drinking water

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What’s the deal with the water in Flint, MI?

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By Dylan Lenzen

There seems to be no relief for those who call Flint, MI home. Residents there have been victims of some extremely shortsighted management decisions, driven by supposed cost-savings, for which residents have been forced to pay for in the form of horrendous health effects. The latest result of these decisions has been the declaration of a state of emergency in order to cope with the fallout.

It all started when city officials decided to stop purchasing drinking water from Detroit in April 2014, with plans for building a new pipeline to draw drinking water from Lake Huron. The only problem is that the pipeline is not set to be completed until 2016, which meant that in the meantime, drinking water would come from the Flint River. Almost immediately after making the switch, residents began complaining of negative health effects including skin lesions, hair loss, chemical-induced hypertension, vision loss and depression. There were also repeated detections of elevated levels of coliform bacteria and trihalomethanes, for which the side-effects of ingestion include liver and kidney issues, as well as cancer.

Despite these warning signs and repeated demands of residents to switch back to Detroit drinking water, City leaders did nothing more than treat the water with excess amounts of chlorine and administer boil advisories. City officials repeatedly made claims throughout this period that the water remained safe to drink. At the same time, residents who noticed discoloration of the water and continued to experience horrible health effects took all steps possible to avoid drinking the water. As a result, residents were forced to choose between purchasing large quantities of costly bottled water to protect their families, or pay later in the form of health consequences from drinking the highly toxic Flint River water.

In September of this year, the complaints of city residents were supported by the release of a key study on blood lead levels of Flint children. Over the 18 months that this saga has unfolded, the number of children experiencing above average levels of lead in their blood has more than doubled.

Following the release of this troubling study, Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, finally made the decision to come up with the necessary funds to switch back to Detroit water. In addition, a state of emergency has been declared by Flint mayor, Karen Weaver, in recognition of these results and the inadequate amount of special education and mental health services needed to deal with them.

Parents and other city residents have filed a lawsuit, seeking damages for the irreversible effects of lead toxicity that the decision to source water from the Flint River has created. In the words of Flint residents filing the lawsuit, “the deliberately false denials about the safety of the Flint River was as deadly as it was arrogant.”


AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER

“You can get cancer”: Uranium contaminates water in the West

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FRESNO, Calif. – In a trailer park tucked among irrigated orchards that help make California’s San Joaquin Valley the richest farm region in the world, 16-year-old Giselle Alvarez, one of the few English-speakers in the community of farmworkers, puzzles over the notices posted on front doors: There’s a danger in their drinking water.


AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER

Read More at CBS News


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New study indicates gas drilling could impact rivers, streams

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Depending on where and how it’s done, natural gas drilling does have the potential to impact Pennsylvania’s waterways, an independent study reveals.

Kenneth M. Klemow, professor of biology and environmental science and director of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research at Wilkes University, was one of the contributors to a new study examining how natural gas development affects surface water, such as creeks, streams and rivers.

In their paper, “Stream Vulnerability to Widespread and Emergent Stressors: A Focus on Unconventional Oil and Gas,” Klemow and five colleagues look at how vulnerable the bodies of water are in the six main shale plays across the U.S., including the Marcellus Shale.

“What we’ve developed is a predictive model,” Klemow said. “We have not proven anything about whether shale gas development is affecting streams or not.”

Watersheds are areas from which all the water beneath it or on it drains into the same place, whether creek, stream, river or lake. Surface water is used for drinking water, recreation, and feeds into fisheries, Klemow said.

Read more from Standard Speaker

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State’s instructions for sampling drinking water for lead “not best practice”

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“The Flint water crisis has uncovered all kinds of details about how cities test the safety of their drinking water. In particular, critics say the state is giving bad advice on testing drinking water for lead. The state of Michigan tells cities to do something called pre-flushing. The instructions tell people to turn on their cold water tap and let it run for five minutes (that’s the pre-flushing part). Then, people are supposed to wait six hours before taking their water sample.

Critics say pre-flushing is one of many practices used to skirt the intent of the EPA’s lead and copper rule. Lee Anne Walters wants to see the rules changed. Her four-year-old son had elevated lead levels in his blood after Flint started using the Flint River as a water source. “I want the loopholes for the lead and copper rule out. I’m not going to stop until that happens,” she says. She’s speaking at a national meeting this week in Virginia about proposed revisions to the lead and copper rule…”

Find out more from Michigan Radio.

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Shallow fracking raises questions for water, new Stanford research shows

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Investigations show that drinking water sources may be threatened by thousands of shallow oil and gas wells mined with hydraulic fracturing.

Shallow fracking raises questions for water, new Stanford research shows

Stanford, California – The United States now produces about as much crude oil as Saudi Arabia does, and enough natural gas to export in large quantities. That’s thanks to hydraulic fracturing, a mining practice that involves a rock-cracking pressurized mix of water, sand and chemicals.

