Archives for category: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice announced the $189,000 fine against Sims Metal Management on Thursday September 18th over allegations that it polluted the San Francisco Bay with toxic metal debris. The EPA charged the company with allowing toxic dust from metal to fall off a conveyor system and into a creek that feeds into the San Francisco Bay since at least the early 1990’s. As part of a settlement agreement, the recycling company will be required to pay the cost of cleanup in addition to the fine.

EPA Fines Sims Metal $189K for Polluting SF Bay Green Halo Waste TrackingSims Metal spokeswoman Jill Rodby said the company has implemented a number of best practices around the conveyor and agreed to the settlement without acknowledging any wrongdoing.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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Algae_bloom_lake_erie

Algae blooms in Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes in North America that borders Canada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan and contaminated Toledo, Ohio’s tap water to a scary point. Phosphorous and nitrogen from farm runoff, livestock runoff, and sewage systems make the algae in this lake bloom, it’s also a shallow, warm lake that also contributes to algal growth. On Saturday, August 2nd, 2014, the City of Toledo put an alert warning people not to drink or bathe in the water from the city water supply which affected about 400,000-500,000 residents.

The toxin is called microcystin which is produced by the algae microcystis. This toxin causes skin rashes, may result in vomiting and liver damage if ingested. The U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA showed that the toxin returned to safe levels just a few days later but the issue is “too close for comfort” according to the Toledo Blade.

Source: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/toledos-water-supply-was-contaminated-toxins-algae-180952242/?no-ist

Obama and the EPA 's fight on power plants, the epa, climate change and green house gas

We at Green Halo Systems have been following the news about the USA’s greenhouse gas policies since the beginning of the year when the Secretary of State John Kerry’s goal was to become the “lead broker of a global climate treaty” according to The New York Times. John Kerry has made President Barack Obama and millions of others focus on global warming in the past six months and today it was announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a 30% cut from 2005 figures to all power plant emissions by 2030.

To review some of what has happened since the beginning of the year, this past February, the EPA drafted a new rule to regulate 1,500 power plans in America to curb climate change and to tighten the language on such a rule. Later that month, Pres Obama ordered the development of new fuel efficiency standards for the nation’s heavy-duty trucks through the use of executive authority. Days later, the Supreme Court considered the President’s orders when it comes to emissions from “stationary sources” such as power plants. Pres Obama’s use of executive authority has since become a popular topic.

At the end of March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change report warned that climate change is having a “sweeping effect worldwide” that is likely to grow worse unless greenhouse emissions get under control. The report gave weight to Pres Obama’s effort to use his executive authority under The Clean Air Act.

During April the United Nations report said that the United States needs to develop a climate change law so taxing carbon pollution was up for discussion. Paul Krugman’s response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s statement was that economists’ optimism about limiting emissions of greenhouse gases is due to technological innovations that have decreased the cost of renewable energy.

At the beginning of May, Pres Obama announced investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The President campaigned to build support for the EPA’s carbon pollution limits on pollution from coal-fired power plants. Also in May, research about the giant glaciers’ “tipping points” as proof of global warming was scrutinized by The New York Times. Pres Obama also recently stated that the proof of climate change makes this issue “not some distant problem of the future”.

And so now, in the beginning of June, Pres Obama reiterated the importance of climate change policies in his second-term agenda. On June 1st, 2014, the Obama administration proposed what might be the most ambitious climate change mitigation strategy in the USA so far. The proposal is that the entire power sector (America’s largest carbon polluter) must bring its emission levels down by 30% from what they were in 2005 by the year 2030.

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The Basel Convention is a United Nations treaty that was signed in 1989 to control the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal. The treaty helped define hazardous wastes, outlined how hazardous wastes are disposed and set guidelines such as approved facilities by city governments.

 

It’s been said that one event that prompted the Basel Convention was the Khian Sea waste disposal incident from 1986-2000. The Khian Sea cargo ship (which was registered in Liberia) was loaded with 14,355 tons of non-toxic ash from waste incinerations from the US. The story goes that a US company that handled the waste subcontracted a shipment to dump the ash in the Bahamas, however, the Bahamian government turned down the ash and so, for over one year the Khian Sea searched for a place to dump the ash. Many regions of the world refused to accept the ash and since the ash was even refused from the original area in the US from where it was received, in 1988 the crew dumped about 4,000 tons of the waste in Haiti as “topsoil fertilizer” and fled before they could pick up the ash as the Haitian commerce minister ordered. The Khian Sea then moved on to regions such as Morocco, Sri Lanka and Singapore where the captain testified to dumping about 10,000 tons of ash into the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

 

Here is an image of the home port of the Khian Sea in Philadelphia:

 

Philadelphia_port_Green_Halo_Waste_Tracking_Khian_Sea

 

(Source: http://www.basel.int/Home/tabid/2202/Default.aspx and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khian_Sea_waste_disposal_incident )

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a wonderful website that shows users 290 different apps that help people understand and protect the environment. The website is called “My Green Apps” which allows people to either search for an app by device, with keywords, to choose categories (such as games, energy, health, etc.) as well as the option to “View All Apps”.

