EPA Awards $3.9 Million to Research PFAS Challenges, Reducing Health Impacts

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding approximately $3.9 million through two grants for research that improves understanding of human and ecological exposure to per– and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment. This research is expected to help provide additional information about PFAS to federal, state, tribal, and local officials, as they work together to address these chemicals and protect public health. The research will also promote a greater awareness of how to restore water quality in PFAS-impacted communities.

“These grants will help fulfill a key goal in EPA’s PFAS Action Plan: strengthening science and research in order to better understand the characteristics and impacts of PFAS,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This funding will also help researchers develop new strategies to further protect our communities and environment from harmful PFAS exposure.”

PFAS are a large group of synthetic chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s. PFAS are found in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products. PFAS manufacturing and processing facilities, facilities using PFAS in production of other products, airports, and military installations are some of the potential contributors to PFAS releases into the air, soil and water. Due to its widespread use and persistence in the environment, most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS. There is evidence that continued exposure above specific levels to certain PFAS may lead to adverse health effects.

The following universities are receiving grants:

  • Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado, to research the fate, transport, bioaccumulation, and exposure of a diverse suite of PFAS in nationally representative PFAS impacted communities.
  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, to study the toxicity of a large collection of PFAS and PFAS mixtures with the zebrafish assay and mice studies to identify toxic PFAS that require prioritization for risk management.

These grants support ongoing Agency efforts related to PFAS—most notably, EPA’s PFAS Action Plan, which includes a long-term research approach to understanding and reducing the potential human health and environmental risks associated with PFAS.

Learn more on the grant funding at https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/recipients.display/rfa_id/640/records_per_page/ALL

Learn more on PFAS at https://www.epa.gov/pfas.

EPA’s March air tests show levels of toxic gas in Willowbrook relatively low since Sterigenics was shut down in February

Read the full story from the Chicago Tribune.

Levels of ethylene oxide remained relatively low last month in Willowbrook and other nearby suburbs, according to a new federal report that shows air quality improved dramatically after Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration banned Sterigenics from using the cancer-causing gas.

New CO2 capture technology is not the magic bullet against climate change

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

According to a recent major United Nations report, if we are to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change, we need to reduce global CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050. This means eliminating fossil fuel use fast — but to cushion that transition and offset the areas in which there is currently no replacement for combustibles, we need to actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Planting trees and rewilding are a large part of this solution, but we are highly likely to need further technological assistance if we are to prevent climate breakdown.

So when recent news emerged that Canadian company Carbon Engineering has harnessed some well-known chemistry to capture CO2 from the atmosphere at a cost of less than $100 a tonne, many media sources hailed the milestone as a magic bullet. Unfortunately, the big picture isn’t as simple. Truly tipping the balance from carbon source to carbon sink is a delicate business, and our view is that the energy costs involved and likely downstream uses of captured CO2 mean that Carbon Engineering’s “bullet” is anything but magic.

Carbon Capture & Storage in The United States Power Sector: The Impact of 45Q Federal Tax Credits

Download the document.

In February 2018, the United States (U.S.) Congress passed the Bipartisan
Budget Act of 2018, expanding the corporate income tax credit for carbon
capture and storage (CCS). This tax credit, known as 45Q,
was adopted to enable additional deployment of CCS projects in the U.S. – both to achieve economic goals such as meeting energy needs and supporting jobs as well as
carbon emission reductions.

CCS is an essential technology in the climate solution toolbox but has not yet been deployed widely enough to meet its full potential. CATF advocated for the
expansion of 45Q for several years as a way to provide a performance-based financial incentive to increase deployment of the technology. In June 2018, after
the adoption of the expanded 45Q tax credits, CATF retained Charles River Associates (CRA) to perform a modeling analysis, based on assumptions developed
in conjunction with CATF, that estimates the impact of this new incentive on CCS deployment in the U.S. power sector by 2030.

