East Coast of Vancouver Island

East Coast of Vancouver Island
Natural Beauty is Worth Preserving

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Cdn Energy Board stops Enbridge push to the east


B. McPherson

Enbridge Group that moves petroleum products has faced stiff opposition from environmentalists in its push to move Tar Sands bitumen to Canada’s coastlines. Increasing opposition from British Columbians to their scheme to build a pipeline to the Pacific Coast has them looking at pipelines to the east that they already control.

Those pipelines have been configured to carry refined, imported oil from the Atlantic Coast, west to Ontario and Quebec.

Enbridge has applied to reconfigure them to carry the sandy petroleum product to the coastal refineries on the Atlantic coast or for export to foreign countries. The plan was to start moving the diluted bitumen(dilbit) in Line 9B in November.

While one of the things that Enbridge likes to emphasize in attempting to convince people that their pipelines would be an asset, is the safety of moving petroleum products by pipeline. Today the Canadian Energy Board put paid to that premise when they ruled that Enbridge’s proposal to reverse the flow in their aging pipelines has not met safety regulations.

One of the demands of the Energy Board was to have all major waterways protected in the case of a pipeline breach. The requirement calls for protection of the waterways by the installation of shut off valves within a kilometre, one on each side of the waterway. The Energy Board in their letter advising Enbridge of their ruling notes that only six of the 104 required valves have been installed and that some of them are 10 kilometres or more from the waterways.

The Board also stated that just because Enbridge people state that a waterway is not major, that isn’t necessarily so.

Upon review, the Board is not persuaded that Enbridge meets the requirements of Condition 16 of the Order and therefore, the  Board does not approve Enbridge’s submissions. Energy Board of Canada

Enbridge Inc. is the major mover of petroleum products in Canada.
                                                                
Sources:
CBC News        

Enbridge Inc.                     

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Sand consumption worldwide reaches crisis stage


B. McPherson

Sand mafia are stealing people's homes
Who would have thought that sand and gravel was in short supply around the globe? Aggregates are as common as dirt, right? Apparently not so and the UN Environmental Programme is sounding the alarm, saying that the extraction of aggregates at this pace is not sustainable. The extraction is also causing widespread environmental damage.

Our modern world relies on the use of sand and gravel in many ways. As much as 59 billion tonnes of the material is mined every year. Sand is the result of millions of years of erosion and wearing away of bedrock. Gravel is just part way in that process. The trade in sand and gravel is a multibillion dollar business, estimated to be in excess of $18 billion each year.

Sand mining is usually done as open pit. Sources for sand may be dunes, beaches, dredged from rivers and glacial deposits. The sand may contain valuable minerals that can be sifted out to use in the chemical industry.

 The US has a massive deposit of silica sand that is funneled into the oil and gas industry to use in fracking. By far the most common use for sand and gravel is in making concrete. Concrete is a mixture of cement, water, sand and gravel. For every tonne of cement used six to seven tonnes of sand and gravel are used. When you think of all the tall buildings being constructed around the world, the scale of consumption starts to become clear.

Qatar, China and India are currently the biggest consumers of sand and gravel. You might well ask why Qatar doesn’t use desert sand in their construction as they have a large supply of it. The wind rounds the grains and makes it unsuitable for binding.

There are environmental and economic consequences when the mining of sand and gravel is not done responsibly. Beach erosion may drive away tourists but the removal of protective dunes may lay homes and property open to storm damage. The living organisms that would live in the sand are destroyed.

Consequences of sand extraction                                   
·         Biodiversity loss
·         Land losses due to material being carted away
·         Water changes, increase in turbidity, water table changes
·         Climate changes mainly due to cement production which produces much CO2
·         Loss of protection from extreme events like storm surges
                                                               

Sources:
Wikipedia       
United Nations Environmental Programme     

Monday, 6 October 2014

Walruses the latest climate refugees


B. McPherson

The world is witnessing the impact that climate warming is having on the walrus population off Alaska’s north west coast. NOAA conducting marine mammal surveys in the area noted a massive haul out of walruses. The beach near Point Lay Alaska is estimated to hold about 35 000 walruses. Mixed together are mature males, much smaller females and babies.

Normally the walruses would rarely come ashore, preferring to whelp and rest on ice floes in the Chukchi Sea. Resting on floating ice gives the animals a safe place to leave their pups while the adult dives up to 200 feet below the surface in search of shellfish and marine worms.

