Saturday, July 31, 2010

Grand Lake, Ohio - Update

Governor unveils lake plan: Strickland notes solution will take a long time
Saturday, 31 July 2010

By Mike Burkholder

Staff Writer

CELINA — In what turned into a contentious news conference, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland unveiled a plan Friday to help address the ailing water of Grand Lake St. Marys.
Strickland was joined during the news conference by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Chris Korleski, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Sean Logan, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Robert Boggs and Ohio Department of Health Director Alvin D. Jackson.

The visit was Strickland’s first to the region since an algae bloom in June sparked a new water quality advisory for the lake, which has since been upgraded to encourage residents to avoid boating or eating fish caught in Grand Lake St. Marys.
“For many years, this community has watched a beautiful natural resource deteriorate,” Strickland said during his opening remarks. “Businesses have struggled, homes have lost value and families have lost the opportunity to create memories together.”
Strickland wasted no time in describing the dire situation of the lake. The governor admitted the water is toxic. He also stressed the importance of adhering to the current water advisory.
“At this time, the lake is not healthy for humans or animals to enjoy,” Strickland said. “There are toxins in this water right now that could be dangerous to your health and could damage your neurological system. We urge common sense and caution as we continue to warn residents and visitors about the health risks of the toxins in this water. It is difficult to say and even more difficult to hear, but please do not go in or on this lake at any time.”
Strickland said the lake’s current situation did not happen overnight, noting it took years of degradation.
“This crisis has been generations in the making and it will take all of us and future generations working together to try and restore this lake and community to health and prosperity,” Strickland said.
Korleski and Logan each revealed a portion of the plan regarding the two main sources for the blooms — internal and external loading.
Korleski warned that despite the outcry for immediate action, there is no solution that can fix the lake overnight.
“There is no silver bullet, there is no magic wand, there is nothing that we can do that we are aware of to turn this situation around quickly,” Korleski said. “This has been years in the making, it’s not going to be quick and not going to be easy.
“But is it hopeless,” he said, “I’m not convinced that it’s hopeless and we are going to work to say the least, very aggressively, to see if we can turn this lake around.”
Korleski said officials plan to combat internal loading — the amount of phosphorous currently in the lake — by instituting a series of pilot projects.
Among the first is a pilot project using alum treatments in yet to be identified areas in the 20 to 40 acre range. The target date for the pilot alum treatments is September, with a price tag of $250,000 to be paid via the Ohio EPA and ODNR. Korleski said while the treatments have been successful in other lakes across the world, alum has never been tested on a lake the size of Grand Lake St. Marys.
“When you add alum you have to monitor it very carefully because if you don’t properly monitor it you can end up screwing up the pH in the lake, which can have an overall negative impact on the lake,” Korleski said. “You have to be very careful.”
Korleski said if successful, the entire lake could see an alum application. That treatment would cost $5 to $10 million.
“That’s where we would want to go,” Korleski said. “I think it’s safe to say that we will try to leave no stone unturned.”
The second pilot project has to do with attempting to replace the cyanobacteria with non-harmful algae called diatoms that are capable of being harvested for energy generation purposes. Korleski described the method as “algae flipping.”
“A diatom is a normal, healthy algae that doesn’t damage the lake,” Korleski said. “The idea is if we can encourage them to grow, and they begin to use the nutrients, if we are creating an environment that is very condusive for the diatoms, then they will out compete the cyanobacteria and thereby reduce the population of cyanobacteria. Again, this has never been tested, to our knowledge, in the United States, certainly
See LAKE, 9A
it hasn’t been tested on a lake of this size.”
Dredging the entire lake, Korleski said, is cost prohibitive. Doing so would cost more than $100 million.
Instead, he said specific areas could be targeted to reduce the amount of sediment pouring into the lake.
“We do think dredging can be employed on a spot basis,” Korleski said. “Primarily we would like to employ dredging on area where feeder streams are coming into the larger body of water because that is where in large part, you are getting accumulation of phosphorous carrying sediment. If you can scoop that out at the source, you can minimize the amount of phosphorous that’s getting into the internal loading cycle.”
