Tag: pollution

EPA now says fracking can affect water resources

fracking rig in Colorado
Fracked nation. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

In what is probably one of the EPA’s final moves before the Trump era starts, the agency this week released a new study showing how fracking can affect drinking water. There’s nothing in the report that wasn’t already known to scientists, water managers and health experts, but the fact that the EPA finally acknowledged the potential impacts is important, according to environmental advocates.

As part of the report, EPA identified conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe, including:

  • Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing in times or areas of low water availability, particularly in areas with limited or declining groundwater resources;
  • Spills during the management of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals or produced water that result in large volumes or high concentrations of chemicals reaching groundwater resources;
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, allowing gases or liquids to move to groundwater resources;
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources;
  • Discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water resources; and
  • Disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits, resulting in contamination of groundwater resources.

The report also identifies uncertainties and data gaps. These uncertainties and data gaps limited EPA’s ability to fully assess impacts to drinking water resources both locally and nationally. These final conclusions are based upon review of over 1,200 cited scientific sources; feedback from an independent peer review conducted by EPA’s Science Advisory Board; input from engaged stakeholders; and new research conducted as part of the study.

“The value of high quality science has never been more important in helping to guide decisions around our nation’s fragile water resources. EPA’s assessment provides the scientific foundation for local decision makers, industry, and communities that are looking to protect public health and drinking water resources and make more informed decisions about hydraulic fracturing activities,” EPA science advisor Thomas A. Burke said in a press release. “This assessment is the most complete compilation to date of national scientific data on the relationship of drinking water resources and hydraulic fracturing.”

The report is organized around activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle and their potential to impact drinking water resources. The stages include:

  • acquiring water to be used for hydraulic fracturing (Water Acquisition),
  • mixing the water with chemical additives to make hydraulic fracturing fluids (Chemical Mixing),
  • injecting hydraulic fracturing fluids into the production well to create and grow fractures in the targeted production zone (Well Injection),
  • collecting the wastewater that returns through the well after injection (Produced Water Handling), and,
  • managing the wastewater through disposal or reuse methods (Wastewater Disposal and Reuse).

The agency said that information gaps remain because, in some cases,  needed data isn’t collected, isn’t available publicly or difficult to aggregate.

In places where the agency knows activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle have occurred, data that could be used to characterize hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the environment before, during, and after hydraulic fracturing were scarce.

“Because of these data gaps and uncertainties, as well as others described in the assessment, it was not possible to fully characterize the severity of impacts, nor was it possible to calculate or estimate the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources from activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle,” the EPA wrote in a press release. Read the study here: www.epa.gov/hfstudy.

Study tracks amphetamine pollution in Baltimore streams

Illegal drugs harming stream aquatic ecosystems

This is the local stream, Meadow Creek, that starts high in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and flows through our backyard.
A new study found that amphetamine pollution may be harming stream health. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

As if toxic waste from chemical manufacturing and other industrial processes weren’t enough, scientists say some streams are also being fouled by remnants of amphetamines — in some cases at high enough levels to alter the base of aquatic food chain.

A new study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, traced the presence of illicit drugs at six  stream sites around Baltimore, focusing on the Gwynns Falls watershed, which is part of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long-Term Ecological Research program. Two rural streams were also sampled in the Oregon Ridge watershed, the closest forested region. Continue reading “Study tracks amphetamine pollution in Baltimore streams”

Pharmaceutical pollution widespread in Southeast U.S. streams

Many streams are at risk from pharmaceutical pollution

Cumulative median concentrations of pharmaceutical chemicals detected during the sampling conducted in June of 2014 in 59 small streams. The four urban study areas are shown in boxes, with details in the study.
Cumulative median concentrations of pharmaceutical chemicals detected during the sampling conducted in June of 2014 in 59 small streams. The four urban study areas are shown in boxes, with details in the study. Via USGS.

Staff Report

Traces of pain-relieving substances, diabetes drugs and allergy medicines are widespread in small streams across the Southeast, especially in urban zones like Raleigh, North Carolina, the U.S. Geological Survey found in a new study.

The USGS in 2014 sampled 59 small streams in portions of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia for 108 different pharmaceutical compounds and detected one or more pharmaceuticals in all 59 streams. The average number of pharmaceuticals detected in the streams was six. Continue reading “Pharmaceutical pollution widespread in Southeast U.S. streams”

Battle lines drawn over new fossil fuel infrastructure

Signs of oil and gas development are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.
Signs of oil and gas development are visible in eastern on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air. @bberwyn photo.

Broad coalition of conservation groups oppose measure that could speed approval of natural gas export terminals

Staff Report

Pro-fossil fuel legislators in Congress hope they can help their campaign donors by putting the cart before the fracking horse. An amended version of the Senate’s Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 (S. 2012) includes provisions that would speed up the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of liquefied natural gas export terminals.

According to critics of the measure, that artificially increases the demand for U.S. natural gas and hits communities with additional health and climate risks. More than 370 organizations are urging the Senate to reject provisions in the bill that would encourage oil and gas fracking.

The groups delivered a letter to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski and ranking member Maria Cantwell demanding an energy bill that transitions the country to a truly clean, safe, renewable energy future. Continue reading “Battle lines drawn over new fossil fuel infrastructure”

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 “Study tracks big drop in global mercury emissions”

EPA sets new ozone standard but faces challenges

ghj
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 sets new ozone standard but faces challenges”

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 “EPA updates pollution regs for oil refineries”