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Shade Balls to help Save California Drought

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The drought in California is effecting the environment and society significantly. By reducing evaporation these Shade Balls can save around 300 million gallons of water! “Read More

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A Story of Two Academics Involved with Shale gas

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Check out this radio segment on shale gas and two academics involved with it. Terry Engelder, a geologist at Penn State, estimated the amount of natural gas recoverable from the Marcellus shale. Conrad “Dan”  Volz from the University of Pittsburgh calculated the amount of toxic crap that gets into our water supplies because of fracking at the Marcellus shale, a message not kindly received by the industry. Engelder has found internationally acclaim, Volz is now out of a job.

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Top 5 Toxic PVC Stories in the News

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amagill

Lists, lists, I love lists.  Here are my 5 toxic PVC stories that have been making the rounds in the news, compiled by yours truly.  Some of these are just unbelievable.

1) Cancer-causing vinyl chloride in drinking water – yup, thanks to PVC pipes

A new study by researchers from Cornell University, Stanford University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute found cancer-causing vinyl chloride in water carried by PVC pipes.   The vinyl industry’s line is that the vinyl chloride is bound to the plastic and doesn’t leach.  Well tell that to these scientists who found:

“PVC/CPVC pipe reactors in the laboratory and tap samples collected from consumers homes (n=15) revealed vinyl chloride accumulation in the tens of ng/L range after a few days and hundreds of ng/L after two years. While these levels did not exceed the EPA’s maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 2 μg/L, many readings that simulated stagnation times in homes (overnight) exceeded the MCL-Goal of 0 μg/L.”

Many other studies have previously found that PVC pipes can also leach toxic organotins into water.

2) WikiLeaks: U.S. Congress members lobbied for vinyl products deemed unsafe by China

Reuters broke the story (thanks to Wikileaks) about how members of Congress lobbied the Chinese government on behalf of healthcare giant Baxter to not restrict the use of phthalates and PVC in China.  According to Reuters:

“Mark Kirk, then a House Republican from Illinois, and Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington — returned to Beijing, only this time they had an entirely different message. Kirk and Larsen asked Chinese officials to look the other way as an American company failed to meet regulations restricting the use of a toxic chemical in medical equipment sold to Chinese hospitals.

The company, Baxter Healthcare, was making blood bags for intravenous delivery using polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a plastic softener that has been banned in some other parts of the world. A chemical found in PVC has been shown to build up in humans, causing developmental defects in children, among other things. The European Union banned the chemical in question — commonly known as DEHP — from all household products this year.

According to the diplomatic cables, China was seeking to do the same for its hospitals. Its regulators had already stipulated that new IV bags must be manufactured without PVCs.

On behalf of Baxter, however, the two Congressmen pressed the Chinese commerce minister to buy time for the company, which was the third largest contributor to Kirk’s 2008 reelection campaign.”

3) Are toxic PVC fires killing firefighters?

The Hamilton Spectator ran a terrific story looking at the ongoing health problems suffered by firefighters that fought the infamous Plastimet fire, where at least 400 tonnes of PVC plastic burned for four days.   The facility was storing bales of “jet trimmings” from a manufacturer of automobile interiors. Analysis of soot and ash samples after the PVC fire at the plant, revealed levels of dioxin 66 times higher than permitted even for industrial land. This one fire increased the annual dioxin emissions for the whole of Canada by 4 percent in 1997. Residents were advised not to eat local garden produce or allow their children to play on the grass.

Now, some of these firefighters that battled this blaze have died from massive heart failures.  For years, folks have been sounding the alarm that emissions from the burning of PVC plastic waste could cause health problems for these brave first responders.

4) If it’s good enough for Europe…

The European Union has adopted sweeping new regulations banning PVC-laden cadmium products.  According to Plastics News:

“As regards PVC, the new regulations ban the sale in the EU of such plastics where cadmium content is greater than 0.01 percent by weight of the plastic material. That said, there is an exemption for plastic mixtures manufactured from waste containing PVC – with the new regulation quoting a higher 0.1 percent limit for certain construction products – although these would have to be a labeled with a pictogram warning that they were made with waste PVC.”

“The also ban the use of cadmium in concentrations greater than 0.01 percent by weight in costume jewelry, beads, hair accessories, brooches and cufflinks, all of which can also include plastics.”

5) Even the chemical industry is stopping production of phthalates

Chemical manufacturer Eastman Chemical will no longer manufacture and supply two key phthalates – DEP and DBP.  According to a company spokesperson, these phthalates “no longer form part of our strategic growth plans or vision of the future.”

There you have it.  Any ones I missed?