Other actions include the creation of wetlands as well as studying the feasibility of adding AiryGators around the lake. The devices help increase oxygen levels in the lake.
Korleski also pleaded with residents to stay out of the water until the situation is resolved.
“We understand the economic impact this is having on the community,” Korleski said. “We have to be very, very, very protective of public health. It is our belief that there are levels of toxins in this lake that can be very harmful to your health.”
Logan said external loading, which includes phosphorous introduced into the lake via agriculture run-off, septic systems and lawn fertilizers, is an issue in the watershed.
To combat the issue, Logan said new rules outlining the application of manure to frozen ground as well as requiring manure nutrient management plans will be instituted.
“These are some items that have been talked about for a number of years,” Logan said of the management plans. “That is where we can have the biggest bang for our buck.”
Logan explained the new regulations will be phased in during the next few months.
During the question and answer session, members of the public interjected while the officials were addressing the media. Comments ranged from why no action is being taken immediately to help the businesses impacted by the advisory to if the toxins pose health risks by simply breathing in the air surrounding the lake.
Laura Jenkins, the wife of Dan Jenkins who recently fell ill and it is believed there is a link to the toxins found in the lake, addressed Strickland regarding what can be done to help prevent human illnesses from the lake.
Strickland said he would work with the Jenkins family to make sure they receive the proper medical treatment and care needed during Dan Jenkins’ recovery.
Following the news conference, Strickland spoke with the Jenkins family in private.
“We do know there have been a number of pets that have died,” Strickland said. “There is no scientific link that we can point to but it is very likely that the lake water was the result of their deaths. So that’s why we are so terribly concerned. We understand the significance of saying please have no contact with the water. The last thing any of us would like to see happen would be another individual like Mr. Jenkins, become sick as a result of the contact with this water. That must be the primary concern.”
Jackson addressed concerns regarding potential health risks associated with the toxins found in the lake. Jackson warned against coming into contact with the water as well as any spray from the lake.
“What we know is that the liver toxins and the neurotoxins are some of the most potent toxins known and there are currently no antidotes,” Jackson said. “Right now, what we do know is there is no vapor associated with this toxin. However, it is associated with an aerosol. So that if you disturb the water, the toxin can be in the droplets of the water and consequently you can then inhale those droplets or take them in through the mouth. This is why we are strongly emphasizing no contact with the water because of those health risks and no known antitoxins and some of the most potent toxins known.”
Jackson said state officials are working on keeping the public aware of all health issues associated with the toxins found in the lake.
Jackson said rashes and blisters can occur from contact with the water. If a person comes into contact with the water, Jackson recommended the affect area be washed as soon as possible.
“If an aerosol, through a wave or any boat contact, that would create an aerosol and you can breath that in,” Jackson said of breathing in toxins from the water. “If you breath in those toxins in high enough numbers, you can get eye, ear, nose irritation and you can get asthma-like symptoms.”
Jackson said swallowing lake water can cause severe gastrointestinal problems including nausea and vomiting. The toxins also can cause liver toxicity, kidney toxicity and abdominal pain.
“You can have some memory problems, you can be dizzy, blurred vision,” Jackson said of possible neurological issues associated with coming into contact lake water. “This is why we strongly, I repeat, strongly emphasizing no contact and avoid contact with water.”
Jackson said current standards for the toxins are based on adult standards. There are no children standards.
“This is why we really want to be more conservative in terms of putting out those advisories,” Jackson said. “I can assure you that I have been in contact with Centers for Disease Control and many of the other state health officials, at least 13 of them, who are having some of the problems as we are having here. We are really pushing for coming up with some national standards to address these kinds of issues. Hopefully, before the end of the year, or much sooner, we will have some.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Phytoplankton population decline

