Friday, December 18th, 2009
In 2005 the U.S. Bureau of Land Management offered up thousands of acres of federal land in Colorado to drilling. Because the land was in the heart of an area that supplies drinking water to 55,000 people in the western part of the state, the plan drew strong opposition from local communities.
The concerns they raised — that the disruption and chemicals used in drilling might ruin their water — foreshadowed similar concerns that have since rippled across the country as drilling operations expand from Wyoming to New York. And their solution may be a lesson that ripples to those communities as well.
The communities — the city of Grand Junction and the neighboring town of Palisades — began by making their concerns clear: drilling is important, but protecting the water supply is paramount.
Thursday, December 17th, 2009
The New York Times’ latest story in its series on water contamination might make you think twice before filling up your glass from the tap. Although the law probably deems your water safe, it could still be — legally — teeming with chemicals that cause health problems “from upset stomachs to cancer and birth defects.”
The Safe Drinking Water Act, which regulates tap water, is dangerously out of date, according to the Times. The list of chemicals it regulates stalled at 91 in 2000 — even though water pollution has picked up since then and hundreds of chemicals have been associated with a risk of cancer when found in drinking water. Efforts to tighten water standards have been thwarted by industry lobbyists, according to the Times.
Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
As environmental concerns threaten to derail natural gas drilling projects across the country, the energy industry has developed innovative ways to make it easier to exploit the nation’s reserves without polluting air and drinking water.
Energy companies have figured out how to drill wells with fewer toxic chemicals, enclose wastewater so it can’t contaminate streams and groundwater, and sharply curb emissions from everything from truck traffic to leaky gas well valves. Some of their techniques also make good business sense because they boost productivity and ultimately save the industry money — $10,000 per well in some cases.
Monday, November 30th, 2009
Dow Chemical Company, a worldwide leader in the global chemical industry, and sponsor of the 2010 Dow Live Earth Run for Water, has entered into agreements with the new Saudi Arabian King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) for developing cleaner, new routes for producing chemical derivatives.
The two are also looking into ways for carbon capture –a method which proposes to suck up and store greenhouse gas emissions.
Although many of the chemicals produced by the American chemical giant are used in the petroleum distilling and petrochemical industries, with much of the company’s “raw material” is coming from Saudi Arabia.
Sunday, November 22nd, 2009
Pennsylvania residents whose streams and fields have been damaged by toxic spills and whose drinking water has allegedly been contaminated by drilling for natural gas are suing the Houston-based energy company that drilled the wells. A worker at the company is among the 15 families bringing suit.
The civil case, filed Thursday in U.S District Court in Scranton, Pa., seeks to stop future drilling in the Marcellus Shale by Cabot Oil and Gas near the town of Dimock. It also seeks to set up a trust fund to cover medical treatment for residents who say they have been sickened by pollutants. Health problems listed in the complaint include neurological and gastrointestinal illnesses; the complaint also alleges that at least one person’s blood tests show toxic levels of the same metals found in the contaminated water.
Saturday, November 21st, 2009
Even small amounts of oil leave a fluorescent sheen on polluted water. This oil sheen is difficult to remove—until now. According to a recently published article in the journal Chemosphere, an inexpensive new method has been developed to remove oil sheen by repeatedly pressurizing and depressurizing ozone gas, creating microscopic bubbles that attack the oil so it can be removed by sand filters.
“We are not trying to treat the entire hydrocarbon content in the water — to turn it into carbon dioxide and water — but we are converting it into a form that can be retained by sand filtration, which is a conventional and economical process,” says lead author Andy Hong, University of Utah professor of civil and environmental engineering.
Hong says the technology — for which patents are pending — could be used to clean a variety of pollutants in water and soil, including:
Friday, November 20th, 2009
A study of the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the world’s oceans from 1765 to the present shows that as humanity pumps more CO2 into the atmosphere, the capacity of the world’s oceans to continue absorbing carbon appears to be decreasing.
Researchers from Columbia University and NASA estimate that since 2000, the proportion of fossil-fuel emissions absorbed by the oceans may have declined by as much as 10 percent. In effect, researchers say that industrial activity has been producing so much C02 since 1950 that the oceans are slowly becoming saturated with the gas.
Thursday, November 12th, 2009
In spite of leaps and bounds in technology, investment capital, political support and public will over the past decade – much less the past year – there is one element of a revolution that has not emerged in the clean tech movement: an icon. Sure, standard-bearers of the green movement that began in the 1960’s are still visible and active and there are brilliant scientists, entrepreneurs and politicians out there who might be candidates. But, as greens cast about for their own JFK in government, or a Green Gates in the private sector, what they really need is their own Green Gandhi. He may be emerging.
Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
Five years ago the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assured the nation that the technology credited with opening vast new natural gas supplies was safe. Now Congress has ordered the agency to take another look.
As part of the $32 billion Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill recently signed by President Obama, lawmakers asked the EPA to re-visit hydraulic fracturing, the process where copious amounts of water and sand mixed with toxic chemical additives are furiously pumped underground to break up gas-bearing rock thousands of feet below.
Thursday, November 5th, 2009
The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched a 315 million Euro ($465 Million) satellite that will monitor soil moisture, plant growth, and the salt content of sea water, all of which will be useful in tracking environmental changes as the planet warms.
The satellite, called SMOS — Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity — has the capacity to measure the water content of soil across the planet every three days to a depth of seven feet, enabling it not only to gauge surface water sources but also to monitor photosynthesis and plant growth. The data also will be valuable to scientists interested in forecasting drought and flood risk.