videoMar 17, 2013 5:45 pm
Chemical companies get permits from the government to dump pollution into our rivers and lakes. But, as this PBS investigation shows, companies can and do dump chemicals in violation of environmental laws. And get away with it.
In part one of a two-part series, PBS NewsHour Science Correspondent Miles O’Brien travels to Hinkley, CA — the town whose multi-million dollar settlement for groundwater contamination was featured in the movie “Erin Brockovich.”
Now, almost 30 years later, O’Brien explores the reasons why the groundwater in Hinkley still has dangerous levels of the chemical chromium and its link to cancer.
(And, can we pause to reflect just for a minute that Miles O’Brien is one of America’s great modern journalists. I really admire his work.)
videoFeb 16, 2013 7:20 pm
Dead Zones: How to kill the ocean. This video by NOAA shows what Hypoxia is and how we cause it. There are a lot of cause of hypoxia, but humans cause the most damage. Basically, hypoxia is the lack of oxygen in the ocean. It occurs when polluted and sedimented rivers drain into the ocean. Those pollutants kill pretty much everything in its path. For a more technical explanation, go here.
One major Dead Zone we’ve caused is in the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi drains over 40% of the land in the US. The river is full of runoff from hundreds of cities and tens of thousands of a farms (gross!). This soup empties into the Gulf of Mexico, killing everything in its path. This is called a Dead Zone.
There are hundreds of Dead Zones along US coasts.
At least 166 hypoxic dead zones attributable to human activities have been documented along our Nation’s coasts. Some estuaries experience very large dead zones every year such as the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, and the Gulf of Mexico.
One of the worst Dead Zones is in the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, pollution is getting worse in the region, causing the Dead Zone to increase.
Hypoxia in the Chesapeake Bay has worsened since the 1960’s and has been directly linked to nutrient pollution (Hagy et at., 2004). This map demonstrates the considerable extent of poor dissolved oxygen levels in the Bay in August, 2009 (Chesapeake EcoCheck, 2009 ).
There’s also a large Dead Zone in New York.
Long Island Sound has episodes of hypoxia every summer and the problem has been worsening since the 1950’s. The map below (Figure 2) presents historic data showing conditions since 1991 (Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, 2009).
The Gulf of Mexico dead zone threatens valuable commercial and recreational fisheries that generate about $2.8 billion annually in the region.
Dead Zones are expected to worsen as the climate changes. The effects on the oceans and on human systems will be devastating. Fun right?
For more, see NOAA’s Hypoxia Watch project.
photoJan 16, 2013 10:44 pm