July 28, 2010

Phytoplankton in retreat

By Melissa Hennigar

Tools for this article: Email | Print | Comment
Use of the Secchi disk, ca. 1910. Historical Secchi disc data are one of the two main data sources in our analysis (Yonge, C.M., Scientists measuring the water transparency with a Secchi disk, Queensland, ca. 1928, Part of Album of the Great Barrier Reef Expedition in the Low Islands region, Queensland, 1928-1929. (Photo courtesy of the National Library of Australia).
Research collected for more than a century is helping Dalhousie University researcher Daniel Boyce in his quest to examine the health of the world’s oceans.

A simple tool known as a Secchi disk as been used by scientists since 1899 to determine the transparency of the world’s oceans. The Secchi disk is a round disk, about the size of a dinner plate, marked with a black and white alternating pattern. It’s attached to a long string of rope which researchers slowly lower into the water. The depth at which the pattern is no longer visible is recorded and scientists use the data to determine the amount of algae present in the water.

More specifically, the research is focused on a particular type of algae known as phytoplankton. This is the first time that significant research has been complied and examined to study the algae levels in the world’s oceans.

It is hard to imagine this tiny photosynthetic plant may be one of the most urgent indicators of the declining health of the world’s oceans. “Phytoplankton provides food for basically everything in the ecosystem, from fish right up to human beings,” says Mr. Boyce, a PhD candidate with the Department of Biology at Dalhousie. “Phytoplankton is also important in maintaining sustainable fisheries operations and the overall health of the ocean. We need to make sure that the numbers do not continue to decline.”

The researchers found that the number of phytoplankton has been decreasing by a rate of about one per cent per year, for the past 110 years. While this might not seem like a large number, this translates into a decline of about 40 per cent since 1950. In total, just under half a million observations were compiled to be able to estimate phytoplankton levels through the years.

Daniel Boyce is a PhD candidate at Dalhousie.
The two main objectives of the research were to examine global trends in phytoplankton over time and to determine what might be driving these trends. Preliminary conclusions suggest that rising ocean temperatures are the leading cause of the decline. “As the water temperature rises, the ocean becomes more stable which limits the nutrients present in the water. This in turn limits the amount of phytoplankton,” explains Mr. Boyce.

Based on the research collected, phytoplankton levels have decreased in eight out of 10 ocean regions.

“Unfortunately, we as scientists don’t fully understand what exactly the effects of a decline in phytoplankton will be. We need to do more research into the effects of less phytoplankton. Obviously, doing whatever we can to lower the temperature of the world’s oceans is an excellent start,” says Mr. Boyce.

The full report, Global phytoplankton decline over the past century, appears in the journalNature on Thursday, July 29. The report is co-authored by oceanographer Marlon Lewis and marine biologist Boris Worm.

SEE THE ARTICLE: Global phytoplankton decline over the past century in Nature

Monday, July 26, 2010

Diatomaceous Earth

A very good video about DE

Explains what Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is and looks at some of it's many applications.

Great photos of Diatomaceous Earth

Great photos of Diatomaceous Earth by Ms. Alisha V

Some of the Many of Uses of DE
Diatomaceous earth has an incredible number of uses. It's a popular and safe bug killer; a great way to dry out areas that are chronically damp; ingested, it is considered a health aid; and is one of the most common ingredients in swimming pool filters. Some of the other many uses of DE are listed here, though this list is no where near all inclusive.
Abrasive in Toothpaste
Dynamite Base
Safe Insecticide
Garden Enrichment
Cake Mix Ingredient
Supplement in Livestock Feed
Ingredient for Odor Control in Horse Bedding
Swimming Pool Filter Material
Abrasive in Metal Polish
Cat Litter Ingredient
Animal Wormer
Colon Cleanser
Bonsai Soil Additive
Human Food Additive
Human Health Supplement
Protectant for Stored Grain
Activator in blood clotting studies

