Category Archives: Water

Hollywood and Gaza challenge the Ice Bucket Challenge

While we here at GJEP can appreciate when a not-for-profit snags a viral marketing idea, we certainly have some doubts about the ALS ice bucket challenge. While the organization fights valiantly for a worthy cause, the idea of wasting millions of gallons of fresh, clean drinking water — that nearly 1 billion people do not have access to — is a challenge we cannot accept.

Apparently, a few others couldn’t either.

For example, actor, screenwriter and director Matt Damon, also the founder of the nonprofit, chose to dump dirty toilet water on his head, in recognition of those millions who live without access to potable water.

Matt Damon takes the ice bucket challenge with toilet water in effort to raise awareness about the 800 million people who live without access to clean drinking water. Photo:

Matt Damon takes the ice bucket challenge with toilet water in effort to raise awareness about the 800 million people who live without access to clean drinking water. Photo:

In an article in People magazine, the actor said, “As disgusting as this may seen, hopefully it will highlight the fact that this [access to clean drinking water] is a big problem and together we can do something about it.”

Damon isn’t the only actor taking an environmental twist on the ALS challenge. Leonardo DiCaprio took the ice bucket challenge with the members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Canada, as he took a tour of and listened to concerns about Canada’s tar sands.

Click to Watch: DiCaprio accepts the ALS ice bucket challenge and raises awareness about tar sands with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Click to Watch: DiCaprio accepts the ALS ice bucket challenge and raises awareness about tar sands with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

An article in Indian Country Today even has a video of the mass bucket-ing, along with some clues as to why DiCaprio and Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky are interested in this serious environmental issue.

Finally, one of the most salient ice bucket challenges comes to us from the ravaged and war-torn Middle East. The Huffington Post writes:

Palestinians have launched the “Rubble Bucket Challenge” in a moving appeal, where participants swap ice – a precious resource – for debris.

In solidarity with those in Gaza who have lost their homes in the ongoing conflict with Israel, the web has hijacked the ice bucket challenge to “raise awareness on the war in Gaza where people are bombarded in their homes,” according to the Facebook page where more than 4,000 are now backing the appeal.

Search for #RubbleBucketChallenge on Twitter to see how thousands are raising awareness about the shocking conditions on the Gaza Strip. Photo: Huffington Post

This world is filled with causes worth fighting for. However, it is the way we fight for them that makes a difference and truly defines who we are.


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Filed under Climate Justice, Tar Sands, War, Water

10 million gallons of toxic wastewater evicts Mexican schoolchildren

On Climate Progress, Ari Phillips reports that the Buenavista Copper Mine let more than 24 hours pass before reporting a massive spill in north Mexico. They could no longer deny the incident when residents down river began reporting miles and miles of orange water. There are even rumors that the spill may contain trace amounts of cyanide. Nearby schools have been evacuated and children are expected to stay away for at least a week.

Located just south of the U.S. border, the mine is one of the largest in the world. As the flagship mine of Grupo Mexico, Buenavista helped the group’s second quarter profits soar above $500 million. That’s one quarter’s profits. There are four quarters in a fiscal year. In other words, a global mining conglomerate that makes millions in ONE QUARTER can’t prevent or clean-up a toxic spill that is destroying the environment and forcing children out of their schools. In that first day, the company could have made substantial steps to limit the damage caused by the spill. Instead, they hid behind their oak desks in their corporate offices and tried to pretend it didn’t happen.

Guess what? It did.

Rio Bacanuchi after the spill. Photo: Earth First

Rio Bacanuchi after the spill. Photo: Earth First

Mining Spill Near U.S. Border Closes 88 Schools, Leaves Thousands Of Mexicans Without Water
by Ari Phillips, Climate Progress, August 18, 2014

An acid spill from a large copper mine in northern Mexico is keeping 88 schools closed starting Monday due to uncertainty over the safety of drinking water. The 12-day-old spill, which sent 10 million gallons (40,000 cubic meters) of toxic wastewater into portions of the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers, may keep schools closed for over a week according to the Associated Press.


