Day: April 3, 2020

Vodka From Thin Air: An Unusual Climate Prize Hits a Coronavirus Snag

Read the full story in the New York Times.

In 2017, Stafford Sheehan handed a friend an unusual bottle of booze. He had made it himself — but not the usual way. A chemical physicist, Dr. Sheehan had invented a process to make alcohol from carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas associated with climate change, not cocktail hour.

“I said, ‘Hold on, you made this from carbon dioxide?’” recalled his friend, Gregory Constantine, who worked in marketing for Smirnoff. Now the two are in the vodka business, using Dr. Sheehan’s technology and marketing it as a way to fight global warming.

Their company, Air Co., was one of 10 finalists for a pair of $7.5 million prizes to be awarded this year to the teams that can devise the most profitable use for carbon dioxide, which causes global warming by trapping the sun’s heat when released into the atmosphere by power plants, cars and industry. The five-year competition, the Carbon XPrize, was designed to create a financial incentive to capture carbon dioxide and use it profitably, instead of releasing it.

However, just as the Brooklyn vodka makers — along with the nine other finalists from as far afield as Nova Scotia (stronger concrete), India (an ingredient in pharmaceuticals) and China (a plastics replacement) — were approaching the finish line, the competition has been delayed by the coronavirus crisis.

Lax pollution enforcement can stress hospitals during virus

Read the full story in E&E News.

EPA’s move last week to ease pollution enforcement during the novel coronavirus pandemic endangers people who are susceptible to the spreading disease by exacerbating respiratory illnesses, according to public health experts.

Webinar: Ecological Risk Assessment Approaches at PFAS-Impacted Sites

April 9, 2020 11 am CDT
Register here

Development of PFAS Toxicity Reference Values in Amphibians for use in Ecological Risk Assessments of AFFF-Contaminated Sites” by Dr. Marisol Sepulveda

The primary goal of this project is to develop per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) toxicity reference values (TRVs) for amphibians. TRVs are needed to evaluate risk for amphibians native to the U.S., including northern leopard frogs, bullfrogs, American toads, and tiger salamanders, in areas contaminated by aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) and PFAS mixtures, including some Department of Defense (DoD) lands. Larvae and juveniles were exposed to PFAS of different chain length and functional groups. Results showed that PFAS uptake and elimination rates are fast (48 hours to reach steady state). This is the fastest accumulation rate reported for a developing vertebrate. Effects on growth and development were shown to be dependent on PFAS, species, life-stage, and exposure-route. We found that although PFOS bioaccumulated two orders of magnitude more than some other PFAS, it is not necessarily more toxic. Altered growth and development were observed at 10 parts per billion (ppb), the lowest concentration tested. In addition to the above results, this presentation will cover testing PFAS mixtures recreated using data from AFFF-impacted sites under semi-natural and laboratory conditions.

Guidance for Assessing the Ecological Risks of Threatened and Endangered Species at Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF)-Impacted Sites by Dr. Jason Conder

This project supports SERDP’s efforts to maintain DoD execution of mission-related activities by providing effective, science-based guidance for promoting the recovery of understory plant communities. Our work combined intensive long-term monitoring of plant populations with field-based experiments deployed over three separate installations. We tracked 25 plant species by conducting long-term sampling at 192 plots from 18 sites at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, 12 sites at Fort Stewart in Georgia, and 18 sites at Savannah River Site in South Carolina. We evaluated whether (1) management activities (e.g., seed additions, prescribed fire, tree thinning) could be used to maximize plant population and community recovery, (2) plant populations persisted as self-sustaining populations for many years after recovery was initiated, and (3) management activities could maximize the likelihood that populations would spread once established, resulting in self-propagating recovery efforts. Our long-term data provides a powerful means to evaluate how seasonal climatic variation affect plant populations. The presentation will describe the management activities that maximize the establishment, persistence, and spread of plants in longleaf pine ecosystems, and will highlight how seasonal climatic variation may play a critical, yet unappreciated, role in guiding recovery of plant communities on DoD lands.

These bacteria can eat the unrecyclable foam in couch cushions and running shoes

Read the full story in Fast Company.

Polyurethane, which now goes to landfills or gets burned, might be able to be broken down by some hungry bugs.

EPA Awards $2.3 Million in Funding for Small Businesses to Develop Innovative Environmental Technologies

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced $2.3 million in funding for 23 contracts with small businesses through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to develop technologies that will help protect human health and the environment. This year’s funded technologies are focused on clean and safe water, air quality monitoring, land revitalization, homeland security, sustainable materials management, and safer chemicals.

“EPA’s Small Business funding supports our economy and opens doors to further environmental protection by fostering and encouraging small businesses to bring groundbreaking technologies to market,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “With EPA funding, these entrepreneurs will be able to develop their ideas to address priority EPA issues ranging from cleaning up PFAS contamination to reducing food waste.”