Since 2007 scientists have observed more walruses hauling out on remote beaches, a behavior that has coincided with the retreat of summer ice in the Arctic.

This change in behavior is hard on the walruses. It takes them far away from the prime hunting grounds. The pups risk being crushed from overcrowding or a stampede. They are vulnerable to attack by bears.

Walrus haul outs are also noted off the Russian coast as well.

In N. America walruses are generally safe from hunting. Inuit hunters are exempt from the restrictions but must not take so many as to be wasteful. Hunting of walruses for their ivory is deemed wasteful.  A purveyor of exotic goods in Canada Polar Exotics sells walrus tusks obtained legally from Inuit hunters. The asking price of those advertised ranges in the $300 – 450 price range. They may not be imported into the USA or Mexico. Other countries have differing regulations.

Sources:
The Telegraph       

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Japan nuclear power stations located near volcanoes


B.. McPherson
How many nuclear power stations are near Japan's volcanoes?
Japan currently has 48 nuclear reactors that were designed to produce electricity. Since the destruction of the Fukushima Daiichi complex more than three years ago due to earthquake and tsunami damage, all the other plants have been shut pending thorough safety checks.

On September 27 a volcanic peak, Mount Ontake, unexpectedly erupted killing at least 31 people who were hiking on the slopes. More people may have been killed and buried in the ash. You may well ask what these people were doing on an active volcano. They were assured that Mt. Ontake was safe because the seismic sensors placed on the mountain showed no activity.

There are 110 active volcanoes in Japan.

The Nuclear Regulatory Authority(NRA) has recently given a nuclear facility at Sendai a safety pass – July 16, 2014. Objections raised by those opposed to the reopening of the nuclear stations based partly on its proximity to an active volcano were dismissed. The NRA stated that enough warning of an eruption would be given by seismic detectors placed on Mount Sakurajima. The nuclear power plant is located 50km(31mi.) from the volcano.

The Green Action organization has investigated the safety plans in case of an emergency at the plant. While the scientists in Japan are among the world’s best in dealing with vulcanism, like earthquakes, eruptions are very difficult to predict with any lead time.

Being able to predict the extend of the volcanic eruption and when pyroclastic flow will occur is absolutely necessary because nuclear fuel must be removed from the power plant site beforehand and because this removal takes years to complete. Green Action

The Kyushu Electric company is not alone in having nuclear reactors in close proximity to a volcano. Hokkaido Electric Power Company at Tomari has three reactors near an active caldera.
Referring to the deadly eruption on Friday at Mt. Ontake, the government spokesperson was quoted in the Japan Today News

“This was a steam-driven (eruption) and it has been said it was extremely difficult to predict,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
Asked whether the eruption would require careful assessment of the restart at Sendai, Suga said: “I don’t think so.”
While there is a small chance that a combination of events will send a pyroclastic flow to inundate the Sendai plant, it was an improbable group of events that led to the Fukushima disaster which is still spewing poison over three years later.

 Sources
Bloomberg News         
Green Action         

Japan Today News        

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Greenland’s black snow ominous sign of climate disruptions


B. McPherson


Most of think of Greenland when we think of it at all, is of an almost continent covered in miles of ice. Times are changing and changing fast. For the past couple of decades environmental scientists have been warning of increased melting of the ice. This year, the melting was the greatest recorded.

Scientist Jason Box, working for the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, came back from his summer survey of the ice-cap with stunning photographs that bode ill for the rest of the world. The pristine white snow is black. Not just sprinkled with bits of dark pollution, black. You may find the photos he brought back at the Slate site.

Dark surfaces absorb more heat from the sun than light. The changing surface of Greenland has speeded up the melting of this Arctic refrigerator.

Sources of the dark matter on the Arctic ice can come from many areas. This summer there have been fewer snowstorms to cover dark material, winds circulate air from industrialized countries and deposit bits of pollution on the ice surfaces, wind blown dust finds its way to the Arctic regions and forest fire soot are all factors. This summer saw the largest and most numerous forest fires in the Arctic and boreal areas since records have been kept. Now microbes are adding to the mix, feeding off the particles being swept onto the ice.

