LSU researcher helps to reduce plastic pollution along Mississippi River

Read the full story at Reveille.

In collaboration with the MRCTI, LSU College of Coast and Environment professor Mark Benfield is researching the flow of plastic waste down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico using GPS trackers, trash accumulation data, and testing the water for microplastics. 

Latest Toxic 100 and Greenhouse Gas 100 lists name top air and water polluters, climate gas emitters in the U.S.

Read the full story from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) today published the newest editions of its lists of the top corporate air and water polluters and top greenhouse gas emitters in the United States, based on the most recent data available from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Toxic 100 Air and Toxic 100 Water Indexes rank U.S. industrial polluters using the EPA Toxics Release Inventory, and the Greenhouse 100 Index ranks U.S. companies by their emissions responsible for global climate change according to the EPA Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. The PERI Indexes also include environmental justice indicators to assess impacts on low-income people and minorities.

Exposed: Amazon’s enormous and rapidly growing plastic pollution problem

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Oceana analyzed e-commerce packaging data and found that Amazon generated 599 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2020. This is a 29% increase of Oceana’s 2019 estimate of 465 million pounds. The report also found that Amazon’s estimated plastic packaging waste, in the form of air pillows alone, would circle the Earth more than 600 times.

By combining the e-commerce packaging data with findings from a recent study published in Science, Oceana estimates that up to 23.5 million pounds of Amazon’s plastic packaging waste entered and polluted the world’s waterways and oceans in 2020, the equivalent of dumping a delivery van payload of plastic into the oceans every 67 minutes.

‘A trash heap for our children’: How Norilsk, in the Russian Arctic, became one of the most polluted places on Earth

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

A smelting company has poisoned rivers, killed off boreal forest and belched out more sulfur dioxide than active volcanoes. Now it wants to produce more metal for the “green economy.”

The cost, complexity and very local scope of Eau Claire’s PFAS response

Read the full story from PBS Wisconsin.

After testing found “forever chemicals” in multiple municipal drinking water wells used by Eau Claire, the city has taken steps to mitigate this contamination, but it’s an expensive and time-consuming problem faced by communities around Wisconsin.

EPA Publishes 2019 Annual Toxics Release Inventory Report and Analysis for the Great Lakes Region

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its 2019 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis, which shows that EPA and companies that manage chemicals continue to make progress in preventing pollution. The report shows that between 2018 and 2019 total releases of TRI chemicals decreased by 9 percent.

For the first time in five years, industrial and federal facilities reported an increased number of new source reduction activities that aim to reduce or eliminate the amount of chemical-containing waste facilities create. Facilities also avoided releasing 89 percent of the chemical-containing waste they created and managed during 2019 into the environment by using preferred practices such as recycling, treatment, and energy recovery.

Chemical releases in Region 5 have decreased by almost 400 million pounds (46 percent) since 2007. Releases from the electric utilities, primary metals and hazardous waste sectors decreased the most, together decreasing their releases by 374 million pounds. During this time, releases of TRI chemicals to air, water, land, and transfers off site for disposal all decreased. Since 2018, releases decreased by 49.2 million pounds (10 percent). For 2019, 7 percent of facilities in Region 5 reported implementing new source reduction activities. Source reduction reporting rates in the region were among the highest in the computers/electronic products manufacturing sector, in which 23 percent of facilities reported source reduction activities.

The 2019 TRI National Analysis released today reflects TRI chemical waste management activities, including releases, that occurred during calendar year 2019 and therefore does not indicate any potential impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency that began in the United States in early 2020.

A new Spanish TRI website, as well as a Spanish version of the 2019 Analysis, will be available by the end of January. Spanish-speaking communities across the United States will be able to use this resource to learn about TRI chemical releases in their communities—expanding their access to environmental information and making TRI data more easily accessible.

Background

Thanks to the passage of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 which helped create EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory program, Americans now have greater awareness of how chemicals are being managed in their communities. Today, nearly 22,000 facilities report annually on the use and quantities of more than 760 chemicals they release to the environment or otherwise manage as waste to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program. EPA, states, and tribes receive TRI data from facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste management. The Pollution Prevention Act also requires facilities to submit information on pollution prevention and other waste management activities of TRI chemicals.

Information on facility efforts to reduce TRI chemical releases is available at www.epa.gov/tri/p2

Pandemic waste is adding to wastewater woes and Puget Sound pollution

Read the full story at KUOW.

A complicated series of events has led to where we are now — from the pandemic to pollution.

When the pandemic first hit in early 2020, people stocked up on face masks and gloves. And then people tossed those masks and gloves on the ground. And eventually, it all ended up in our sewage lines.

That also means these discarded masks and gloves are potentially now floating in Lake Washington, Lake Union, or Puget Sound and interacting with wildlife. It also means they are adding to environmental problems down the line.

The Ocean’s Microplastics Mess: Technology & Technique to Identify & Clean Up

Read the full story at Marine Technology News.

