Clean up at site contaminated by dry cleaners advances

Dry cleaners seem to be everywhere. We all use them, and couldn't imagine keeping our non-washable garments in top shape. Unfortunately, some of these businesses experience leaks of cleaning solution which can cause serious soil and groundwater contamination. One such site in New Jersey is being remediated under the federal Superfund program. This happens when those responsible for the contamination are no longer in business, and can't be made to fund the clean up. This site is estimated to cost more than 18 million dollars to remediate! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to clean up contaminated soil and ground water at the site (White Swan Cleaners/Sun Cleaners Superfund site) in Wall Township, Manasquan Borough and Sea Girt, New Jersey. Previous dry cleaning operations in Wall Township caused the contamination of the soil and ground water with volatile organic compounds, including perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE). Exposure to these chemicals can have serious health impacts, including liver damage and increased risk of cancer. The plan proposed will require the excavation and treatment of contaminated soil and the treatment of some ground water.

Human Activity Negatively Impacts Water Chemistry

A recent study, published in Environmental Science and Technology journal and funded by NASA Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems, the National Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research Program, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation reported that human activity is a major factor behind acid rain and alkalinization of 97 different waterways along the east coast.

The Promise of Fusion Power – update

Wouldn't it be great to have abundant, clean power that doesn't contribute to climate change? That is the promise of fusion power. Practical fusion power remains elusive, but advances in creating self-sustaining fusion reactions and harnessing its power continue to occur. In the early morning hours of Aug.13, Lawrence Livermore's National Ignition Facility (NIF) focused all 192 of its ultra-powerful laser beams on a tiny deuterium-tritium filled capsule. In the nanoseconds that followed, the capsule imploded and released a neutron yield of nearly 3x1015, or approximately 8,000 joules of neutron energy -- approximately three times NIF's previous neutron yield record for cryogenic implosions. The primary mission of NIF is to provide experimental insight and data for the National Nuclear Security Administration's science-based stockpile stewardship program. The experiment attained conditions not observed since the days of underground nuclear weapons testing and represents an important milestone in the continuing demonstration that the stockpile can be kept safe, secure and reliable without a return to testing.

Trinidad and Tobago: A Biodiversity Hotspot Overlooked

The two-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean (just off the coast of Venezuela) may be smaller than Delaware, but it has had an outsized role in the history of rainforest conservation as well as our understanding of tropical ecology. Home to an astounding number of tropical ecosystems and over 3,000 species and counting (including 470 bird species in just 2,000 square miles), Trinidad and Tobago is an often overlooked gem in the world's biodiversity. "In the last 100 years, work in these forests was instrumental in deciphering principles we now take for granted. For example: echolocation in bats, animal chemical defenses and mimicry," Nigel Noriega, the director of Sustainable Innovation Initiatives (SSI) told adding that the "Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve is under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is on record as the world's oldest legally protected forest reserve geared specifically towards a conservation purpose.

Save the World’s Rarest Cat By Doing One Thing, Say Researchers

Conservationists can ensure the world's rarest wild cat escapes extinction by doing one simple thing, say researchers — but they need to do it soon. What's the secret? Start factoring in the effects of climate change when deciding how to save endangered species, says a new study. For the Iberian lynx, the most endangered wild feline of all, conservationists had better hurry. There are only 300 or so left in the wild. The Iberian lynx lives now only in two small areas of Spain's Andalusian region. At one time it was plentiful throughout Spain, Portugal and southern France. Years of habitat loss, poaching and a diminished food supply have decimated its numbers. Should it become extinct, the Iberian lynx will be the first wild cat to do so in 2,000 years.

Planting trees in deserts to fight climate change

Planting trees in coastal deserts could capture carbon dioxide, reduce harsh desert temperatures, boost rainfall, revitalise soils and produce cheap biofuels, say scientists. Large-scale plantations of the hardy jatropha tree, Jatropha curcas, could help sequester carbon dioxide through a process known as 'carbon farming', according to a study based on data gathered in Mexico and Oman that was published in Earth System Dynamics. Each hectare of the tree could soak up 17-25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, they say, at a cost of 42-63 euros (about US$56-84) per tonne of gas, the paper says. This makes the technique competitive with high-tech carbon capture and storage.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Electric vehicles will catch on when there are enough charging stations to make their widespread use really practical, and manufacturers will offer more EV's for sale when there is a market for them! I love driving my Tesla Model S, but have to admit that for some overnight trips I take an older internal combustion engine powered car since it is still hard to find a hotel with a charging station that I can plug in to for a battery top-off. So which comes first, more electric cars, or more charging stations? There has been a massive increase in the number of electric vehicles and complimentary products released into the marketplace over the last few weeks. There is now growing suspicion that a number of EV manufacturers, and electric car charging companies, have been holding back products and services until they deemed the market was open to new ideas and new products. This may seem a little bizarre when you consider that the EV businesses will want to see as quick a return as possible or on their investments but every day now we see new products and new services being released. While the Tesla Model S certainly caught the headlines when released earlier this year we have also seen BMW introduce its first mainstream electric vehicle, Chevrolet look to reduce the headline cost of its vehicles and earlier this week we saw the introduction of a foldaway electric car. At this moment in time there is a constant flurry of new innovations and new products to the marketplace and while they are catching the headlines today we can only hope the industry does not run out of steam.

Smartphones could provide weather data in poor nations

Smartphones can now be used to collect weather data such as air temperatures through WeatherSignal, a crowdsourcing app developed by UK start-up OpenSignal. This helps crowdsource real-time weather forecasts and could one day help collect climate data in areas without weather stations, its developers say. Once installed, the app automatically collects data and periodically uploads them to a server.

California’s Redwoods face new threat

California is a magnificent state, with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It is also home to some of the most magnificent trees in the world, the giant Redwoods. These trees have survived for millennia, fending off attacks from diseases and fire. Now they face a new threat, the combined effects of sudden oak death and fire. Usually resistant to the effects of wildfires, California's coast redwoods are now burning as fast as other trees. Why? To find answers, plant pathologist David Rizzo of the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and colleagues monitored more than 80,000 hectares of forests near Big Sur, Calif. In their plots, tanoaks, California bay laurels and coast redwoods grow. The study began in 2006. "In 2008, almost half our plots were burned by wildfires that lasted the better part of a month," says Rizzo. That was the beginning of the end for many coast redwoods, surprising researchers who expected the trees to be fire-proof.

85% of Brazilian leather goes to markets sensitive to environmental concerns

Around 40% of beef and 85% of leather production serve markets that are potentially sensitive to environmental concerns, providing a partial explanation as to why Brazilian producers have made recent commitments to reducing deforestation for cattle production, finds a new study published in Tropical Conservation Science. The research, conducted by Nathalie Walker and Sabrina Patel of the National Wildlife Federation and Kemel Kalif of Amigos da Terra - Amazônia Brasileira, used government data to estimate the proportion of beef and leather production that ends up in environmentally-sensitive markets. They find that the vast majority of leather exports "could be considered to be susceptible to demand for deforestation-free products."