 Mine officials have been criticized for not reporting the massive acid spill to authorities for around 24 hours, with residents downstream detecting the spill the next day as it turned dozens of miles of river orange. According to Carlos Arias, director of civil defense for the northern state of Sonora, the spill was caused by defects in a new holding pond, where overflow from acids used to leach metal out of the crushed rock is stored. Arias said a pipe either blew out or lost its positioning on August 7th, sending the sulfuric acid downstream.

Read the full article on Climate Progress.

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Filed under Corporate Globalization, Mining, Pollution, Uncategorized, Waste, Water

Oil clean-up chemicals can be just as harmful as the spill itself

An article in the Halifax Media Co-op outlines how chemicals used to clean up oil spills can be just as deadly to marine life as the oil itself. The idea of using harsh chemicals to clean up a chemical spill leaves us wondering: What are they trying to save if Corexit and other dispersants remove oil, but still cause damage?

Of course, if we stopped relying so much on fossil fuels, stopped drilling in areas with fragile ecosystems, stopped drilling period… we wouldn’t even have this issue to begin with.

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon explosion poured into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months before the well was finally capped. Photo: Office of the Governor of the State of Louisiana

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon explosion poured into the U.S. Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months before the well was finally capped. Photo: Office of the Governor of the State of Louisiana

Making it go away: oilspills, corexit and Nova Scotia’s offshore

by Robert Devet, Halifax Media Co-op, August 11, 2014

K’JIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A chemical known as corexit 9500 will be the main line of defense if an oilspill occurs once Shell starts drilling exploratory wells offshore of Nova Scotia.

This becomes clear from Shell’s Environmental Impact Statement that is winding its way through the federal approval process

Corexit, and other dispersants like it, are used to dissolve oilspills. It contains chemicals that break up the oil into tiny droplets that sink so they can be degraded by bacteria.

Critics say that the chemical kills marine life and makes people sick.

These same critics also argue that dispersants merely hide the effects of spills. Fewer visuals of birds covered in oil, but the trade-off are clouds of miniscule oil droplets floating below the ocean’s surface and settling on the ocean bottom.

Read the full article here.

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Filed under Oceans, Oil, Pollution, Water

Biofuelwatch on Huffington Post: Is Toxic Algae Good for You?

Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein via Getty Images

Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein via Getty Images

Dr. Rachel Smolker, Co-director of Biofuelwatch, member of the Steering Committee of The Campaign to Stop GE Trees, and long time friend of Global Justice Ecology Project, published her newest blog at HuffingtonPost titled “Is Toxic Algae Good For You”.

The article is in response to  the recent and ongoing contamination of drinking water in the western end of Lake Erie which caused the shutdown of the water supply for the city of Toledo a few weeks back.  The article focuses on the emerging risks associated with the biotechnology industries to create potentially dangerous genetically engineered and synthetic algae for a wide variety of uses, including fuel.

Dr. Smolker writes that the biotechnology industry is

busy at work using genetic engineering and synthetic biology techniques to create algae that will secrete oils, fuels, chemicals and compounds for all manner of commercial and industrial uses. The potential for contamination, invasiveness, toxic algae blooms and other harms have barely been considered, and the lack of regulation is shocking.

The effort to produce algae biofuels has been underway for many, many years, though you wouldn’t know it given that there are still virtually none being produced at commercial scale. The hype about making “cheap, abundant fuels with nothing but sunlight and water” remains in spite of the reality on the ground.

Microalgae (single-celled, like the cyanobacteria that caused Toledo’s problem) are the focus of most research efforts because under certain circumstances, they can secrete very large amounts of oil. That can then be further refined into fuels.

Read the entire article here!



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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Water

California continues fracking through the drought

California has arguably been in near drought conditions for a very long time, but the situation has become more intense in recent years and acute with this past dry winter. Niraj Chokshi posted two graphs showing the extent of the drought through the winter to now, and the severity of this year versus the past 14 years.

To make matters worse, scientists at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, said things might be even worse than previously thought. The study is the first to measure groundwater use in the West and its main author, Stephanie Castle, a UC water specialist, said the findings were “shocking.”

“We didn’t realize the magnitude of how much water we actually depleted” in the West, Castle said.

“What happens if it isn’t there?” she said in an interview with the Associated Press. “That’s the scary part of this analysis.”

