Saturday, August 31, 2013

Truths and Consequences

  In 1967 when I was 12 years young we (my family) moved- from Connecticut to Carpinteria CA aka "The World's Safest Beach"- a small town south of Santa Barbara,Ca.

We lived in Carpinteria as the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill occurred in the waters off the California:a coast : the largest oil spill in United States waters at the time.

I saw (an oxymoron?) the vanishing sand peter-out as the beach's pristine beauty was denuded to one of rock and gravel.
Later that year the sand mysteriously returned to re-nourish the beach .

In 2008 my family went on a summer outing to The Finger Lakes region in western-central New York.

Again. environmental mayhem has threatened the waterways vibrancy., which present challenges in marine applications, as well.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also referred to as the BP oil spill, the BP oil disaster, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and the Macondo blowout) was an oil spill that began in April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect, considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, estimated to be between 8% and 31% larger in volume than the earlier Ixtoc I oil spill.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster of 1980.initiated primarily by the tsunami of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.


“Water should never be treated as a nonrenewable resource; it should always be treated with the respect it deserves as the foundation of life on the planet.”Natural shorelines are the undeveloped fringe areas along the edge of a waterbody, which connect the shallow aquatic portion of the waterbody with adjacent upland. These riparian areas provide important environmental functions, such as regulating water quality (including temperature, clarity, nutrients, and contaminants) and sustaining critical habitat for a variety of aquatic and terrestrial organisms (including invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, shorebirds and waterfowl, and mammals).
diagram of a natural shoreline with plenty of animals and plants
Changes or disruptions to riparian areas can threaten the survival of species that rely on this kind of habitat during their various life stages. They depend on these areas for breeding, spawning, nesting, feeding, growing and escaping from predators. Protecting such critical habitat is important - especially on lake shores that are experiencing development pressure and on over-developed lake shores that have limited natural shorelines remaining.    Read more

Wastewater Complication

 Flowback water (which literally “flows back” during the fracking process) is a mixture of fracking fluid and formation water (i.e., water rich in brine from the targeted shale gas-rich rock). Once the chemistry of the water coming out of the well resembles the rock formation rather than the fracking fluid, it is known as produced water and can continue to flow as long as a well is in operation. (For more, see "Natural Gas, Hydrofracking and Safety: The Three Faces of Fracking Water.”)

As a general rule, you would not want to take a shower much less drink flowback or formation water, nor would you want to just pour the stuff into a river or stream (although that has been known to happen, as described here and here). Fracking wastewater can contain massive amounts of brine (salts), toxic metals, and radioactivity. And so the gas companies have a problem: what to do with the stuff.   Continue reading

Now a paper published this week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology by Nathaniel Warner formerly of Duke University and colleagues focuses on another of those environmental costs: disposal of wastewater.
Most of us have heard of "hydraulic fracturing."  It's a way to get fluids out of the ground by drilling a well, then pumping liquid under pressure down the hole. The liquid fractures nearby rocks, thereby releasing a substance (generally natural gas these days) that has been trapped in the rocks.
Hydraulic fracturing, as the term implies,  involves pumping large amounts of water, sand, and chemicals into oil wells to loosen deposits segregated by walls of rock.  -- both at the front end with fracking fluid, the water-based chemical cocktail that is injected into the shale, and at the back end where there is flowback water and produced water.

We don't even know all the chemicals being used during the fracking process. But many of of the ones we do know about are well-documented  for causing cancer, birth defects, and disorders of the nervous system. The same is true of many naturally occuring but highly toxic substances that are unearthed throughout the process. These materials are disturbed by drilling or dracking, then seep into the water supply..

“This is really not about banning energy. We’re not trying to turn people’s lights out,” said the campaign organizer for Citizens for Healthy Fort Collins. “We’re just trying to make sure our kids don’t wind up sick. We think if there’s problems, we need to talk about the issues.

California Poll: Overwhelming majority want protection from fracking

SAN FRANCISCO --A new poll of key California State Assembly districts found that the overwhelming majority of respondents are concerned about fracking, want protections from threats to their air and water, and believe oil and gas companies should be held to a higher standard of accountability than they currently are, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The legislative session began with a swell of bills aiming to regulate and even ban the controversial oil exploration practice in California. However, the powerful Western States Petroleum Association succeeded in defeating all but one fracking bill .

 U-M research: Fracking could create jobs but poses many hazards

The roads, power grid and heavy equipment associated with fracking wells can cause erosion and sedimentation, water contamination from chemical spills or equipment runoff, habitat fragmentation and lowered groundwater levels, the environmental portion of the reports state.

“While we may know what chemicals are injected, these chemicals do react in the formation, and we aren’t sure what the end products are,” he said. “What we inject in isn’t necessarily what comes out. And that poses another risk.”

 EPA Must Come Clean on Fracking Contamination (Op-Ed)


Sunday, July 21, 2013

The other side of erosion

The following was written and images captured by a college chum from OSU  They truly show the other side of erosion.

OK, where do I start.  This may be more info than you want, but I'll try to give you a feeling for my experience.

