Nanaimo is located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia Canada. Its natural setting is breathtaking set next to Georgia Strait and sheltered from Pacific storms by the Island Range of mountains. With a backdrop of mountains and a vista of sea and treed islands, it has much to offer the resident or tourist EXCEPT: there is a new big stink in town.
We have a pulp mill in our area. Established in 1952, the Harmac Mill has provided jobs and tax money to the area. Now somewhat scaled back and locally owned, the mill still provides jobs, money and its characteristic smell. The pollution from it has been scaled back as well as improvements have been made and regulations tightened. No, that smell we are all familiar with.
We’ve been gifted with a new fetid odour, one that reminds you of dead, rotting flesh. At first I thought it was the large commercial egg production plant about a kilometre away. I thought they were cleaning their barns of chicken manure, but I was wrong. The odour hung like a rank blanket over the whole area. What has changed?
Nanaimo City and Nanaimo Regional District have embarked on a composting programme( to the sound of horns blowing proclaiming a Green City) in which all organic matter would be diverted from the sanitary land fill(better known as The Dump) to be recycled and sold to the public as compost. We now are required to put all household organics into compostable bags and into “Green bins” which are picked up weekly. Recyclables like paper products are picked up on weeks, alternating with garbage cans. The early pilot project seemed to work reasonably well with odours emanating from the facility occasionally. When the whole area was switched to the Green Bin programme, trouble started.
Whether it is poor management or if the facility is overwhelmed with garbage, I have no idea. I know composting for my vegetable garden. I know that my compost pile does not stink. I took the time to do a walkabout on a Sunday when the facility was closed. I understand what breathtaking can also mean. Take a look at the photos and make your own judgements about whether this operation is Green. If you look at the ICC promo video on its web site, you can draw your own conclusions about how well reality coincides with the video.
If your community is considering starting a composting programme, look most carefully at the corporation that you are dealing with. Make sure they have adequate experience and facilities and make sure to do periodic unscheduled site visits by community staff.
· Head Office 108 9800 McDonald Park Road, Victoria BC V8L 5W5 – Google Earth shows International Airport(YYJ) Sidney BC V8L 1W7
· ICC UK Letchworth Lane, Hert. SG6 3ND – Google Earth shows St. Mary the Virgin Church on large grounds with cemetery in one corner. Church is still used by parish and looks to be in good repair. Parish web site: http://www.parishofletchworth.org.uk/index.html
· Brazil Associate WTE Brazil http://www.wtebrasil.com.br/site/index.html
The address given on their web page, Google Earth is unable to locate. All photos of facilities refer to Nanaimo operation in cleaner days.
· Organics Levenseat Ltd. Scotland, 25% ICC interest. Started in vessel composting(IVC) 2010. Outdoor composting has waste water treatment for leachate. Facility, Lanark Scotland also mitigates odors arising.
· ICC Nanaimo located at 981 Maughan Rd. Nanaimo V9X 1J2, tel. 250 722 4614
I wonder how in touch employees who make decisions about schemes like this garbage disposal really are. The following is a gushing endorsement by the manager of solid waste for the area. It is displayed prominently on the ICC web page. Award-Winning Zero Waste Partnership Regional District of Nanaimo & ICC Group “Without the investment and commitment of ICC to organic waste diversion, the award-winning RDN Zero Waste Program would not be the success that it is today.”- Carey McIver, Manager, Solid Waste Regional District of Nanaimo ICC Group
One of the nuclear reactor buildings at Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Hanford Nuclear Reservation has admitted that at least six of its multi-million gallon storage tanks are leaking. The high level radioactive liquid is going somewhere and authorities are not sure where, but they are quick to tell the public that there is no danger to them. Mixed into the radioactive waste are unspecified chemicals. The number of leaking tanks has escalated from one last week to six this week.
The single shell storage tanks were built for a twenty year life span. Some were built as long ago as 1943. By my calculations that’s 69 years ago. There are 149 of these time bombs at the Hanford Reservation. Leaks have been an ongoing problem with 67 recorded leaky tanks. The tanks are buried and waste leaks into the ground and can make its way to the Columbia River which borders the property. Authorities remind the public that there is no danger to the public.
Hanford Reservation is a nuclear weapons production facility, largely decommissioned now. It produced the fissionable material for the Manhattan Project which led to the Fat Boy bomb dropped on Nagasaki in the Second World War. It has produced the plutonium for most of the US nuclear weapons.