With this scary situation with water, California continues to allow fracking for the most partDeSmogBlog has published some of the most salient reasons for why fracking in California is absolutely absurd now more than ever:

“We’re talking about a triple threat to our water from fracking,” says Adam Scow, the California Director for Food & Water Watch. The first threat: The fracking process requires a lot of water, which then becomes unsuitable for any other use. [...] It’s also possible that fracking fluid could leach into underground aquifers, and of course the toxic wastewater left over from fracking has to be disposed of somehow — and therein lies the second threat to California’s water supply. [...] The third threat to California’s water supply, according to Scow, is that all of the oil and gas we’ve produced via fracking will eventually get burned and thus contribute to global warming, “which leads to more droughts.” A study published by Utah State University researchers earlier this year bolsters his claim. It concluded that natural variation alone couldn’t account for the severity of California’s drought, and that climate change has in fact made it worse.

There’s nothing particularly new here that most people don’t know about fracking, but it’s well-argued and demands to be taken seriously.

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Filed under Climate Change, Fracking, Uncategorized, Water

Toledo water crisis linked to agricultural pollution and climate change

A sample glass of Lake Erie water is extracted near the City of Toledo water intake crib on Sunday. Photograph: Haraz N Ghanbari/AP

A sample glass of Lake Erie water is extracted near the City of Toledo water intake crib on Sunday. Photograph: Haraz N Ghanbari/AP

Saturday was the start of a state of emergency that ended just minutes ago officially in Toledo, Ohio, when residents were told not to drink the water, which is polluted with toxins from algae growing in Lake Erie.

Boiling the water wouldn’t even work, since that only concentrates the toxins.

Toledo draws its water from Lake Erie, and, as the AP reports:

Algae blooms during the summer have become more frequent and troublesome around the western end of Lake Erie, the shallowest of the five Great Lakes.

The algae growth is fed by phosphorous mainly from farm fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants, leaving behind toxins that have contributed to oxygen-deprived dead zones where fish can’t survive. The toxins can kill animals and sicken humans.

in The Guardian, Suzanne Goldenberg made the environmental links behind the crisis:

The main cause for such algal blooms is an overload of phosphorus, which washes into lakes from commercial fertiliser used by farming operations as well as urban water-treatment centres. Hotter and longer summers also promote the spread of the blue-green scum.


Heavy rains in spring and early summer – a critical time for algal bloom formation – cause more phosphorus to enter the lake through agricultural runoff. Hotter temperatures then cause the blooms to spread.

Climate Progress also posted a great article: 7 Things You Need to Know about the Toxin that Poisoned Ohio’s Drinking Water.

While this specific acute crisis might have ended, the problems behind it are still at work, polluting the water to greater and less extents.


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Filed under Climate Change, Industrial agriculture, Water

How Oil will Disperse if a Disaster Occurs at the Enbridge Pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac


This is another gem brought to us from our friends at (SUSTAIN, UNITE, RESTORE, FORTIFY)

This is a video that was commissioned as a part of a report by the NWF with the University of Michigan Straits of Mackinac Contaminant Release Scenarios: Flow Visualization and Tracer Simulations.

The blog post  helps to promote a better understanding of the issues around oil dispersal in the event of a disaster such as the rupture of the old pipeline, and the lack of a realistic response scenario.  The blog post has a direct to the video and it speaks for itself. To see it CLICK HERE.



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Filed under Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Energy, Great Lakes, Oil, Pollution, Tar Sands, Water

Fracking study finds new gas wells leak more

By Seth Borenstein, June 30, 2014. Source: AP

Photo from AP

Photo from AP

In Pennsylvania’s gas drilling boom, newer and unconventional wells leak far more often than older and traditional ones, according to a study of state inspection reports for 41,000 wells.

The results suggest that leaks of methane could be a problem for drilling across the nation, said study lead author Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea, who heads an environmental activist group that helped pay for the study.

The research was criticized by the energy industry. Marcellus Shale Coalition spokesman Travis Windle said it reflects Ingraffea’s “clear pattern of playing fast and loose with the facts.” Continue reading

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Filed under Hydrofracking, Water