O, So Much Pollution

This blog addresses many different issues, but they all have one thing in common: they are problems that are creating because of the things we consume or solutions we could create if we decided to consume in a different way.  These are problems that you probably find being talked about on the daily news, and that shows in the public’s opinion on how serious the problems are environment are. So while the Today show is trying to promote Facebook, I’m going trying to promote the solution to this:

So how can we make our oceans a bit cleaner?

1. Get educated and share your knowledge!

2. Don’t pour oil, engine fluids, cleaners, or household chemicals down storm drains or sinks.

3. Find approved motor oil and household chemical recycling or disposal facilities near your home, and make sure your family and friends use them.

4. Use lawn, garden and farm chemicals sparingly and wisely. Before spreading chemicals or fertilizer, check the weather forecast for rain so they don’t wash away.

5. Repair automobile or boat engine leaks immediately.

6. Don’t litter- trash gets blown in the wind. It’s more likely that it’ll find it’s way to water that covers 70 percent of our earth than to just happen to land in the landfill or even less likely, the trash.  If you find litter pick it up and recycle if you can.

7. The transportation to landfills and recycle centers isn’t always the most environmentally friendly practice. It uses a lot of gas, but also if the trash isn’t covered properly then it flies everywhere which leads to my last point, try to use as little packaging as possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables use less packaging. Use reusable plastic bags. By in bulk or the largest quantity and avoid small individual packages of any product or consumable greatly reduces the amount of paper or boxboard that you buy and throw away. Of course, don’t buy large quantities if the food would spoil before it is used.

8. Reuse any packaging that you can. Save plastic bags, newspapers, packing peanuts, other packing materials and reuse them as packing materials. Use boxes and big containers for storage, by real plates, cups and silverware instead of using plastic.

Click here for more solutions to reduce your use of plastic.

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Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

We watch commercial after commercial of beautiful fountains, waterfalls on a beautiful island that would seem untouched by human filth. They paint us a beautiful picture and they say it can be within your reach, but it comes at a price. It creates a hole in your pocket, a mountain in the landfills and islands in the ocean. What is creating this? Bottled water.

What’s the big deal? Why are people willing to pay an arm and a leg for this ‘magical’ water when there is such a steep price?

That’s just it. It’s shown as ‘magical.

It’s been said time and time again that bottled water taste better, cleaner and is of better quality than tap water. But is it or have just fallen for the same ol’ marketing ploy.

“20/20” took five bottles of national brands of bottled water and a sample of tap water from a drinking fountain in the middle of New York City and sent them to microbiologist Aaron Margolin of the University of New Hampshire to test for bacteria that can make you sick, like e. coli.

“There was actually no difference between the New York City tap water and the bottled waters that we evaluated,” he said.

We asked people to rate the waters as bad, average or great. Lots of people said one of the waters was particularly bad. Was that the tap water? No. Tap water did pretty well. Even people who said they don’t like it, liked it on the blind test.

In our test of bottled waters, Kmart’s American Fare — the cheapest brand — won. Big-seller Aquafina came in second.

Iceland Spring tied the ordinary tap water for third place. Fifth place went to Poland Spring, and in last place, by far, with almost half the testers saying it tasted bad, was the most expensive water — the fancy French stuff, Evian.

http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Health/story?id=728070&page=2

Source after source reads the same way.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/07/27/pepsico.aquafina.reut/  http://www.treehugger.com/clean-water/bottled-sold-the-story-behind-our-obsession-with-bottled-water.html

http://www.ehso.com/ehshome/DrWater/drinkingwater.php#Overview

Fiji water is always the most tempting for me to buy. I’ve never had it, but the picture on the back that looks even more beautiful when you’re looking through the water…it’s hard to walk away. Aqaufina is as they say seems cooler and crisper than most water, tap or bottled, but I also like the filtered water from our tap.

We’ve established that the water of both types is the same; now let’s see what the packaging costs us.

Roughly 50 billion plastic water bottles end up in U.S. landfills each year — 140 million every day! That’s enough, laid end to end, to reach China and back each day. In 2008, Americans drank an average 215 bottles of water each for a total of 66 billion bottles. Of that total, only 22% was recycled.

We are paying 2 to 4 times the cost of gasoline for a product that is virtually free.

http://www.back2tap.com/resources/get-the-facts/bottled-water-consumption/

If you consider that you should drink about eight glasses (64 ounces) per day. That adds up to 2 gallons per day for a family of four. When your water comes from 12-ounce plastic bottles, the cost can be exorbitant. Let’s assume you pay approximately $6 per case of water (and remember, fancy imported waters can be much more), which is equal to $0.40 per bottle

$0.40 per bottle x 5.3 bottles per person = $2.13 x 4 people = $8.53 x 365 (days in a year) = $3,114.67

If you don’t like tap then consider getting a filter. We have a water filter thing in our fridge and I love it. We brought a water filter, not a fancy one or anything just a cheap one, with us on our vacation a while back and it worked pretty well. A basic pitcher-style system retails for about $20 and requires a new filter every 40 gallons. A family of four will need to replace its water filter 18.25 times per year at a cost of about $6.50 per filter, which amounts to $119.

