Whole new set of environmental problems regarding Japanese Tsunami debris

Japanese Tsunami Debris and Potential Invasions In Western North America
2012 June 29.By Chris Janousek, Melanie Frazier, Henry Lee II

A large floating dock from Japan recently washed up on the Oregon coast, bringing a host of non-native species with it.
When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan’s coast on March 11, 2011 it resulted in the loss of nearly 20,000 lives and billions of dollars in damage. One result of this devastation was an estimated 25 million tons of debris, much of which was swept into the Pacific Ocean as the tsunami receded. The refuse that did not sink formed a floating field that scientists predicted would arrive on the North American coastline in 2013.

One surprising early arrival was a large floating dock that washed ashore June 5, 2012 on Agate Beach, about five miles north of our EPA research lab in Newport, Oregon.

Invertebrates and seaweeds flourished on the side of the floating dock.
The dock, about the size of four large rental trucks (roughly 20 meters long and six meters wide), was covered with organisms not native to North America, including sea stars, barnacles, mussels, amphipods, and algae.

One organism of particular concern was a ruffled kelp, Undaria pinnatifida. The species, also known as ‘wakame,’ is a seaweed used in Japanese soups and salads, and is also classified as one of the world’s top 100 worst invasive species by the Global Invasive Species Database. Undaria has not become established in the Pacific Northwest, but has invaded coastal waters in California.

Invasive species are one part of EPA’s effort to understand threats to natural ecosystems. Along with partners from the U.S. Geological Survey, we are building an “Atlas of Nonindigenous Marine Species in the North Pacific” to catalog marine and estuarine invaders in the U.S., Canada, and Asia.

The Atlas will help risk managers assess the likelihood of new invasions by geographic location and species. This type of information will be an invaluable resource for monitoring the arrival of invasive species from Japan or other parts of the world.

While the dock represents an unusual threat to the outer coast and estuarine ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest, the degree of risk depends to a large extent on the specific Japanese species transported and whether they have already invaded the U.S. west coast.

An Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist shows a sample of a Japanese kelp.
Most marine invaders are introduced into new areas of the world’s coastline by ballast water discharged from ships or by transport on boat hulls. The Japanese dock demonstrates that debris from last year’s tsunami may be a significant additional way for non-native species to arrive in North America during the next couple years.

About the authors: Ecologists Chris Janousek, Ph.D., Melanie Frazier, Ph.D., and Henry Lee II, Ph.D., study the current status and stressors of coastal ecosystems. All three work at EPA’s Western Ecology Division laboratory in Newport, Oregon.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Tags: Ecosystems research, invasive species.from → Ecosystems research, Invasive species


1st pipeline problem this month in Alberta.

Note that the same firm that had this problem was instrumental in producing the largest environmental leak in Alberta’s history in 2011. 

DAILY NEWSJun 25, 2012 2:27 PM – 0 comments

Lawsuit follows Red Deer River oil rupture


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06/25/2012 2012-06-25

Merchant Law Group launched a $75-million class-action lawsuit on June 22, 2012 over claims the recent oil spill by  Plains Midstream Canada will crush property values in Alberta’s Red Deer River area.

The oil company has yet to reveal what happened to cause the pipeline leak on June 7, 2012, but the lawsuit claims negligence over an alleged vulnerability to heavy rain.

Regina-based lawyer Tony Merchant is representing at least 30 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including area business owners.

At least one couple named in the lawsuit had been in the process of selling their lots at the time of the leak, which led to approximately 475,000 litres of light crude oil spilling into the Red Deer River and Glennifer Lake.

Oil Cleanup continues

Oil company officials claim to have the situation in hand as more than 180 workers continue to clean and remediate the area of pipeline rupture using more than 6,000 feet of oil containment booms.

“The good news is the pipeline wasn’t flowing at the time and the river was,” said Stephen Bart, VP of Crude Oil Operations, who addressed reporters June 12, 2012 at a news conference by Dickson Dam near Innisfail, Alberta. “And as a consequence, the spill flowed rapidly into the Gleniffer reservoir.”

