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Posts tagged ‘Air pollution’

US West Faces ‘Worst Drought in 500 Years’.

California’s three-year drought could end up being the area’s worst in 500 years, forcing even tougher restrictions on residents who have been cutting back on showers and farming already.

On Friday, the State Water Project, which is the main distribution system of municipal water in California, announced it would not be allocating any water from its reservoirs to local agencies this spring. It is the first time it has taken such action in its 54-year history.

Drinking water for 25 million people and irrigation for 1 million acres of farmland will be affected, Fox News reports. 

“We are on track for having the worst drought in 500 years,” B. Lynn Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, told The New York Times.

Gov. Jerry Brown already had called on Californians to cut back on water use by 20 percent.

The State Water Project typically makes an announcement of water allocation on February 1, enabling farmers to plan what and how much they will plant based on how much water they will be able to use for irrigation. With the announcement that no allocation will be made, some farmers have opted to plant nothing, The New York Times reports. 

Others are planning to drill more wells to tap aquifers, which aren’t regulated by the state. But previous years’ use of those aquifers already have lowered their levels, and the ongoing drought has not given them time to return to normal range.

With fears that California could be in a 500-year drought, officials want water supplies to be preserved in case they are needed over the next several years.

“These actions will protect us all in the long run,” State Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin said in a news conference.

The crisis is pitting farmers, city dwellers and environmentalists against each other, but officials are appealing to residents to put aside long-held divisions.

A snow survey Thursday in the Sierra Nevada showed a snowpack of only 12 percent of normal, Fox reported. Reservoirs are lower than in 1977, one of the state’s previous worst drought years.

With forecasts still calling for no rain, 17 rural communities that provide water to 40,000 people could run out of within 60 to 120 days, The New York Times reports.

“Every day this drought goes on we are going to have to tighten the screws on what people are doing,” the governor said.

“I have experienced a really long career in this area, and my worry meter has never been this high,” Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, told The New York Times. “We are talking historical drought conditions, no supplies of water in many parts of the state. My industry’s job is to try to make sure that these kind of things never happen. And they are happening.”

Besides drinking supplies and farm irrigation, the lack of water is threatening the endangered salmon and other fish species. And air pollution in Los Angeles, which had been declining over the past 10 years, is on the rise without rain to clean the air. Bans have been put on fireplace wood burning to combat the problem.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

Air, Air, Everywhere, Nor A Place To Breathe In Lagos! By Ogaga Ifowodo.


Ogaga Ifowodo

I have taken extreme liberties with the anguished cry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s narrator in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” for good reason. Had that traumatised and glittering-eyed character of one of the world’s best-known narrative poems undertaken his doomed voyage in the 21st and not, presumably, the 19th Century, then chanced to be blown ashore in Lagos, he might, I think, have approved of this rendering of his unfathomable terror.

With every of his crewmates dead and he condemned to roam the seas alone as punishment for the unconscionable act (“a hellish thing,” in his own words) of killing a benevolent albatross — in other words, cruelty to nature — his was the supreme irony of dying in the midst of plenty; hence his cry, “water, water every where nor any drop to drink.” But I exaggerate because it is clear to me that we are getting dangerously close to a similar ordeal as the ancient mariner’s with regard to air, another vital element. Lagos, quite literally, is fast becoming an impossible place to breathe.

The dangerous effects of air pollution are indisputable: the scientific view is that it causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Which can cause death through lung cancer, pneumonia, asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, including bronchitis and emphysema), while also increasing the risk factor in diabetes and heart patients. As is often the case, infants and the elderly with insufficiently developed or weakened immune systems are the most vulnerable.

Of course, air pollution is not a Lagos problem but Nigeria’s as a whole. In fact, it is a global problem, given that ultimately all of earth’s inhabitants breathe the same air. Those immediately exposed to bad air may suffer more in the short term, but soon enough what goes round comes round to imperil biological life everywhere. But I focus on Lagos in this essay because it is my favourite city, even though I have visited and even resided in a few of the world’s most storied cities. And, also, partly on the basis of personal experience; of which, more presently.