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Red Tides off China coast

Red tide creates unearthly sight in Fujian

Jul 12,2010
A bird's-eye view of red tide in Changle offshore areas in Fuzhou,East China's Fujian province, July 12, 2010. The red tide, triggered by lingering high temperature and changing marine environment, has plagued the local fishery industry and marine organisms. [Photo/Xinhua]

Monday, July 19, 2010

Phytoplankton blooms in Ocean

Old Theory of Phytoplankton Growth Overturned, Raise Concerns for Ocean Productivity

ScienceDaily (July 16, 2010) — A new study concludes that an old, fundamental and widely accepted theory of how and why phytoplankton bloom in the oceans is incorrect.


"What the satellite data appear to be telling us is that the physical mixing of water has as much or more to do with the success of the bloom as does the rate of phytoplankton photosynthesis," Behrenfeld said. "Big blooms appear to require deeper wintertime mixing."

That's a concern, he said, because with further global warming, many ocean regions are expected to become warmer and more stratified. In places where this process is operating -- which includes the North Atlantic, western North Pacific, and Southern Ocean around Antarctica -- that could lead to lower phytoplankton growth and less overall ocean productivity, less life in the oceans. These forces also affect carbon balances in the oceans, and an accurate understanding of them is needed for use in global climate models.

Worth noting, Behrenfeld said, is that some of these regions with large seasonal phytoplankton blooms are among the world's most dynamic fisheries.


Algae off Hawaii

Scientists hope to solve mystery of algae blooms in open ocean

By Helen Altonn

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 18, 2010


These ocean studies are important because algae remove huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the Earth's atmosphere and help control climate, the scientists pointed out.

Instruments on the first drifter, placed off Oahu in December 2007, showed a gradual increase in oxygen concentrations in the upper 330 feet of the ocean, the researchers said. The float also detected a gradual decrease in nitrate concentrations in deeper waters.

The oceanographers found that the amount of oxygen produced near the surface through photosynthesis was directly proportional to the amount of nitrate being consumed in deeper water.

They still don't know how the algae obtain deep ocean nutrients but said data show swirling ocean eddies carry nitrate to about 230 feet below the ocean surface.


Satellite photos of Algal Blooms

Satellite Images of Marine Phytoplankton Blooms

A collection of NASA images from worldwide oceans. Commentary by NASA.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Goby fish in Hypoxic water

Super goby helps salvage ocean dead zone

A resilient fish is thriving in an inhospitable, jellyfish-infested region off Africa's south-west coast. And crucially it is helping to keep the local ecosystem going, and to preserve an important fishery.

The Benguela ecosystem lies off the coast of Namibia. It exists in waters only 120 metres deep that used to be a rich sardine fishery, but in the 1960s the sardine population crashed because of overfishing and environmental factors, and the region was invaded by algal blooms and swarms of jellyfish.

The algae have used up almost all the oxygen in the water, leaving the bottom half with oxygen levels below 10 per cent, far too little for most sea creatures. At about 80 per cent, levels are almost normal in the upper waters – but those regions are thick with jellyfish and algae, and therefore unwelcoming to most other life.

What's more, when the algae die they sink to the bottom and decay, releasing large quantities of the poisonous gas hydrogen sulphide. Nevertheless, local fish called bearded gobies have flourished in Benguela. Until now, nobody has understood how they survive it.

Tough fish

Anne Utne-Palm of the University of Bergen, Norway, and colleagues surveyed Benguela's gobies. Using acoustic tracking, they found that bearded gobies spend the daylight hours at the very bottom – the only backboned animals in the area to do so. Their stomach contents reveal that they feed off dead algae fallen from the surface, and also on the jellyfish.

The team found that the gobies could survive for hours in the oxygen-poor waters. They lower their metabolic rate to do so – but despite this they remain alert and can flee predators, as tank tests revealed.

At night the gobies head up to the surface to take in oxygen. They often hide themselves in the jellyfish clouds, where predators rarely venture.

