Day: May 20, 2014

Fish Mercury Levels Appear to Be Increasing Lately: A Report from 40 Years of Monitoring in the Province of Ontario, Canada

Nilima Gandhi, Rex W. K. Tang, Satyendra P. Bhavsar, and George B. Arhonditsis (2014). “Fish Mercury Levels Appear to Be Increasing Lately: A Report from 40 Years of Monitoring in the Province of Ontario, Canada.” Environmental Science & Technology 48 (10), 5404-5414. DOI: 10.1021/es403651x.

Abstract: Recent mercury levels and trends reported for North America suggest a mixed (positive/negative) outlook for the environmental mercury problem. Using one of the largest consistent monitoring data sets in the world, here we present long-term and recent mercury trends in Walleye, Northern Pike, and Lake Trout from the Province of Ontario, Canada, which contains about one-third of the world’s fresh water and covers a wide geographical area (1.5 and 3 times larger than France and Germany, respectively). Overall, the results indicate that the fish mercury levels either declined (0.01–0.07 μg/g decade) or remained stable between the 1970s and 2012. The rates of mercury decline were substantially greater (mostly 0.05–0.31 μg/g decade) during the 1970s/80s possibly in response to reductions in mercury emissions. However, Walleye and Pike levels have generally increased (0.01–0.27 μg/g decade) in recent years (1995–2012), especially for northern Ontario (effect sizes for differences between the two periods ranged from 0.39 to 1.04). Proportions of Walleye and Pike locations showing a flat or increasing trend increased from 26–44% to 59–73% between the 1970s/80s and 1995–2012. Mercury emissions in North America have declined over the last few decades, and as such it is logical to expect recovery in fish mercury levels; however, other factors such as global emissions, climate change, invasive species, and local geochemistry are likely affecting the response time and magnitude.

Job Announcement: Program Officer — Environment, Kresge Foundation

The full announcement is available at http://kresge.org/about-us/careers/program-officer%E2%80%93-environment.

The Kresge Foundation’s Environment Program has an immediate opening for a program officer to work as part of a dynamic team charged with implementing strategies aimed to build communities’ resilience in the face of climate change. Resilience involves not just withstanding stresses but also establishing the capacity to prosper under a wide range of climate-influenced circumstances. Resilience in the long term is possible only if society reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is able to avoid the worst impacts of climate change; as such, reducing reliance on fossil fuels is a critical component of resilience. Our work is focused primarily on cities in the U.S., and we have particular interest in ensuring that the interests and needs of low-income residents are addressed in climate resilience efforts. For additional information about the Environment Program’s work, please visit kresge.org.

The Kresge Environment Program uses the full array of tools available to foster change, including grants, program-related investments, strategic communications, convening power, and other forms of field-leadership. We are proactive in our work and embrace innovation, problem-solving, and informed risk taking.

The ideal candidate will possess a number of qualities, including:

  • An entrepreneurial, creative spirit;
  • Intellectual curiosity and flexibility;
  • A willingness to challenge conventional wisdom;
  • An eagerness to embrace new ideas and perspectives;
  • An understanding of the role of philanthropic investment as risk capital, accompanied by a solid sense of stewardship and accountability; and
  • An interest in promoting and contributing to a strong learning culture.

The Program Officer will report to the Environment Program’s Managing Director and will work in close partnership with the other members of the Environment Team as well as with staff of the Program and Grants Management departments and other Foundation personnel.

Applications are due June 16, 2014.

Product stewardship for paint in Minnesota

Draft stewardship plan

PaintCare Inc. submitted a detailed stewardship plan on March 3, 2014. Following a public comment period, the Pollution Control Agency completed staff review of the plan and provided comments.

PaintCare now has 60 days to submit a revised plan. The MPCA must approve a plan before the program can begin.

Visit the MPCA web site to see the draft plan and comments from the MPCA and other interested parties.

Other paint news

Minnesota: PaintCare is hosting free webinars in May for retailers. They will explain the Minnesota Paint Stewardship Program, review the responsibilities of retailers under the law, and provide an opportunity to ask questions. Advance registration online. (May 21 – 22 – 28 – 30)

Elsewhere: Colorado’s legislature set the stage for becoming the eighth state to join the PaintCare program. The bill has been sent to the governor.

Institute for Environment and Sustainability

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2014. https://www.scout.wisc.edu/

As one of the seven scientific institutes of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) works “to provide scientific and technical support to European Union policies for the protection of the European and global environment.” Located in Ispra, Italy its work brings together multidisciplinary teams to create data sets, working papers, and key briefing documents. In the Documentation area, visitors can look over press releases, presentations, and hundreds of papers on everything from tsunami preparedness in the Solomon Islands to sustainable business partnerships. In the Data Portals area visitors can explore a large number of portals that provide information on marine environments, global CO2 emissions, and much more. [KMG]

Billboard sucks in pollution and turns it into purified air

Read the full story at Mother Nature Network.