The modeling results show that 45Q leads to significant deployment of CCS,  capturing and storing approximately 49 million metric tonnes (tonnes) of
CO2 annually in 2030. The estimated CO2 that will be captured and stored is equivalent to removing roughly 7 million cars from U.S. roads. For perspective, this is greater than the number of new cars sold in the U.S. in all of 2017.



Traces Of Cocaine, Pesticides Detected In U.K. Shrimp

Read the full story from NPR.

Small amounts of cocaine, pesticides and other contaminants have been detected in U.K. freshwater shrimp…

For years, scientists have found trace amounts of illicit drugs, pharmaceuticals and pesticides in drinking water around the world. A newer area of study is looking at how these chemicals impact wildlife living in these ecosystems…

The researchers from King’s College London and the University of Suffolk collected samples of Gammarus pulex shrimp in 15 locations in the county of Suffolk, northeast of London. They tested the shrimp for a wide range of pharmaceuticals, pesticides and illicit drugs.

Cocaine was found in samples at every single site. The researchers’ paper, published recently in Environment International, says the concentration of cocaine did not fluctuate much between sites, “showing widespread contamination.”


Trump offshore drilling plan may be dead in the water, but there are better ways to lead on energy

Read the full story at The Conversation.

President Trump’s effort to expand offshore oil and gas exploration has stalled, and may be dead in the water. The newest obstacle is an April ruling in Alaska’s U.S. District Court that blocked Trump’s order to lift a ban on energy leasing in Arctic waters.

Trump’s 2018 order opening nearly all U.S. coastal waters to offshore drilling is now in limbo, and may be significantly revised. If Trump is voted out in 2020, the plan won’t survive. And even if he is reelected, there are logical arguments for shelving it.

In my view, this proposal has always been more political than practical. What’s more, there is plenty of accessible oil and gas on land – as well as renewable energy resources that would do much more to advance Trump’s “energy dominance” doctrine.

Mapping the PFAS Contamination Crisis: New Data Show 610 Sites in 43 States

Read the full story and view the interactive map from the Environmental Working Group.

The known extent of contamination of American communities with the toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS continues to grow at an alarming rate, with no end in sight. As of March 2019, at least 610 locations in 43 states are known to be contaminated, including drinking water systems serving an estimated 19 million people.

The latest update of an interactive map by EWG and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute, at Northeastern University, documents publicly known pollution from PFAS chemicals nationwide, including public water systems, military bases, military and civilian airports, industrial plants, dumps and firefighter training sites. The map is the most comprehensive resource available to track PFAS pollution in the U.S.

Think native grasslands are just a bunch of “boring grass”? Think again.

Read the full story at Ensia.

rairie grasslands are considered North America’s most endangered ecosystem. Chris Helzer, The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Nebraska director of science, says they suffer from an image problem. And he’s out to fix that with, well, images.

“What most people see is just a bunch of boring grass,” Helzer says. This viewpoint breeds disinterest and hinders those who are working to preserve prairie, he says.

According to Helzer, that “boring grass” offers plenty of benefits to people, such as clean water. Prairies also provide habitat to a number of species, including many pollinators. And they can store carbon in more long-term ways than forests, thereby helping to mitigate climate change.

Helzer embarked on his year-long Square Meter Photography Project in 2018 to highlight the beauty of prairies, from the aesthetic power of a huge landscape to their small-scale complexity. The project, which aims to draw awareness and appreciation to this ecosystem, is set within a single square meter of Lincoln Creek Prairie in Aurora, Nebraska.

To divert wasted food, Madison looks into digesters, returns to composting

Read the full story in the Cap Times.

The city of Madison and Dane County are working together to get residents to think differently about food waste. Or, as advocates prefer to call it, “wasted food.”

Seven recommendations for incorporating indigenous perspectives into biodiversity conservation

Read the full story at Ensia.

When it comes to conservation, it’s tempting to think that science is the only guide to good policy. But biodiversity is linked to culture, argues a new study on pollinator conservation recently published in Nature Sustainability, so we should embrace a diversity of knowledge systems, acknowledging both academic science and traditional cultural practices.