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Gowanus Canal Superfund Site
February 3, 2011 03:55 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has completed its investigation of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, N.Y. The investigation confirmed the widespread presence of numerous contaminants in the canal and identified the sources of contamination. The investigation also identified characteristics of the canal that will influence future plans for a cleanup. A companion human and ecological risk assessment found that exposure to the contaminants in the canal poses potential threats to people’s health and the environment. The Gowanus Canal was originally built to allow access for industrial needs by bulkheading and dredging a tidal creek and wetland that had previously been fished for oysters. After its completion in the 1860s, the canal quickly became one of the nation’s busiest industrial waterways, home to heavy industry including gas works, coal yards, cement makers, soap makers, tanneries, paint and ink factories, machine shops, chemical plants, and oil refineries. It was also the repository of untreated industrial wastes, raw sewage, and surface water runoff for decades, causing it to become one of New York’s most polluted waterways. Although much of the industrial activity along the canal has stopped, high contaminant levels remain in the sediments.
Brazil Approves Construction of the Belo Monte Dam Project
February 2, 2011 11:07 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
The proposed Belo Monte Dam in northern Brazil would be the third largest hydro-electric dam in the world in terms of electrical output. The dam would be 3.75 miles long and generate over 11,000 megawatts, which could power up to 23 million homes. Government officials say that the dam is an essential step in supplying energy to the nation's growing population. However, the project is rife with environmental conflicts. The project requires the clearing of 588 acres of Amazon jungle, the displacement of over 20,000 indigenous people, flooding a 193 square mile area, and drying up a 62 mile stretch of the Xingu River.
Eurasian Arctic Rivers
February 2, 2011 08:55 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Changes in the amount and timing of the discharge of major Eurasian Arctic rivers have been well documented, but whether or not these changes can be attributed to climatic factors or to the construction of man made reservoirs remains unclear. A new research report helps to identify the key processes (snow cover and air temperature) that have regulated seasonal stream flow fluctuations in the Eurasian Arctic over the last half-century (1958—1999) and to understand the regional coherence of timing trends, using a set of Eurasian Arctic rivers selected specifically because they are free of known effects of dams. A shift toward the earlier onset of spring runoff as measured by a modest change in the spring pulse onset (26 of 45 stations) and a strong change in the timing (39 of 45 stations). Winter stream flows increased over the period of record in most rivers, suggesting that trends observed by others in larger regulated Eurasian Arctic rivers may not be entirely attributable to reservoir construction.
Australian Cyclone Yasi
February 1, 2011 04:27 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Down under they are called cyclones. In the Atlantic they are called hurricanes. Queensland in northeast Australia has recently been hit with devastating floods. Now Yasi, a very large cyclone, is bearing down. Yasi has reached maximum sustained winds near 90 knots (103 mph), equivalent to a Category Two hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale early on January 31). Since then the winds have increased to a category 3 storm. It was centered about 875 miles east of Cairns, Australia, moving west at about 19 knots per hour (22 mph). Cyclone-force winds extend out to 30 miles from the center. Yasi is forecast to move west, then southwestward, into an area of low vertical wind shear (strong wind shear can weaken a storm). Forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center expect Yasi to continue to strengthen over the next 36 hours. The Center forecasts a landfall just south of Cairns as a large 100-plus knot-per-hour (115 mph) system by around midnight local time on February 2.
Humans Share Genetic Ancestry with Orangutans
February 1, 2011 12:17 PM - David A Gabel, ENN
For those who believe in the theory of evolution, the general consensus is that mankind evolved from chimpanzees. Chimps are man's most closely related living species. While that may be true, a new study published in the online journal, Genome Research, has a surprising new finding. Parts of the human genome are more closely related to the orangutan.
Antibiotic Resistant Disease
January 31, 2011 06:55 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have discovered a new way to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria by using the bacteria's own genes. For more than 50 years, antibiotics have been used to treat a variety of deadly infections and saved countless lives. Its broad introduction and application has changed the face of medicine and world populations worldwide. Yet, despite the advances made to antibiotics over the years, the list of antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), E.coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, is growing and becoming one of the world's most serious health concerns. Infections once routinely treatable have now become more difficult to control as well as lethal in some cases.
Caffeinated Gene Therapy
January 31, 2011 09:54 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Many people in society simply cannot function without a daily dose of caffeine. It is so prevalent in many diets. From coffee, to tea, to soft drinks, it has become a staple on par with corn or wheat, or even water. Of course caffeine is not necessary to survive, but it is sure good at keeping our eyes open. However, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Texas, caffeine does more than just keep us awake. It also energizes cells into producing more viruses used for gene therapy.
Black Sea Oil
January 28, 2011 05:29 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The quest for black gold, oil is an ever on going saga of the modern age. US-based ExxonMobil, the biggest privately-controlled oil company in the world, will make a new investment in Russia for the first time in over a decade as Moscow seeks to thaw its frosty investor climate and keep its oil flowing. The Black Sea is considered to be as rich in oil reserves as the Caspian Sea by some experts, but its real potential is not yet explored. Russian state oil company Rosneft will develop over a billion tons of Black Sea oil using a $1 billion investment by ExxonMobil, whose relationship with the world's top oil producing country has been so far poor in the 21st Century. This is not the only endeavor in the area. The virtually land locked Black Sea has six countries on its shores. Each one would like to develop its potential. Each one will have its potential environmental consequences.
Plants Go Down and Not Up
January 27, 2011 09:43 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
When it gets warmer vegetation and animal life adapt and change. Different populations move in from warmer climes to former colder climes. One widely held assumption is that it gets colder as the elevation gets higher so that as the climate gets warmer life that has adapted to a warmer environment will go higher pushing the colder based life forms out. In a paper published January 20th in the journal Science, a University of California researcher and his co-authors challenge a widely held assumption that plants will move uphill in response to warmer temperatures. Between 1930 and 2000, instead of colonizing higher elevations to maintain a constant temperature, many California plant species instead moved downhill an average of 260 feet.
January 26, 2011 04:37 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Most institutions (such as restaurants) have a dish washing machine which sanitizes dishes by a final rinse in either very hot water or a chemical sanitizing solution (e.g. bleach solution). Dishes are placed on large trays and fed onto rollers through the machine. The bleach solution is quite dilute (50-100 parts per million chlorine which is approximately one cap full of bleach per gallon water). Ohio State University researchers recently tested the merits of two new dishware sanitizers, and found them more effective at removing bacteria from restaurant dishes than traditional sanitizers. The two sanitizers — one carrying the name brand PROSAN® and the other called neutral electrolyzed oxidizing water — not only proved more effective, but they also contained fewer toxic chemicals.