Bart added that workers were able to confine the spill to a relatively small area along the shoreline.

In addition to absorbent pads placed at the pipeline release, a skimmer boat has been deployed on the reservoir to capture oil, Plains Midstream Canada officials explained.

Water sampling continues in the reservoir and downstream to evaluate hydrocarbon levels in 18 different areas.

“With the exception of one reading on the first day [June 7, 2012], all of those readings have been well within Alberta guidelines for drinking water,” Bart said.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board is investigating the leak, a spokeswoman said.

Just last year, on April 29, 2011, Plains Midstream Canada was responsible for one of the largest oil leaks in Alberta history, just northeast of Peace River. Some 4.5 million litres of oil leaked out, resulting in cleanup efforts that are just now reaching completion.

In a recently issued statement, Premier Alison Redford said that “many questions will be asked over the coming days about Alberta’s pipeline infrastructure.

“Let me be clear,” she added, “Alberta has an internationally recognized pipeline system supported by a strong regulatory framework. Together they serve as a model for other jurisdictions.”

According to Plains Midstream Canada officials, 13 wildlife monitors, three wildlife biologists and two wildlife technicians are on the spill scene to observe the impact and deter additional wildlife from entering the area.

How many oil field problems are enough? 2nd in Alberta this month so far.

DAILY NEWSJun 25, 2012 5:18 PM – 0 comments

Alberta plagued by second June oil leak


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06/25/2012 2012-06-25

A June 18, 2012 pipeline leak in Alberta gushed 230,000 litres of heavy crude oil northeast of Edmonton at an Enbridge Inc. pumping station, officials say.

Enbridge indicated in a news release that the cause of the leak appears to be a failure of a flange gasket at the 12-year-old Elk Point pumping station. As soon as the company detected the leak, it took the appropriate steps to notify civic authorities and other regulatory agencies, company officials say.

“Flange gaskets are a necessary and common component in all pipeline systems, as they provide a seal when two pipe components are joined together,” Enbridge explains on its corporate website. “An investigation of the incident will be conducted in conjunction with all regulators and stakeholders.”

No water or wildlife was impacted, Enbridge officials note.

Under the approval of the Energy Resources Conservation Board, Enbridge says the Athabasca pipeline resumed production on June 19, 2012.

The leak is the second major spill in Alberta during June. On June 7, 2012 approximately 475,000 litres of light crude oil seeped into the Red Deer River and Gleniffer Lake through a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline.

Enbridge is proposing to build a pipeline that would stretch from Alberta to the B.C. coast and transport oilsands oil. 

Oil Sands

Mammal tracking systems identified for oil sands use

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Mammal tracking systems identified for oil sands use

June 26, 2012 – NineSigma, Inc. has helped the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative (OSLI) to identify four promising mammal counting technologies. OSLI is looking for improved methods of counting and identifying mammals in the Boreal Forest in Alberta,Canada, where oil sands operations are concentrated.

OSLI is a collaborative network of companies that includes ConocoPhillips Canada, Nexen Inc., Shell Canada, Statoil Canada, Suncor Energy Inc., and Total E&P Canada Ltd., who are sharing research and best practices for preserving the Canadian oil sands. OSLI partnered with NineSigma to identify new technologies for tracking hoofed mammals like moose, caribou, deer, and wood bison, as well as large predators like wolves. These animals are an important part of the health and survival of the region’s ecosystem. The goal is to implement a world-class approach to assuring environmental sustainability, social well-being and economic viability in Alberta’s Boreal Forest, while also providing the world with oil for energy.

NineSigma is the most experienced innovation service provider in the world, specializing in open innovation to solve the world’s most complex challenges. NineSigma’s team of PhD scientists and consultants works closely with its clients to tap the “global brain” of solution providers, who are often from different industries or regions of the world.

“The Canadian oil sands are a valuable natural resource, and we are proud to be part of OSLI’s commitment to ensuring the long-term viability of wildlife indigenous to that region,” said Andy Zynga, CEO of NineSigma.