These small businesses are receiving Phase I funding of up to $100,000 from EPA’s SBIR program, which awards contracts annually through a two-phase competition. After receiving a Phase I award, companies are eligible to compete for a Phase II award of up to $400,000 to further develop and commercialize the technology.

SBIR Phase I recipients include:

  • Aerodyne Research, Inc., Billerica, Mass., to develop an ethylene oxide monitor with an ultra-low limit of detection.
  • AirLift Environmental LLC, Lincoln, Neb., to develop a remedial treatment to remove PFAS and associated co-contaminants from soil and groundwater.
  • AquaRealTime, Inc., Boulder, Colo., to use low-cost networked sensors and machine learning for early detection and prediction of harmful algal blooms.
  • Capro-X Inc., Ithaca, N.Y., to develop a fermentation process to upgrade processing waste streams from yogurt production into biochemicals.
  • Catapower, Inc., Marina Del Ray, Calif., to convert vegetable oil waste to valuable commodities such as antimicrobial agents and ingredients for biofuels and personal care products.
  • Creare LLC, Hanover, N.H., to develop a hydrodynamic cavitation technology to destroy PFAS in drinking water.
  • CTI and Associates, Inc., Novi, Mich., to test and evaluate a novel technology for the concentration and destruction of PFAS in landfill leachate.
  • Espira, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah, to create a point-of-use system for drinking water disinfection and bacteria monitoring.
  • Hedin Environmental, Pittsburgh, Pa., to create a treatment process for contaminated waters at coal and metal mines.
  • Instrumental Polymer Technologies, LLC, Westlake Village, Calif., to develop a recyclable polymer concrete using biodegradable materials.
  • Lucendi, Inc., Los Angeles, Calif., to create a cost-effective, portable and automated technology to identify microplastics.
  • Mesa Photonics, LLC, Santa Fe, N.M., to create a compact, fast, sensitive and selective optical sulfur dioxide monitor.
  • NanoAffix Science LLC, Wauwatosa, Pa., to design an affordable handheld tester for real-time, onsite detection of sulfur dioxide in air.
  • Onvector LLC, King of Prussia, Pa., to develop a technology that destroys PFAS in water and wastewater utilizing a plasma arc reactor.
  • Opticslah, LLC, Albuquerque, N.M., to rapidly measure the shape and size of microplastics using a portable sensor; and a second contract to develop continuous sensors for monitoring air in food storage to prevent food waste.
  • Physical Optics Corporation, Torrance, Calif., to create a 3D mapping and visual system to detect radiation contamination for homeland security applications.
  • RemWell, LLC, Potsdam, N.Y., to design a remediation technology using sonolysis for PFAS contaminated groundwater.
  • Scientific Methods, Inc., Granger, Ind., to design an inexpensive field-ready kit for detecting antibiotic-resistant bacteria in wastewater.
  • Skyhaven Systems LLC, Steamboat Springs, Colo., to create a less toxic product that removes paint and coatings using ozonated foam.
  • Syntrotek Corporation, Boulder, Colo., to create low-cost sensors for real-time, on-line and maintenance-free use in water distribution systems.
  • Triangle Environmental Health Initiative, Durham, N.C., to develop a technology to remove and recover nutrients from decentralized wastewater systems.
  • Xergy Inc., Harrington, Del., to design a low-cost system for food preservation.

EPA is one of 11 federal agencies that participate in the SBIR program, enacted in 1982 to strengthen the role of small businesses in federal research and development, create jobs, and promote U.S. technical innovation. To be eligible, a company must be an organized, for-profit U.S. business and have fewer than 500 employees.

AI analyzes biology studies to find out we’re getting better at wildlife conservation

Read the full story at The Next Web.

Researchers used sentiment analysis to rate thousands of conservation studies.

The pros and cons of planting trees to address global warming

Read the full story from Yale Climate Connections.

A campaign to plant one trillion trees made headlines. Experts say it’s not a panacea.

California Chef Turns Waste into Gold for Small Farmers

Read the full story from Modern Farmer.

A jammaker’s mission to rescue surplus produce is gaining steam faster than she can say ‘marmalade.’

Is carbon farming a climate boon, or boondoggle?

Read the full story from FERN.

Programs that pay farmers to sequester carbon in their soil are ramping up. But a growing chorus of skeptics cautions that the results may not live up to the hype.

11 Ways To Upcycle a T-Shirt

Read the full story from Earth 911.

How many T-shirts are in your drawers? It’s estimated that over 2 billion T-shirts are sold each year. T-shirts are a wardrobe staple for many people, but what happens to them when they don’t get worn any longer? You could always donate them to a thrift store, but their T-shirt shelves are overflowing and there isn’t much demand for used T-shirts. If you are a craft person, there are hundreds of fun upcycling projects that use T-shirts.

The following are just a few of my favorite ways to upcycle T-shirts.

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