What’s in YOUR Water?

The drinking water of about 244 million Americans is compromised and potentially unsafe to drink. That number represents nearly 2/3 of the American population.

(The following article is from Saving Our Oceans and is being reprinted with the permission of the publisher.)

Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

  Chapter 5: Fresh Water Has Problems Too

While cleaning the oceans of debris is a major challenge and task, it’s not the only task on which survival depends. And frankly, cleaning up the oceans cannot be accomplished without stopping the fresh water pollution that is the primary cause of ocean pollution. Some say that as much as 70 to 80 percent of the ocean’s pollutants comes from rivers and streams.

It’s quite easy to conclude that fresh water pollution is as serious as ocean pollution when one considers that the drinking water of about 244 million Americans is compromised and potentially unsafe to drink. That number represents nearly 2/3 of the American population. Much of the contamination happened in previous years (although it seems likely that there’s still some occurring) and just like plastic, contaminated water doesn’t simply go away. While plastic is a pollution problem, fresh water issues go far beyond plastic bottles left along the shoreline.

Lakes, rivers, streams, and aquifers across the country are home to cancer-causing ingredients from industrial waste, farm fertilizers, and chemical toxins. Whether one believes in global warming or not, there’s also the presence of brain and flesh eating bacteria in the mix that relishes warm waters. There are even more culprits, but these will suffice to make a point.

Let’s start with lakes first, and then delve into the serious issues with “potable” water. The EPA, with the assistance of state and tribal agencies, did water quality assessments for a large number of lakes. 55 percent of the lake water studied was considered to be of acceptable quality (whatever that means), but the other 45 percent had waters “impaired for at least one type of use,” such as drinking water, recreational fishing, swimming, or aquatic life support. Man-made lakes, often serving as dams, accounted for 59% that were impaired. (ThoughtCo. “Lake Pollution: Types, Sources, and Solutions.”) Plastic pollution was not part of this study, unfortunately. When plastic pollution is assessed in lakes, it appears that 100 per cent of them have some degree of contamination.

Algae blooms occur in both fresh water and salt water. These “blooms” are a serious problem that lead to toxin build-up causing oxygen levels to drop which kills fish and is dangerous for swimming. In fact, algae can be deadly to both humans and animals.

Some areas studied had nitrogen and phosphorus pollution which can come from inefficient sewage treatment and fertilizers. This is a far more serious problem than one may realize. Dead zones in lakes and the ocean where there are insufficient oxygen levels are often caused by fertilizer run-off, resulting in death to animals, fish, and plants that enter these zones.

A combination of fresh and salt water, the Baltic Sea is the largest man-made dead zone, and the northern Gulf of Mexico is the second largest and covers over 8700 square miles. Lake Erie (fresh water) and Chesapeake Bay (a combination of fresh and salt water) also have large dead zones. According to ThoughtCo, a 2008 study found over 400 dead zones in lakes and oceans worldwide. “The underlying cause of any dead zone is eutrophication…which is the enrichment of water with nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients causing algae to grow out of control or ‘bloom’.”  Unfortunately, some fresh water dead zones are not recognized or identified as such.

“Pollution is the primary human source of the nutrients that cause eutrophication and dead zones. Fertilizer, manure, industrial waste and inadequately treated waste water overload aquatic ecosystems. In addition, air pollution also contributes to eutrophication.” Waste water is often piped into rivers and coasts.

The study also found that 42 percent of lakes had metal contamination with mercury and lead predominating. Coal-fired power plants are a leading cause of mercury contamination, and lead can be caused by fishing tackle dropped in the water (but often the surviving fish are already inedible due to toxins).

Basically, phosphorous, mercury, sediment and bacteria and pathogens are the main culprits. Added to this, however, are deadly microorganisms like lethal brain-eating bacteria. Although the incidence of people contracting brain-eating bacteria is fairly low, it’s a ghastly brain infection with very few surviving.

The problem with fresh water pollution, however, is it goes far, far beyond lakes. While lakes often provide drinking water, rivers are another very large source of household water. The list of unscrupulous companies that have contaminated drinking water for literally millions of people is shocking. It seems there are endless accounts of “manufacturing, mining and waste disposal companies – and dozens of others – who are among the country’s worst water polluters.” In all fairness, when some of these companies were dumping toxic waste, it’s possible they didn’t understand the ramification of these toxins contaminating groundwater that then causes cancer and all manner of debilitating diseases. This does not absolve them of responsibility for the death and destruction they caused, however. As they say, ignorance of the law is no excuse…neither is ignorance of the ramifications of one’s actions.  Unfortunately, these rivers carry contaminants to the ocean, adding their toxins to the mix.

