Toxic Brew of Chemicals Abound in Wake of Superstorm Sandy
By Paul E McGinniss
In addition to the many lives lost, houses burned, buildings flooded, coastlines ravaged and families displaced, there's a toxic brew of chemicals polluting local waterways.
On Monday night, it was reported that 350,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into Arthur Kill, a waterway that separates Staten Island, New York and New Jersey. The spill occurred after a storage tank burst at a Woodbridge, New Jersey facility owned by Motiva Enterprises LLC, a joint venture of Shell and Saudi Refining Inc.
The AP states, and NY/NJ Baykeeper Debbie Mans confirmed, that secondary containment [walls and berms] around the tanks seems to have captured much of the spill, so apparently only a portion of it went into the Arthur Kill, not all of it. According to the AP, Woodbridge, New Jersey environmental officials report 336,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled after a storage tank was lifted and ruptured by superstorm Sandy's surge.
The Coast Guard says all the spilled oil is believed to be contained by booms put in the water. Coast Guard spokesman Les Tippets says a secondary tank caught most of the oil and that the liquid that escaped moved into the Arthur Kill.
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese says the company reported the spill and hired contractors to clean it up.
“While secondary barriers and quick Coast Guard response appear to have captured much of the spill, Shell and Saudi Refining must now be held responsible for the cleanup and any environmental damage to the Arthur Kill. Once cleanup and recovery efforts from this storm are complete, New York and New Jersey must make it a priority to expand protections at storage facilities like this, to deal with the ever-increasing risk of similar spills in the future,” said Paul Gallay, Hudson Riverkeeper.
It's not just the Arthur Kill waterway that has been affected by toxic spills from Sandy. The entire region is seeing a toxic fallout, just like New Orleans experienced when more than 11 million gallons of oil were spilled after Katrina.
"The impact of Sandy’s storm surge is enormous, causing widespread pollution of the Hudson River and New York Harbor by a variety of toxic chemicals, including petroleum and fluids from cars and boats; contaminants from flooded subways, roads, parking lots and tunnels; and contaminants washed from shoreline industrial sites, as well as commercial and residential buildings," said Gallay. "Oil sheens and debris have been observed—everything from 55-gallon drums and quart-sized containers of transmission fluid to wrecked boats and swamped vehicles with leaking fuel tanks."
Filmmaker Josh Tickell, director of The Big Fix and New Orleans native, said today, "At the time of Katrina, no one wanted to admit how much oil had been spilled. Official estimates now are maybe only 11 million gallons, but many estimate the total oil spilled because of Katrina at the same amounts as the Exxon Valdez. Most have forgotten that oil spilled during Katrina, and most will forget the oil spilled from Sandy. They will continue to forget until it is in their backyard."
Amy Mall from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) brings up yet another major concern when it comes to super storms and water contamination. How safe are fracking and wastewater disposal sites when hit by severe storms?
Toxic fracking wastewater is often stored in open air pits close to homes. Pursuant to the Clean Water Act, these facilities are required to prepare, amend and implement spill prevention plans. But, the NRDC reports in Big Storms and Fracking: What's at Stake, that in Fiscal Year 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials visited 120 oil and gas development sites and found 105 were out of compliance with the law. A whopping 87.5 percent of sites are an accident waiting to happen.
"This is all increasingly terrifying as Sandy bear[ed] down on the Marcellus region, where there are many open pits filled with fracking and related waste. Because the oil and gas industry is also exempt from our hazardous waste laws, no one knows exactly how dangerous the waste at any particular site might be," says Mall.
"Now that the initial storm has passed, New York and New Jersey are dealing with the dangerous consequences of polluted waterways from raw sewage and industrial chemicals," said Marc Yaggi, excutive director of Waterkeeper Allinace. "Clearly our cities are not ready for this type of superstorm as climate change is leading to more extreme weather than we are prepared to deal with."
It's time our elected officials prioritize climate change and pass the policies that will protect our water, transition our country to relying on clean, renewable energy, and reverse the impacts of global warming.
Paul E McGinniss is The New York Green Advocate. He is a green building consultant and real estate broker in New York. He is pretty much obsessed with all things environment and has lately become a resiliency addict.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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