Despite this, the gobies still fall victim to predators such as horse mackereland hake. This means that they act as a recycling system, ferrying nutrients that might otherwise be lost on the seabed back up to the surface.

"It's a lucky thing that the ecosystem had this goby," says Utne-Palm. "They bring lost resources back into the food chain."

Fish food

Daniel Jones of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK, says that low-oxygen zones like Benguela are becoming more common as a result of human activities.

"It's good to see that some ecosystems can be sustained throughout this sort of hypoxic event," he says, "but I suspect that in a lot of environments there isn't a 'super-goby' around to help out."

The sardines may have gone, but horse mackerel and hake survive in the area by feeding on the gobies, and are regularly fished by humans. "If it weren't for the gobies, the human fishery would be in a worse condition than it is," says Jones.

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1190708

Oil And Compost Could Prove A Good Mix In The Gulf

Oil And Compost Could Prove A Good Mix In The Gulf

petroleum contaminated soil remediationBioCycle July 2010, Vol. 51, No. 7, p. 20

EPA bioremediation expert says providing an “organic matrix” could allow microbes to clean up hydrocarbon pollutants in the water and along the coast.

Dan Sullivan

AS A VETERAN member of the U.S. EPA’s Environmental Response Team, Harry L. Allen III, PhD, has helped manage the Exxon Valdez oil spill, cyanide spills in Latvia and Guyana, toxic waste dumps in Haiti and the continuing toxic legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

He’s wringing his hands on the sidelines, though, as one of the worst manmade environmental disasters in history makes its way to U.S. shores from deep within the Gulf of Mexico. “The EPA has no jurisdiction [over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill],” he says. “EPA is a member of an advisory committee, that’s it.” Currently the Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have jurisdictional oversight, he adds. “The EPA is on the sidelines here – I am making a personal effort to see if that can be changed through public acclamation.”

The oil gushing out of a pipe 5 miles below the ocean’s surface in the Gulf of Mexico is light crude, Allen explains, which in chemical terms means it is made up more of alkanes (saturated hydrocarbons) than of polyaromatic (ringed) hydrocarbons found more in asphaltic or heavy crude. The good news, he says, is that light hydrocarbons are both more biodegradable and less likely to sink and smother sensitive ecosystems, such as coral reefs. The bad news is that the overuse of both surface and subsurface dispersants inhibits both of these properties. Dispersing the oil also makes it much harder to recover by conventional means. “Over-application of dispersants to suspend the oil in the water column means that the oil may eventually sink as the oily mass gathers particulate matter,” says Allen. “Dispersion also makes the oil more available to bacteria, which require a lot of dissolved oxygen to degrade both the oil and the dispersant; this can cause dangerously low oxygen concentrations in the water column.” While dispersing the oil somewhat reduces its inherent toxicity, Allen explains, the overall toxic effect may actually be increased because the dispersed plume is spread through a much greater volume of water. In short, he says, using dispersants simply to keep the oil from forming a surface slick can actually limit the cleanup and threaten ecosystems on the ocean’s floor that may have not been in danger without the added chemicals.

“I personally told them to stop, that the surface dispersant wasn’t effective,” Allen told BioCycle from his Edison, New Jersey headquarters. “It’s not enough to affect a change in the 100,000 barrels a day that we’re now talking about. It’s so much bigger now than we had anticipated that dispersants may be doing more harm than good. My recommendation now would be to stop, but I do not think they have.”

petroleum tolerant grasses

Allen specializes in the cleanup of oil spills, hazardous waste and contaminated soils through bioremediation — the use of microscopic organisms to break down toxic chemicals. He suggests that compost could play a pivotal role in mitigating the Deepwater Horizon spill both on shore and in shallow waters. The only limitation would be that the mixture should not sink.

Compost is a rich source of bacteria and actinomyces, microscopic organisms that fall somewhere between bacteria and plants. These are equipped with complex metabolic systems that breakdown complex hydrocarbons like those found in oil, pesticides and other common petroleum-based pollutants.