It is truly a helpful invention for people who would rather their children play environmentally educational games, as a reference and many of these apps are extremely practical as well. In addition to being able to find green apps, there are also links for app developers such as: using the EPA’s data, and the ability to “see what app ideas people like best”.

What a great way to positively impact the environment!

app, green apps, android, iphone, epa, environment, protection, agency

(Source: http://www.epa.gov/greenapps/)

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A coal mine fire burning for almost a month is forcing residents of an Australian town from their homes after pollution more than 22 times above recommended safe levels triggered a health alert.

Green Halo - Australians Flee Beijing-Style Smog as Coal Mine BurnsFirefighters are pumping as much as 84,000 liters of water a minute, the equivalent of about two Olympic-size swimming pools an hour, onto the burning mine at GDF Suez’s Hazelwood power station in Victoria state, according to local authorities. Pollution readings in the nearby town of Morwell, 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of Melbourne, peaked last month at levels beyond hazardous on the Air Quality Index.

Residents have abandoned more than half of the 750 homes in the worst-affected area, as families with pregnant women, elderly people and young children take up A$1,250 ($1,128) weekly payments to temporarily relocate, according to the state government. Victoria’s Premier Denis Napthine has urged people in the region to offer vacant holiday homes to those seeking respite and pledged use of his own coastal vacation property.

“The ash falling out of the sky every day was getting in to every part of the house that wasn’t air tight, it smelled like an ashtray,” said Nick Albon, a 30-year-old engineer who moved out of his home about 500 meters from the mine’s northern boundary on Feb. 16. “Headaches were the first thing to instantly hit. As soon as you got out in the smoke, you could taste it in your mouth whenever you were outside.”

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The Sierra Club has put together a list of “The 5 Worst Foods for Environmentalists to Eat.” For many of you, this list probably doesn’t hold many surprises, but it is still an important reminder of the decisions we as consumers make on a daily basis when choosing what to put into our bodies. Some foods, like it or not, are best avoided completely, no matter how delicious they may taste.

Conventional Coffee

From an environmental standpoint, it’s crucial to buy shade-grown, organic coffee. (Fair trade is also important for the growers.) Coffee is meant to grow in the shade, but many farmers now grow it in full sunlight, with a heavy dependence on pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. They also chop down rainforests, destroying bird habitats. Look for the green gecko stamp from the Rainforest Alliance when purchasing coffee.

Factory-farmed Beef

“Cheap burgers are environmental assassins,” says Logan Strenchock, Central European University’s sustainability officer. Forests are clear-cut to grow the GMO corn and soy used to feed cows. Those crops have awful pesticide runoff that contaminate waterways, not to mention the waste generated by keeping large numbers of cows in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation). Even grass-fed beef “depletes native biodiversity, increases invasive exotics, diverts water, fouls streams, and bares the soil,” according to Mary O’Brien, director of the Utah Forests Program. Then the fresh meat has to be kept cool till it’s used, requiring vast amounts of energy.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is used in half of all packaged foods sold in the U.S., particularly cookies, crackers, and soups. Pam oil is the largest cause of rainforest destruction, resulting in huge swaths of Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests being bulldozed in order to plant palm oil trees. “Eight million acres have been cleared and burned already, and the orangutan is on its way to extinction,” says Christy Wilhelmi, author of Gardening for Geeks. The solution? Ditch those packaged foods, start cooking from scratch, and always, always read labels.

Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin is a popular choice at high-end sushi restaurants, but their numbers in the oceans are dropping fast. Because they live so long, Bluefin are unable to stand up to overfishing. They’re also high in mercury. The Sierra Club quotes food critic Jonathan Gold, saying, “People need to stop eating Bluefin tuna, period… The numbers of these magnificent fish are dropping fast. If we don’t stop eating them now, we’ll stop in a few years anyway because there won’t be any more.”

Genetically Modified Corn

GMO corn “destroys habitats, depletes soils, breaks nutrient cycles, pollutes air and water, contaminates native maize varieties, and on and on,” according to Douglas Fox, professor of sustainable agriculture at Unity College. It kills bees, reduces biodiversity, drives heirloom crops to extinction, and requires excessive processing to transform it into high fructose corn syrup, another ingredient found in processed foods (which should be avoided anyways because they contain palm oil).

