Study tracks big drop in global mercury emissions

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. @bberwyn photo.

Local, regional controls help improve global picture

Staff Report

Global mercury emissions dropped by nearly a third between 1990 and 2010, according to a new study that tried to identify patterns and trends in mercury pollution.

Rapid economic development in Asia means higher mercury emissions, but reductions in North America were enough to offset the increases, according to scientists from China, Germany, Canada and the U.S.

Mercury is a metallic element that poses environmental health risks to both wildlife and humans when converted to methylmercury in ecosystems.  It can be converted into gaseous emissions during various industrial activities, as well as natural processes like volcanic eruptions. Continue reading

Environment: Mercury deposition increasing in West and Midwest

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Mercury emissions from power plants are a global issue.

Asia’s power plants affect U.S. environment

Staff Report

Mercury levels in precipitation are increasing in the central U.S. but steadily dropping along the East Coast, scientists reported in a new study.

The findings suggest that mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants in Asia are on the rise, while they are decreasing in North America, according to Peter Weiss-Penzias, an environmental toxicologist at UC Santa Cruz who was the lead author of the study.

Mercury is a toxic element released into the environment through a variety of human activities, including the burning of coal, as well as by natural processes. Rainfall washes mercury out of the atmosphere and into soils and surface waters. Bacteria convert elemental mercury into a more toxic form, methyl mercury, which becomes increasingly concentrated in organisms higher up the food chain. Mercury concentrations in some predatory fish are high enough to raise health concerns. Continue reading

Distant wildfire smoke may raise ozone levels

Summer 2012 wildfires Colorado

Wildfire smoke may interact with other pollutants to raise ozone levels. @bobberwyn photo.

Across the U.S., ozone levels were higher on smoky days than on smoke-free days

Staff Report

Wildfire smoke on its own can trigger health warnings for direct exposure, and new research from Colorado State University suggests that there may be a more widespread impact after they linked smoke with elevated levels of ozone.

In globally warming world, where the number and size of wildfires keeps growing, the findings have significant implications for public health. Continue reading

Environment: More trouble for VW

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The EPA is making new allegations against VW for clean air violations.

EPA says automaker skirted clean air regs with additional diesel vehicles

By Bob Berwyn

There’s more trouble ahead for VW, as the EPA this week issued a second formal notice to the German automaker alleging further Clean Air Act violations.

The latest notice from the EPA is also being issued to Porsche AG and Porsche Cars North America. Along with the vehicles identified last month, the EPA now says that VW, Porsche and Audi also installed illegal air pollution “defeat devices” in additional cars, including the diesel versions of: the 2014 VW Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L, and Q5. Continue reading

EPA sets new ozone standard but faces challenges

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Got smog? EPA wants to cut ozone, but will face a challenge on new standard.

Environmentalists say new rule is to weak; industry asks Congress to step into the fray

Staff Report

The EPA’s new smog-fighting ozone standard is likely headed down the same path as the agency’s other recent initiatives to improve the environment.

Like the recently updated wetlands rule and the Clean Power Plan, the new ozone limit was immediately criticized from all sides. Environmental advocates said the agency ignored its own experts when it set the new limit at 70 parts per billion. Industry claims the new rule will cut profits and cost jobs. Continue reading

EPA updates pollution regs for oil refineries

More monitoring and data transparency required

"ExxonMobil Baton Rouge" by Adbar - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ExxonMobil_Baton_Rouge.jpg#/media/File:ExxonMobil_Baton_Rouge.jpg

“ExxonMobil Baton Rouge” by Adbar via Wikipedia and a Creative Commons license.

Staff Report

Oil refineries will have to do a better job of limiting pollutants that cause cancer and respiratory ailments under updated EPA regulations that require fenceline monitoring and more transparent data on emissions.

The regulations cover controls for flares, pressure relief devices, storage tanks, and delayed coker operations. The EPA expects that the rule will result in a reduction of 5,200 tons per year of toxic air pollutants, and 50,000 tons per year of volatile organic compounds, chemical precursors to ozone.

The agency also estimates the new standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from refineries by about 660,000 tons per year at 150 refineries around the country with little impact to the cost of petroleum products. Continue reading

Environment: Study quantifies volcano pollution

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Plumes of smoke and flames rise from an eruption at Bárðarbunga volcano, Iceland, in 2014. The amount of sulphur dioxide emitted in the six-month eruption was treble that given off by all of Europe’s industry. Credit Dr. John Stevenson

12,000 tons of sulphur dioxide per day …

Staff Report

Researchers in the UK have helped show how volcanoes can affect air quality by quantifying emissions from last year’s eruption of Iceland’s Bárðarbunga volcano.

“The eruption discharged lava at a rate of more than 200 cubic metres per second, which is equivalent to filling five Olympic-sized swimming pools in a minute,” said Dr Anja Schmidt from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, who led the study. Continue reading

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