Category Archives: EnviroNews

California One Step Closer to Plastic Bag Ban!

The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted YES to phase out single use plastic bags in Sacramento on Thursday, despite heavy industry opposition.  The bill heading the movement, SB 270, is being promoted by California Senator Alex Padilla (D), and schedules the ban into effect July 1, 2015 for retail stores, and a year later for gas stations and liquor stores.  In addition to banning use of plastic bags, a $0.10 fee will be imposed on paper bags.  So not only is this guy enraging the chemists and plastics industry (who have sued small cities that attempted to independently pass this ban), now, he’s sending the American Forest and Paper Association into a frenzy.  I just have to give a big congrats Mr. Padilla, I can imagine that it’s not easy for someone in an elected position to piss off that many rich people; it seems like he does what he feels is best for the people, not for his campaign.  He would surely be taken out by Kevin Spacey ( it’s a House of Cards reference…fyi, awesome show). 

Now you may ask where the money goes for the $0.10 ban?  Well no where too exciting, the stores get to keep it.  However, this tactic to reduce waste has been proven in Ireland- bag use was reduced by 90% when a similar fee was administered for bags. 

So we Americans are pretty impulsive people, we like to see benefit of a change immediately, or we give up(which is most likely why our obesity rate is so high).  So lets focus on some benefits: 1) We can now be more aesthetically pleasing while walking from stores and around town… you cannot deny the plastic bag is ugly; 2) We can now express ourselves through an extra accessory (you know those bags will get cooler and become trendy); 3) Men have an excuse to carry a bag with stuff in it (finally I will have room in my purse for MY stuff when out with my husband); 4) They are less likely to break and lessen the likelihood of egg and milk explosions; 5) Lastly, you will no longer have that wad of plastic bags taking over your cupboard space.  Convinced yet?  If not, just do a Google search of ocean plastic, look at the images of animals trapped in plastic, and  that should do it!

plastic bagsThe Reusable Grocery Bag

Read my post on plastics if you want statistics and details about environmental and health impacts of plastic, but to summarize, all plastic is made from oil (and a shocking amount), chemicals released during production and chemicals leached from plastic are bad for the environment and the health of all living species, and almost all single-use plastic ends up in a landfill or in the ocean, where it does not biodegrade.  The next step is following San Francisco’s lead in banning plastic water bottles; the US spends 16 Billion (with a “B”) dollars on bottled water a year while we have the cleanest municipal water in the world… and if you want to see all the reasons tap water is better than bottled, read my post  and see my upcoming short film on that one too.

Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico attributed to polluted runoff from farmland fertilizer

A story from MSN was sent to me and caught my attention.  Again, everything is connected… would you ever connect a cow in Missouri to a deoxygenated area unable to sustain life in the Gulf of Mexico?  Well, there is a very direct connection: farms are exempt from many water quality laws, however they are responsible for large pollutant loads to water ways.  Fertilizer and manure have high phosphorus and nitrogen content, which feeds algae to grow and form blooms.  These algae blooms uptake oxygen from water at the same time as blocking sun from reaching plant life below the water surface, preventing photosynthesis.  The combination of these occurrences can result in a “dead zone” where life cannot exist.  The Gulf of Mexico has the second largest recorded dead zone in the world at 5,000 sq miles, which is about the size of the state of Connecticut.  The high phosphorus and nitrogen loading is attributed to the Mississippi River and the farmlands along it. 

'Dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico is the size of Connecticut: Graphic explains how dead zones occur.

 

See the story here:

http://news.msn.com/us/dead-zone-in-the-gulf-of-mexico-is-the-size-of-connecticut#tscptme

Lake Erie Algae Bloom leaves 400,000 without drinking water

Ohio algae bloomJust another example of the need for sustainable design efforts; remember that everything is connected, that fertilizer you put on your lawn can, and will affect your drinking water!  I mentioned the algae prediction for northeast Ohio about a month ago, and conditions exceeded expectations leaving 400,000 residents without drinking water for three days this week! Read the story here:

http://www.processingmagazine.com/articles/127741-algae-bloom-in-lake-erie-leaves-400000-without-drinking-water

 

Let me tell you a story about a beautiful land and an evil man, with acid, who was taken down… Big Cypress Swamp/Everglades remain Protected as Texas Acid Fracker is Sued.