 “Hundreds of these companies have been contaminating drinking water throughout the country for decades with everything from arsenic and lead, to mercury and chromium – most coming from improper dumping and waste disposal….” (Environment, “Industrial waste pollutes America’s drinking water.”) “Mining and smelting operations are responsible for contaminating water with heavy metals in almost every state in the nation.”

Example: “In Ringwood, New Jersey, Ford Motor Co. dumped more than 35,000 tons of toxic paint sludge…poisoning groundwater with arsenic, lead, and other harmful bacteria. Today, more than 43 years after the dumping ended, those toxins are still in the groundwater and threaten a reservoir providing water to millions of residents in New Jersey.”

Example: “In North Carolina, the state has told residents living near coal-fired power plants their water contains elevated levels of chromium-6 and other chemicals.”

Example: Anaconda Aluminum in Montana produced manufacturing wastes that contaminated local water sources with lead and chromium. Gulf States Utilities in Louisiana discharged toxins into marshlands polluting waters with benzene and other chemicals, and the Conklin Dumps in New York leaked volatile organic chemicals into groundwater.”

Various industries located on or near the Ohio River which borders six states and provides drinking water to nearly 3 million people, have dumped over 600 million pounds of toxic substances into the river.

Photo by NRDC.ORG

These toxins cause extraordinary health problems in people and animals. Dioxins (byproducts of incinerators) are the most commonly released chemicals. “They are known carcinogens and exposure has been linked to health effects such as heart disease, diabetes, and reproductive issues. Almost every living creature on Earth has been exposed to dioxins, according to the National Institutes of Health.” (“Industrial waste pollutes America’s drinking water.”) And how much of all these poisons floating downstream make it out to sea? We already know that fertilizer runoff provides a lot of contaminants to the Gulf of Mexico helping to create the giant dead zone there.

While many of these offenses may have occurred before people understood the severity of the problem that their illegal dumping was causing – or would cause – that does not appear to be the case with 3M and their fight to avoid massive pollution and restitution lawsuits.

“Chemical industry giant 3M is waging an aggressive campaign to stave off new regulations and potentially billions of dollars in damages stemming from a contamination crisis that has fouled tens of millions of Americans’ drinking water.” (Politico.com Energy and Environment)

As expected, the company has engaged lobbyists to work in Washington ostensibly to woo state attorneys general to their side as the company faces massive financial liability for toxic pollution that has been tied to two of its popular products that have turned up in the water supplies of some 1500 U.S. Communities.

3M argues that the chemicals are not hazardous according to their studies, an opinion many independent studies dispute. The issue that 3M is facing is that there are multiple lawsuits in the wings including personal injury, class-action, and property damage suits. “Altogether, industry experts say the company’s liability could reach the tens of billions of dollars.”

The chemicals known as PFOA and PFOS have been used for five decades in products like Teflon and Scotch Guard. They take years to break down and are called “forever chemicals.” They accumulate in bodies and cause cancers like kidney and testicular cancer, immune disorders and many other ailments – “and have been found in more than 99 percent of Americans’ blood.”

3M is known to support various political candidates, including attorney generals in Michigan, California, Ohio, and Alabama – “all states with major PFAS contamination.”

“In Alabama, where the chemicals made by 3M’s manufacturing plant in Decatur have contaminated the Tennessee River, a drinking water source for 4.7 million people…” the newly elected attorney general will not be joining a water utility’s lawsuit against the company. Is it possible that the contributions he received persuaded him otherwise?  Let’s hope not. But he was not the only person dissuaded. “The representatives of a collation mainly supported by 3M (Responsible Science Policy Coalition) have met with congressional officers and EPA political appointees arguing that the weight of current science evidence does not show PFOS or PFOA to cause adverse health effects in human at the current levels of exposure.” This goes entirely against the findings made by leading independent scientific researchers, the EPA and the CDC. This type of behavior is extremely disappointing and disturbing. If people are willing to do this to other people and the planet, it should come as no surprise that they would do worse to animals. We are all apparently just “collateral damage” – just a member of the herd – when we die of chemical induced cancers and other illnesses caused by their toxic products.

