“There are now 60 AD plants recycling food waste, which can process up to 2.5 million tonnes of food waste per year and generate enough renewable electricity to power a city three times the size of Cannock,” said Richard Swannell, a Wrap director.
“So when you recycle your food waste at home, at school or at work, it is being put to great use delivering a more sustainable future for us all.”
Surely this is the best news I’ve heard since the Gators fired Ron Zook…yes it’s been a while. To give you a quick backgound on the story, hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is illegal in Florida (if you want to know more about this process, see my post “What the Frack”). To sum it up, the process involves drilling deeply into the ground, where unknown chemicals and tons of water are injected with great pressure to break shale and release “natural” gas. This process is known to leak harmful chemicals into our ground water, surface water, and millions of gallons of our potable water, which, subsequently becomes unusable. Additionally, fracking is causing earthquakes throughout the US and overseas (Italy is suffering big time!), as well as random explosions (near Columbus, OH last week). This is NOT a process we want anywhere near the Everglades.
Well this D-bag… I mean, this “man” from Texas, named Dan A. Hughes, whose company is modestly named after himself, owns some land on the outskirts of the everglades in Big Cypress Swamp. He decided to go around the law, and, without a permit, preformed an “enhanced extraction procedure” to proceed with exploratory drilling. The company denied this to be hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on the basis that they used an “acidic solution”, instead of the usual fracking chemicals, and a “mostest” volume of water and sand…whatever that means. And, wait ’til you hear how this process works:
- They still start by drilling a well, just like regular fracking
- They still use a ton of water
- Instead of cracking open shale, they dissolve the rock by shooting HydroFlouric Acid into the ground…YES, HydroFlouric Acid! The same exact stuff that Walter White and Jessie Pinkman used to dissolve dead bodies in the show “Breaking Bad”…that really, REALLY bad stuff!
I would assume that this “acid fracking” is probably worse than regular ole fracking, but, unfortunately, I can’t tell you for sure because the fracking chemicals are kept secret!
So this guy, who is the chair of Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, mind you (poor Austin has to be stuck in that state), proceeded to acid frack, even after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection told him to stop and also slapped him with the maximum fine of $25,000 for unauthorized actions. As the Orlando Sentinel paper states,
“For this transgression the Florida DEP fined the company $25,000 for “unauthorized actions,” apparently the maximum civil penalty under Florida law, and also ordered that a preapproved expert monitor groundwater contamination in the area. On May 2, the state banned Hughes Co. from beginning to drill five other wells for which permits had been secured until further review is complete, to which the company agreed.
Of the situation, Hughes Co. spokesman David Blackmon told the Orlando Sentinel the company is “confident the results are going to show that the groundwater hasn’t been negatively impacted” and that “its operations do not pose a threat to contamination,” saying that “the way these wells are constructed, there are multiple layers — five layers of concrete and heavy steel — that prevent any of the fluids going through the well bore from contacting the groundwater formation.”
Ok, so, the bad guy comes in, and the good guy fails to stop him; so what happens next? Well, after a long legal battle, Dan A. Hughes’ company’s permits were revoked, he has been stripped of his authority to operate within the state of Florida, and he is being sued for $100,000 (really FDEP? That’s like peanuts to this guy!). So, the bad guy, unfortunately, wasn’t completely thrown out of “The Sunshine State” and sent back to where he came from (seriously, our state has enough screwballs… seriously though…), but at least he can’t hurt Florida’s people, wildlife, or water sources anymore.
Time to get all “Breaking Bad” with vegetables- feel like a bad a**, without the threat of jail time or murder, right in your own home! Yes, even you, Mr. Condo-owner, living in a big city, can secretly grow your own stash of affordable organic vegetables!
The need and wish for sustainable agriculture in cities is increasing due to the environmental and monetary benefits of having local food sources. The benefits of growing vegetables in cities include air quality enhancement, positive psychological benefits, fresher food, low transportation costs!