This was my 4th trip to the Grand Canyon.  The 3 previous trips were to the South Rim & North Rim Visitor Centers,... what the typical Canyon visitor sees.  Each of those times was great in it's own way.  I saw sights that were amazing and learned about the Canyons on each visit, BUT, you really can't say you've seen the Grand Canyon until you go down the river.  The size, scale and beauty can't be appreciated from the Rims.  One only gets a true feeling for it on the River.  And the River.  Wow!  It didn't get named 'The Mighty Colorado' for nothing.  You can see and feel the power as it moves you down the Canyon.

We started out at Lee's Ferry just below the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell.  The 1st surprise was the water temp.  Keep in mind we are in the middle of a desert in Arizona, air temps were often in the 100's, but the water was at 42 degrees.  (PS - Glad I'm not there this week with the record temps they are getting.)  For comparison, most refrigerator water is at 42 degrees.  It was actually painful to keep a part of your body in the water for any length of time.  It did gradually warm up and we could take quick baths as the days went on.

The Outfitter we used has what is called 'J' Rig rafts.  They are essentially old Navy inflatable pontoons strapped together.
 They allow a wide variety of rides.  The adventurous or thrill seeker can ride up front, and the more cautious can ride further back in a more comfortable and safer position.  They accommodate all ages, teenagers up to an 82 year-old on our raft.

We traveled 188 miles on the river over the 7 days I was there.  188 Miles! And we never left the Canyons,  In fact, there is somewhere around 80 miles of Canyon below where we 'took out',... and if Lake Power wasn't dammed up, there would be another 130 miles above where we started.  Hard to fathom.  

Every day we went through several Rapids, some in the lower category 2, 3 or 4's.  Later days we got into 8, 9 & 10's.  (The Grand Canyon uses a scale of 1 to 10).  In my 7 days we went through what they consider 11 major rapids, and numerous minor rapids.  Great Fun!  (If you like that sort of thing, which I do.)  

We also had hikes available every day.  Most to wonderful views, hidden waterfalls, tranquil pools, oasis's or other scenic sites.  One site I will always remember is coming up on the Little Colorado River, where it runs into the Colorado.  It is the most Azure Blue water I've ever seen.  Really much bluer than anything in the Caribbean.  (Minerals in the water give it a Blue that is almost too Blue to be real.)  

And the nights....  I have only seen stars and a moon like that back in the 70's when I was in the Navy and a thousand miles from anything.  

The combination of drifting down calm waters under the shadows of towering rock walls, the exhilaration and thrill of rolling waves and crashing whitewater, hikes to seldom seen sites, and gazing up at star-studded skies, while winding through brilliant red canyons made this trip a 'once in a lifetime' event for me. 

Pictures don't do any of this justice,... they just don't capture the size, color or distance,... but I'll attach a few anyhow.

  Tremendous experience.  Check 1 off my bucket list.  Sorry for the rambling on. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sediment Pollution / Dredging & Sediment Remediation

Sediment remains the number 1 pollutant of our nations waterways

I am a resident of Bend. Oregon and with great interest am watching the questions and solutions of the sediment problems of Mirror Pond .

Sediment traps, basins, buffers, and barriers will retain sediment on site. Such collection devices need regular maintenance and removal of the accumulated sediment. Sediment capture devices should not be the primary line of protection against off-site damage. Erosion prevention at the outset remains the best alternative.
                                            A dam fine idea to check first

 Stream bank erosion, digging into wetlands, and diverting or damming streams are not good rural or farming practices so before cutting loose with a digger or bulldozer, it's best to check what is allowed under the Regional Water and Soil Plan (RWSP) for Northland..

 This is distinguished from erosion of the bed of the watercourse, which is referred to as scour.

If the dam is removed,  the ensuing sediment flow will bury downstream habitats of both fish spawning grounds and wetlands habitats.

Also the effects of the shoreline devastation will  be litigious  (and may still peruse damages)  for unsuspecting victims of the flooding and sediment transport which would change the coarse of existing water channels.

Mirror Pond should work on what's called a mitigated negative declaration, a report which would identify problem areas and ways to lessen the impact of constriction. Much of the environmental concern will be from trucks spewing diesel emissions but that will be during construction.

Prior to commencing any actual dredging city officials should undertake a Sediment Characterization Study.

Sediment Profile Imager is an underwater technique for photographing the interface between the sea bed and the overlying water. The technique is used to measure or estimate biological, chemical, and physical processes occurring in the first few centimetres of sediment, pore water, and the important benthic boundary layer of water. Time lapse  imaging (tSPI) is used to examine read more.

While this is not unique as exacerbated by Contaminated Grasse River sediment to be stored at Alcoa West
I wager the potential pitfalls will be

  1. disposal of the dredged sediment
  2. where and by whom?
  3. who and how will these costs be paid ?
  4. how will this this landfill be monitored?
  5. will the EPA  be forced to declare Mirror Pond a Super Fund Site ?
  6.  Moreover monetary damages for injury to property and health and welfare of the families and their children's neighborhood are yet to be determined.