The bottom line: “3M’s own documents handed to the Minnesota attorney general office show that the company has known since the 1970s that the chemicals in question were toxic.”

With countless numbers of attorneys, lobbyists and “representatives” involved, the delay tactic for solving this issue may be even longer than the tobacco industry’s delay in finally coming to terms with the fact that tobacco causes cancer. How’s your water today? Perhaps you should have it checked.

Closer to home, “PFAS… have been found in five Washington drinking-water systems at levels over the Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, as well as dozens of private drinking-water wells near firefighting training areas where the foams were used.” (PFAS are used in fire retardants, such as firefighting foam.) This discovery contradicts somewhat the 3M disparagement of their products being deadly even in small doses.

Also troubles still haunt Hanford, Washington, the site where 56 million gallons of radiative waste are stored. Although there have been problems with leakage, and threats of leakage, the waste has probably not made it to the Columbia River or to underground aquifers (that are known, anyway). However, during the time the nuclear power plant was in production, water was released into the river; in fact, “Groundwater contaminated with radioactive waste from the decommissioned Hanford nuclear facility in Washington state is still ‘flowing freely’ into the Columbia River…” according to a program manager with the U.S. EPA. This is a river regularly used for fishing, swimming and boating activities. How much is withdrawn for irrigation? How many cancers have resulted from exposure to this freely flowing contaminated groundwater? Are the fish safe to eat?

It seems state leaders are becoming seriously galvanized to take a better look at the quality of water their constituents drink. Like plastic, PFOS and PFAS are ubiquitous. Partly this increased interest in local water safety may have been prompted by the “lead” scandal in the water supply of Detroit, Michigan’s residents, another debacle that exposed citizens, especially vulnerable children, to life-long debilitating toxins.

Thus most toxins in the water are the result of farming, mining, industry and activities of this nature. Some, however, are deadly pathogens of nature. Brain-eating bacteria (amoeba) officially known as Naegleria fowleri may be the worst. The infections occur when contaminated water gets in the nose. The amoeba travels up the nose and into the brain which it destroys. The disease itself is known as PAM (primary amoebic meningoencephalitis). This disease is almost always fatal (97 percent).  

The bacteria have been reported worldwide and live primarily in warm water, but can live in colder water for a length of time. In the United States the bacteria is most commonly found in warm lakes or rivers in the south, and even in water parks and pools. Some estimate that about 8 people a year die from this infection, mostly young males, but these estimates vary depending on the source. The exact number is unknown because PAN is difficult to diagnose in its early stage where it might be cured. It’s sometimes mistaken for bacterial meningitis. Likely climate change will contribute to this infection if temperatures continue to warm.

Unfortunately, the bacteria can also be found in drinking water – and that was the situation in 2017 in Louisiana. Health officials reassured people that contaminated tap water would not lead to an infection, “but using it for nasal irrigation or accidentally getting it into your nose can.” (“Brain-Eating Amoeba Found in Louisiana Tap Water, People Warned to Avoid Water in Nose.”) Residents were given a list of things to do to avoid contracting the bacteria, such as flushing out pipes by running showers and water hoses for a full five minutes before use, and also they could boil their water or use distilled or sterile water for washing and making nasal rinses. Yet another warning about the presence of the amoeba in drinking water was issued by the New York Post in June of 2018.

At the risk of being morbid, I will only briefly mention flesh eating bacteria – known as necrotizing fasciitis – a rare condition, but not as rare as brain-eating bacteria. There have been between 600 and 1200 cases of this disease every year since 2010. This is not necessarily a water-born disease, although it can be. The water version is from an ocean-dwelling bacterium called vibrio vulnificus. The bacteria can be found in warm coastal waters during the summer months. People can develop this infection by going into the water with an open wound and having the bad luck of coming into contact with the Vibrio. One can also become infected from eating contaminated seafood.

It might be worthwhile to consider using a water filter for all potable water, particularly water from private wells. (City water sources are likely tested more often than private wells although many people find the taste of treated water to be repugnant, but water filters may help with that.) These filters do not need to be elaborate systems. Some refrigerator filters work fine for filtering drinking water. There are many relatively inexpensive filtration products available. Using one of these for drinking water is not being paranoid. Doing so is completely understandable and justifiable considering the chemicals and toxins dumped in the water supply.

Release date: May 2019

To order your signed copy of Saving Our Oceans directly from the publisher, contact us at orders@moonlightmesaassociates.com.