A group in London recognized these benefits and began growing up right in the middle of the busy city! Rooftop vertical gardens put the city in a sustainable mind set with cool looking gardens. The “GrowUp” team constructed their aquaponics GrowUp Box from a reused shipping container that was modified to include a rooftop greenhouse. What are aquaponics, you ask? Well stated in the article, this means “The greenhouse will produce vegetables that will get all the necessary nutrients from waste water from fish tanks situated bellow. The nutrients are meant to fertilize the plants and in turn the plants purify the water.” With a footprint of only 14 square meters, the GrowUp Box can produce around 60kg of fish and 200kg of salad each year!
A US based research group out of MIT uses aeroponics, a technique developed by NASA in the 90s to grow vegetables on space crafts, which uses 70-90% less water, and allows plants to grow significantly faster. This process leaves the roots of crops hang in the air below the plants, and in the case of this MIT lab, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers are grown on the 5th floor of a University building. The roots are misted every five minutes with water containing controlled concentrations of nutrients, such as phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium, as well as micro-nutrients, copper and magnesium. A seed is placed in a thermoset plastic cube and is allowed to germinate in dark closet space, mimicking underground conditions, then the seedling is moved to the 5th floor space where natural light and LED lights supply the plant with the energy it needs to grow. Apparently this process claims to double the nutrient content of conventional practices because the fruits and vegetables do not need to be picked before they are ripe, therefore, less spoilage and waste in addition to nutritional benefits. This process also avoids devastation by weather and pests by growing indoors. Sounds to me like Epcot at Disney World has had the right idea since the 90s!
Meanwhile another London based company began a hydroponics project called “Growing Underground”, and has taken over an underground, abandoned World War II bomb shelter, big enough to fit 8,000 people! They use LED lights and a hydroponic technique, where a bench full of seeds is flooded periodically, to grow a 2.5 hectare farm! Proponents boast about constant temperatures, constant light, predictable and constant weather, and no pests. They grow pea shoots, rocket (whatever that is), red lion mustard, radish, tatsoi, pak choi, and broccoli.
It’s amazing what we can do when we think outside the box! I live in a condo, and have always wanted a garden. I have a porch to I may try the vertical garden first…I’ll let you know how that goes!
Ionized, aka alkaline, water systems seem to be a new health trend. Businesses want them for their reception rooms to show how they care about their clients’ health, or that they have the money to spend on messing with the composition of water. But is your money going where it is intended? Are there true health benefits? Just using common sense, an individual who knows very little science would think “I know we eat and drink substances of varying pH on a daily basis, our stomachs are very acidic, therefore, a basic solution would be neutralized when mixed with stomach acid upon consumption.” But perhaps that is more to it?
First, lets look at the science and an explanation of water and pH: Water, in its purest form, consists solely of H2O molecules. These molecules are slightly polar, and have a tendency to dissociate (aka ionize) into H+ and OH- ions, however the reaction of these ions forming a water molecule is much more rapid. Therefore, maintaining the ionization of pure water is impossible. The neutrality of pure water is supported by the fact that pure water will not conduct an electrical current, however, salt water, which has an alkaline pH of 7.5-8.4, will… and we know the dehydrating affects drinking salt water can have on the human body. With an understanding of water, we can see that no machine can take pure water and change the pH. Other ions must be introduced to produce acidic or alkaline water. All aqueous (liquid) solutions contain a ration of H+ and OH- ions, which give a solution a certain pH. When the balance is weighted toward H+ ions, the solution is acidic; when weighted toward OH- ions, the solution is basic, or alkaline. Pure water has a pH of 7, drinking water (tap or bottled) has a pH of 6.5-8, rainwater has a pH of 4-7, depending on where you live. For the pH to change one unit, in either direction, the ration of H+ to OH- is either 100:1 (drop one unit in pH, making the solution more acidic) or 1:100 (an increase in pH, making the solution more basic). Whether water is slightly acidic or alkaline, it will always contain the same number of positive and negative charges. That being said, since alkaline water contains an excess of negative OH- ions, it must be balanced by positive ions to stabilize and equalize the opposite charges. Therefore when excess OH- ions are present, commonly metal ions, such as sodium, calcium, or magnesium, are added to water to allow a stable pH change. In other words, as the pH strays from 7, so does the purity of the water.