A couple of $12 water bottles for each member of the family will run $96 per year. There is also the cost of water from the tap to consider, which runs about $1.50 per 1,000 gallons in the U.S.  A family of four consumes about 730 gallons of water per year (2 gallons/day, 365 days/year), which amounts to $1.10. So, the total cost of using a pitcher-style water filtration system per year for a family of four is:

$119 (filters) + $96 (water bottles) + $20 (pitcher) + $1.10 (water from the tap) = $236.10.

That means a family of four can potentially save $3,114.67- $236.10 = $2,878.57 each year by switching from bottled water to a water filter.

http://www.brita.com/

After you consider all this, which will you choose?

Alternative Energy: Hydro Power 2

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/hydropower-plant5.htm

Yesterday I talked about the basic set up of the hydroelectric powering and gathering system and the future of it. Today I will be talking about the pros and cons of said system.

Pros: Hydropower relies on the water cycle, which is driven by the sun, thus it’s a renewable power source.

Hydropower is generally available as needed; engineers can control the flow of water through the turbines to produce electricity on demand. It produces 7 percent of U.S. energy and 19 percent of world energy.

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wuhy.html

Hydropower plants provide benefits in addition to clean electricity. Impoundment hydropower creates reservoirs that offer a variety of recreational opportunities, notably fishing, swimming, and boating. Most hydropower installations are required to provide some public access to the reservoir to allow the public to take advantage of these opportunities. Other benefits may include water supply and flood control.

A hydropower project is suggested to have a life of between fifty and one hundred years, and they can quite easily be updated to meet new technological developments. This is also an environmental benefit as there is no need to create additional impacts constructing new projects each time a scientific breakthrough occurs.

 

Cons: Hydropower can impact water quality and flow. Hydropower plants can cause low dissolved oxygen levels in the water, a problem that is harmful to riparian (riverbank) habitats and is addressed using various aeration techniques, which oxygenate the water. Maintaining minimum flows of water downstream of a hydropower installation is also critical for the survival of riparian habitats.

Hydropower plants can be impacted by drought. When water is not available, the hydropower plants can’t produce electricity.

Fish populations can be impacted if fish cannot migrate upstream past impoundment dams to spawning grounds or if they cannot migrate downstream to the ocean, but upstream fish passage can be aided using fish ladders or elevators, or by trapping and hauling the fish upstream by truck. (Both those option sound horrible and traumatizing. And the truck thing sounds a pain in the butt. No one is going to want to round a bunch of smelly fish and take them upstream. Besides, there is so many. How are they supposed to get them all?) Downstream fish passage is aided by diverting fish from turbine intakes using screens or racks or even underwater lights and sounds, and by maintaining a minimum spill flow past the turbine.

New hydropower facilities impact the local environment and may compete with other uses for the land. Those alternative uses may be more highly valued than electricity generation. Local cultures and historical sites may be impinged upon. Some older hydropower facilities may have historic value, so renovations of these facilities must also be sensitive to such preservation concerns and to impacts on plant and animal life. http://www.envirothonpa.org/documents/19bHydropowerAdvantagesandDisadvantages.pdf

Hydropower involves fewer energy losses during the generation process. In comparison, the transformation of fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal, usually leads to substantial losses in the form of heat. For example, when coal is burned to generate power, two-thirds of its energy is wasted. Water, on the other hand, is used to the last drop as it pushes against the blades of a power station turbine.

Hydropower requires vast quantities of water. The consequences of this are that large quantities are stored and released to generate the energy required. In some instances, entire towns and communities are flooded to create massive scale dams. This not only has negative impacts upon the physical environment, but also significant social impacts. Families can lose their ancestral homes and ancient communities can be torn apart.

Due to alterations in the physical environment as a result of flooding, significant amounts of natural vegetation begin to decompose. This in itself produces greenhouse gas emissions.

A well-known impact is that of the effects upon fish migration and reproduction. Although, in some instances, runs are built to allow fish to continue their breeding cycle.

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/hydropower-profile/

Landfills: How they Affect the Water

Yesterday, I talked about the structure and parts of a landfill and how it affects the Earth. If you haven’t already, read to catch up. Today I’ll be talking about how it affects our water supply. And stay tuned because tomorrow, I’ll be talking about it affects our air supply. Read how landfills affect our air for more information.

Landfills and Groundwater

All sanitary landfills should have systems for collecting and monitoring groundwater to ensure against contamination. They also have systems for collecting leachate, a liquid that filters down through the landfill with rainwater and could contain harmful chemicals. The water can become acidic and eat into the waste of containers. The system for collecting groundwater and leachate does not breach the lining systems of the landfill.  Engineers line the quarry with clay or synthetic materials and the leachate cannot as easily pass through those materials. Pipes then collect the leachate for storage in tanks and special treatment. Old landfills do not have a leachate collecting system, so it flows to pollute and contaminate the drinking water in the ground.

http://www.dldesign.connectfree.co.uk/quarry2.html

Storm Water Drainage

It is important to keep the landfill as dry as possible to reduce the amount of leachate. This can be done in two ways:

  • Exclude liquids from the solid waste. Solid waste must be tested for liquids before entering the landfill. This is done by passing samples of the waste through standard paint filters. If no liquid comes through the sample after 10 minutes, then the trash is accepted into the landfill.
  • Keep rainwater out of the landfill. To exclude rainwater, the landfill has a storm drainage system. Plastic drainage pipes and storm liners collect water from areas of the landfill and channel it to drainage ditches surrounding the landfill’s base.