The site is notoriously “dirty” with numerous incidents over the years where high levels of radioactivity were released into the environment. During the Cold War, nine reactors were busily producing plutonium. Hanford grounds are considered to be the most contaminated site in the US. From 1944 to 1971 radioactive isotopes in contaminated water were flushed into the Columbia River. This action was only made public years later. Those people living downwind from the weapons plant suffered elevated levels of cancers, but their damage claims were not heard until 2006.
Currently the US government is engaged in a decades long cleanup of the site. The cost per year is around $2 billion. The task is monumental and is expected to last for many years.
Complicating the cleanup operations is the reluctance of those in the know to share their information with the public. Even high level politicians in Washington State have been kept in the dark.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she is deeply concerned about the latest news. “(It) underscores the urgency for a path forward for the Waste Treatment Plant and tank retrievals,” Murray said. “This information is critical to making an informed decision about the need for additional tanks.” The leaking tanks are the latest in a string of setbacks to environmental cleanup progress at Hanford. In October, DOE confirmed that one of the 28 double-shell tanks was leaking waste from its inner shell into its outer shell. Work also has been stopped at the vitrification plant’s Pretreatment Facility until technical issues are resolved.” Tri-City Herald
Missississppi R. at Vicksburg. Vital commercial route for American midwest.
Traffic on the Mississippi River has been stalled while crews attempt to corral and mop up an oil slick that has extended about three miles. Two barges containing oil collided with a railway bridge, damaging the oil tanks of one of the barges. Both are damaged and efforts are underway to empty the tanks that are leaking. They did contain 80 000 gallons of oil. There is no estimate of how much has poured into the river.
In the meantime, traffic is halted for a 16 mile stretch above and below Vicksburg.
The cleanup effort was rapid and seems to be catching oil against the booms stretched across the river. Authorities are seeking to tell the public that no environmental damage was done because the oil dispersed rapidly. The public will have to assess the veracity of that.
America’s vital traffic corridor through its heartland is suffering from many issues these days. Millions of dollars are currently being spent to try to dredge the river deeply enough to allow shipping to continue. A lengthy drought in the mid-west has starved the river of its usual amount of water. While some are calling for the Missouri River to be tapped to permit the continuance of commerce, strict laws protecting that river basin prohibit it.
The drought is expected to continue and when rains do come they will take a long time to recharge the parched soil. The Drought Monitor
for the area has much of the mid-west marked as severe, extreme and exceptional and most of the rest as moderate to abnormally dry.
Coal is a cheap source of energy.
January 19th marked the signing of the UN sponsored Minimata Convention
. It’s a treaty that seeks to curb and reduce the presence of mercury in the environment. It took four years of negotiations and won’t come into effect for three to five years. Some say that the treaty doesn’t go far enough, but this is the first agreement that will attempt to stop the poisonous metal’s increasing spread around the globe.
140 nations have agreed to the terms of the treaty which will eventually control consumer goods that contain the metal as well as medical devices. Tops on the list are the coal burning power plants. Plans are in the works for about 1 000 more of these polluters, with China and India planning the lion’s share. Also of increasing concern are the artisanal gold mining operations which use the silvery element to separate gold from surrounding rock.
The treaty is named for the village in Japan where mercury poisoning was first diagnosed. Villagers were losing their eyesight and had numerous neurological problems. After some sleuthing, investigators found that the people, who had fish as a staple in their diets, were being poisoned by the high amount of mercury in the fish. The element came from nearby industry.
Children and the unborn are particularly vulnerable to mercury poisoning. Pregnant women in N.America are now advised to limit the amount of tuna they eat because of the high amount in those fish. The element is concentrated as it moves up the food chain and is found in high amounts in long lived fish like tuna.
Disposable diapers, status symbols for Chinese middle class
While many new moms in N. America and Europe fret over the waste generated by using disposable diapers, new moms in China are embracing the throwaways. They have become a status symbol among the new middle class. They have become wealthy enough to be able to throw things away after just one use.
This brings about a revolution in the potty training of babies in China. Until now, the most widely accepted way to toilet train babies and toddlers was to use the split pants method. Caregivers would train the youngsters to “go” on cue. It was a common sight in China twenty years or so ago to see small ones squatting and relieving themselves in the city streets.
Whatever your opinion about poop in the streets, the custom is fast waning in the cities as more people attain a middle class standard of living. While it has made the sidewalks and people’s shoes cleaner, the jury is still out on the long term effects of millions of disposable diapers on garbage disposal.
In a stroke of genius by marketers for Proctor & Gamble
, makers of Pampers disposable diapers a campaign of “Golden Sleep” was launched. It asserted that babies who wore Pampers would sleep better. This appealed directly to parents who fussed over their one child.