Now, let’s look at the ionization process: Ionizers use a process called “electrolysis”, which refers to the breaking of chemical bonds, due to electric current. The thought process is that breaking bonds will leave OH- ions unpaired, in suspension between the H+ ions that are consumed by a negative electrode, and the positive electrode, creating an alkaline solution. If the solution is solely water, these H+ and OH- ions will bond back to original state quickly, resulting in a pH of 7, just as prior to electrolysis. Bottom line, if your water is at drinking water standards, from the tap or bottle, no electrical device or chemical additive is capable of creating alkalinity. Therefore, if your goal is to consume alkaline water, and your device does not add ions, you are literally wasting money and energy. Due to the fact that pH adjustment in water cannot be maintained, some devices depend on the addition of salt to increase water’s conductivity, using NaOH, which allows chlorine ions that are present in water to bond with OH- ions, creating hypochlorous acid, which is a weak acid and oxidizing agent. Some systems allow this to be separated and used as a disinfecting agent, but many times, this hypochlorous acid is encouraged to mix with sodium hypochlorite, which is equivalent to diluted laundry bleach. In other words, you can make this water yourself by adding bleach to your drinking water! Just adjust the pH with lemon juice, and you are good to go! Getting thirsty yet?
Why so many claims of health benefits from alkaline water? Although it has been proven by numerous research studies (including those performed at Michigan State and Ohio State) that highly alkaline water has extreme adverse effects on plants and animals, very few studies have been performed on humans. The lack of experimentation on humans has, unfortunately, allowed for claims of positive effects, not based on scientific fact; and although our medications come with warnings that are based on animal experimentation, somehow, alkaline water is exempt from stating these findings. People genuinely believe that drinking alkaline water makes them feel better, and there are many claims of health benefits. So let’s again look at the scientific reasons behind these claims. The hypochlorite ions that are present in ionized water (which is charged with external salts) may end up in the digestive tract and the large intestine, where the presence of these ions can react with, and kill, bacterial organisms (whose job is to remove harmful substances), which may make certain individuals feel better initially. However, the presence of hypochlorite ions is known to trigger a number of cellular processes connected with cancer, by suppressing genes that normally act to inhibit cell proliferation and tumor growth. This negates the positive impacts you initially feel, and also contradicts claims of preventing cancer. From the research reports I have read, tumors, which are naturally acidic, do not respond positively to basic surroundings, however they do respond to extreme acidic environments. For example, vitamin C has been proven to kill cancer cells. Surprising? I know. One would think that if something is acidic, it can be neutralized with a base. There has not been a single unbiased, scientific research report that provides conclusive evidence of an alkaline environment, within the human body, being beneficial. However, it is evident that a neutral pH is necessary for biologic processes to carry out normally.
Another reason people may feel better from drinking alkaline water is simply because they are finally drinking water; or at least drinking more than they were, prior to their “life-saving” water system. Drinking water can improve your health and well-being significantly, providing cells with the tools they need for metabolic processes and waste removal…plus it helps the appearance of your skin by “plumping” flaccid cells. The third reason that ionized water may make someone feel better is as simple as believing… the placebo effect is no joke, people!
Conclusion: If you are still a proponent of an alkaline diet, drink some runoff water that is naturally alkaline from minerals in soil, rather than water that is induced with salts and electric current. There may be some animal excrement that has not been biodegraded yet, but it is still probably healthier in the long run than ionized water. Tap water is slightly alkaline, but at healthy levels. Drinking plenty of this should make you feel and look great. If you don’t like the taste, or if you are worried about pipe contamination, get a Brita filter or a filter for your faucet, that uses a membrane or activated carbon filtration system to remove trihalomethanes, which are responsible for poor taste and odor. The first red flag that went up for me was the claims of unheathy drinking water in the US, and claims that pharmaceuticals exist in both bottled and tap water, which even if true, this “ionization” process would not be able to rid water of this issue either, in addition, the vague explanations to the health claims seemed a little sketchy. Then finally, the disclaimer stating that none of the claims are backed by real scientific research. Many of these ionization machines are manufactured in Japan or Korea, countries knows for their susceptibility to pseudoscientific water-treatment schemes. In the US, these devices are sold by dealers who know very little to nothing about science. They will tell you their machines perform miracles, however, no matter which ionization system you buy, either these machines are doing absolutely nothing, or they have the potential for harm in the long run. Even pro-alkaline professionals say that this water should only be ingested for a maximum of two weeks. The facts from a chemist:
- “Ionized water” is nothing more than sales fiction; the term is meaningless to chemists.