Big Cypress PreserveSurely 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:

  1. They still start by drilling a well, just like regular fracking
  2. They still use a ton of water
  3. 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.

The End

FDEP News, Acid Fracker Revoked
FDEP News, Acid Fracker Revoked

Big Cypress Preserve Map

 

The Coolest Part About the World Cup… (because we all know what the hottest part is)

There are certain sports that I only watch during certain tournaments, unless my favorite teams are playing.  Soccer is one of them, and the tournament being the World Cup…and it only comes once every 4 years.  The first tournament I watched was 2006, of course I was a hard core Italy fan and obnoxiously dressed like a Christmas tree in June.  Although I have always been proud of my Italian heritage, and always will be, after that tournament, there became the exception of that pride being throughout the World Cup.  Sorry, but when I played sports, I played hard until the whistle, I didn’t throw myself into the ground asking for one.  Anyway, I’ve never seen so much passion in any sporting event than I do with world soccer.  It’s absolutely amazing, people watch to become part of that passion, to come together as a nation to root for people we’ve never heard of, and suddenly they become the most important celebrities that exist; we even talk about how we are going to start a soccer team (which never happens), and all our future children will be soccer players.  We hear about teams, players, eliminations, and even details about weather and the city where the tournament is taking place, but we’ve heard very little about the actual buildings.

The venues for the 2014 World Cup, like the 2012 Olympic stadiums in London, were designed to be sustainable buildings!  They recycle and reuse waste, they use solar power, they are carbon neutral for gosh sakes… they even have monorail transportation to limit pollution from cars traveling to the games!  As you will see below in the stadium descriptions below by FIFA, these stadiums are smaller than American Football stadiums, you can imagine the impact of retrofitting those stadiums to meet the standards of the Brazilian soccer complex!  Let’s step it up NFL!!!

Now let’s watch the US take on Portugal…because the whole world will be rooting for that hot guy, so we need all of the positive energy we can get!!  USA USA!!!

 

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Given that the stadium in Cuiaba set to host matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ neighbours the flora- and fauna-rich region that is the Pantanal, it is no surprise that sustainability has been a central theme of the construction and maintenance of the new arena from the project’s very beginning.

This sustainable approach has been applied to every detail along the way, with the wood used in the construction coming from certified sources and the waste and rubbish produced being recycled – thus enabling them to be reused within the building project and its access routes. The site’s air and soil quality is also constantly monitored, all of which means the stadium’s nickname of ‘O Verdão’ (The Big Green) is particularly appropriate.

Specially built for Brazil 2014 – when it will host four matches – the Arena Pantanal will boast a capacity of 41,112 and will occupy the site where the Estadio Jose Fragelli used to be. This multi-purpose stadium will have an adaptable structure, which can be reduced in size once Brazil 2014 is over. The covered arena is thus an ideal setting to host a variety of events such as shows, exhibitions and trade fairs, while local clubs such as Mixto and Operario may also take advantage of the new venue.

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Few Brazilian cities can match the capital Brasilia when it comes to architecture, and the imposing Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha is a reflection of that, an arena with seating for 69,349 spectators, making it the second largest of the stadiums hosting matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

The city’s Estadio Nacional has been all but demolished to make way for the stadium, which boasts a new facade, metal roof and stands, as well as a lowered pitch enabling unobstructed views from every seat.

Founded on carbon neutrality, recycling and complete access via public transport, this environmentally friendly construction project consolidates Brasilia’s status as a world leader in sustainable urban planning, creating a valuable legacy for other sectors of the local economy.

The Estadio Nacional will host the Opening Match at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 and seven games at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, one of them a quarter-final tie.

