USGS finds US aquifers being drawn down at accelerating rate

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A new US Geological Survey study finds that US aquifers are being drawn down at an accelerating rate. Groundwater Depletion in the United States (1900-2008) comprehensively evaluates long-term cumulative depletion volumes in 40 separate aquifers (distinct underground water storage areas) in the United States, bringing together reliable information from previous references and from new analyses.

New NOAA report examines national oil pollution threat from shipwrecks

NOAA presented to the U.S. Coast Guard today a new report that finds that 36 sunken vessels scattered across the U.S. seafloor could pose an oil pollution threat to the nation’s coastal marine resources. Of those, 17 were recommended for further assessment and potential removal of both fuel oil and oil cargo.

The sunken vessels are a legacy of more than a century of U.S. commerce and warfare. They include a barge lost in rough seas in 1936; two motor-powered ships that sank in separate collisions in 1947 and 1952; and a tanker that exploded and sank in 1984. The remaining sites are 13 merchant marine ships lost during World War II, primarily along the Atlantic Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico. To see a list of the ships and their locations, visit:

The report, part of NOAA’s Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats (RULET) project, identifies the location and nature of potential sources of oil pollution from sunken vessels. Knowing where these vessels are helps oil response planning efforts and may help in the investigation of reported mystery spills–sightings of oil where a source is not immediately known or suspected.

Can biochar and hydrochar stability be assessed with chemical methods?

Naisse, Christophe, Marie Alexis, Alain Plante, Katja Wiedner, Bruno Glaser, Alessandro Pozzi, Christopher Carcaillet, Irene Criscuoli, and Cornélia Rumpel. (2013). “Can Biochar and Hydrochar Stability be Assessed with Chemical Methods?” Organic Geochemistry, online ahead of print.

Abstract: Field application of biochar is intended to increase soil carbon (C) storage. The assessment of C storage potential of biochars lacks methods and standard materials. The reactivity of biochars and hydrochars may be one possibile means of evaluating their environmental stability. The aim of this study was to evaluate the reactivity of biochar produced by gasification (GS) and hydrochar produced by hydrothermal carbonisation (HTC). The approach included analysis of the two different char types produced from the same three feedstocks. Moreover, we analysed the reactivity of Holocene charcoal (150 and 2000 yr old) to evaluate whether or not their use as standard materials to represent stable biochar is meaningful. We assessed carbon loss following oxidation with acid dichromate as well as hydrolysis with HCl. Our results showed that chemical reactivity is not a straightforward approach for characterising the stability of biochar and hydrochar. Acid hydrolysis showed little difference between HTCs and GSs, despite the contrasting elemental composition. Using acid dichromate oxidation, we determined that GS contained ca. 70% of oxidation resistant C while the proportion for HTCs was < 10%. The different feedstocks had a slight, but significant, influence on the reactivity of GS and HTCs. The content of oxidation resistant C decreased in the order 100 yr old charcoal = GSs > 2000 yr old charcoal > HTCs > feedstock and was related to elemental composition. This shows that acid dichromate oxidation may allow differentiation of the reactivity of modern biochars but that there is not necessarily a relationship between reactivity and age of Holocene charcoals. As the chemical reactivity of biochars may change with exposure time in soil, it is poorly suited for assessing their environmental residence time.

Canary Database: Animals as Sentinels of Human Environmental Health Hazards

This database is an index of scientific studies from MEDLINE, CAB Abstracts, and Agricola regarding evidence of animals as “early warning” sentinels of human health hazards. From their mission statement:

The Canary Database aims to overcome scientific barriers which limit the use of animal sentinel data for early recognition of human environmental health hazards. These barriers include difficulty in locating animal sentinel studies in current biomedical databases and a lack of communication between human health and animal health professionals.

The database is a project of the Yale University Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine. For more information about the Yale Human Animal Medicine Project, visit