Tag Archives: waste

Our trash pollutes beaches around the world

A recent cleanup of trash on a scenic Mexican beach seemed to confirm what many there thought: Most of the plastic garbage comes from outside Mexico.

On Feb. 25, a cleanup collected more than 6 tons of trash and allowed participants to examine pieces for signs of where it came from.

The answer: all over. Cuba. Venezuela. Honduras. China. Brazil.The  United States. Haiti. Jamaica. The Netherlands. Pretty much everywhere but Mexico.

H. Bruce Rinker, an ecologist based in Maine, said he examined perhaps hundreds of pieces during the cleanup effort.

“I found only two pieces clearly with ‘Product of Mexico’ labels,” he said in an email.

via LA Times

Why do Americans think nuclear power is safe when near-meltdowns and leaks happen constantly?

In a previous post, I reported that 58% of Americans think nuclear power is safe. After reading the below reports one has to wonder why that is…

14 Near Meltdowns

Among the litany of violations at U.S. nuclear power plants are missing or mishandled nuclear material, inadequate emergency plans, faulty backup power generators, corroded cooling pipes and even marijuana use inside a nuclear plant, according to an ABC News review of four years of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) safety records.

There are 104 U.S. nuclear power plants, producing 20 percent of the country’s electricity at world-class safety levels, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

The Union of Concerned Scientists found 14 “near misses” at nuclear plants in 2010. And there were 56 serious violations at nuclear power plants from 2007 to 2011, according the ABC News review of NRC records.

In a statement by the NRC to congress, “the last five years show no abnormal occurrences at U.S. nuclear plants. In fact, America’s reactors produce 20 percent of all electricity at world class safety levels.”

Chicago is in Danger

At the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois, for instance, which is located within 50 miles of the 7 million people who live in and around Chicago, nuclear material went missing in 2007. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined the operator — Exelon Corp. — after discovering the facility had failed to “keep complete records showing the inventory [and] disposal of all special nuclear material in its possession.”

As a result, two fuel pellets and equipment with nuclear material could not be accounted for.

Two years later, federal regulators cited Dresden for allowing unlicensed operators to work with radioactive control rods. The workers allowed three control rods to be moved out of the core. When alarms went off, workers initially ignored them.

New York City is in Danger

At the Indian Point nuclear plant just outside New York City, the NRC found that an earthquake safety device has been leaking for 18 years.

In the event of an earthquake, Lochbaum said, the faulty safety device would not help prevent water from leaking out of the reactor. A lack of water to cool the fuel rods has been the most critical problem at the Fukushima plant in Japan after the recent earthquake and tsunami.

“The NRC has known it’s been leaking since 1993,” Lochbaum said, “but they’ve done nothing to fix it.”

via ABC news: Records show 56 violations in past 4 years

11 awesome achievements by the Department of Energy in 2011

Energy Secretary, Steven Chu
January 10, 2012
Re: Year in Review

 

Dear Colleagues,

As we enter the New Year and move forward with our efforts…(it’s) important to take a moment to reflect on the progress we have made.

Across the complex, our workforce is reducing nuclear dangers, expanding the boundaries of science and innovation, and accelerating the transition to a clean energy future.

We’re working together like never before to seize the technological lead in everything from batteries to biofuels to solar energy.

I thought I would share a few of the things we have accomplished together:

 

  • Our investments in wind and solar power have put the country on track to double renewable energy generation from 2008 to 2012.
  •  

  • Overhauled and re-launched our website, Energy.Gov, to better communicate with the public.  Just recently, GovLoop named the new Energy.gov the top Federal website of 2011.  The Department’s website reform efforts are expected to save more than $10 million annually.
  •  

  • We also started Powerpedia, a Department of Energy wiki-like site, that facilitates information sharing among employees.
  • Continue reading

Homemade organic toothpaste: baking soda and water (that's it!)

A few months ago I made the switch from store toothpaste to the homemade version. There were so many recipes available on the internet that it was hard to find the right one. After several months of experimenting I’ve found the perfect recipe:

Baking Soda + Water

I can’t believe it either, but it works really well. Baking soda is a natural cleanser that helps control pH balance and neutralizes any substance that causes stains or odors. This means that not only will your family’s teeth shine, but they will have much less phlegm.

This also allows you to help your kids skip all the chemicals in the store-bought toothpaste, including fluoride which has some controversy surrounding small children.

No exact measurements are required, but you will notice that baking soda tends to stay dry. So just add a little water every so often.

I store mine in a used plastic container and that’s it!

