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Duke Energy Coal Ash Ponds Contaminate Wells, Residents Told Not to Drink the Water
Consequences of Duke Energy's massive coal ash spill into North Carolina's Dan River last February are still being felt, as dozens of residents near the site have been warned by state officials Tuesday not to drink or cook with the water from wells after tests results showed toxic contamination, according to a report from the Associated Press.
Most private wells near Duke Energy’s NC coal ash ponds contaminated http://t.co/kDyc48F7dc pic.twitter.com/vIT9pRv7CZ via @theobserver
— SELC (Envrnmntl Law) (@selc_org) April 22, 2015
Eighty-seven private wells near eight of Duke's plants showed results that failed to meet state groundwater standards, the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources said. In documents received by the AP, test results showed readings for vanadium—a possible carcinogenic to humans, and a chemical linked to neurological and developmental problems in lab animals—as high as 86 times the state groundwater standard of 0.3 parts per billion.
This unsettling report comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Duke both announced the cleanup’s completion in July.
The AP also reported that three Duke Energy employees supplied bottled water for some residents in November and allegedly told them to keep it secret from their neighbors.
"They asked us to not say anything," Levene Mahaley, 83, who has lived near Duke's Buck power plant since 1954 told the AP. "Just don't mention it, that we're getting water. I was surprised, but we didn't ask any questions at the time." Test results from Mahaley's well showed readings for vanadium as high as 26 parts per billion.
When the AP asked Duke about the incident, spokeswoman Erin Culbert said the company was "not aware of any expectation" that the Mahaley residence was to stay quiet.
Test results came from private wells near Duke's Buck, Allen, Asheville, Belews Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Roxboro and Sutton power plants, where coal ash is stored. Several residents near the plants received a state letter about contamination in their well water.
Example of what residents are getting in the mail about toxins found in well water near Duke coal ash ponds. @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/Wv1HXP4Ljf
— Jenna Deery (@JennaWSOC9) April 22, 2015
Duke believes that chemicals found in the private wells are occurring naturally. “Based on the test results we’re reviewed thus far, we have no indication that Duke Energy plant operations have influenced neighbors’ well water,” the company said in a statement.
Environmental advocates, however, are crying foul. "For more than a year, Duke Energy has repeatedly denied even the possibility of drinking water contamination from its leaking coal ash dumps." Pete Harrison a staff attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance told EcoWatch. "Now we're learning that Duke has known at least since last October that toxic heavy metals associated with coal ash is showing up in the water people are drinking."
Despite the test results and advice to not use the water for drinking or cooking, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the well water would still meet federal standards for municipal water supplies in nearly all cases.
"All the while, Governor McCrory's administration has been complicit in sweeping this critical information under the rug, so it's no surprise that his Department of Environment and Natural Resources is refusing to take control of the situation and ensure that all affected residents have clean, safe water to drink," Harrison added.
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
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