The stadium will be Brasilia’s third, along with the Serejao, the home of Brasiliense, and the Bezerrao, which was recently refurbished and reopened in 2008. Following the world finals the arena will be used to host concerts and major cultural events.

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Though not a traditional hotbed of Brazilian football, Manaus is sure to be popular with fans attending the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ thanks to the unique character of the Arena Amazonia, formerly the Estadio Vivaldao.

The city is situated at the heart of the Amazon rainforest, the largest tropical rainforest in the world and the inspiration for the refurbished stadium, which will be enclosed by a metal structure designed to resemble a straw basket, a product the region is famous for.

This sustainable stadium project will provide an important legacy for the region and play its part in helping to preserve the diversity of the Amazonian rainforest. For example, rainwater will be collected for its subsequent use in toilets or to water the pitch, while the region’s abundant supply of sunshine will be harnessed to generate clean and renewable energy. Plant screens will also be created to keep energy costs down and, above all, to control temperatures inside the stadiums.

As well as seating for 40,549 spectators, the Arena Amazonia will feature restaurants and underground parking and will be served by dedicated bus and monorail services. The venue for four group-phase matches at Brazil 2014, the stadium will continue to attract tourists after the tournament by hosting concerts and cultural events.”

Phytoplankton off the coast of Iceland…some blooms are just part of the changing of seasons

nasaphyto

Usually we want to limit algae blooms formed as a response to urbanization as much as possible to protect aquatic life. But in some locations, blooms are a brief mainstay of an annual natural cycle.

“Phytoplankton Bloom Off the Coast of Iceland
A spring bloom of phytoplankton lingered in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Iceland in early June, 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on June 5. At that time, swirling jewel tones of a vast bloom were visible between banks of white clouds.

According to the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, phytoplankton blooms around Iceland usually occur in early spring and fall. The spring bloom is driven by longer daylight and the warming of surface layers. This leads to stratification of the waters, and allows the phytoplankton to stay in the surface layer and reproduce. By summer the huge numbers of phytoplankton in the blooms decreases nutrients, and the numbers of the organisms begins to plummet.”

Image Credit: NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

Hazardous Waste in Buffalo Buildings- Update, my lil bro is in charge!

Hazardous Waste in Buffalo Buildings- Update, my lil bro is in charge!

So Buffalo making EPA news again! Last time EPA decided to give the city millions of dollars to help implement LID, creating jobs, and boosting the economy while making the city prettier, how does Buffalo pay them back?? Violating a whole bunch of hazardous waste codes…Ugh. Buffalonians, be careful, Love Canal may have just been the one time someone was caught!
 
The day the news broke, my brother, a City of Buffalo engineer, was held captive…he had to stay late…real late, like past 5:02.  He was then informed that he was promoted to Deputy Commissioner of Buildings for the city and has to come up with a plan to quickly meet EPA regulations.  Looks like superhero runs in the family.  Congrats lil bro, let’s make this world better!
 
 

 

Don’t Fertilize During Wet Season!!!

lwreng lwrspanI use Lakewood Ranch, Florida as an example of low impact development for the aesthetic use of vegetative swales in place of curb and gutter. Now I can also use this area as an example of responsible planning as they banned the use of fertilizers during the wet season!!! This will help prevent algae blooms (eutrophication) by eliminating excess nutrient load to natural and man made water bodies!

Don’t drink bottled water, you may get E.coli, while some kid’s urine causes a public water facility to dump all storage, oh, and Cleveland rocks!

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So are we really surprised to hear issues with bottled water?  Well, we should be shocked the E.coli contamination in Pennsylvania was actually found before people got sick!  Due to lack of regulation on bottled water, many “less than perfect” batches are sold to millions every day.  Of course the company is saying that the lab that tested the water made an error while testing.  Just to clarify, E.coli bacteria lives in human and animal waste, and is fatal to babies, and the elderly.  Labs are pretty much guarenteed to be E.coli free.  Meanwhile in public municipality world, the city of Portland dumped 38 million gallons of treated drinking water because some dumb high school kid thought it would be funny to pee in it.  Many think this was wasteful, but if it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be able to use it as an example.  Do you think a bottled water company, who doesn’t need to answer to any government authority, would waste product like that? Definitely not.