It’s not Too Late to Avoid Another “Catastrophic” Problem, But Time is Running Out

People need to know the truth about critical freshwater sources and issues.

2020 will no doubt be a year that no one will forget. Will we want to forget? YES. The pandemic has jerked people around endlessly: Masks, no masks, advice to get outside, advice to hunker down, close schools, open schools, close schools.

*The weather in 2020, particularly in hurricane country, has served up fear and excitement…rather like a horror movie might.

*Riots and protests: democracy at work or terrorism in play?

*Unemployment and evictions have abounded.

*The stock market has offered its thrills and chills.

*And, of course, the election has been a nightmare for everyone regardless of who wins. The election may last longer than the pandemic!

When the pandemic was first declared, we at Moonlight Mesa expected an onslaught of book orders. After all, we reasoned, people were being confined at home (hunkering down in place I think they called it) and would tire of daytime television in short order. Wrong. Spring book orders languished horribly. Then, come late spring and summer when we traditionally have our slower months, sales unexpectedly bloomed. Best summer sales ever.

Fall arrived, but so far sales have failed to be as robust has usual.

But overall, what’s been selling for us? Nonfiction. Nothing else: NONFICTION.

Unfortunately, while the sales of all our nonfiction books have been very respectable, sales of Saving Our Oceans have greatly disappointed us, and we feel this book is one of the most timely, important books we’ve yet published. There are several likely reasons for this poor response – one being that the vast majority of people DO NOT LIVE BY OR NEAR THE OCEAN and aren’t really engaged with the issues. This is understandable – but not excusable when one considers that the ocean provides 70 to 80% of the oxygen we breathe.  And, the other issue (no surprise) is that people who actually live in coastal states may already be aware of many of the issues that Saving Our Oceans covers.

However…there are chapters in Saving Our Oceans  that should be read by everyone no matter where they live. People need to know the truth about freshwater sources and its critical issues (which the book also covers). Because we feel this information is vitally important, future blogs will offer chapters from the book. It’s not too late to avoid another catastrophe that will put the pandemic to shame in comparison, but time is running out.

(Or, you can buy the book. It’s priced at just 12.95 to expedite sales. All proceeds are donated to the Friday Harbor Whale Museum and the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, both in Washington State.)

Photo by NRDC.ORG

The JUST ONE THING Alliance is now a domain!

Remember the goal of JUST ONE THING: if every person eliminates JUST ONE form of plastic use from their life, JUST ONE, it can make an astounding difference in the amount of plastic pollution in this country and its coastal and inland waters.

The fledgling JUST ONE THING Alliance is now alive on the web. Or let’s say it’s now at least a domain. The rest of the input and information will be forthcoming in a few days.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, Moonlight Mesa Associates is “hosting” the JUST ONE THING Alliance. Finally the alliance has been added as a domain to the website. Just google justonething.life and you’ll find it on the Moonlight Mesa Associates, Westerns Whales and Oceans website.

Now, more than ever, people need to think of something besides Covid-19 and all the hardships this has caused every single person (with the possible exception of Nancy Pelosi). Many people have lost interest in everything except Covid, the riots in major cities, and the upcoming elections. Even at Moonlight Mesa we find ourselves bemoaning the pandemic and neglecting the JUST ONE THING Alliance, the Southern Resident Pod of Orcas, Plastic Pollution clogging the oceans and filling the air, and the brutal killing and captivity of dolphins and whales and, of course, the apparent climate change, which is getting very difficult to deny. Sometimes it all becomes too overwhelming and depressing. But, we can do our part – SMALL THINGS ADD UP!

Remember the goal of JUST ONE THING: if every person eliminates JUST ONE form of plastic use from their life (preferably single-use plastic), JUST ONE, it can make an astounding difference in the amount of plastic pollution in this country and its coastal and inland waters.

Second, it will send a message to the hundreds of plastic producers who yearly spew out billions of plastic products and take no responsibility for the devastation their products cause to the environment or the health of the ocean, and all waterways, animals, and people. Plastic bottles are among the chief offenders. Trevor Nace in Science claims that “We’re at a Million Plastic Bottles per minute – 91% of which are not recycled.” Worse, “it is estimated that over half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold in 2020.” (Chapter 3, “Plastic Bottles,” Saving Our Oceans.)