To date, organizations like OSLI have used cameras, scat detection dogs, visual aerial surveys and collaring with GPS/telemetry units to count large mammals. OSLI is seeking new approaches that utilize advanced technologies to ensure accurate counts and determine if there are issues with animal populations and whether or not mitigation programs are working effectively.

To find better solutions, OSLI engaged with NineSigma to put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) entitled Accurate Wildlife Detection to Determine Absolute Abundance. Selection criteria included strong scientific and technical merit, economic potential, little to no stress on animals, and cost effectiveness, among others. Solutions were welcomed from diverse types of organizations – small to large companies, NGOs or governments, academic researchers, consultants, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and inventors.

NineSigma vetted entries together with OSLI, and the top four technologies were funded for testing. These winning solutions from the U.S. and Europe include:
•   Improvement of current forward-looking Infrared (FLIR) technology.
•   Military technology combined with Light Detection and Range (LIDAR), an optical remote-sensing technology that can measure distance or other properties of a target using laser pulses.
•   Multi-spectral imaging including polarized light, involving highly refined camera hardware.
•   Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.

“We are making great progress in our goals to improve accuracy, timeliness and economic factors in mammal tracking by seeing these top technologies in action,” says Will Hughesman, Nexen, Land Stewardship Working Group Chair for OSLI. “These technologies could advance the management of industrial impacts on wildlife while enabling safer extraction and provisioning of oil as a viable global energy resource.”

Bio Fuel for Aircraft – Huge Break Through

Air Canada successful with first biofuel powered flight

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Air Canada successful with first biofuel powered flight

An Air Canada flight from Toronto to Mexico City used a 50/50 mix of regular and biofuels recently.

June 26, 2012 – The Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA) applauded Air Canada’s first biofuels powered flight. The commercial flight between Toronto and Mexico City that took place June 18, 2012 was fueled by a 50/50 mix of biofuels derived from recycled cooking oil and traditional jet fuel.

According to Air Canada, the flight was supported by Airbus and was flown in conjunction with an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) environmental demonstration ahead of the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Flight AC991 from Toronto to Mexico City was expected to generate at least 40 per cent fewer emissions by using jet fuel derived from recycled cooking oil and through other fuel-saving measures, making it the most environmentally-friendly flight ever flown by Air Canada. The flight was part of an environmental demonstration by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to coincide with the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The flight was conducted with an Airbus A319 aircraft using a 50/50 mix of regular and biofuel derived from recycled cooking oil.

“We are proud to say that Canada’s national airline is now a world leader in environmental performance,” said CRFA president W. Scott Thurlow. “Running commercial flights on a high renewable fuels blend means fewer GHGs in our atmosphere and a lower carbon footprint for air travel. Both Air Canada and Airbus should be applauded for their efforts to adopt renewable fuels into their operations.”

The biofuel, produced from recycled cooking oil, was supplied by SkyNRG and is certified to meet jet fuel standards. Like most biofuels, this fuel can be used safely in the Airbus’ engines without any required modifications.

“Air Canada fully accepts its responsibility to reduce its footprint and our first flight using biofuel tangibly demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the environment. Since 1990 our airline has become 30 per cent more fuel efficient and we are determined to increase these gains through cutting-edge measures such as those being showcased with this Toronto-Mexico City flight, our greenest ever,” said Duncan Dee, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Air Canada. “The flight, supported by Airbus, will link with other biofuel flights from Canada to Rio de Janeiro arranged under the auspices of ICAO to underscore the aviation industry’s commitment to the environment at the UN sustainability conference.”