No doubt there are many other foods that should be added to this environmental blacklist, but banishing these five from one’s diet is a good place to start.

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Two and a half years after a near meltdown, the Fukushima nuclear power plant is still in trouble. The Nuclear Regulation Authority issued a new warning Wednesday, raising the severity level of the continuing leak from one to three on an international eight-point scale.

Ever since the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake shook the area, the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant has been subject to numerous leaks and controversies.

The alert comes as TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co) found at least 300 metric tons of radioactive water to have leaked from the site, with ‘hotspots’ found nearby. Workers are now scrambling to check an additional 300 tanks that currently contain contaminated water at the stricken nuclear power plant.Green Halo - Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Leaks 100 Tons of Radioactive Water

Each point on the International Atomic Energy Agencies eight-point scale of the scale represents a ten-fold increase in radiation, so a jump of two points is highly significant. The latest confirmed leak, from a tank which can hold up to 1,000 tonnes of water, hasn’t been stopped yet and TEPCO acknowledges that they have yet to identify the cause of the leak.

TEPCO has stated that there is no evidence that the contaminated water from these leaks has reached the ocean, but there is significant contamination to the soil in the area, which will need to be addressed. The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, has expressed a loss of confidence in Tepco’s ability to deal with the situation, and has stated that the government will be stepping in to take additional measures to address this continuing disaster.

Tepco has also been criticized for delaying the release of strontium-90 levels in local groundwater despite demands from regulators.

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Scientists say that tuna swimming in the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have experienced heart damage. 

Lab research has demonstrated how crude oil chemicals can disrupt heart function in the fish. The study, published in Science magazine, is part of the ongoing work to try to understand the impacts of the disaster.

The gulf is an important spawning ground for bluefin and yellowfin tuna. Tracking studies have indicated that many of these fish would have been in the area during the 2010 disaster.

Green Halo - Tuna Fish Impacted from 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Scientists have long known that certain chemicals in crude oil – such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – can be harmful to the hearts of embryonic and developing fish. These molecules, which have distinct ring-like structures, cause a slowing of the heart, irregularities in rhythm and even cardiac arrest at high exposures.

Pathways blocked

Earlier studies never explained the precise mechanisms involved. Now, scientists from Stanford University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) think they have some answers. Working on tuna heart tissues in the lab, they have detailed how PAHs can block important cellular pathways. These are pathways where potassium and calcium ions move in and out of cells. Their ability to do so quickly is vital to the proper functioning of those heart cells.

“What we found was that oil blocked key processes in the cardiac cells involved with linking excitation to contraction, which means that beat to beat, we slowed the heart cells down and we also decreased their contractility,” Barbara Block, a professor of marine sciences at Stanford.

Human implications?

Because the mechanisms involved operate in the same way in the hearts of all vertebrates, it is highly likely, the team says, that other animals swimming in waters around the crippled rig would have been exposed to similar cardiac risks. And the questions also reach across to human health – because vehicle engines put PAHs into the air in our cities.

Green Halo - Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill 2010 Impacting Environment and Animal Life

“Impressively, the cardiac excitation-contraction coupling pathways are the most conserved pathways in all of animals. It means that the same ion channels present in tuna to make its heart beat are present in humans. So we’re interested in the impact of oil petroleum products on our own excitation-contraction coupling, and we’re interested in linking air pollution, for example – a place where petroleum products are often found, volatiles from our exhausts – to the problems of cardiac morbidity that are seen across the planet on a very smoggy day,” said Prof Block.

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Washington DC has a new LEED adaptive reuse project to be proud of, and it comes in the form of the residential remodel of the former EPA headquarters designed by Wiencek + Associates. Located in D.C’s Southwest waterfront community, the former EPA headquarters was revitalized and remodeled into the new Sky House development by The JBG Companies and Urban Atlantic. The Sky House will provide 530 new residential units – 106 of which will be affordable housing!

The Sky House towers usher in a future of adaptive reuse for the Southwest side of Washington D.C. These towers will be the tallest in the area, and boast rooftop pools with some of the nicest views of the city’s monuments. The retrofit includes removing the existing concrete skin to install beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows for studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units. Wiencek + Associates is in charge of the exterior, while RD Jones & Associates is responsible for the interiors.

The buildings flank the Waterfront Metro station, and besides being close to public transit, are designed to be LEED certified. Mayor Vincent Gray hailed this project as “a significant step in the evolution of the Southwest Waterfront, helping to define the area as a premier urban location to live and enjoy the benefits of waterfront amenities, Metro accessibility and a thriving, culturally rich local community”.

Before and after pictures here:

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