Third, if at all possible, buy items from companies crafting their products from recycled materials. An increasing number of companies making clothes and many other items from plastic can be found on the web.

If you’d like to be part of this effort, send me your name, or your company’s name, and we’ll add you to our growing list of participants who want to eliminate a single-use plastic item. Our list includes the International Whaling Commission, the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, the Friday Harbor Whale Museum, Jeff Bridges, the Five Gyres Institute, and many others. You can contact us at this email address.

From Toilet to Tap – Are you Ready?

 

drought 2
Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash

Large portions of this country experienced severe flooding this past year, while other parts remained bone dry. Regardless of the drenching rains in some areas, however, America’s aquifers are in serious trouble. It takes literally decades to refill an aquifer.

The United Nations predicts at least 30 nations will have water shortages by 2025. And by 2030, “47% of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress.” That is nearly half of the world’s population. Why? Aquifers are failing world-wide, including those in the United States.

Rapid population growth, increased industrial demand, and water withdrawals have tripled over the last 50 years. Water wars could well be the future. Mark Twain once commented, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” If not water war skirmishes, then mass migration of millions of people from drought stricken countries will likely ensue which will cause total political and social upheaval.

Agriculture in general uses about 70 per cent of water withdrawn from aquifers. The Ogallala aquifer, one of the world’s largest aquifers located in the mid-west, lost a third of its water in just 30 years due to farmers withdrawing water at an unsustainable rate. California’s Central Valley aquifer is showing signs of depletion and could drop below reach by 2050. Because of the overuse of groundwater by farmers, many resident’s wells are going dry.

Of the 37 major aquifers on the planet, 21 are on the verge of collapse. Cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Mexico City are sinking. Indeed, sections of California’s Central Valley have dropped a foot, and in some areas 28 feet. The facts regarding water shortage are dismal, but action can be taken.

Water catchment systems are one of the simplest solutions to water scarcity in any given area. Many dry areas, like Texas and Arizona, are now allowing rainwater-catchment installations on homes and other buildings. In addition, desalination has become well known in recent times. Desalination can work not just for salt water, but for water considered “brackish,” which is water that is too salty for human consumption. There is up to 10 times more brackish water than freshwater in any aquifer. And changing from highly thirsty, water intensive crops, like corn , cotton, rice, and wheat to less water consuming products might also be a consideration.

But the most extreme measure, in most people’s minds, is the concept of “Toilet to Tap.” Namibia, a very arid country has been purifying wastewater into drinking water for almost 50 years. No one has ever become ill from this “reused water.” In 2003 Singapore began treating sewage water to drinking-water standards, and now El Paso, Texas, is preparing to provide potable reuse water for drinking. This is because El Paso’s Hueco Bolson aquifer that has supplied El Paso with water for decades could run dry which, at its rate of drop, could happen by 2025.

Unfortunately, much of the water currently available for consumption is contaminated. nrdc.orgThe drinking water of 233 million Americans is dangerously compromised.

As deadly serious as the prospect of water shortage and contamination is, it’s surprising that this issue is not front and center. There’s much more to this story, however, and it’s covered in Saving Our Oceans by R.L. Coffield.

Saving Our Oceans is available from Amazon and from the publisher at Moonlight Mesa Associates. Material for this particular blog is from Saving Our Oceans, chapters 5 and 6.

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Net proceeds from the sale of this book are earmarked for the Save Our Wild Salmon Coaltion and the Friday Harbor Whale Museum.

 

“Thousands have lived without love, none without water.” W.H. Auden

The New York Times ran an article May 21, 2019, reporting on the polluted drinking water in many parts of California. Two states so far, California and Michigan, have confessed that some populated areas in these states have water polluted to the point of being undrinkable. Every state could likely say the same.

According to Saving Our Oceans by R.L. Coffield, the list of unscrupulous companies that have contaminated drinking water for literally millions of people is shocking. It seems there are endless accounts of “manufacturing, mining and waste disposal companies – and dozens of others – who are among the country’s worst water polluters.”

“Hundreds of these companies have been contaminating drinking water throughout the country for decades with everything from arsenic and lead, to mercury and chromium – most coming from improper dumping and waste disposal….” (Environment, “Industrial waste pollutes America’s drinking water.”) “Mining and smelting operations are responsible for contaminating water with heavy metals in almost every state in the nation.”