How does the dirty ice in Greenland affect us in the lower latitudes? A higher melt rate of the ice leads to more water in the oceans. The ocean levels will rise correspondingly. Also an influx of cold water into the Atlantic Ocean may disrupt ocean currents. Europe and the East Coast of N. America enjoy moderate weather partly because of the warm current known as the Gulf Stream which shuttles warm water north. As ocean currents change so does the biology leading to changes in fishing activities. Our white polar regions act to moderate rising temperatures by reflecting heat from the sun.
For first hand, detailed accounts by the scientists camping on the ice-fields check out Dark Snow Project.

It is ironic that many people are meeting in New York this week to discuss climate change. There are some notable absences. Canada’s PM Stephen Harper has chosen to skip the conference and has sent the M. of the Environment who refrained from discussing the Oil Sands during her speech. China and India were cited for their heavy pollution loads they contribute. Canada’s PM did find time to attend an exclusive New York dinner later.
Sources:                                             
Slate          

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Microbeads from cosmetics are clogging fish guts


B. McPherson


The cosmetic industry is taking a quick turn in their product offerings. The recent phenomenon in the beauty world of offering microbeads in everything from tooth paste to body scrubs is being phased out. By 2018 in the USA most states will have banned their use and the cosmetic companies are listening.

Perhaps in the past you have purchased Crest toothpaste with neat little glitter bits in it. It’s supposed to encourage children to brush their teeth, but adults can use it too. I’ve used it. It’s kind of fun. Turns out the glitter bits are small pieces of coloured plastic. They are not poisonous, but polypropylene is not high of children’s meal menus. Many cosmetics contain tiny plastic beads as well. They have been touted as a way to achieve smooth skin. The organization Beat the Microbead has an extensive list of products that contain these tiny pieces of plastic.

Those tiny pieces of plastic make their way down the drains of the cities and from there to the water treatment plants. Like many of our modern constructs, our sewage treatment plants cannot deal with them and they pass through to eventually land in the ocean or the lakes.

Fish and invertebrates are increasingly showing up with microbeads in their guts. Biologists are starting to wonder how these plastic balls are affecting the health of the animals. There is the potential that fish ingesting enough microballs of plastic may plug their digestive system. Poisoning may result if the plastic contains or has absorbed toxic substances.

Rubbing plastic which is basically another form of petroleum, on your body doesn’t sound nearly as glamourous as microbeads. Try to do what you can to educate yourself about this previously unseen form of pollution and eliminate it from your grooming routine. There are many more nature friendly ways to exfoliate and polish. Sugar scrubs, sea salt rubs, jojoba beads, ground apricot pits all offer a plastic free way to maintain smooth skin.

Sources:

Metro      
5Gyres                  .org5gyres/posts/2014/06/19/breaking_news_federal_legislation_to_ban_plastic_microbeads_in_cosmetics_introduced/   

Saturday, 13 September 2014

GM eggplant released without independent testing


B. McPherson

The development of genetically modified field crops is a lucrative business. Monsanto corporation is often cited as the entity responsible for the proliferation of GM field crops. It is a leader in this industry, but there are many others eager to cash in on the bonanza.

Sometimes that eagerness combined with crop losses in normal plants pushes GM seed release before it has been independently tested for health and environmental risks. Information is now available that puts a shadow on the Bangladeshi government’s approval of four varieties of GM eggplant(brinjal) seeds.

That eagerness to release Bt brinjal(eggplant) to farmers may come with health impacts. The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute(BARI) has admitted that there were no independent health/toxicity tests done before the release of the seed. The reason, or excuse, given was that there were no suitable labs available. Instead, BARI relied on information released by the corporation that had patented the genetically engineered seeds. In this case, Monsanto owns the patents.

The admission that no independent toxicity testing was performed comes after widespread release of information to the public that such independent testing was performed.

 New Zealand epidemiologistLou Gallagher also criticised the feeding trials saying that the raw data indicated toxic effects were associated with the rats fed Bt Brinjal.[20] Concerns have also been raised about a possible conflict of interest, with some of the scientists appointed to the GEAC being involved in developing their own GM products, Wikipedia

The four Bt brinjal varieties were banned in India in 2010 due to concerns about toxic effects.
While brinjal(eggplant, aubergine) production in N. America is not a major crop, it is in Bangladesh. The vegetable is also exported to other Asian countries. Farmers have been coping with a grub that attacks the plants and reduces their yield. The GM plants come with a built in insecticide. There are some concerns that Bt plants also give a dose of insecticide to those who may eat part or all of the plant.
                    
Sources:
GM Watch         
Wikipedia          
Dhaka Tribune        l