been sealed although there continued to be residual oil leaking from undersea rock at the Frade Oil Project. The international environmental group Skytruth suggested the spill was 10 times larger than the official estimate and backed up its claim with satellite images.

The cause of the spill was put down to

underestimated pressure of underwater oil deposits while drilling, causing oil to rush up the bore hole and seep into the surrounding seabed.

Meanwhile, Head of the Federal Police Environmental Division Fabio Scliar voiced concern about the methods Chevron was using to clean up the spill. He said, Chevron was “pushing” the oil to the bottom of the sea, thereby putting corals in the area at risk of destruction.

Currently the oil slick originating from the drilling location has extended over 2,379 square kilometers but is dispersing in a clockwise eddy by the ocean currents as it drifts further out to sea.

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Go there and see the pretty pictures, play the video and read. More tomorrow.

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I did not know which article to go with today. They were both about environmental destruction in Turkey printed within the last 2 days. One was about the 1,600 hydro projects in Turkey to generate just 8 percent of their electricity, but flooding hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat and farmland. Also probably denying drinking water and irrigation to those downstream. OR the article about the cyanide leak from a mining tailings pond. Oh what the heck, cyanide is so much more fun.

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-243375-environmental-disaster-looms-in-kutahya-after-tailings-failure.html

Environmental disaster looms in Kütahya after tailings failure

9 May 2011 / TODAY’S ZAMAN, ?STANBUL
Immediate measures are needed to avert what could be an environmental disaster in Kütahya, where the collapse of a tailings dam in a silver mining and refining facility has led to concern, according to environmentalists and scientists who continued to issue warnings on Monday.

However, officials have said all the necessary measures have been taken to prevent leakage.

A crisis desk was established in the province following the collapse of the dam’s embankment on Saturday. The governor’s office has announced that nearby villages could be evacuated. The facility, owned by the Eti Silver Corporation, reportedly contains 15 million cubic meters of cyanide. It is located 34 kilometers from the provincial capital, near the village of Gümü?.

“We are calling for urgent measures,” said Mustafa Sat?lm??, the Kütahya representative of the Turkish Foundation for Reforestation, Protection of Natural Habitats and Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA). “If not, it is certain that we’ll be faced with an environmental disaster that will cause irreparable damage.” He said TEMA had grave concerns about the situation. “The amount of disinformation [on a possible cyanide leak in Kütahya] is enormous. We expect officials to make a satisfactory statement on this. We feel that not making statements on the issue won’t get us anywhere.”

Company workers continued work started on Saturday to prevent the cyanide from flowing into the first stage of the dam, from where it could leak outside, while work was also under way to strengthen the embankments.

Sat?lm?? said although TEMA had been unable to acquire official information from technical professionals, they had been able to ascertain that a “severe risk” had formed in the tailing dam’s stages. “The embankment between the second and third stages collapsed, and now the entire burden is on the third stage. Immediate action is needed.”

The Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects’ Chambers (TMMOB) released a statement on Sunday saying that a possible leak would lead to a disaster much worse than a spill of industrial waste in October at an aluminum plant in western Hungary.

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Go there and read. More tomorrow.

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Russia not only polluted the Soviet Union like  Chernobyl in Ukraine and and other industrial sites, but they are doing a number on themselves as well. This AP article focuses on their problems with oil, but they have done a number on their part of the Arctic Seas. Their cities are toxic as all get out.

http://www.ajc.com/business/ap-enterprise-russia-oil-1263340.html

AP Enterprise: Russia oil spills wreak devastation

By NATALIYA VASILYEVA

The Associated Press

USINSK, Russia — On the bright yellow tundra outside this oil town near the Arctic Circle, a pitch-black pool of crude stretches toward the horizon. The source: a decommissioned well whose rusty screws ooze with oil, viscous like jam

This is the face of Russia’s oil country, a sprawling, inhospitable zone that experts say represents the world’s worst ecological oil catastrophe.

Environmentalists estimate at least 1 percent of Russia’s annual oil production, or 5 million tons, is spilled every year. That is equivalent to one Deepwater Horizon-scale leak about every two months. Crumbling infrastructure and a harsh climate combine to spell disaster in the world’s largest oil producer, responsible for 13 percent of global output.

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This TED article lays out the total picture better.

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http://www1.american.edu/ted/russair.htm

TED Case Studies: Russia Air Pollution

I. Identification

1. The Issue

The extent of pollution and ecological collapse in Russia is due to decades of ill-considered military and industrial development undertaken in virtual secrecy and with scant concern for the environmental and health consequences. Environmental pollution clamps a stranglehold on the big cities in Russia. Pollution in Russia now threatens the health of millions of citizens and the safety of crops, water and air. In 84 of Russia’s largest cities the air pollution is ten times the accepted safety levels. In some areas, especially among children, levels of respiratory problems are 50 per cent higher than the national average. Moreover, Russia is a major contributor to global ozone depletion, being the World’s largest producers and consumers of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS). Thus, Russias emphasis on production at all costs has cost this country its environmental integrity.

2. Description

In the former Soviet Union, the government promoted production at all costs for decades. The strategy for economic growth in the USSR was established in the first Five Year Plan of 1929, and remained fundamentally unchanged for the next 50 years. At the time of the 1917 revolution, and despite a drive for industrialization in the late 19th century, economic development in Russia had continued to lag well behind that of the major Europeans countries and the United Sates. By the late 1930s, following enormous losses incurred during World War I and the sub- sequent civil war, and part due to the perceptions of an increasing threat of further military conflict, the objective of catching up with the West became the dominant influence on economic policy. The relatively liberal New Economic Policy of 1921-28 had mixed results and was seen as inadequate to the task of achieving the desired þdash for growth.þ The new approach, centered of accelerated industrialization, required rapid mobilization of capital, labor and material inputs, with lesser emphasis being placed in their efficient use (so-called extensive development). The introduction of a full scale command economy-including nationalization of almost the entire capital stock and collectivization of agriculture-was seen as the only way to achieve these shifts in resources at the required pace.

As far as natural resources were concerned, there had been a tendency to exploit the more accessible reserves first. Cost of extraction and transportation therefore rose as production (of oil and gas in particular) was forced to shift from Europe and Central Asia to harsher and more remote regions in Siberia and the Far East. At the same time, the incentives for enterprise managers to innovate, increase efficiency or improve the quality of their output were inadequate or even perverse. The planning system motivated higher production primarily by imposing increasingly ambitious targets since it could not afford to allow temporarily lower output from one enterprise to jeopardize the input s to others. Thus the infrastructure and environment were further causalities of the preoccupation with growth and meeting the yearly plan objectives. Risks of environmental damage were not allowed to obstruct the resource requirements of rapid industrialization, and would eventually impose enormous costs on the Soviet economy.

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Go there and read. More tomorrow.

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