Now for a superhero public WTP story with all the makings of a triumphant midwest legend: In 2006 Fiji took a swing at Cleveland tap water saying “The label says Fiji because it’s not bottled in Cleveland”.  Well Cleveland did some testing, and it found that the bottled water contained 6.3 micrograms of arsenic per liter; the city’s tap water was arsenic free. Fiji apologized, and it was a “W” for water utility directors, and those in Cleveland where “W’s” are rare (it’s Lebron Jame’s fault, right?).  Seriously…do we need more reasons to not drink bottled water? Let’s list them anyway:

First, the quality is not better:

  • In the United States, 24 percent of bottled water sold is either Pepsi’s Aquafina (13 percent of the market) or Coke’s Dasani (11 percent of the market). Both brands are bottled, purified municipal water3.
  • If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, try a filtered water pitcher like Brita.
  • In the U.S., public water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires multiple daily tests for bacteria and makes results available to the public. The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water, only requires weekly testing and does not share its findings with the EPA or the public7.

Do we need more reasons?? Well here you go:

  • Making bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year1. And that’s not even including the oil used for transportation.
  • The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes for a year2.
  • In 2006, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38.3
  • Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year3.
  • The recommended eight glasses of water a day, at U.S. tap rates equals about $.49 per year; that same amount of bottled water is about $1,400.
  • Antimony, which is found in PET plastic bottles, in small doses can cause dizziness and depression; in larger doses it can cause nausea, vomiting and death.8

Save Money and The Environment:

  • One water pitcher filter can effectively replace as much as 300 standard 16.9-ounce bottles. So you can get great-tasting water without so much waste.
  • The average water pitcher filters 240 gallons of water a year for about 19 cents a day4. Put in perspective, to get the same amount of water from bottled water would require 1,818 16.9-ounce water bottles a year5 – at an average cost of a dollar a bottle, that’s $4.98 a day6.
  • For about $10 each, you can purchase a 16-ounce or 32-ounce Nalgene bottle, saving you hundreds of dollars a year on bottled water.
  • Tip: Get a water bottle!!!  One Nalgene bottle can last for decades (literally I’ve had the same one for 15 years), making it easy to stop buying bottled water when you’re out

  1. Pacific Institute. “Fact Sheet: Bottled Water and Energy – Getting to 17 Million Barrels.” December 2007.
  2. “Not Disposable Anymore.” P.O.V.’s Borders. 2004. PBS.
  3. Fishman, Charles. “Message in a Bottle.” Fast Company Magazine July 2007: 110.
  4. This cost assumes the purchase of a $25 pitcher (one filter included), plus 5 replacement filters at $9 each, for a total yearly cost of $70, or $0.19 cents a day.
  5. Each filter produces 40 gallons of water and the average owner uses 6 filters in a year, to produce 240 gallons, or 30,720 ounces, of fresh-filtered water. 30,720 ounces is equivalent to the water found in 1,818 16.9-ounce water bottles.
  6. Purchasing 1,818 16.9-ounce water bottles at the cost of $1 each costs $1,818. Over the course of a year, that’s $4.98 a day.
  7. Burros, Marian. “Fighting the Tide, a Few Restaurants Tilt to Tap Water.” The New York Times [New York City, NY] 30 May 2007: Section F, Page 1.
  8. Shotyk, William. “Toxic risk in bottled water?” Royal Society of Chemistry. September 2006.
  9. Banthebottle.com
  10. Processing magazine
  11. http://www.governing.com/topics/energy-env/gov-cities-tout-municipal-tap-water-as-better-than-bottled.html

http://www.processingmagazine.com/articles/127219-pennsylvania-bottling-company-recalls-water-contaminated-with-e-coli