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Entries in pollution (34)


Judge Rules BP Grossly Negligent in Gulf Oil Spill

BP could be fined the largest penalty ever levied under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

That’s because U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier recently ruled that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico occurred because of the company’s gross negligence, meaning BP could be liable for as much as $18 billion in pollution fines.

 That amount is far more than the $3.5 billion that the company had set aside and, according to the Wall Street Journal, “would easily exceed the biggest previous fine under the statute.”

That amount was based on BP’s belief that the court would rule the company liable for simple negligence. But a verdict of gross negligence means a fine of as much as $4,300 for each barrel of crude oil spilled in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The judge could decide on lower penalties per barrel, but still the amount is likely to surpass the previous CWA record of $1 billion paid by Transocean Ltd, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

“More than four years after the BP oil disaster, today’s ruling is a vital step towards restoring important waterfowl and fishing habitat for the next generation of sportsmen and women,” said Vanishing Paradise, a coalition of about 800 hunting and fishing organizations advocating for restoration of the Mississippi River Delta and the gulf.

“The oil spill tarnished hundreds of miles of coastline and marshes important to fresh and saltwater fishing and waterfowling. The areas most damaged by the spill cannot wait any longer for restoration to begin. Recreational fishing is a critical component of the Gulf economy generating $8 billion annually.

“In Louisiana alone, some 10 million ducks, geese and other waterfowl winter along the coast and depend on healthy marshes. We must invest penalty monies in real restoration projects that clean up and restore the waters and coastal habitat that are the backbone of the Gulf region’s economy.”


More Drugs = More Complications for Our Fisheries

Scientists are just now beginning to explore in-depth the impact of prescription drugs and their residue being flushed into our fisheries by wastewater treatment plants.

And plenty of those chemicals are finding their way into lakes and rivers too, as treatment plants aren’t equipped to filter out such pollutants and nearly half of the population takes a prescription drug each month. In fact, more than 20 percent take three or more monthly, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

As I’ve reported at Activist Angler, most of the news is not good. Check out Scientists Find More Mutated Intersex Fish in Nation’s Waters.

“We’re finding in our study that it (synthetic female hormone found in many drugs) can wipe out fish populations over several generations, and it’s the male fish that are most affected,” says Kristen Keteles, a toxicologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Denver.

But now here’s an interesting twist and possibly good news:

Researchers in Europe have determined that a drug commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia in humans reduces mortality in Eurasian perch.

Or maybe that’s not such good news after all:

Increased survival of one species could lead to a proportional increase in mortality of another, possibly one that is the prey of the former. As anglers well know, bass and other predators experienced diminished health and growth when there’s not enough food to go around.

“A new, conceptual view of ecotoxicological testing should include the possibility that a substance can improve the health of an organism and make individuals affected by contamination more competitive than non-affected individuals,” said one of the authors of the study.

"Even though our study focused on one single pharmaceutical contaminant, it is possible that similar effects could be induced by exposure to a whole range of pharmaceuticals that find their way into surface waters, such as antibiotics, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, hormones and antidepressants.”

How to dispose of medicines properly


Prescription Drugs Harm Fisheries

Nearly half of the population took a prescription drug during the past 30 days, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics from 2007-2010. Additionally, more than 20 percent took three or more prescription drugs during that period. I’d wager that both percentages have gone up since because, as a society, we’re taking more drugs, not fewer.

 If they improve our health, what could be wrong with that? Well, consider this: a potent synthetic female hormone used in many of those drugs could be harming fish and other aquatic life.

“We’re finding in our study that it can wipe out fish populations over several generations, and it’s the male fish that are most affected,” says Kristen Keteles, a toxicologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Denver.

“Some studies have found that male fish below wastewater treatment plants, and exposed to female hormones, can lose their masculine characteristics and become indistinguishable from females. Our new study found that a potent form of the female hormone estrogen used in prescription drugs not only causes the males to look female, it also appears to be toxic to male fish and these effects may impact future generations of fish.

“Where do these hormones and medications come from? All of us. Humans excrete hormones and medications, which often end up in our rivers and streams from sewage.

“Disposing of medications by flushing can also contribute to pharmaceuticals in the environment.

“A growing human population, combined with effects of climate change like decreasing precipitation, has resulted in many streams containing higher concentrations of waste water. In fact, some streams in the west are 90% waste water. Not a nice thought if you like to kayak and fish, like I do.”

