Blog

The Houston Ship Channel reopened Sunday as crews continued to clean up the scene of a collision Friday between two vessels, which spilled an estimated 9,000 barrels of gasoline blend into the busy waterway.

Read the full Houston Chronicle article

 
Notre Dame's melted roof leaves astronomical lead levels
Friday, 10 May 2019 06:07

Notre Dame Cathedral's melted roof has left astronomically high lead levels in the plaza outside and adjacent roads.

Read full story at SF Gate


 
Maine Bans Styrofoam Containers, Becoming the First State to Do So
Tuesday, 07 May 2019 05:57

Maine became the first U.S. state to ban plastic foam containers, commonly referred to as Styrofoam, with a bill signed into law Tuesday, April 30th.

The new law prohibits businesses such as convenience stores, grocery stores and restaurants from selling or distributing plastic foam containers, which are made out of a substance called polystyrene. The list of banned items includes cups, take-out containers, plates and bowls.

Read the full article at Weather.com

 
Study estimates 15,000 cancer cases could stem from chemicals in California tap water
Tuesday, 30 April 2019 07:44

Study estimates 15,000 cancer cases could stem from chemicals in California tap water
A new study finds that chemicals in tap water like arsenic, hexavalent chromium, and uranium are hidden cancer threats in our faucets.

Read in CNN.

 
Filter Material Transfers Heavy Metals to Wine and Beer
Wednesday, 06 March 2019 08:39

High levels of heavy metals have been reported in beer and wine, yet it is not understood how these contaminants are transferred to the beverages. A research team from the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Office of Food Safety, Division of Food Processing Science and Technology, U.S. FDA, theorized that the diatomaceous earth (DE) used to filter beer and wine could be introducing heavy metals, and that altering the filtering conditions might reduce the occurrence.

They analyzed three types of food-grade DE and found that all of them contained arsenic as well as smaller amounts of lead and cadmium. When used to filter beer or wine in the lab, one of the DE samples increased arsenic 3.7- to 7.9-fold compared with the unfiltered beverages, above the safe limit proposed by the FDA for apple juice (10 parts per billion; ppb). The amount of arsenic transferred to the drinks decreased when the beverage was exposed to less DE; the pH of the liquid was altered or the DE was washed beforehand. The researchers also measured levels of the heavy metals in commercial beer and wine samples. Although they detected arsenic in the beverages, levels were below 10 ppb, with the exception of two wine samples that contained 18 and 11 ppb arsenic.

This article was found in American Laboratory: https://www.americanlaboratory.com/358679-Filter-Material-Transfers-Heavy-Metals-to-Wine-and-Beer/ 


 
For 10 years, a chemical not EPA approved was in their drinking water
Sunday, 11 November 2018 09:08

Click to read the original story on CNN.


(CNN) For 10 years, some residents in Denmark, South Carolina, have been suspicious of the rust-colored water coming from their taps. They've been collecting samples in jars and using bottled or spring water, even though the local and state government assured them it was safe.

But through a Freedom of Information Act request and a one-year investigation, CNN has found new information that may cast doubts on those assurances. The state government was adding a substance to one of the city's four wells, trying to regulate naturally occurring iron bacteria that can leave red stains or rust-like deposits in the water. The substance, known as HaloSan, was not approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency to disinfect drinking water.

'What did we do?' Families anxious about chemicals found in tap water

The city's mayor says that all of the city's wells flow into one system to be distributed throughout the city.
    The EPA and the state of South Carolina have confirmed to CNN that there is now an open investigation into how this happened, although neither would comment on the target of the probe or the scope.
    It's unclear what the effects of HaloSan might have been on the almost 3,000 people who live in this rural, tight-knit community, but a group of about 40 residents believe the water is to blame for illnesses and maladies they say they're suffering from. The chemical is typically used as a disinfectant for pools and spas, but several experts contacted by CNN said they could not find another instance where it was added to a drinking water system. One thing is clear -- the state of South Carolina approved its use, and it should not have. It was used for 10 years. CNN was told by the state that it has been adding HaloSan to the water in Denmark since 2008. A spokesman for South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control told CNN in an email that it believed HaloSan was EPA-approved for drinking water based on the way the system was "advertised."