“Microorganisms need some kind of growth medium,” Allen says. “The key is that you have to have suitable environmental conditions for bacterial growth and the organic matrix. Compost is the secret ingredient that allows the bacteria to work.”

The sensitivity of the affected coastal areas impedes traditional cleanup methods. “The issue here is that certain ecosystems are intolerant of mechanical or chemical activity,” he says. “The mops-and-brooms cleaning method would do more damage to salt marshes and wetlands than if you left them alone.”

Adding straight nutrients to contaminated soils to jumpstart the microbiology and allow the oil to degrade in place offers another possible scenario. But overloading of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous from agricultural runoff has historically been a problem for coastal areas, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico.

“In nature there are not a lot of available nutrients; they are bound up in organic matter and only release slowly as it degrades,” Allen explains. “From plant material to duck poop,” he says, what gradually gets released into the ecosystem is quickly and efficiently taken back up by plants and other organisms in a relatively tight cycle. Oil and dispersants present an additional load on the system. In order for bioremediation to work, the microorganisms need both a hospitable environment and food. That’s where compost comes in. “You not only have to have a matrix for bacterial growth, you have to add nutrients,” Allen says.

The addition of clean soil and compost bulked up with a high percentage of sawdust, bagasse (cane residue from sugar production) or other absorptive materials could act as an oil sponge while delivering enough slow-release, relatively stable nutrients for the microorganisms to break down the offending hydrocarbons, suggests Allen. Once the microbes begin doing their job, he says, the added and amended soils could be left in place or relocated.

A slight twist of the same solution may be possible in the ocean. “EPA is against any sinking agents because they tend to smother, and they degrade very slowly on the bottom,” Allen explains. “We’ve prevailed in making a policy that sinkers are not good.” But floating material such as compost made up of enough ground woody vegetation so as to not sink could provide a suspended “biodegradation mat” and the necessary combination of organic matrix and nutrition to begin breaking down the oil, he says. The suspended mat could eventually be skimmed up and removed to land to fully compost on a “biopad,” with assurances in place that the polluting hydrocarbons did not find their way back to surface or ground water.

Harry Allen, EPA

“We’ve been decommissioning oil wells and oily waste generated by that process for years,” he says. “We take the oil and debris into a passive treatment system [biopad] and allow it to degrade on its own with some help by mixing in compost and nutrients. Then we apply it to land treatments — oil-tolerant grasses — where we can be assured that it won’t erode away back into the water. We’ve found that if you supply a rich source of [compost] material to a system that as soon as it is exposed to the substance you want to have degraded, it gets working right away.

Oil spills in Nigeria

Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe ignore it

The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades

We reached the edge of the oil spill near the Nigerian village of Otuegwe after a long hike through cassava plantations. Ahead of us lay swamp. We waded into the warm tropical water and began swimming, cameras and notebooks held above our heads. We could smell the oil long before we saw it – the stench of garage forecourts and rotting vegetation hanging thickly in the air.

The farther we travelled, the more nauseous it became. Soon we were swimming in pools of light Nigerian crude, the best-quality oil in the world. One of the many hundreds of 40-year-old pipelines that crisscross the Niger delta had corroded and spewed oil for several months.

Forest and farmland were now covered in a sheen of greasy oil. Drinking wells were polluted and people were distraught. No one knew how much oil had leaked. "We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots," said Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe and our guide. "This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months."

That was the Niger delta a few years ago, where, according to Nigerian academics, writers and environment groups, oil companies have acted with such impunity and recklessness that much of the region has been devastated by leaks.

In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a major ecological catastrophe caused by oil that has poured from a leak triggered by the explosion that wrecked BP's Deepwater Horizon rig last month.

That disaster, which claimed the lives of 11 rig workers, has made headlines round the world. By contrast, little information has emerged about the damage inflicted on the Niger delta. Yet the destruction there provides us with a far more accurate picture of the price we have to pay for drilling oil today.