You really can’t beat this deal since baking soda is so cheap. Plus, you have no waste products, a great bonus considering that very few of those toothpaste tubes are recyclable.

Should you be tempted to try out some of the other homemade toothpaste recipes, here is some advice.

Absolutely skip the hydrogen peroxide. I can’t believe people recommend this but they do say it matches the “cleaning power” of store toothpaste. That’s a scary thought.

I’ve also tried adding salt, coconut oil, and vegetable glycerin. Only coconut oil wasn’t dreadful and is promoted as “naturally anti-bacterial and anti-viral,” but I didn’t notice any benefit.

Finally, if you want some flavor I recommend cinnamon, but add just a dash as it is pretty powerful. Many sites also recommend mint but it hasn’t worked for me. I’ve even used fresh garden mint to no avail. Maybe I need to grind it to dust, mortar and pestle style.

I hope this helps you make the switch and make sure to let me know how it goes!

Classic magazine ad from Ipana.

Photos: CRZ (baby), Nesster (Ipana Ad)

Homemade organic toothpaste: baking soda and water (that’s it!)

A few months ago I made the switch from store toothpaste to the homemade version. There were so many recipes available on the internet that it was hard to find the right one. After several months of experimenting I’ve found the perfect recipe:

Baking Soda + Water

I can’t believe it either, but it works really well. Baking soda is a natural cleanser that helps control pH balance and neutralizes any substance that causes stains or odors. This means that not only will your family’s teeth shine, but they will have much less phlegm.

This also allows you to help your kids skip all the chemicals in the store-bought toothpaste, including fluoride which has some controversy surrounding small children.

No exact measurements are required, but you will notice that baking soda tends to stay dry. So just add a little water every so often.

I store mine in a used plastic container and that’s it!

You really can’t beat this deal since baking soda is so cheap. Plus, you have no waste products, a great bonus considering that very few of those toothpaste tubes are recyclable.

Should you be tempted to try out some of the other homemade toothpaste recipes, here is some advice.

Absolutely skip the hydrogen peroxide. I can’t believe people recommend this but they do say it matches the “cleaning power” of store toothpaste. That’s a scary thought.

I’ve also tried adding salt, coconut oil, and vegetable glycerin. Only coconut oil wasn’t dreadful and is promoted as “naturally anti-bacterial and anti-viral,” but I didn’t notice any benefit.

Finally, if you want some flavor I recommend cinnamon, but add just a dash as it is pretty powerful. Many sites also recommend mint but it hasn’t worked for me. I’ve even used fresh garden mint to no avail. Maybe I need to grind it to dust, mortar and pestle style.

I hope this helps you make the switch and make sure to let me know how it goes!

Classic magazine ad from Ipana.

Photos: CRZ (baby), Nesster (Ipana Ad)

Our local toxic waste dump…in Huntington Beach

Down the street on Magnolia, just a few blocks form the beach, is the ASCON Landfill Site. This 38-acre parcel of land is a toxic waste dump containing waste from construction and oil drilling.

It is considered a California Superfund site, meaning that it is one of the most toxic in the state. According to the California EPA, the area “operated as a landfill from 1938 through 1984…in its early years came from oil drilling operations, including waste drilling muds, waste water brines, and other drilling wastes.

Orange indicates 25-foot sludge lagoons. Red squares indicate buried pits.

“From 1957 to 1971, chromic acid, sulfuric acid, aluminum slag, fuel oils, styrene (a form of plastic), and other wastes were also disposed on the site. These liquid and semi-liquid wastes were deposited into open lagoons and pits.”

“From 1971 to 1984, some of the lagoons and pits were filled in or covered with solid waste materials (construction debris).”

This news has to be shocking for anyone living in Huntington Beach. Lagoons of sludge 25-feet deep, drilling wastes, pits of slag/acid/oils/sytrene, and then covered over with more waste.

Consider that across the street is Edison High School where thousands of kids, teachers, and parents spend their days, and on the other sides are houses and a popular park, Edison Community Park (another former landfill with methane gas leaks).

Lagoon #3 with sludge and abandoned equipment
Aerial view.
Main entrance off Hamilton St.

The news doesn’t get better.

An investigative report from the OC Weekly in 2004 discusses four children from the area who contracted a rare form of brain cancer.

HB Independent review:

“Something may be seriously amiss in southeast Huntington Beach…four children from that area died between February 2000 and June 2003 of a deadly brain cancer called brainstem glioma…an exceedingly rare cancer.”