- Pure water (that is, water containing no dissolved ions) is too unconductive to undergo signficant electrolysis by “water ionizer” devices.
- Pure water can never be alkaline or acidic, nor can it be made so by electrolysis. Alkaline water must contain metallic ions of some kind — most commonly, sodium, calcium or magnesium.
- The idea that one must consume alkaline water to neutralize the effects of acidic foods is ridiculous; we get rid of excess acid by exhaling carbon dioxide.
- If you do drink alkaline water, its alkalinity is quickly removed by the highly acidic gastric fluid in the stomach.
- Uptake of water occurs mainly in the intestine, not in the stomach. But when stomach contents enter the intestine, they are neutralized and made alkaline by the pancreatic secretions — so all the water you drink eventually becomes alkaline anyway.
- The claims about the health benefits of drinking alkaline water are not supported by credible scientific evidence.
- “Ionized”/alkaline water is falsely claimed to be an anti-oxidant. It is actually an oxidizing agent, as can be seen by its ability to decolorize iodine (see video)
- There is nothing wrong with drinking slightly acidic waters such as rainwater. “Body pH” is a meaningless concept; different parts of the body (and even of individual cells) can have widely different pH values. The pH of drinking water has zero effect on that of the blood or of the body’s cells.
- If you really want to de-acidify your stomach (at the possible cost of interfering with protein digestion), why spend hundreds of dollars for an electrolysis device when you can take calcium-magnesium pills, Alka-Seltzer or Milk of Magnesia?
- Electrolysis devices are generally worthless for treating water for health enhancement, removal of common impurities, disinfection, and scale control. Claims that “ionized” waters are antioxidants are untrue; hypochlorites (present in most such waters) are in fact oxidizing agents.
- Claims that “water ionizers are approved for use in Japanese hospitals” are misleading: these “approvals” merely attest to the machines’ safety — that they will not electrocute you! My understanding is that the Japanese Health Ministry is highly critical of therapeutic claims made for alkaline water.
- Artificially alkaline water only neutralizes acidity where it has direct contact, like the stomach and upper bowel. When consumed daily, the upper bowel in particular becomes overly alkaline and side effects begin to appear. Most common are erratic heart behavior, hypertension, nervousness/anxiety, urinary tract and bladder infections, and stabbing side pains.
- We have spoken to numerous individuals who were hospitalized for heart conditions that magically disappeared when they stopped drinking artificially alkaline or ionized water. Why would anyone ingest anything unnatural when natural alternatives are available at a comparable cost?
- More severe side effects were observed in a clinical study involving rats. The study revealed injury to cardiac tissue (heart muscle) as a result of drinking ERW (Electrolyzed Reduced Water), or water created by ionizer machines (artificially alkaline water). In an age when heart disease is a leading killer, ionized water is simply not a smart choice.
I happen to be a Matt Damon fan, so of course I have seen the movie “Promised Land” which shows slimy hydraulic fracturing companies dangling large sums of money in the face of poor, unknowing farmers, in exchange for the land that had been their life and livelihood. I understand that although bias, there had to be some truth to this story “based on true circumstances”. So I made my opinions based on what I know of science and hydrology, but I know that my views have been influenced by the environmental uproar that surrounds me. I decided that I should probably get the facts before making statements so I can share an intelligent, unbiased, opinion. The EPA has been on a rampage with surface and groundwater water quality, hazardous waste, remediation, and now going to far extents to combat climate change, so how is it that hydraulic fracturing has received little regulatory discourse? Does it all come down to money or perhaps this process is not as negatively impactful as I’ve been encouraged to believe? I will state some facts about this process, explain where my opinions were drawn from, then share what I learned when I spoke with a fracturing supporter, and I will close with my new opinions formed after collecting all information possible on the process.