On 1 May this year a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline in the state of Akwa Ibom spilled more than a million gallons into the delta over seven days before the leak was stopped. Local people demonstrated against the company but say they were attacked by security guards. Community leaders are now demanding $1bn in compensation for the illness and loss of livelihood they suffered. Few expect they will succeed. In the meantime, thick balls of tar are being washed up along the coast.

Within days of the Ibeno spill, thousands of barrels of oil were spilled when the nearby Shell Trans Niger pipeline was attacked by rebels. A few days after that, a large oil slick was found floating on Lake Adibawa in Bayelsa state and another in Ogoniland. "We are faced with incessantoil spills from rusty pipes, some of which are 40 years old," said Bonny Otavie, a Bayelsa MP.

This point was backed by Williams Mkpa, a community leader in Ibeno: "Oil companies do not value our life; they want us to all die. In the past two years, we have experienced 10 oil spills and fishermen can no longer sustain their families. It is not tolerable."

With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations. Locals blame the oil that pollutes their land and can scarcely believe the contrast with the steps taken by BP and the US government to try to stop the Gulf oil leak and to protect the Louisiana shoreline from pollution.

"If this Gulf accident had happened in Nigeria, neither the government nor the company would have paid much attention," said the writer Ben Ikari, a member of the Ogoni people. "This kind of spill happens all the time in the delta."

"The oil companies just ignore it. The lawmakers do not care and people must live with pollution daily. The situation is now worse than it was 30 years ago. Nothing is changing. When I see the efforts that are being made in the US I feel a great sense of sadness at the double standards. What they do in the US or in Europe is very different."

"We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the US," said Nnimo Bassey, Nigerian head of Friends of the Earth International. "But in Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people's livelihood and environments. The Gulf spill can be seen as a metaphor for what is happening daily in the oilfields of Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

"This has gone on for 50 years in Nigeria. People depend completely on the environment for their drinking water and farming and fishing. They are amazed that the president of the US can be making speeches daily, because in Nigeria people there would not hear a whimper," he said.

It is impossible to know how much oil is spilled in the Niger delta each year because the companies and the government keep that secret. However, two major independent investigations over the past four years suggest that as much is spilled at sea, in the swamps and on land every year as has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico so far.

One report, compiled by WWF UK, the World Conservation Union and representatives from the Nigerian federal government and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, calculated in 2006 that up to 1.5m tons of oil – 50 times the pollution unleashed in the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Alaska – has been spilled in the delta over the past half century. Last year Amnesty calculated that the equivalent of at least 9m barrels of oil was spilled and accused the oil companies of a human rights outrage.

According to Nigerian federal government figures, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are 2,000 official major spillages sites, many going back decades, with thousands of smaller ones still waiting to be cleared up. More than 1,000 spill cases have been filed against Shell alone.

Last month Shell admitted to spilling 14,000 tonnes of oil in 2009. The majority, said the company, was lost through two incidents – one in which the company claims that thieves damaged a wellhead at its Odidi field and another where militants bombed the Trans Escravos pipeline.

Shell, which works in partnership with the Nigerian government in the delta, says that 98% of all its oil spills are caused by vandalism, theft or sabotage by militants and only a minimal amount by deteriorating infrastructure. "We had 132 spills last year, as against 175 on average. Safety valves were vandalised; one pipe had 300 illegal taps. We found five explosive devices on one. Sometimes communities do not give us access to clean up the pollution because they can make more money from compensation," said a spokesman.

"We have a full-time oil spill response team. Last year we replaced 197 miles of pipeline and are using every known way to clean up pollution, including microbes. We are committed to cleaning up any spill as fast as possible as soon as and for whatever reason they occur."

These claims are hotly disputed by communities and environmental watchdog groups. They mostly blame the companies' vast network of rusting pipes and storage tanks, corroding pipelines, semi-derelict pumping stations and old wellheads, as well as tankers and vessels cleaning out tanks.