    "The Berry Systems HaloSan treatment unit had been advertised as an effective treatment in the control of iron bacteria and was certified ... " said Tommy Crosby, director of media relations for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
    Berry Systems, the makers of HaloSan, has not responded to multiple phone calls and emails by CNN requesting comment.  "It was our thinking that it was an approved chemical to be used," said Gerald Wright, mayor of Denmark, South Carolina. "We rely totally on DHEC because they have the responsibility and expertise to test, monitor and advise." An EPA spokesperson tells CNN that HaloSan is not approved to be used to treat drinking water. "HaloSan has not undergone the necessary evaluations as part of the pesticide registration process and, therefore, EPA cannot confirm the safe use of this product for the disinfection of drinking water," according to the EPA.  An EPA risk assessment from 2007 shows that HaloSan can be a "significant eye and skin irritant." Other effects can include "burning, rash, itching, skin discoloration/redness, blistering, allergic type reactions including hives/welts, allergic contact dermatitis, and bleeding also have been reported. ... Eye pain and swelling of eyes also has been reported in some incidences." Disinfectants fall under the EPA pesticide program.  The EPA told CNN that HaloSan is not a registered pesticide product and has not been reviewed by EPA's pesticide program. By law, "a product intended to be used to disinfect drinking water must be registered by the Environmental Protection Agency," and have scientific data that demonstrates that the product "can perform its intended function without undue harm to people or the environment."

    An April 2018 presentation by South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control shows that one of Denmark's wells was treated with HaloSan.

    "I did a thorough search, and I've never seen it approved for a public water supply before," he said. "And the EPA approvals that I saw, none of them were for municipal potable water." In addition, Edwards noted that he sees no evidence in any reports that the dosage was being regulated. "You have to make sure you don't put too much of it in the water. And there was no way that they could prove that they weren't exceeding the recommended dose," he said. "There's a maximum allowed amount, even for industrial applications. And they have no way of proving that, that level is not being exceeded." Wilma Subra, a chemist and environmental health scientist, told CNN that HaloSan appears to be sold with a kit that regulates dosage. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control says it required daily monitoring, "performed by the certified system operator," of "any chemical" added to the drinking water, ensuring that the maximum dosage is not exceeded. Joe Charbonnet, science and policy associate at the Green Science Policy Institute, said without knowing the concentration levels in the water, it's hard to know the health effects. He said he is concerned about HaloSan being used as a water disinfectant because it could produce compounds that are toxic. Like many small towns, Denmark's water bills have been rising since its population dropped, along with its revenue. Maintenance of old water lines has fallen victim, leaving pipes to rust and turn the water brown. It's unappealing to look at, even if the discolored water isn't violating the law.  A $2 million federal grant to repair and upgrade water pipes here just wasn't enough, according to Wright, Denmark's mayor. "[O]ne grant itself is not adequate to replace all of the necessary pipes. We prioritize the ones that should be replaced first," he told CNN. "At no time have we not responded to a need that was urgent. We've done that. So what we've done is all we know we can do."
    Water is a problem in thousands of towns across the United States. But in Denmark, it's not just the water pipes that are eroding -- so has trust in government officials who claimed the water was properly treated when it apparently was not. Denmark residents Paula Brown and Eugene Smith have been calling for more government oversight since their water tested high for lead in 2010. Subsequent tests were below the legal limit for lead. But, the couple says there have been concerns about skin rashes and kidney problems among residents for years, although a link has not been made directly to the water. Brown calls into the local radio station almost every day in an attempt to warn her neighbors that she doesn't believe the water is safe to drink. "How can they say it's good to drink?," Smith told CNN. "I'm not gonna drink it, and I know other people drink it, but a lot of people are drinking it because they have no other choice." The couple drives 20 miles roundtrip each month to collect local spring water in cases of gallon jugs and uses that to cook, drink and brush their teeth.