Billboards often line busy roads and highways where there’s lots of traffic — and by association, lots of air pollution. But what if those billboards could be transformed into giant air purifiers, scrubbing the air and turning polluted areas into fresh ones? That’s the idea behind a new billboard archetype created by researchers at UTEC, the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru, reports Time.

Proposed EPA rule would reduce refinery flaring, require fence line monitoring of toxic chemicals

Read the full story in the Times-Picayune.

Refineries in Louisiana and around the nation would have to install state-of-the-art technology to reduce emissions from flares and could face fines for emissions during start-ups, shut-downs and malfunctions, under sweeping new rules proposed Thursday by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The new rules, which would also require monitoring emissions of some cancer-causing chemicals at refinery fence lines, are likely to apply to 19 refineries in the state identified by the federal Energy Information Administration. Those Louisiana refineries processed 3.3 million barrels of crude oil a day in 2013.

Planner’s Web

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2014. https://www.scout.wisc.edu/

Planners Web is a great way to get acquainted with the field of urban planning as it provides commentary on the rise of the “creative class” and conversations about designing walkable cities. First-time visitors can check out the What’s New area to read through compelling articles that include “Ten Things You Should Know About Project Opponents” and “Transportation That Works for All Walks of Life.” Moving on, visitors can look over great sections that cover American planning history (“A is for Automobile to Z is for Zoning”) and The Secrets of Successful Communities. On the top of the homepage, visitors will find sections such as Basic Tools, Planning Topics, and Today’s Planning News. Also, visitors may wish to sign up for free email updates. [KMG]

Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Mixtures: Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking [RIN 2070-AJ93; FRL-9909-13]

Download the Federal Register Notice.

SUMMARY: In its response to a citizen petition submitted under section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA indicated that as a first step, it would convene a stakeholder process to develop an approach to obtain information on chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing. To gather information to inform EPA’s proposal, the Agency is issuing this advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) and initiating a public participation process to seek comment on the information that should be reported or disclosed for hydraulic fracturing chemical substances and mixtures and the mechanism for obtaining this information. This mechanism could be regulatory (under TSCA section 8(a) and/or section 8(d)), voluntary, or a combination of both and could include best management practices, third-party certification and collection, and incentives for disclosure of this information. In addition, the Agency is seeking comment on ways of minimizing reporting burdens and costs and of avoiding the duplication of state and other federal agency information collections, while at the same time maximizing data available for EPA risk characterization, external transparency, and public understanding. Also, EPA is soliciting comments on incentives and recognition programs that could be used to support the development and use of safer chemicals in hydraulic fracturing.

Roadmap shows how to improve lignocellulosic biofuel biorefining

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

When making cellulosic ethanol from plants, one problem is what to do with a woody agricultural waste product called lignin. The old adage in the pulp industry has been that one can make anything from lignin except money.

A new review article in Science points the way toward a future where lignin is transformed from a waste product into valuable materials such as low-cost carbon fiber for cars or bio-based plastics. Using lignin in this way would create new markets for the forest products industry and make ethanol-to-fuel conversion more cost-effective.

Oh, Snapchat: Your smartphone just became a climate scientist

Read the full post at Grist.

This is part of a series exploring how collective intelligence can create a better world. Read the first post here.

Picture this: You’re out on a hike in Mt. Diablo State Park, just outside San Francisco. Upon reaching a nice viewpoint, you think, “Hey, this would look pretty sweet on my Instagram feed.” So you whip out the ol’ iPhone to snap a selfie. Then you notice a sign with an L-shaped bracket next to it. The sign asks you to fit your phone into the frame, pointing your camera lens at the drab brown hill across the way, take a photo and upload it to Flickr, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #morganfire01.

“Why would anyone want a picture of that?” you ask.

Turns out, it’s a project that was put together by Nerds for Nature, a group of civic hackers who do good for the Earth by connecting researchers, enviros, and tech whizzes to figure out new ways to protect our planet. The Mt. Diablo project is designed to monitor the area’s ecological recovery after it was toasted by a wildfire last September. Once you tag and upload the photos, researchers can easily compile them into a crowdsourced time-lapse series that will show the process of vegetation growing back. As wildfires become increasingly common with climate change, a project like this could help researchers determine the longer-term impacts these fires will have.