It is true that many around the world, especially in Europe and America, consider China as a literal pollution nuclear bomb waiting to detonate and cause an environmental Armageddon. But as The Economist of London shows in its cover story of 10 August 2013, China may in fact be well ahead of Europe and America in cleaning up its phenomenally fouled air. Quite remarkable is the sheer amounts of money ($275 billion over the next five years, twice the size of the annual defence budget) that China is devoting to the urgent task of improving air quality. Its commitment to clean and more efficient alternative energy sources to coal and fossil fuel has already made it the leader in solar panel manufacturing.

Needless to say, Nigeria is not remotely close to the scale of industrial activity that makes China the factory of the world. Still, when it comes to the burning of fossil fuel, the chief source of air pollution in Nigeria, Lagos, I suspect, will top Shanghai. Unregulated emissions from the diesel and petrol engines of millions upon millions of cars, buses, trucks and generators lead to astronomically high levels of carbon and sulphur oxides and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air. With an energy corporation formerly known as NEPA or Never Expect Power Always/At All, but which lately became PHCN or Problem Has Changed its Name, Nigeria, and so Lagos, enjoys the dubious distinction of the generator capital of the world.

Until recently, I did not know that it was vehicular and generator emission that made me ever so miserable in Lagos. I am a mildly asthmatic allergy sufferer, and just last month it dawned on me that I tend to have my worst breathing, sneezing, runny and itchy-eyes moments whenever I have been more directly exposed to densely polluted air. Such as when in traffic; particularly, when caught for a while behind vehicles pumping black clouds of petrochemical poison into the air. Or during prolonged exposure to the fumes of generators. Double wahala then: noise and air pollution!

According to the World Health Organisation, outdoor air pollution causes an estimated 1.3 million deaths worldwide annually, mostly among inhabitants of poor countries. But WHO may have understated the figure. A Cornell University study, led by Professor David Pimentel, finds that as many as 3 million people die from air pollution a year. Even more worrisome, environmental degradation contributes to the malnourishment and susceptibility to diseases of 3.7 billion people.

By reducing particulate matter (in the 10 micron diameter category) from 70 to 20 micrograms per cubic metre, says WHO, deaths related to poor air quality can be reduced by about 15 percent.  Yet, the PM10 for Lagos is estimated at 122.3 and the average for Nigeria is 123.6! Given that as individuals we cannot control our exposure to polluted air, government at the local, state and federal levels must begin to take serious and urgent steps to sanitise our air (as well as water and soil).  Lagos, a mega-city that has, under Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, begun to take itself seriously, can no longer push air quality to the back-burner of its priorities. Breathing should be as free of health hazards as good air.


Report: Flaws in EPA Drilling Pollution Data.

Limited data and unreliable estimates on air pollution from oil and natural gas production is hindering the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to police the drilling boom, the agency’s internal watchdog said in a report released Thursday.

Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. said the EPA has failed to directly measure emissions from some pieces of equipment and processes, and some estimates it does have are of “questionable quality.”

“With limited data, human health risks are uncertain, states may design incorrect or ineffective emission control strategies, and EPA’s decisions about regulating industry may be misinformed,” Elkins said.

The EPA, under President Barack Obama, has stepped up regulation of natural gas drilling, which has been booming thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. About 25,000 wells a year are being fracked, a process in which water, chemicals and sand are injected at high pressure underground to release trapped natural gas.

Obama also wants to expand natural gas production, as long as it doesn’t damage the environment.

Oil and gas production, from the well site to processing plants to storage tanks and transmission lines, releases toxic and cancer-causing air pollutants, smog-forming gases and methane, a potent greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.

The oil and gas industry has said the EPA has overestimated emissions of methane and argued that they already were working to reduce pollution, without the agency’s intervention.

The EPA last year issued the first-ever standards to control smog- and soot-forming gases from gas wells site, and updated existing rules to reduce cancer-causing pollution, such as benzene, from other equipment.

The agency, in response to the report, agreed to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve its pollution figures.

An industry association, America‘s Natural Gas Alliance, had not seen the report and had no comment late Thursday.



Inspector general’s report:


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