Who would think that a bakery would cause air emission problems

For Immediate Release: June 26, 2012
Media Contact: Michael Ardito; ardito.michael@epa.gov; 415-972-3081

Ralcorp Commercial Bakery in Lodi to Pay More than $1.3 Million for Air Violations
U.S. EPA, San Joaquin Valley Air District assess penalty
SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District today announced a Clean Air Act settlement with Ralcorp’s Cottage Bakery in Lodi, Calif. after the facility failed to obtain permits and install proper air pollution controls. The company will pay a penalty of $625,000.
In addition, the company paid $750,000 to install and operate a thermal oxidizer that reduces volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 95 percent. VOC emissions are considered a precursor to ozone and particulate pollution. San Joaquin Valley violates the federal air quality standard for both ozone and particulate pollution and has some of the poorest air quality in the nation.
“Air quality is a critical human health issue in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our enforcement action requires air pollution controls at the plant to protect the communities in the Valley from illegal emissions.”
The EPA’s investigation of the facility included an inspection conducted on July 27, 2009. The EPA’s investigation revealed that the facility had never applied for air pollution permits to install and operate the facility’s ovens and associated air pollution controls. Ethanol, a VOC, is generated during the leavening stage of bread manufacturing and is later released during baking. Cottage Bakery’s production facility includes three bread ovens installed at various times between 1997 and 2006.
Cottage Bakery is a large-scale commercial bakery with about 625 employees. The facility produces frozen bread and cake products that are used by retail bakeries and the food service industry throughout the U.S. and Canada. Cottage Bakery, Inc. is owned by Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products, headquartered in Downers Grove, Ill.
The proposed consent decree for the settlement, lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on June 26, 2012, is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. A copy of the proposed decree will be available on the Justice Department website found at http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html .
For more information about air pollution permits, please visit the EPA’s web site at http://www.epa.gov/region9/air/permit/index.html

Protecting the Environment is not enough

Rio+20: protecting the environment is not enough
A three-dimensional approach to development is now needed – one that combines social, economic and environmental concerns

By Antonio Patriota
Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Relations
published by “The Guardian”, June 20, 2012

Rio+20 is a landmark for the future. As more than 190 countries gather in Rio, we are witnessing a historic moment. The recent global crisis has shown that old-fashioned views about development are misleading. It is now time to rethink the very foundations of how we consider development, wellbeing and wealth.

Over the past four decades, the world has increasingly realised that our natural resources are under serious pressure. A growing awareness of the need to ensure sustainability has led a whole new generation to consider the requirements of sustainable development in its decisions to produce or consume. This is no small achievement. Rio 92 was a major step forward. Important legal texts on key issues were adopted. These conventions ensured important progress that we must maintain and build on.

We now face a complex challenge. Protecting the environment is not enough. We need to encourage public and private decision-makers to incorporate environmental and social concerns into economic planning and growth strategies. This will require a new thinking from policymakers, experts, business people, project managers and many other public and private actors in order to plan and implement sustainable development initiatives.

From now on, a three-dimensional approach to development is crucial, one that combines social, economic and environmental concerns. Rio+20 is endeavouring to become the launch pad for this new development model. This is why one of the main topics of Rio+20 is building consensus around the need for “sustainable development goals”. They will offer a blueprint for international co-operation on sustainable development for years to come. Future strategies, be it for governments, entrepreneurs or civil society, must offer a balanced and integrated approach encompassing the three pillars of sustainable development.

In order to achieve this result, Brazil decided to adopt new methods. Innovative tools for multilateral meetings were introduced, bringing national governments and global civil society together. The Dialogues for Sustainable Development, a Brazilian initiative enthusiastically embraced by the UN, opened straightforward means of communication between interested groups and civil society on key aspects of decision-making. Through an online platform, more than 1 million votes were cast, expressing views on 10 issues related to the conference. Topics ranged from energy and water to sustainable cities and food security. During four days in Rio, sharing the venue of the summit, experts, businessmen, activists and journalists engaged in live debates and streamlined the proposals that will be handed to the heads of state and government. The “Rio dialogues” were so successful that the UN is now considering turning this initiative into a standard practice for future summits.

Another key objective of Rio+20 is the strengthening of the UN framework for sustainable development, with a view to greater efficiency and consistency across issues.

Rio+20 has launched an important debate on green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, based on the understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A green economy only makes sense for developing countries if it is accompanied by a significant improvement in the living standards of the population, with special attention to the most vulnerable.

Rio+20 involves an assessment of the past 20 years and a look into the next few decades. We are confident that this message will echo through the years, fostering new initiatives which can lead to a more sustainable future for all.