Example: “In Ringwood, New Jersey, Ford Motor Co. dumped more than 35,000 tons of toxic paint sludge…poisoning groundwater with arsenic, lead, and other harmful bacteria. Today, more than 43 years after the dumping ended, those toxins are still in the groundwater and threaten a reservoir providing water to millions of residents in New Jersey.”

Example: “In North Carolina, the state has told residents living near coal-fired power plants their water contains elevated levels of chromium-6 and other chemicals.”

Example: “Anaconda Aluminum in Montana produced manufacturing wastes that contaminated local water sources with lead and chromium. Gulf States Utilities in Louisiana discharged toxins into marshlands polluting waters with benzene and other chemicals, and the Conklin Dumps in New York leaked volatile organic chemicals into groundwater.”

Photo by NRDC.ORG

Various industries located on or near the Ohio River which borders six states and provides drinking water to nearly 3 million people, have dumped over 600 million pounds of toxic substances into the river.

These toxins cause extraordinary health problems in people and animals. Dioxins (byproducts of incinerators) are the most commonly released chemicals. “They are known carcinogens and exposure has been linked to health effects such as heart disease, diabetes, and reproductive issues. Almost every living creature on Earth has been exposed to dioxins, according to the National Institutes of Health.” (“Industrial waste pollutes America’s drinking water.”) And how much of all these poisons traveling downstream make it out to sea? We already know that fertilizer runoff provides a gross amount of contaminants to the Gulf of Mexico helping to create the world’s second largest dead zone – 8,700 square miles.

There are other “more modern” examples of toxin pollution, such as PFOS and PFOAS (forever chemicals are found in the blood of more than 99 per cent of Americans) along with radioactive waste. By the time one reads about Naegleria fowleri (brain-eating bacteria found in water) and vibrio vulnificus (flesh-eating bacteria found in food and water) the idea of a house-hold water filter begins to sound necessary and the cost quite reasonable.

There are many “natural” sources of water contamination also. Trevor Nace, a science writer, describes the “Nine Deadliest Rocks and Minerals on Earth” (Forbes). Sometimes these rocks and minerals are water soluble and can leach into water. Others, like arsenic, a rather common toxin, comes from water flowing through arsenic rich rocks and soil. Some areas experience quite a bit of arsenic in the water which is why well owners especially in these areas should have their water checked regularly. Not all well owners are aware of this, unfortunately. And just because a neighbor’s well water tests fine, doesn’t mean the next door neighbor’s well will.

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Now available

Hats Off to Exxon – They’ve Done it Again!

 

cleaning each other
Photo by Mike Baird. offshore-technology.com

30 years ago, the worst oil spill in U.S. history took place in the pristine Prince William Sound in Alaska. For those too young to remember, this tragedy that killed literally hundreds of thousands of seabirds, otters, seals, and an entire pod of orca whales was entirely avoidable.

For a quick review: recall that the drunken captain, Joseph Hazelwood, gave control of the vessel, Exxon Valdez, to a relatively inexperienced, unlicensed third mate who ran the tanker aground on Bligh Reef, a well-known, clearly marked reef.

oiled bird
Photo by Audubon.org

While the Coast Guard, Fisheries and others twiddled their thumbs trying to figure out what to do about the calamity, the oil spread and covered 1300 miles of unspoiled, immaculate coastline. When the clean-up finally began, the damage was already done. But it wasn’t entirely done…much of the clean-up actually made matters worse, such as spraying oil dispersal chemicals in the water (which causes oil to sink as tiny droplets – it does not dissolve the oil into nothingness).

evostc.state.ak.us
Photo by Evostc.state.ak.us

The next tragedy was washing the shoreline with high-pressure, hot water hoses, which simply drove the oil into the ground, causing more ecological damage by killing any remaining plants and animals in the process.

It gets worse, however. The offending captain was acquitted of felony charges and fined a mere $50,000 (for doing billions of dollars worth of damage). He was also assigned 1000 hours of community service – hopefully it was in retrieving dead sea life, but that would be too logical a punishment.

So much for that catastrophe.

The new issue: Exxon predicted decades ago that the carbon dioxide level in our atmosphere would rise to precipitous levels, but they chose to do nothing when action could have been taken. Exxon predicted that by 2020 CO2 would reach the levels we now have. The last time CO2 levels were this high was about 2.5 million years ago during the Pliocene age. At that time, scientists say the oceans were 82 feet higher than now, and trees grew near the South Pole.