“We know that a cluster of cancers in one geographic area doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something in the immediate environment that caused it…We also know that it is impossible to gather meaningful statistics with only four cases. The causes of most childhood brain tumors, including brainstem gliomas, are unknown. But we do know that exposure to certain chemicals can cause cancer.”

“It seems suspicious to us that four children who lived and played near this toxic waste dump contracted an extremely rare cancer. At the Ascon site, an oil worker became ill after contacting water running off the site. Ground squirrels living on the site appear, from the condition of their coats, to be in poor health…CalEPA recently found a 50-year-old tank of improperly stored flammable fuels that they didn’t know was there.”

Ok, finally some good news. A major step in the clean-up was recently completed, called the Interim Removal Measure (IRM) (pdf):

“The objective of IRM is to enable assessment of the materials underneath the tarry waste of Lagoons 1 and 2. These waste materials beneath the tarry liquids are of unknown composition and geotechnical quality and have not been assessed with the tarry liquids present due to worker safety concerns.”

The project was completed in December 2010 after “58,000 tons of tarry materials and firming additive have been removed from Lagoons 1 and 2 at the Site, and transported to and disposed of at the designated disposal facility.”

Since then the city and the contractors have been testing the groundwater, stormwater, air quality, etc, and in March 2011, the project was considered complete.

This is a major milestone for the dump because several past attempts have resulted in complete failure. From the OC Grand Jury investigation (pdf):

“This site is named for two companies that tried, in vain, to clean up the site. Nesi acquired an option on the site and tried to pump it clean. That did not work and Nesi folded. An attempt was made by Ascon, an acronym for the asphalt and concrete that had been dumped on the site. Ascon was not successful, either.”

What happens next is unknown.

The government agency responsible for the clean-up will continue its slow progress. Further tests, including investigating the lower levels of Lagoons 1, 2 will be conducted. Then planning, public hearings, and finally another clean-up.

With so much waste on-site this will take decades.

At some point, the land will be clean enough for a private company to complete the process. The land is in such a valuable location that many developers will gladly take on the last steps of cleaning to reap the profits.

In the meantime, we all are stuck with a remnant of our industrial past.

For updates, visit the community website for the ASCON Landfill.

My first sex tape: The case against bottled water

Maybe you’ve seen SmartWater’s latest video featuring Jennifer Aniston, which they’ve dubbed “The Jennifer Aniston Sex Tape.”

Today is World Water Day. I think it’s time to wean ourselves off the teat of the bottled water propaganda machine. I created “The Other Jennifer Aniston Sex Tape” in response to the insanity.

Enjoy…

Am I a Crunchie Hipster or the New Urban Norm?

So there I am, in the kitchen, eating a Dupont Farmer’s Market carrot with some “Maryland-style” hummus I made at home. I proceed to throw the carrot top in the compost jar in the freezer, wash my hands with a locally made bar of soap (not an exotically scented bottle of liquid soap) which just happens to be sitting next to my reusable mug I carry with me every trip to Starbucks. I pour myself a glass of DC’s finest tap water, then blow my nose in a hanky. I walk upstairs where our freshly washed laundry is hang-drying from our glass catwalk to deposit the hanky in our eco-water saver laundry machine, then I walk back downstairs, remove my phone from our portable solar panel charger, grab my kindle from my backpack which I take religiously everywhere so I don’t need throwaway bags, put my backpack in the closet next to my bike helmet which I’m wearing a lot more since I no longer have my car in the city and rely on my bike to get me where I need to go, and have a seat on the couch to read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying while drinking a cup of warm Yogi Lemon Ginger tea.

And I think to myself, “I’m such a crunchie hipster!”

Or am I?

Before @robotchampion (and A Clean Life), I did none of these things. Give up my car? I LOVE heated leather seats in the winter. Shop at a farmer’s market on a Sunday morning? I was a notorious Harris Teeter, late evening Tuesday shopper, buying lots premade, packaged everything. Bring a recyclable mug to Starbucks? That just means I have to carry it around and wash the grody thing out. But I did all of these things, and more, and it hasn’t been an impediment on my lifestyle. It’s just required some simple changes in habits.

I don’t think I’m all that unique. I know tons of people who don’t have cars, who compost at home (even if they live in the city), who shop at farmer’s markets and who think bottled water is a joke (I highly recommend watching TAPPED). I have to wonder if my way of living isn’t such an extraordinary extremity as it is a market correcting itself from an ungodly and unnecessary level of waste and inefficiency.

So tell me: am I part of the new urban norm or just another crunchie hipster?