The scale of the pollution is mind-boggling. The government's national oil spill detection and response agency (Nosdra) says that between 1976 and 1996 alone, more than 2.4m barrels contaminated the environment. "Oil spills and the dumping of oil into waterways has been extensive, often poisoning drinking water and destroying vegetation. These incidents have become common due to the lack of laws and enforcement measures within the existing political regime," said a spokesman for Nosdra.

The sense of outrage is widespread. "There are more than 300 spills, major and minor, a year," said Bassey. "It happens all the year round. The whole environment is devastated. The latest revelations highlight the massive difference in the response to oil spills. In Nigeria, both companies and government have come to treat an extraordinary level of oil spills as the norm."

A spokesman for the Stakeholder Democracy Network in Lagos, which works to empower those in communities affected by the oil companies' activities, said: "The response to the spill in the United States should serve as a stiff reminder as to how far spill management in Nigeria has drifted from standards across the world."

Other voices of protest point out that the world has overlooked the scale of the environmental impact. Activist Ben Amunwa, of the London-based oil watch group Platform, said: "Deepwater Horizon may have exceed Exxon Valdez, but within a few years in Nigeria offshore spills from four locations dwarfed the scale of the Exxon Valdez disaster many times over. Estimates put spill volumes in the Niger delta among the worst on the planet, but they do not include the crude oil from waste water and gas flares. Companies such as Shell continue to avoid independent monitoring and keep key data secret."

Worse may be to come. One industry insider, who asked not to be named, said: "Major spills are likely to increase in the coming years as the industry strives to extract oil from increasingly remote and difficult terrains. Future supplies will be offshore, deeper and harder to work. When things go wrong, it will be harder to respond."

Judith Kimerling, a professor of law and policy at the City University of New York and author of Amazon Crude, a book about oil development in Ecuador, said: "Spills, leaks and deliberate discharges are happening in oilfields all over the world and very few people seem to care."

There is an overwhelming sense that the big oil companies act as if they are beyond the law. Bassey said: "What we conclude from the Gulf of Mexico pollution incident is that the oil companies are out of control.

"It is clear that BP has been blocking progressive legislation, both in the US and here. In Nigeria, they have been living above the law. They are now clearly a danger to the planet. The dangers of this happening again and again are high. They must be taken to the international court of justice."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Blue Green Algae blooms worldwide

Smelly water coming from some taps

By Colin McDonald - Express-News
Web Posted: 07/12/2010 9:11 CDT

An algae bloom in Canyon Lake has caused stinky water to come from faucets across San Antonio's North and far Northwest sides.

Blue-green algae in Rock County

Posted: Jul 13, 2010 8:01 PM IST

JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Rock County Health Department officials say they've found blue-green algae in Clear Lake. Officials say it could develop in other recreational waters as warmer weather sets in

Spills in Black Sea near Odesa turned to be blue-green algae

KYIV, July 13. /UKRINFORM/. Spills revealed in the Black Sea's Odesa gulf are nothing but blue-green algae, say experts with the Ukrainian Institute of South Seas Biology. An anomalous algal bloom is presently seen there.

However, the experts say the concentration of blue-green algae (Nodularia spumigena) in one liter of water is extremely high. Moreover, this type of algae in the Odesa gulf can be found quite rarely.

A recent water quality study, conducted by Dr Jan Roos from Water Quality Consultants in Bloemfontein, has found that Kamfers Dam’s water quality has deteriorated significantly during the past year. “The Kamfers Dam aquatic system is under severe pressure because of a massive cyanobacterial (algal) bloom and extreme oscillations in oxygen concentrations, driven by poor water quality”, said Dr Roos.


US, Black sea, South Africa, the news is the same worldwide.

Water pollution is leading to more and more blue green algal blooms.

Diatoms are the best way to control these blooms.