    In 2016, Brown saw Virginia Tech's Edwards on television, talking about the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan. Edwards has spent nearly two decades testing water and challenging federal, state and local governments on water quality, and his work helped to reveal high levels of lead in Flint's water. Brown picked up the phone and asked him to sample the water in Denmark, too. Edwards took samples at 44 homes and six other locations and found lead levels were at the legal limit. It wasn't enough to sound alarm bells.
    However, medical experts say there is no safe level of lead in the body. South Carolina's DHEC tested Brown and Smith's home in 2010, and found about twice the legal level of lead in the water. When it returned to test a few months later, it found levels had dropped below the legal limit. But, in 2011, Eugene Smith, was told by his doctor that the level of lead in his blood was high, and he should avoid his own water. "They are not to be exposed either by ingesting nor skin exposure," reads a medical report that Smith shared with CNN.
    "I was shocked," Smith said. "Because I hadn't felt like I had it in me. I got kind of upset and very angry at the time." Documents from his doctor show his blood lead levels were elevated and he says he was diagnosed with partial kidney function. Although he can't say his health problem was caused by the water, he suspects it.

    Marc Edwards and student William Rhoads in Flint, Michigan.

    Wright wavered, and eventually, Edwards says he was denied access to the wells. Wright said he had no reason to prevent Edwards from sampling. He said the state was required to do its own testing. "I told him I thought it would be a waste of his time and resources to get the same samples," he told CNN. "I guess you have to decide if you gonna believe him or believe me." Instead, the mayor allowed a team from the University of South Carolina to accompany state testers at the well sites, and the resulting report revealed that HaloSan was being added to the drinking water supply at one of the four wells. After Edwards began asking questions, the state was ordered by Clemson University, which oversees pesticide registration in South Carolina, to stop adding HaloSan to the water. The well remains offline and is not in use. "I mean it has stopped, but what the effects that did to people who been using this water through and through?" Eugene Smith said. "I'm real kind of upset. People won't know until they go get tested and find what's happened to your body. Oh my god."

    Denmark's mayor told CNN he believes he has done everything to make sure the water is safe. "I live here," he said. "I use water every day. Drink it. Washing in it. I would be extremely foolish if I didn't make certain it was safe. I care about myself as much as anybody cares about themselves. We have not been derelict or negligent with anything related to water. Those persons complaining, you will find out they are bogus complaints. We don't have any reason at all to provide anything less than quality water." A group of about 40 residents, including Smith and Brown, are now considering litigation, claiming they've been harmed by the water. They've hired Charleston, South Carolina, attorney John Harrell to represent them.  Harrell tells CNN one of his clients, a 12-year-old, had to have her gall bladder removed because she had 4,000 stones in it, and another 15-year-old client had so many bladder-related illnesses that she had to have her bladder removed.
      "There are so many residents that have been diagnosed with kidney dysfunction. I am convinced that there is some serious contamination," he said. South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control, when asked about the potential litigation, said it would be "inappropriate" to comment.
       
      In Echo of Flint, Mich., Water Crisis Now Hits Newark
      Wednesday, 31 October 2018 08:46

      Click here to read the original article in the NY Times.

      By 
      Liz Leyden

      Oct. 30, 2018

      NEWARK — For nearly a year and a half, top officials in Newark denied that their water system had a widespread lead problem, despite ample evidence that the city was facing a public health crisis that had echoes of the one in Flint, Mich.

      Even as the risk persisted in the spring, the officials in Newark, New Jersey’s most populous city, took few precautionary measures, instead declaring on their website, “NEWARK’S WATER IS ABSOLUTELY SAFE TO DRINK.”

