Friday, January 29th, 2010
A ranking of 163 nations based on environmental public health and the vitality of their ecosystems places Iceland, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Sweden, and Norway in the top five, with the U.S. trailing in 61st place and China and India ranking 121st and 123rd respectively.
The Environmental Performance Index, compiled by researchers at Yale and Columbia universities, ranks countries based on 10 main categories such as environmental health, air quality, water management, biodiversity and habitat, forestry, and climate change. Iceland ranked at the top because of its excellent environmental public health and reliance on renewable sources of energy such as geothermal and hydropower.
Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed new ozone standards to protect health and environmental values. These standards will apply to the lower atmosphere, to the air we breathe. In the upper atmosphere, ozone is good.
The “hole” in the ozone layer over Antarctica has worried scientists for years since ozone in the upper atmosphere protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.
According to research at the University of Leeds, the hole in the ozone layer is now steadily closing. This is a concern, since its repair could actually increase warming in the southern hemisphere, the scientists at Leeds conclude.
Monday, January 25th, 2010
The US EPA continues its New Source Review initiative. The agency has announced that emissions from container glass and Portland cement plants will be reduced under the settlement of a New Source Review case. The settlement requires the affected facilities to install new pollution control equipment Selective Catalytic Reduction, and to continuously monitor their emissions.
The settlements cover 15 U.S. plants owned by Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc., the nation’s second largest container glass manufacturer, and all 13 U.S. plants owned by the Lafarge Company and two subsidiaries, the nation’s second largest manufacturer of Portland cement. These settlements are the first system-wide settlements for these sectors under the Clean Air Act and require pollution control upgrades, acceptance of enforceable emission limits and payment of civil penalties.
Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Ever wonder how the western US has high ozone levels when the winds usually blow in off the Pacific Ocean? Did you think it was all from the cars clogging the freeways? Turns out, it is caused in part from emissions of ozone generating air pollutants from Asia.
A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that Springtime ozone levels above western North America are rising, primarily due to air flowing eastward from the Pacific Ocean, a trend that is most significant when the air originates in Asia. These increases in ozone could make it more difficult for the United States to meet Clean Air Act standards for ozone pollution at ground level, according to a new international study published online Jan. 20 in the journal Nature. (more…)
Monday, January 18th, 2010
Many areas of the US have high background radon level in the ground. When radon gets into a home it can increase the resident’s cancer risk. How does radon get into a home?
The most common way is through cracks in basement floors, walls, and sump pump sumps. In the winter, if a furnace or boiler is in the basement, the chimney can act as a depressurization device since combustion air is vented to the outdoors. If the basement is tight, and there is no source of combustion air, the heating system (and water heater too) can depressurize the basement. If there is radon in the soil gas below the house, this depressurization will increase radon infiltration through cracks and sumps.
Another infiltration route is through groundwater. In areas with elevated radon in rock formations, and in homes using on-site wells for water, the water carries radon into the shower where it vaporizes to gaseous radon.
Friday, January 15th, 2010
Highway barriers erected along roadways can be perceived as massive monuments to the future and were intended to block the sound and sight of traffic for the adjacent neighborhoods. They may do a bit more in terms of air borne pollution. In a study by NOAA and the US Environmental Protection Agency, researchers released harmless “tracers” to measure the potential movement of pollutants such as carbon monoxide and heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds such as benzene. The results showed a significant reduction for those neighborhoods in pollutants as a result of the barriers.
Highway barriers were originally designed to help block highway noise as well as to improve the view for nearby residents. At first the barriers were somewhat ugly but many now have vines and other vegetation softening the aesthetic effects. (more…)
Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
It takes brute force to wrest natural gas from the earth. Millions of gallons of chemical-laden water mixed with sand — under enough pressure to peel paint from a car — are pumped into the ground, pulverizing a layer of rock that holds billions of small bubbles of gas.
The chemicals transform the fluid into a frictionless mass that works its way deep into the earth, prying open tiny cracks that can extend thousands of feet. The particles of sand or silicon wedge inside those cracks, holding the earth open just enough to allow the gas to slip by. (more…)
Thursday, January 7th, 2010
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his department will no longer be the “handmaiden” of the oil and gas industry and will conduct tougher environmental reviews of proposals to drill on public lands. Criticizing the Bush and administration for turning federal lands into a “candy store” for the petroleum industry, Salazar told reporters, “The difference is in the prior administration the oil and gas industry essentially were the kings of the world.” He said lax leasing policies “ran afoul of communities, carved up the landscape, and fueled costly conflicts that created uncertainty for investors and industry.”
Salazar said he was ordering federal land managers to get out from behind their desks and to visit proposed leasing sites to evaluate the environmental and social impacts of drilling. The stricter review process would not reduce the amount of oil and gas extracted from federal lands, Salazar said, but would ensure that drilling was done in a more responsible manner. (more…)
Sunday, January 3rd, 2010
Like many countries, Thailand has an issue with waste. From buildings, to manufacturing and agriculture, to consumer goods and tourism leftovers, mountains of garbage go to landfill each year. Agriculture alone in Thailand churns out 58,190,000 tons of refuse annually (Land Development Department, Government of Thailand). Think about that the next time you frolic on a Thai beach.
Throughput of industrial system today, from source to end consumer, ends up in landfills or incinerator. For every truckload of product with lasting value, 32 truckloads of waste are produced. On a finite planet, it doesn’t take a genius to realize this sort of system is totally unsustainable.
Monday, December 28th, 2009
The US EPA is the source of most air quality impact assessment models used in the US for regulatory purposes, such as predicting the potential impacts from proposed stationary sources of air pollutants and mobile sources such as motor vehicles. Since motor vehicle emissions vary with regulatory changes in required emission level, it is important that impact modeling be performed with the most up-to-date models.
EPA recently announced that an updated version of the Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) model — MOVES2010 — is now available for use to estimate air pollution from cars, trucks, and other on-road mobile sources. The model can also calculate the emissions reduction benefits from a range of mobile source control strategies, such as inspection and maintenance programs and local fuel standards.