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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. Curtis Palmer / CC by 2.0

By Ashutosh Pandey

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.

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A woman ignites the tap water in her kitchen on March 19, 2012 in Granville Summit, Pennsylvania, within the Marcellus Shale region. Melanie Stetson Freeman / The Christian Science Monitor / Getty Images

Pennsylvania regulators failed to protect public health and the environment from pollution and other harms caused by fracking operations, a grand jury investigation concluded.

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Fisherman push their boat during low tide on oily mud in the river at Ogoniland's village of K-Dere, near Bodo, which is part of the Niger Delta region, on Feb. 20, 2019. Decades of oil spills has left the Ogoniland region in southern Nigeria an environmental disaster zone — but now hopes are high of a rebirth of farming, fishing and clean water. YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP / Getty Images

By Jenna McGuire

In 2011, a ground-breaking report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on oil pollution in Ogoniland highlighted the devastating impact of the oil industry in the Niger Delta and made concrete recommendations for clean-up measures and immediate support for the region's devastated communities.

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A 21,000 tonne (approximately 23,000 U.S. ton) oil spill that prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to declare an emergency last week has now reached a pristine Arctic lake, and there are concerns it could contaminate the Arctic Ocean.

Environmentalists and local officials have raised alarms about the disaster, which they say is the worst of its kind in the Russian Arctic, according to BBC News. So far, the oil has spread 12 miles from the initial spill site, a fuel tank that collapsed May 29.

"The fuel has got into Pyasino as well. This is a beautiful lake about 70 kilometres (45 miles) long. Naturally, it has both fish and a good biosphere," Krasnoyarsk region governor Alexander Uss told Interfax news agency Tuesday, as AFP reported.

Lake Pyasino flows into the Pyasina river, which in turn flows into the Arctic Ocean's Kara Sea, BBC News explained.

Greenpeace Russia director Vladimir Chuprov told AFP it would be a "disaster" if 10,000 tonnes (approximately 11,000 U.S. tons) of fuel or more had reached the lake. He said he feared it would reach the Kara Sea as well, which would have "harmful consequences."

Uss, however, was committed to preventing that from happening.

"Now it's important to prevent it from getting into the Pyasina river, which flows north. That should be possible," he said, as BBC News reported.

The news that the spill had reached the lake came a week after a spokeswoman for the team in charge of cleanup efforts told AFP the spill had been contained.

But regional officials told a different story.

"We can see a large concentration of diluted oil products beyond the booms," Krasnoyarsk region deputy environment minister Yulia Gumenyuk said, according to BBC News.

Norilsk Nickel, the company that ultimately owns the power plant where the tank collapsed, denied that any oil had reached the lake.

"Our samples at the Pyasino Lake show 0.0 percent contamination results," Sergei Dyachenko, the company's first vice-president and chief operating officer, said in a Tuesday video conference reported by AFP.

He also said it was unlikely the fuel would reach the ocean.

"The distance from Pyasino Lake to the Kara Sea is more than 5,000 kilometres (approximately 3,107 miles)," he said.

The spill has also contaminated rivers and soil. So far, cleanup efforts have removed 812,000 cubic feet of contaminated dirt, according to BBC News.

"[The spill] will have a negative effect on the water resources, on the animals that drink that water, on the plants growing on the banks," Vasily Yablokov of Greenpeace Russia said, according to BBC News.

The polluted Ambarnaya and Daldykan rivers may take ten years to clean, The Guardian reported.

Norilsk Nickel has said the collapse that caused the spill was probably due to melting permafrost, but environmental groups have accused the company of using the climate crisis to downplay its own culpability.

"It's an attempt to write off Nornickel's failure in risk management and ecological safety on the fashionable topic of climate change," Alexey Knizhnikov of the World Wildlife Fund told The Guardian. "The main factor is mismanagement."

Greenpeace said it had reported on the threat posed by thawing permafrost to oil and gas infrastructure in the fast-warning Russian Arctic as far back as 2009. But Dyachenko said in a conference call Tuesday that the company had not been monitoring the permafrost before the accident.

"It's not possible that the company did not know about [thawing permafrost], but it is possible that the company used a dangerous facility irresponsibly," Greenpeace Russia's Yablokov told The Guardian.

A coke storage area is seen as steam rises from the quench towers at the US Steel Clairton Works on Jan. 21, 2020, in Clairton, Pennsylvania. White plumes of smoke billow above western Pennsylvania's rolling hills as scorching ovens bake coal, which rolls in by the trainload along the Monongahela River. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's claim that the U.S. has the cleanest air and water in the world has been widely refuted by statistics showing harmful levels of pollution. Now, a new biannual ranking released by researchers at Yale and Columbia finds that the U.S. is nowhere near the top in environmental performance, according to The Guardian.

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Jackson Family Wines in California discovered that a huge amount of carbon pollution was caused by manufacturing wine bottles. Edsel Querini / Getty Images

Before you pour a glass of wine, feel the weight of the bottle in your hand. Would you notice if it were a few ounces lighter? Jackson Family Wines is betting that you won't.

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Dominion Resources' coal-fired power plant located in central Virginia beside the James River. Edbrown05 / CC BY-SA 2.5

Corporations that flouted environmental regulations and spewed pollutants into the air and dumped them into waterways will not be required to pay the fines they agreed to during the pandemic, according to The Guardian.

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The Earth's atmosphere. NASA

By Jeremy Deaton

You may have heard about the hole in the ozone layer, which hovers over Antarctica. It has shrunk over time thanks to policies that curbed the use of ozone-depleting chemicals. In the nearly 40 years that NASA has kept track, it has never been smaller. That's the good news.

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There are plenty of things you can do every day to help reduce greenhouse gases and your carbon footprint to make a less harmful impact on the environment. ipopba / Getty Images

By Katie Lambert and Sarah Gleim

The United Nations suggests that climate change is not just the defining issue of our time, but we are also at a defining moment in history. Weather patterns are changing and will threaten food production, and sea levels are rising and could cause catastrophic flooding across the globe. Countries must make drastic actions to avoid a future with irreversible damage to major ecosystems and planetary climate.

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At first sight, it seems more CO₂ can only be beneficial to plants, but things are a lot more complex than that. sarayut Thaneerat / Getty Images

By Sebastian Leuzinger

Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.

If you have a question you'd like an expert to answer, please send it to climate.change@stuff.co.nz

If carbon dioxide levels were to double, how much increase in plant growth would this cause? How much of the world's deserts would disappear due to plants' increased drought tolerance in a high carbon dioxide environment?

Compared to pre-industrial levels, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the atmosphere will have doubled in about 20 to 30 years, depending on how much CO₂ we emit over the coming years. More CO₂ generally leads to higher rates of photosynthesis and less water consumption in plants.

At first sight, it seems more CO₂ can only be beneficial to plants, but things are a lot more complex than that.

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View of a windmill farm in the Tehuantepec Isthmus region, Mexico, on July 27, 2017. PATRICIA CASTELLANOS / AFP / Getty Images

By Sam Edwards

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico is one of the windiest places on earth. Hemmed in by two mountain ranges, the flat strip of land between the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico is a natural wind tunnel. A single gust can flip over cars. It's the perfect place for turbines.

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