 Read more here. 

And here is how to properly dispose of medications.


Pollution Reduced, But Goals Not Reached for Cleaning Up Chesapeake Bay

Progress is being made in reducing the pollution flowing into Chesapeake Bay, according to a report. But the news is not all good, as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) announced, “Many jurisdictions fell short in implementing practices that reduce pollution from agricultural sources and urban and suburban polluted runoff.”

In 2010, the Bay states--- Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia --- and the Environmental Protect Agency set pollution limits that would restore water quality in the Bay, as well as the rivers that feed it. Additionally, the states made two-year milestone commitments to take specific actions to ensure progress was being made to achieve the agreed-upon pollution reductions.

Reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants exceeded 2013 goals, but “our analysis shows that implementation of some important practices like forested buffers and urban stream restoration lag behind what is necessary to achieve long-term goals,” CBF said.

What’s at risk if those long-term goals aren’t achieved? The list is long. For starters, there are the multi-million-dollar bass fisheries in the Bay’s many tributaries, with the Potomac being the most notable.

And how about this? Five-hundred million pounds of seafood are harvested each year from the Bay. Also, it’s one of the few places left in the world where an industry exists harvesting oysters from the wild.

Additionally, this unique ecosystem supplies as much as 1/3 of the nation’s blue crabs annually, and striper fishing carries an economic value to the area of about $500 million per year.

“We are not on pace anywhere to meet our 2017 and 2025 goals,” said Jill Witkowski, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. “If we’re planning to run a race, so far we’ve done a good job on our couch to 5k. But if we want to run a marathon, we have a long way to go.”

Runoff from farms is one of the biggest threats to the continued health of the Bay, as close to one-quarter of the land in its watershed is devoted to agriculture. Thus, it is the single largest source of nutrient and sediment pollution entering the Bay.

“While conventional tillage, fertilizers and pesticides can be beneficial to crops, their excessive use can pollute rivers and streams, pushing nutrients and sediment into waterways,” CBF said.

Key Findings:

• Maryland met or exceeded five of seven selected goals, including animal waste management systems, forest buffers, grass buffers, upgrading stormwater systems and septic regulations. It failed to meet tree-planting goals and didn't set a goal for urban forest buffers.

• Delaware reached or surpassed four of its seven selected goals, wetland restoration, cover crops, bioretention and urban tree planting. It fell short on animal waste management, grass buffers and septic system connections.

• Virginia met two of eight milestones evaluated: stream access control with fencing and urban stream restoration. It fell short on forest buffers, conservation tillage, composite agricultural practices, modern stormwater practices, urban nutrient management and composite urban practices.


Ohio Stops Federal Attempt to Dump Contaminated Sediment in lake Erie

According to Port of Cleveland, enough sediment is dredged from the Cuyahoga River each year to fill a major league baseball stadium 30 feet deep.

Ohio state environmental officials don’t like a federal proposal to dump sediment from the Cuyahoga River and Cleveland Harbor in the open-water of Lake Erie. Because of its contamination, the Cuyahoga because infamous as “the river that caught fire” in 1969 and helped provide the impetus for passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Dredged sediment from the once heavily polluted river has not been discarded in Lake Erie for 40 years.

“We have deep concerns,” said Mike Settles, a spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which disagrees with federal testing methods and argues that the sediments “objectively and unambiguously fail” to meet federal PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) limits, making them a threat to fish. The state also is worried about levels of residual DDT, a pesticide, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

As a consequence, the state has ruled that the sediment must be placed in an existing disposal facility near Burke Lakefront Airport, not in the middle of the lake.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers argued that moving the dredged sediment to areas 5 to 9 miles offshore would create “no significant impact.” It added that sediment “has improved to the point that it now meets U.S. EPA/USACE guidelines for open-lake placement.”

Despite requests from both sides to help mediate, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency avoided involvement.

Local environmental groups, however, sided squarely with the state.

“It’s a terrible idea,” said Nathan Johnson from the Ohio Environmental Council. “It could increase toxicity in Lake Erie fish. It’s just a bad idea.”

Settles added that the state agency is evaluating alternative plans with less or no environmental impact, as it considers the dredging request.

Since 1974, sediments from the river have been placed in manmade containment areas along the shoreline of Lake Erie, with no in-lake dumping permitted because of contaminants. But sediments from several lake communities, including Toledo, Ashtabula, and Erie (Pa.) have been dumped into the lake in recent years.