      But this month, facing results from a new study, the officials abruptly changed course, beginning an urgent giveaway of 40,000 water filters across the city of 285,000 people, targeting tens of thousands of residences.

      The revelation that Newark is facing a potentially widening public health crisis over tap water has angered many residents and raised questions about whether the city’s negligence has placed young children at risk.

      Officials were finally compelled to act after an engineering study commissioned by the city found that measures to prevent lead from leaching into drinking water were failing at one of Newark’s two treatment plants.

      State officials are warning that children under 6 in homes with lead pipes served by the plant should not drink unfiltered tap water.

      Concerns over lead in tap water have been heightened since the crisis in Flint, where dangerous levels of lead in improperly treated water led to criminal indictments against local and state officials and left residents relying on free bottled water. Like Flint, Newark has a large black population and a high poverty rate.

      “The parallels to Flint are fairly clear: The city was denying a problem even though its own data was showing problems,” said Erik Olson, a top official at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which filed a lawsuit against Newark in the summer, accusing it of violating federal safe drinking water laws. “Newark is not as extreme as Flint but still a serious problem.”

      Newark residents pick up filters at the church. Worries over lead in tap water have been heightened since the crisis in Flint, Mich.CreditSarah Blesener for The New York Times

      But Newark’s mayor, Ras Baraka, has defended the city’s response even as the issue of lead in the water has attracted intense local media attention. “When you make a statement that the drinking water is not safe, it is yelling fire in a crowded room,” he told reporters at a recent news conference. “In fact, Newark has some of the best drinking water. The problem is that our infrastructure is not safe.”

      Some residents are frustrated at how long it took the city to admit the problem. “I applaud the city for now, finally, acknowledging the issue, but they first denied it,” said Bishop Jethro C. James Jr., the senior pastor at Paradise Baptist Church. “The denial was an insult to the citizenry.”

      Candice Grant, 25, an administrative assistant, did not even know there was a lead issue until she got an alert on her cellphone about the filter giveaway.

      “Whoa, there’s lead in the water?” Ms. Grant remembered thinking.

      Her mind flashed to her 7-month-old son, and she immediately called her husband. “I said, ‘Get more bottled water because we’re not giving the baby any more from the house.’”

      No amount of lead exposure is known to be safe for children, whose mental and physical development can be impaired, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In adults, lead can increase risks of high blood pressure and kidney disease; it can cause complications, including miscarriage, for pregnant women.

      In Newark, about a quarter of the more than 14,000 children under 6 who were tested in 2016 had measurable levels of lead in their blood, according to an analysis by Advocates for Children of New Jersey of the most recent publicly available state data.

      “This suggests a pervasive problem throughout the city coming from a variety of sources, and water could easily be one of them,” said Peter Chen, policy counsel at A.C.N.J.

      In 2016, months after lead was discovered in the city’s schools and with the water crisis in Flint in the spotlight, the state announced that large water systems, including Newark’s, would have to test drinking water for lead every six months.

      For Newark, the results were poor. In 2017, more than 22 percent of the samples from its water system tested during the first half of the year exceeded 15 parts per billion of lead, the federal threshold requiring action. Elevated levels have remained in the system for each of the ensuing six-month monitoring periods.


      “We already have mold. We don’t need lead,” said Rashell Walker, right, standing with Brian Bordeaux and their children, Christian, 6, and Isaiah and Elijah, who are 11 months.CreditSarah Blesener for The New York Times

      This summer, the tap water at one house tested at 250 parts per billion.

      The city relies on two reservoirs for its water, but only one of its two treatment plants was found to have problems with its treatment methods.

      When the state first alerted Newark about its high lead levels, city officials said the cause was about 15,000 lead service lines — pipes that connect the city’s water main to plumbing systems in houses and buildings.

      The city said it was helping residents replace such lines, a process that could take as long as eight years.