The fact that Exxon made this dire prediction of a CO2 level between 400 and 420 ppi, knew how bad it could prove to be and kept the matter classified, did nothing to avert this, and instead poured millions of dollars into a disinformation campaign is treasonous. But, the executives have big salaries and money in the bank. Wonder where they think they’re going to live to escape the consequences of their decisions?

So, you may be wondering, what’s the problem?

For starters, there’s reason to think that high CO2 levels can have catastrophic effects on people’s health. For example, heat waves kill thousands of people. More people die from heat exposure than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods (Business Insider, “Earth has crossed a scary threshold for the first time in more than 800,000 years, and it could lead to tens of thousands of deaths.”) CO2 drives temperatures higher, and as temperatures climb, non-ozone warmer weather will increase rates of lung cancer, asthma, and emphysema.  (Ibid)

ticks
Photo by labs.russell.wisc.edu

My personal favorite: ticks and mosquitoes! There’s never yet been a mosquito that has passed me by! These annoying creatures thrive in warmer climates. Some of them, besides being blood-suckers, carry diseases like Lyme Disease, Zika, and Dengue Fever.

Hurricanes and fires will be an increasing problem. Due to warming seas and rising oceans, hurricanes will become more fearsome. And unprecedented rainfall will occur. This was seen recently in Texas, and today’s weather forecast is for two rain rivers to drench California again. Wildfires, despite the rain, will increase due to higher temperatures. Wildfire season is now much longer than it used to be, particularly in the West.

So, 415 ppm CO2 levels may appear to be a rather boring headline. But it’s not. It’s an imminent warning – one that we likely have received too late.

(Read more about our ocean and its inhabitants in Saving Our Oceans, by R.L. Coffield) Pending on Amazon.

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Are Oil Producers Feeling Some Heat?

According to “Investors Pressure Oil Giants on Ocean Plastics Pollution,” by David Hasemyer (Inside Climate News)  oil magnets are beginning to feel some heat for the plastic waste they continue to create – and that “heat” also refers to climate change heat the oil industry is primarily responsible for.

Savvy “environmentally friendly” oil investors are beginning to focus on the plastic disaster created by oil producers. The disaster not only includes the mountains of plastic covering landfills, but also the plastic pollution that now kills over 1,000,000 sea birds a year, untold turtles, and countless other sea inhabitants including whales. But the damage goes further: it’s now recognized that microscopic plastic pieces are blown through the air, infecting the food we eat and the air we breathe. This should come as no surprise, though.

“Conrad Mackerron, senior vice president of As You Sow…said he was prepared for a stiff fight when his organization filed plastics-related shareholder resolutions this year with Exxon, Chevron, Phillips 66 and chemical giant DowDuPont,” according to Hasemyer’s article.

Ah! Typical move, though, when the oil producers “agreed to address the plastics issue in exchange for the investors withdrawing their formal resolutions.” Is this just another delay tactic? It’s a tactic other plastic producers are accused of using: Coca Cola, PepsiCo, etc.  Everybody is always “working on it.” Nothing seems to get done, however, but a lot of lip service. We are talking about both “gas” and “oil” producers.

One of the major issues is the ubiquitous spread of “nurdles.” Captain Charles Moore, in Plastic Ocean studied not just the large, visible plastic in the Pacific gyre, but also documented the presence of billions upon billions of nurdles in the water – the very tiny plastic items that  are used to make plastic products. These nurdles are consumed by fish, fowl, and mammals…and that indirectly includes people.

It’s a fact that plastic production is responsible for a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Fracking, the act of destroying the earth and copious amounts of fresh water to extract gas from the earth, releases methane into the atmosphere. (So it’s not just cow farts that create methane gas, folks.)

Then any leaks along the trip to the destination account for more methane leakage. Finally, the manufacture of plastic feedstock creates even more methane leakage.

“The whole refining process is very greenhouse gas intensive…from the gas fields to the production end there is a huge carbon footprint to plastics,” explained Lisa Holzman, energy program manager for As You Sow. The methane release is just one of the problems with fracking – toxic fresh water pollution is as bad as the methane release. Gas, like oil, is a fossil fuel.

Water Pollution from Fracking
Photo compliments of Fractracker.org

Boycotting and banning plastic bags, bottles and straws are excellent, effective first-steps that consumers can easily take to send the message that they are fed up with the wanton trashing of the world by big oil and big chemical producing companies.