Hydraulic fracturing is the process of extracting gas resources from the ground via deep well, to be used for energy production, and has been around since the 1940s. This process is commonly known as “fracking”, however, while speaking with a chemist who sells the chemicals used in this process, I learned that this term is slang and slightly offensive, so I will use “HF” instead to maintain an unbiased tone. Recent technological advances, increases in energy consumption, and the need for US energy reserves has increased production of natural gas substantially. The amount of natural gas recovered from a given well differs with each type of shale, sand or carbonate rock, but ranges from approximately 2-4billion cubic feet of recovered gas per well. It is estimated that the USA has 2.2trillion cubic feel of recoverable natural gas (however this number is argued by half), which would last about 92 years (or 46 depending on your source) at 2011 rate of consumption. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) claims that hydraulic fracturing has made the US number one in shale gas production with 39% of total natural gas production coming from hydraulic fracturing. EIA also states that hydraulic fracturing has allowed the percentage of energy coming from coal to decrease 11% in the past 20 years (although energy from coal has still increased substantially). Natural gas stock fraction has increased from 13% to 25% of the energy market throughout the past 20 years, and is projected to hit 30% by 2040. EAI expects that US natural gas production will increase 44% between 2011 and 2040.
These numbers mean very little to a nature lover, but I do understand the need to balance economics with environmental responsibility. My original opinions were based on my knowledge of science, hydrology, and contamination: There is a definite amount of water in the world. The same amount, and same water molecules that were here 1000 years ago, are here today. No more and no less. With an ever-increasing human population, therefore, continuously increasing water demands, it is difficult enough to provide clean water… so difficult that millions don’t have it (see my post about how water kills more people than every kind of violence). During the process of HF, 2-6million gallons of potable water are used to recover “natural” gas (the quotes are not because I think it is unnatural, but because the word is usually associated with positivity and healthy outcomes). Following this process, these millions of gallons of water are now wastewater contaminated to an unusable state, far too challenging and expensive treat to a reusable condition. Therefore this water is injected deep below a confining layer, and basically taken out of the water cycle, ultimately depleting our usable fresh water supply. Now when the product of this pollutant inducing process is burned for energy, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, are byproducts, much like coal and oil, but in lower quantities. This is why proponents claim it is “clean energy”, but how does “less pollutants” end up being termed “clean”, a word that reflects “none”? In addition, Methane is a primary component of natural gas, and is also a greenhouse gas that is emitted into the air when the gas is not burned completely, which happens often. Just an observation, but does anyone else notice that the people and companies that support HF are shouting “clean energy” to the rooftops, meanwhile, they are the same groups most likely to oppose scientific evidence for, and actions to mitigate, climate change? I’m sure there is no economic motive there…Not (yeah I totally just went old school- 90s clothes are back in, why not the slang?)!. These were my passionate opinions prior to hearing from the other side. I attempted to be as open minded as possible, I guess I am hoping to be wrong in this case since I don’t see regulations putting an end to it.