      Even after the city announced the filter giveaway, some officials continued to play down the problem.“The city’s water coming out of the reservoir is safe,” said Kareem Adeem, the assistant director of Newark’s Department of Water and Sewer Utilities. “The city’s water leaving the treatment plant is safe; the city’s water entering the city’s distribution system, the city’s water main, is safe. The only problem is when the city’s water enters into those lead lines.”

      But the Natural Resources Defense Council argued that Newark failed to properly treat its water with chemical additives that prevent lead from leaching into the water once it enters the pipes. The city said it would now change how it treats water at the plant where the problem was identified.

      “If we don’t have corrosion control measures that effectively reduce the amount of lead that’s going into people’s water before we change their lead service lines, we need to act,” Mr. Baraka told reporters.

      Even as the city is mobilizing, community leaders and residents remain skeptical about its performance. Once the city’s water exceeded the federal limit for lead, officials were required to notify the public. While the city mailed letters and held a town-hall-style event on Facebook, officials kept minimizing the problem.

      A robocall in April promoting the city’s pipe replacement program claimed that the water was “safe” and that the issue was “confined to a limited number of homes.”


      City officials have begun giving away 40,000 water filters, while the Natural Resources Defense Council has filed a lawsuit accusing Newark of violating federal safe drinking water laws.CreditSarah Blesener for The New York Times

      “The robocall incensed me,” said Yvette Jordan, a Newark teacher and a member of the Newark Education Workers Caucus, which joined the Natural Resources Defense Council in suing the city. “The gist of it was that everything was fine.”

      Ms. Jordan said she waited weeks for the Water Department to test the water at her home, which was found to have lead levels of 42.2 parts per billion — nearly three times the federal action threshold.

      Residents are left making the best of the situation. Before the city took action, the Natural Resources Defense Council donated filters to community groups for distribution. Rashell Walker took advantage of a giveaway at Paradise Baptist Church after hearing about it from a neighbor in her building.

      Her apartment has mold, and recently, she said, the water has smelled funky, too. So, she stopped letting her three young children drink it.

      She did not know if her building’s water has lead, but planned to install the filter anyway.

      “We already have mold, we don’t need lead,” she said. “I’m afraid we’re getting sick. Nobody seems to care about us out here.”

      Ms. Grant had used only bottled water for her son’s formula until his most recent checkup, when the doctor said he needed fluoride, which is often added to tap water.

      So, she started mixing a small amount with the formula.

      She said that she never received any notification by mail or phone about lead levels in the water, and that it was never mentioned during visits to a health clinic over the past year. After the city announced the filter giveaway, she picked one up.

      As she kissed the top of her son’s head, Ms. Grant expressed relief that she had not used the tap for long before learning her water might have lead.

      “Luckily, it was only three weeks,” she said.


       
      Detroit shutting off drinking water in all schools because of lead, copper contamination
      Wednesday, 31 October 2018 08:40

      Click here for the original article in USA Today

      DETROIT – Detroit's city school district is shutting off drinking water to all of its schools after test results found elevated levels of lead or copper in 16 of 24 schools recently tested.

      In a statement Wednesday, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti of the Detroit Public Schools Community District said he had initiated water testing in all 106 school buildings in the spring to ensure the safety of students and employees. Water at 18 schools previously had been shut off because of high levels of the heavy metals.

      "Although we have no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in our other schools where we are awaiting test results, out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our students and employees I am turning off all drinking water in our schools until a deeper and broader analysis can be conducted to determine the long-term solutions for all schools," Vitti said.

      The school district serves almost 50,000 students.

      ► April 9: Up to 30,000 Flint kids to be screened for effects of lead in drinking water
      ► August 2017: 63 million Americans exposed to unsafe drinking water
      ► December 2016: What the EPA says it's doing about lead in tap water

      Both lead and copper leach into drinking water primarily through corroded pipes and other plumbing fixtures, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Health problems can range from stomachaches to brain damage.