The science and technology surrounding discovery, mitigation and clean-up of microplastics in the world’s environment makes this year’s “MTR100.” Here we offer insights on the organizations, people and technologies taking the lead.

Abandoned fibreglass boats are releasing toxins and microplastics across the world

Mark Seton / flickr, CC BY-NC

by Corina Ciocan, University of Brighton

Where do old boats go to die? The cynical answer is they are put on eBay for a few pennies in the hope they become some other ignorant dreamer’s problem.

As a marine biologist, I am increasingly aware that the casual disposal of boats made out of fibreglass is harming our coastal marine life. The problem of end-of-life boat management and disposal has gone global, and some island nations are even worried about their already overstretched landfill.

The strength and durability of fibreglass transformed the boating industry and made it possible to mass produce small leisure craft (larger vessels like cruise ships or fishing trawlers need a more solid material like aluminium or steel). However, boats that were built in the fibreglass boom of the 1960s and 1970s are now dying.

A 1968 magazine advert for Chrysler boats.
Fibreglass helped bring boats to the mass market. SenseiAlan/flickr/ Chrysler, CC BY-SA

We need a drain hole for old boats. We can sink them, bury them, cut them to pieces, grind them or even fill them with compost and make a great welcoming sign, right in the middle of roundabouts in seaside towns.

But there are too many of them and we’re running out of space. To add to the problem, the hurricane season wreaks havoc through the marinas in some parts of the world, with 63,000 boats damaged or destroyed after Irma and Harvey in the Caribbean in 2017 alone.

Most boats currently head to landfill. However, many are also disposed of at sea, usually by simply drilling a hole in the hull and leaving it to sink someplace offshore.

Some say that dumped fibreglass boats will make suitable artificial reefs. However, very little research has been done on at-sea disposal and the worry is that eventually these boats will degrade and move with the currents and harm the coral reefs, ultimately breaking up into microplastics. Recently, scientists have investigated the damage to mangrove, seagrass and coral habitats and although the effects have only been recorded on a relatively localised basis for now, the cumulative effect of abandoned boats may increase exponentially in the coming years.

To take one example, researchers from Plymouth University found high concentrations of copper, zinc and lead in sediment samples and inside the guts of ragworms in two estuaries in eastern England (Orwell and Blackwater). These contaminants greatly exceeded the environmental quality guidelines, and came from peeling paints from boats abandoned nearby.

Since no registration is needed for leisure vessels, the boats are often dumped once the cost of disposal exceeds the resale value, becoming the liability of the unlucky landowner. Human health hazards arise from chemicals or materials used in the boat: rubber, plastic, wood, metal, textiles and of course oil. Moreover, asbestos was employed extensively as an insulator on exhausts and leaded paints were commonly used as a corrosion inhibitor, alongside mercury-based compounds and tributyltin (TBT) as antifouling agents. Although we lack evidence on the human impact of TBT, lead and mercury are recognised as neurotoxins.

Big boat winches a tiny boat above the surface in a port.
July 2020: Swedish coastguard recover a sunken sailboat. Dan_Manila / shutterstock

And then there are the repairs – grinding away at fibreglass boats, often in the open, creates clouds of airborne dust. Workers have not always worn masks and some succumbed to asbestosis-like diseases. Inevitably, some of the dust would find its way back into the water.

The fibreglass is filtered by marine shellfish (in my own research I found up to 7,000 small shards in oysters in Chichester Harbour in southern England) or cling on the shells of tiny water fleas and sink them to the seafloor. The particulate material accumulated in the stomach of shellfish can block their intestinal tracts and eventually lead to death through malnutrition and starvation.

The microparticles stuck on water fleas may have repercussions for swimming and locomotion in general, therefore limiting the ability of the organisms to detect prey, feed, reproduce, and evade predators. There is huge potential for these tiny specks of old boats to accumulate in bigger animals as they are transferred up the food chain.

Those microparticles are the resins holding the fibreglass together and contain phthalates, a massive group of chemicals associated with severe human health impacts from ADHD to breast cancer, obesity and male fertility issues.

Abandoned boats are now a common sight on many estuaries and beaches, leaking heavy metals, microglass and phtalates: we really must start paying attention to the hazard they pose to human health and the threats to local ecology.

Corina Ciocan, Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology, University of Brighton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

State and feds announce new way to combat ‘green slime’ still flowing in Madison Heights

Read the full story in the Detroit Free Press.

Madison Heights still isn’t rid of the notorious “green slime” — a gusher of pollution so named after motorists in December spotted it sluicing onto the shoulder of eastbound I-696 in Oakland County. 

Hoping to cut the ongoing cost of keeping the pollution from flowing into Lake St. Clair, state and federal authorities said Tuesday they’ll try a new approach at the site of the former plating factory.

Instead of collecting, pumping and trucking away the toxic soup of chemicals that gushes after heavy rains, technicians will start this month injecting into the ground other chemicals to neutralize the toxic brew flowing from a former chrome-plating factory.