The ditches are either concrete or gravel-lined and carry water to collection ponds to the side of the landfill. In the collection ponds, suspended soil particles are allowed to settle and the water is tested for leachate chemicals. Once settling has occurred and the water has passed tests, it is then pumped or allowed to flow off-site.

Leachate Collection System

No system to exclude water from the landfill is perfect and water does get into the landfill. The water percolates through the cells and soil in the landfill much as water percolates through ground coffee in a drip coffee maker. As the water percolates through the trash, it picks up contaminants (organic and inorganic chemicals, metals, biological waste products of decomposition) just as water picks up coffee in the coffee maker. This water with the dissolved contaminants is called leachate and is typically acidic.

To collect leachate, perforated pipes run throughout the landfill. These pipes then drain into a leachate pipe, which carries leachate to a leachate collection pond. Leachate can be pumped to the collection pond or flow to it by gravity, as it does in the North Wake County Landfill.

The leachate in the pond is tested for acceptable levels of various chemicals (biological and chemical oxygen demands, organic chemicals, pH, calcium, magnesium, iron, sulfate and chloride) and allowed to settle. After testing, the leachate must be treated like any other sewage/wastewater; the treatment may occur on-site or off-site. Some landfills recirculate the leachate and later treat it. This method reduces the volume of leachate from the landfill, but increases the concentrations of contaminants in the leachate.

Occasionally, leachate may seep through weak point in the covering and come out on to the surface. It appears black and bubbly. Later, it will stain the ground red. Leachate seepages are promptly repaired by excavating the area around the seepage and filling it with well-compacted soil to divert the flow of leachate back into the landfill.

Groundwater Monitoring

At many points surrounding the landfill are groundwater monitoring stations. These are pipes that are sunk into the groundwater so water can be sampled and tested for the presence of leachate chemicals. The temperature of the groundwater is measured. Because the temperature rises when solid waste decomposes, an increase in groundwater temperature could indicate that leachate is seeping into the groundwater. Also, if the pH of the groundwater becomes acidic, that could indicate seeping leachate.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/landfill9.htm

Poisonous Plastics

I think one of the more annoying things I’ve come to have knowledge about is the amount people who use plastic forks and spoons everyday and by every day I mean every day. On a regular basis people waste the money to buy the gas that they will then use to waste money to waste the environment instead of buying a pack of silverware ONCE and just washing them by hand or via dish washer. Plastic use is very hard to avoid, however using plastic cutlery isn’t a necessity. According to the EPA, 12 percent of the solid waste stream is plastic. Out of the 31 million tons of plastic produced last year, only 2.4 million tons were recycled. Approximately 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year in the USA alone, together with billions of Styrofoam and plastic cups, plates etc. Plastic bags could take up to one million years to decompose and a Styrofoam box could take more than one million years to decompose.

If one doesn’t care about the environment then they should give their health a thought.

Polyvinyl Chloride( #3)- This plastic is used mostly in construction and consumer goods, but the Center for Health, Environment and Justice and the Environmental Health Strategy Center have asked companies to limit their use of this plastic. It has serious side effects for its use. It’s made out of highly polluting and cancer-causing chemicals that have contaminated the areas where PVC is manufactured.  Some PVC is made out of plasticizers that will leach out of finished products and have been known to cause developmental and reproductive damage. When PVC is burned it leads to emission of dioxins that cause cancer, reproductive, developmental and immune problems. Putting these materials in landfills can cause the toxic substances to leach into ground water. PVC is difficult to recycle and contaminates other kinds of plastics when recycled with them.

Over 7 billion pounds of PVC are thrown away in the U.S. each year. Only 18 million pounds of that, about one quarter of 1 percent, is recycled.3

Polystyrene (#6)- This plastic is used to make foam food trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, opaque plastic cutlery and other disposable food service items. The chemicals used to make this plastic can leak into food and beverages. According to the EPA, extreme levels can cause nervous systems effects such as loss of concentration, weakness, and nausea. Long term exposure can cause cancer, liver and nerve damage.

Polycarbonates and Others (#7): Number 7 plastics are the rejects from all the other categories, but they all usually include one thing and that’s polycarbonates. Polycarbonates are used in plastic baby bottles, plastic liners of metal food cans, sport water bottles and other items. Bisphenol- A (BPA) is an endocrine disrupter that used in making polycarbonates. A recent review of studies regarding BPA’s effects (Environmental Health Perspectives, August 2005) finds that more than 80 percent of published studies assessing the effects of low-dose BPA exposure on laboratory animals found significant effects, including alterations to brain chemistry and structure, behavior, the immune system, and male and female reproductive systems.

http://www.greenamerica.org/livinggreen/plastics.cfm

Just something to think about