      The EPA ceiling for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion, and even 5 ppb can be a cause for concern. For copper, the limit is 1.3 parts per million. 

      The human body needs a trace amount of copper to function, but no amount of lead is safe, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's especially true for childrenbecause a smaller amount can be potent in a small body and because their bodies and brains are developing rapidly.

      "This was not required by federal, state or city law or mandate," Vitti said. "This testing, unlike previous testing, evaluated all water sources from sinks to drinking fountains."

      The Detroit Free Press was shadowing Vitti on a day in May when the issue of water quality in the schools came up during a Cabinet meeting. Earlier that day, Vitti had learned that test results at several schools had come back showing elevated lead levels.

      The district's building problems have been a constant source of frustration for Vitti. Earlier this summer, Vitti released details from a facilities review that found the district would need to spend $500 million now to fix the poor conditions in its schools.

      That price tag would rise to $1.4 billion in five years if the district did nothing.

      ► September 2016: N.Y. governor signs law mandating lead testing in schools
      ► June 2016: Lawmakers urge EPA to reduce standard for lead in drinking water

      In May, Vitti said the district didn't make the right investments in facilities while it was under the control of state-appointed emergency managers from 2009 to 2016. Vitti became superintendent in May 2017.

      "It’s sending the message to students, parents and employees that we really don’t care about public education in Detroit, that we allow for second-class citizenry in Detroit," Vitti said then. "And that hurts my heart and it angers me and it frustrates me that I can’t fix it right now."

      At the 16 schools with elevated copper and/or lead levels discovered last year, the district took immediate action.

      "I immediately turned off the drinking water at those schools and provided water bottles until water coolers arrive," Vitti said.

      Now, nearly a third of the city's school building have tested positive for excessive lead and copper levels. Not all of the sites have been tested yet.

      Water fountains and other drinking-water sources likely will be shut off at all schools by the end of this week and certainly before the school year begins Tuesday, said Chrystal Wilson, school district spokeswoman.

      Vitti said he had notified Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan of his decision.

      "The mayor’s office plans to partner with us to determine challenges with water quality in our schools and solutions to them," Vitti said.

      The mayor is fully supportive of Vitti's approach and has offered to help through the city's health and water departments, said John Roach, a spokesman for Duggan.

      "We also will be reaching out to charter (school) operators in the coming days to work with them on a possible similar testing strategy to the voluntary one Dr. Vitti has implemented," Roach said in a statement. Detroit has 15 charter schools, independently run public schools, and some of them use buildings that had been traditional public schools.

      ► April 2016: Lawmakers target lead contamination in drinking water
      ► March 2016: Excessive lead levels found in 2,000 water systems across all states

      Detroit's water department and the regional water and sewer agency for southeast Michigan, the Great Lakes Water Authority, also issued a statement to assure residents that the lead and copper contamination with water in the school buildings do not extend to the pipes that deliver water to customers' homes.

      "Aging school infrastructure, i.e. plumbing, is the reason for the precautionary measure of providing bottled water," the joint statement said. 

      Water that the authority treats surpasses all federal and state standards, according to the statement. Water at the agency's treatment plants is tested hourly, and Detroit's water district has no lead pipes connected to any Detroit school buildings.

      ► March 2016: Lead taints drinking water in hundreds of schools, day cares
      ► January 2016: Students band together to bring safe water to Flint

      Engineering and water-quality experts will help the school district understand the cause of the water problems and help solve them, Wilson said.

      This isn't the first time the district has tested school buildings for elevated levels of lead and copper. In 2016, at the height of the controversy over lead in home water pipes in Flint, Michigan, testing in Detroit found 19 schools with elevated lead levels in drinking water.


      Contributing: Katrease Stafford, Detroit Free Press. Follow Lori Higgins on Twitter: @LoriAHiggins

       
      << Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

      Page 1 of 26