So I met with an expert proponent of HF who I asked to explain the process: The process begins when a well is drilled deep into the earths surface. Then, “fracking fluid” (yes, after I was told not to say “fracking” there apparently an acceptable use of the term), which consists of millions of gallons of water with sand and chemicals (he said a small fraction of the total volume is chemicals), are pumped into the well at extremely high pressures- 9,000lbs/sq.in. This pressure created causes the shale formation beneath the ground to crack, or “fracture”, and the sand in the fracking fluid serves as a “propping agent” to prop open “fissures” that allow hydrocarbons (natural gas) to escape. He explained that this process has been done for over 30years and if done correctly, should not impact groundwater. As reported by a company supporting HF, when fracturing is complete, and pressure is released, between 20-80% of the fracking fluid begins to flow to the surface as “flowback water” throughout a period of a few days to a few weeks. Some companies see this flowback as opportunities to extract more hydrocarbons from the well by extracting them from the flowback water which is now hydrocarbon rich. Water that is naturally present (aka groundwater), may also rise to the surface and can consist of anything at that point (wait, what? I thought the groundwater wasn’t involved?). There are then three different options for that water, permanent disposal of the wastewater injected into the ground, reuse for future fracturing which is theoretically an option, but does not happen due to it’s inconsistent, therefore, unknown chemical composition and would require treatment and the addition of more freshwater, and recycling, another theoretical option in which this wastewater is used for irrigation after an extensive and expensive treatment process removing all total dissolved solids. Almost all cases go with option one because it is the least expensive and the way it’s been done for years. I was told that if the process is done right, and nothing goes wrong, HF is not an environmental risk.
Honestly I was hoping for more concrete, finite statements on the safety to the environment, and an explanation of the process that was much less invasive than I had been predisposed to believe. I wanted to let the information settle, and I didn’t want to sound arrogant and ask leading questions, but my father happened to be listening, a businessman who knows nothing of science, and posed concerns… legitimate, intelligent, concerns. I was shocked. He asked: so during drilling, where does the drilling liquid go? Does the well casing ever leak? What if the casing leaks? If groundwater is present when the shale is propped, then how is it possible that the natural gas doesn’t enter the groundwater system? When the wastewater resurfaces at that volume, can it impact surface water and soil? Is there a way to make the fracking fluid safer? What about earthquakes? Not trying to get political, but my republican dad was actually paying attention to a man talking about science and the environment…. and saw implications with a process that is seen as economically beneficial?? Someone call FOX news and let them know there is a rebel among them!
These questions were answered, but not answered confidently with respect to environmental safety. They do everything possible to prevent leaks, although most likely possible, there are no plans to redesign fracking fluid to be less detrimental to the environment, and the groundwater shouldn’t be affected, even though sometimes it is. He also stated that claims stating that drinking water sources were contaminated, were skewed. Accidents happen at times, and geologic processes can be unpredictable, and the analyses are sometimes incomplete or incorrect.
I did some further research to answer my dad’s questions, and I found the following information:
1. The majority of the drilling liquid remains in the ground and is not biodegradable, and like all pollutants, can spread and travel through the soil or ground water.
2. If the well casing is not perfectly sealed, it will leak, and if the well penetrates through the aquifer and is not well sealed, chemicals can leak directly into our drinking water supply
3. The fractured shale may allow chemicals to enter the water system, and reports of radiation in drinking water have been made, as an article in the NY Times states. This is obvious to me, if groundwater is present, how would it not mix with HF chemicals?
4. Surface water and soil contamination can occur when wastewater resurfaces… only 30-50% of that water is recovered and is highly toxic. Surface evaporation of volatile organic carbons (VOCs) coming into contact with diesel exhaust from trucks and generators at the well site can produce ground level ozone, which can travel up to 250 miles (as reported by 8020 vision)
5. When the earth is drilled, pressurized, depressurized, it’s stability is compromised, and HF has been associated with earthquakes in the northeast and Midwest.
6. HF companies have not and will not release the chemicals associated with fracking fluid, they are not required to, so why would they? However, scientists have identified known carcinogens and VOCs such as benzene, tolulene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. I would describe each of these, however, I have a dissertation to finish… and it is not on HF or it’s chemical components.
Following my research regarding the benefits and implications of HF, my opinions opposing this practice were supported and grew stronger. I understand the environmental implications of burning and extracting coal, and the need for alternate energy sources, the need to be independent of foreign oil sources, and economic benefits of HF. However doing, what seems to me, as permanent damage on the earth to extract 46-92 years (if fuel consumption does not increase past 2011 numbers) of fuel, is not sustainable. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to see that economics plays a huge part on the longevity of this controversial practice. Other sources of energy should be focused on, which I believe is happening, and hopefully those strict environmental regulators will give this industry some attention despite the potential monetary and political benefits.