The next step in marketing was to link the “Golden Sleep” to better cognitive performance. The parents ate it up. Competition is fierce for top jobs and any edge a parent could give was taken.
The campaign has been so successful that there are now four companies besides P&G manufacturing the throwaways in the PRC. The American company is responding by investing $1 billion dollars in manufacturing plants inside China. They are aiming at adding a billion new customers by 2015.
Balanced against the investments in China is P&G’s trimming of expenses within the US. According to Rightsite
, they are planning to lay off 5 700 workers in the US over the next year, saving them enough money to invest in emerging markets.
The Colorado River is the lifeblood of SW USA.
A new agreement between the US and Mexico is giving environmentalists new hope for the Colorado River. Currently five states and Mexico draw water from the river and where once a mighty river flowed to the Gulf of California(Sea of Cortes). In bad years no water reaches the delta.
The new agreement on water usage is the first real change since a treaty was signed in 1944. Since then populations have increased on both sides of the border. While demands on the rivers have increased exponentially, the area remains parched with years long droughts commonplace. “ The treaty grants Mexico 1.5 million acre-feet of river water each year — enough to supply about 3 million homes — making it the lifeblood of Tijuana and other cities in northwest Mexico.” Salt Lake Tribune
This is good news for the delta. Both countries have agreed to release 5 000 acre feet to water the critical and important desert wetlands. Historically the delta covered nearly 2 million acres of productive wetlands and supported people and a wide variety of animals and plants. Water has not reached the sea since 1998.
This binational agreement will be reviewed in 2019.
Protesters in the town of Ningbo China have been jailed on various charges. Mass protests have been taking place to protest plans for an expansion of petrochemical refining capacity. Over 100 people were detained. Some were released but about 50 people are facing criminal charges.
The city of Ningbo is a major port and industrial city that has rivers and access to the Yellow Sea. Industries include chemical refining, pharmaceuticals and biotech as well as large petroleum capacity. Authorities want to increase the refining capacity by 15 million tons per year.
Part of the emissions released during the refining process is paraxylene(xylene) which is poisonous. It can affect the central nervous system, damage liver and kidneys, and in higher doses cause death. The petrochemical plant produced 500 000 tons of the chemical last year, but lax pollution controls mean that a significant amount of toxins are released into the atmosphere.
Authorities have agreed to a moratorium on the plant’s expansion. They have also suppressed news within China about the civil unrest.
Last August authorities agreed to close a petrochemical plant in Dalian, China when protesters demanded that the plant be moved to a less populated area. The catalyst for the protesters action was a near miss when a tropical storm pushed waves into the factory grounds. By January of 2012 observers reported emissions from the factory and it appeared to be operating as normal. Other reports claim that the production has ramped up. “Production at the Dalian plant had increased from 700,000 metric tons annually, to 1.4 million metric tons, the Eastern Daily News reported.
The article was unavailable on the popular Chinese Internet search engine Sohu on Tuesday, however.” Radio Free Asia
Paraxylene is an important chemical used in the making of polyesters. China imports much of its petroleum. Canada’s federal government is backing a consortium of investors who wish to build a pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Pacific coast to facilitate the selling of the sandy mixture to Asia. Opposition to the scheme is growing.
The state owned Chinese oil company Sinopec, is a major player in the oil sands projects and seeks to become a bigger one in the future, offering to buy a Canadian owned company Nexen, at a premium price.
Cities have always supported secret inhabitants. Some of those secret inhabitants have four legs and long tails. Rats and mice scurry unseen in sewers and abandoned buildings. Humans have competed with them for centuries. Now other four legged critters seem to be following suit.
Many of us have confronted racoons raiding our poorly stored garbage of carelessly left out dog food. Foxes and skunks have found niches in many suburban neighbourhoods. They have found that the people living there are less of a threat than country dwellers and in most cases the dogs aren’t as fierce.
In western Canada the Virginia possum has migrated steadily north from more southerly climes and is now a common and unwelcome inhabitant of subdivisions. Coyotes have established themselves on city fringes in many areas and have adapted well to the city life. Wildlife professor Stan Gehrt, Ohio State University has made a study of the animals in Chicago, and has discovered that these wily animals have radically changed their habits. In doing so they’ve become top predators next to humans. Their babies survive better and they live longer in the city than their country cousins in the nearby cornfields.
