Clean Water Action and Three Rivers Waterkeeper filed in federal district court today a settlement of their case against the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport, Pa. The two groups had filed a lawsuit in July 2011 under the Clean Water Act seeking an end to McKeesport’s acceptance and discharge of wastewater from Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations.
Under the settlement, McKeesport has agreed to stop accepting any deliveries of Marcellus Shale wastewater at their plant. Additionally, if McKeesport decides in the future that they want to accept oil and gas wastewater, they will have to apply for a permit under the federal Clean Water Act through the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), subject to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval. Any proposed permit would also undergo public review and comment. The settlement covers both shale gas wastewater and coal bed methane wastewater discharges.
“We are pleased to be able to reach this agreement with McKeesport. Putting an end to the practice of dumping Marcellus Shale wastewater in our rivers is crucial to protecting our drinking water supplies and to ensuring our rivers continue their recovery from years of neglect,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania State director for Clean Water Action.
“The result of this case shows that citizens do have the power to take ownership over the conditions in our rivers. This case was a great example of people coming together to stop even more destructive pollution of our waters,” said Kim Teplitzky, director of Three Rivers Waterkeeper.
The legal settlement reached between Clean Water Action, Three Rivers Waterkeeper and the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport can be downloaded by clicking here.
While the state DEP has asked gas drilling companies to voluntarily stop sending their wastewater to plants such as McKeesport that discharge to Pennsylvania rivers, no mandatory restrictions have been placed on drilling companies. In addition, DEP never asked for even voluntary action by sewage treatment plants to end their acceptance and discharge of Marcellus wastewater.
“While a number of treatment plants have stated that they will not accept any more Marcellus wastewater, we are aware of a few plants that continue to do so. Without agreements like the one we have reached with McKeesport, there is nothing to stop treatment plants from continuing this practice which contaminates our rivers and drinking water supplies,” Arnowitt said.
In September 2011, EPA issued Administrative Orders and Information Requests to 13 wastewater treatment facilities in Pennsylvania. EPA’s Order and Request required these facilities to certify that they are no longer accepting any oil and gas wastewater. Facilities that do not sign the certification are required to submit to EPA sampling data from their wastewater discharge covering common drilling wastewater contaminants.
To date, only three plants signed EPA’s certification stating that they no longer accept oil and gas wastewater: Allegheny Valley Joint Sewage Authority, Clairton Municipal Authority and the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority. Seven plants have sent sampling data from their discharge indicating that they are not willing to certify that they no longer accept oil and gas wastewater: Brockway Area Sewage Authority, Dominion Transmission Corp., Minard Run Oil Co., Borough of Ridgway, Hart Resource Technologies (Creekside), PA Brine (Franklin) and PA Brine (Josephine). Three plants have not responded to EPA: Gas and Oil Management Assoc., Great Lakes Energy Partners, New Castle Oil Co.
This is the first time a federal court case has been filed to stop the current discharge of Marcellus drilling wastewater in Pennsylvania. The suit claimed that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) bypassed Clean Water Act permitting rules by allowing McKeesport to discharge without proper treatment up to 100,000 gallons per day of Marcellus drilling wastewater into the Monongahela River, which supplies drinking water for nearly half a million people, including a portion of the City of Pittsburgh.
Pennsylvania enacted new rules in 2010 that set strict treatment standards for the discharging of oil and gas wastewater. However, the regulations grandfathered in all existing plants in Pennsylvania that discharged to rivers and streams. To date, only one treatment plant operating in the state can meet the new standard.
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The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.
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By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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