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Archive for the ‘Pollution’ Category

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank some twenty days ago. Since then, oil has been gushing from the uncapped well to the tune of at least 5,000 barrels per day, though some estimate the daily hemorrhage to be at a rate of about 25,000 barrels. As the flow of oil continues, and the massive spill assaults the U.S. coast of the Gulf of Mexico, some are starting to ask why we have chosen to invest plenty time and resources into new drilling technologies, but practically no resources into new oil spill clean-up techniques.

It’s true: we will be using a lot of older and more cumbersome means to clean up the beaches, ocean, and wildlife for quite some time. However, some groups are using this environmental catastrophe to promote new “green” approaches to cleaning up our black gold problems. One group, Matter of Trust, has been promoting a new variation on an old approach: oil booms and oil-soaking mats made from hair.

Their approach is slowly making its way through the press, and I hope this movement continues to gain momentum. It’s ingenious: hair naturally clings to oils from the environment (which is why unwashed hair gets so oily). It’s practical: salons, sheep farms, and pet grooming businesses accumulate pounds and pounds of trimmed hair and fur daily, which is usually thrown out unceremoniously. It’s simple: businesses which accumulate hair and fur trimmings simply need to sweep up the bounty and ship it to Matter of Trust. They manufacture oil-clinging mats and booms (also made from used nylons, of course) to use as part of the clean-up effort. Of course, these mats and booms are also useful for the thousands of other oil spills that occur each year. These products could also be used in urban areas to prevent oil from reaching the watershed.

Most important of all: it’s accessible. Very few of us live along the Gulf coast in areas directly affected by the oil spill. Of course, we are all indirectly harmed by the spill, but the effects may take some time to reach us. However, many of us do get our hair trimmed, and do see the floor littered with hair trimmings. The argument advocated by Matter of Trust is simple: put these trimmings to good use and make a real difference in our approach to oil spills!

So, the next time you go for a haircut, mention three simple words to the salon employees: Matter of Trust. Perhaps your salon or pet groomer already participates? It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.

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A dead sea turtle washed ashore near Pass Christian, Mississippi. Since the devastating oil spill over a week ago, dead sea turtles have washed ashore in several U.S. states along the Gulf of Mexico. The number of corpses is much larger than normal.

Earlier this week, 25 sea turtle corpses washed up Mississippi beaches alone. Initial examination of the bodies did not reveal oil on the turtles. However, scientists caution that oil could have doomed the sea turtles in a number of other ways. For example, ingesting oil or fish contaminated with oil could damage the lungs, liver, and red blood cells. Oil exposure could also cause pneumonia or immune system distress. Tissue samples from the turtle corpses are being tested to look for evidence of some of these effects.

Some of the dead turtles include Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle, an endangered species. Oil continues to leak from the well of the former Deepwater Horizon oil rig to the tune of about 5,000 barrels per day.

Image provided courtesy of the New York Times and Michael Appleton.

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The U.S. government is still trying to wrap its head around the scope of the damage done (and still being done) by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ll be dealing with this for years to come.

In the meantime, yesterday the U.S. Department of Energy released a numbing series of photos of the final moments of the Deepwater Horizon rig. The explosion and fire on Deepwater Horizon occurred on 20 April 2010. These photos were taken two days alter as it listed and sank in 5,000 feet of water. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead.

Oil is still leaking from the Deepwater Horizon’s well to the tune of at least 5,000 barrels a day, the slick will soon reach the shores of Gulf states, and dead marine life is washing ashore.

I can’t help but recall my childhood on the Gulf coast of southern Florida: literally days and days spent on the beach. I was particularly fond of evening walks on the beach in the winter: wearing one of our few sweatshirts, a breathtaking sunset, and dolphins swimming just offshore. I hope I’m not the last generation to experience this.

Image provided courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Earlier today, I headed over to the University of Washington campus so high school students could teach me all about water quality problems facing the Puget Sound region. The event showcased projects the students themselves had chosen to research and test as part of their science classes at three Seattle high schools. Three local organizations put on the event: the Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence, the University of Washington’s GK12 teaching fellowship program, and SoundCitizen.

In short, the event was a tremendous success. The students were curious and enthusiastic about their chosen topics, and this biologist learned quite a lot. Any and all water quality issues were addressed: from environmental pollutants to saving the local orca pods.

Belatedly, I remembered that I had my iPhone with me, and took a few pictures of my favorite presentations. Unfortunately, my iPhone photography skills leave a lot to be desired.
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