Professor Gehrt has opined that they may be paving the way for other wildlife to gain niches in our urban jungles. As wild habitat disappears, the animals may have nowhere else to turn. Other cities around the world have experienced wild animals straying into the streets. Those that are seen often are removed as corpses. It’s the unseen ones that make a living in the shadows.
Berlin Germany has found that a large population of wild pigs forage after dark on their city streets. Herds of them dig up gardens and cemeteries and cause numerous vehicle accidents. Now hunters roam the streets of Berlin attempting to bag their own porkers from the estimated 10 000 that now reside there.
It’s not just people migrating to the cities these days.
Who would think that the deadliest predator on the planet could be killed by a mouse?
Two people have died from contracting Hanta Virus after visiting Yosemite Park in California. Four other people have been made sick and as many as 10 000 nature lovers may have been exposed to the virus carried by the common white footed mouse. The virus doesn’t harm the mouse, but it infects the respiratory system of humans and there is no cure and little effective treatment.
The parks people are trying to contact those who they believe most at risk for contracting the disease. Those are people who rented the ‘tent cabins’ in Curry Village. Many who stayed there in the summer may be infected but not yet sick as the disease has about a six week incubation period. Those most at risk have been sent a notification letter and advice to see a physician if symptoms manifest themselves.
The virus is known to infect people who have been exposed to rodent urine, feces or the dust that has held them.
Some of the people exposed have questioned the preparedness of the park officials in dealing with this deadly disease. Apparently the California Department of Public Health had warned the park authorities about the virus infected the local mouse population.
The disease first came to prominence in the US in 1993 when an outbreak of respiratory disease in the Four Corners Navaho Nation killed six previously healthy young people. Investigation by the Centre for Disease Control found that the likely culprit in the deaths was a new strain of hantavirus and the carrier was the common deer mouse. There are numerous types of hanta virus. This new to New Mexico was named the Sin Nombre(SNV) virus.
page on the hanta virus shows the different rodents known to carry the variety that causes repiratory collapse in the USA – Deer mouse, cotton rat, rice rat and white-footed rat. They go on to caution that this is an incomplete list as other strains of the virus cause other symptoms including hemorrhagic fevers.
Data coming from NASA has let the world know that the sea ice cover in the Arctic is now at its lowest extent since records have been kept, starting in 1979. Thinning of the ice cover has also occurred and the ice has declined by 40%. The sea ice is now only about 30% of what it was in the 1980s. It is expected that this summer’s decline will continue through September.
The summer melting of the Northern Ice Cap sets up a positive feedback situation in which the melting will accelerate, eventually leaving the Arctic Ocean ice free for part of the year. As the white ice melts to expose the darker ocean, more heat is absorbed. The open ocean also allows waves from storms to break up the thinner ice cover exposing more dark ocean, and so on.
The warmer Arctic Ocean waters are starting to melt the ocean bed permafrost which in turn releases large amounts of methane gas trapped below the surface. Methane gas is a powerful greenhouse gas which is at least 20 times more efficient at trapping Sol’s heat, adding to the positive feedback engine.
What do these changes mean to us?
As the sea ice retreats, people move onto the water. Shipping is venturing farther north each year. Oil and gas exploration are poised to move into the Arctic Ocean where a treasure trove of petroleum is believed to be. The boundaries and control of the sea bed are not agreed to in some areas with overlapping claims of jurisdiction. Added to this, the Chinese government has been making noises that they should be allowed to exploit this resource as well. This opens a now pristine area up to pollution by accidents and leaks which even in the best run companies, happen from time to time.
The warming ocean may help the acceleration of the melting of the Greenland ice sheet which is in the process of melting. If the whole of the miles thick ice sheet should be lost, ocean levels will rise inundating many river deltas and farming areas as well as coastal ports.
Wildlife that depends on ‘hauling out’ on the ice to give birth or to hunt is increasingly under pressure. Polar bears will likely go extinct in this century from loss of their unique habitat. Other marine mammals like walruses and seals also need to have stable ice for their nurseries.
As the air over the Arctic warms, the Jet Stream will likely change. In Canada, the Jet Stream rules the weather, bringing in storms or holding them at bay as it circumnavigates the globe. As more cold, fresh water enters the oceans, the salinity of the ocean will change which may lead to the slowing of the Gulf Stream, that river of warm water that circulated up from the Caribbean to modify weather along the east coast of N. America. The warm Gulf Stream is responsible for modifying the weather is S. England before looping south along the coast of France.
So while many of us have not visited the high Arctic and are not likely to do so, events there will have a direct impact on our lives. The debate about climate change has moved to a new phase. The evidence is in and we are in trouble as a species.