Tag Archives: water contamination

How the coal industry impoverishes West Virginia

By Omar Ghabra, January 24, 2014. Source: The Nation

A US flag flies at half-staff at a coal processing plant near the site of a disaster that killed twelve miners in Buckhannon, West Viriginia. Photo: Reuters/Jim Young

A US flag flies at half-staff at a coal processing plant near the site of a disaster that killed twelve miners in Buckhannon, West Viriginia. Photo: Reuters/Jim Young

There’s a joke circulating among Syrians who fled the brutal conflict devastating their country to the quiet mountains of West Virginia: “We escaped the lethal chemicals in Syria only for them to follow us here.” Of course, what’s happening in West Virginia right now is no laughing matter. But how could the refugees not be reminded of their decimated homeland after finding themselves, along with 300,000 other West Virginians, without access to potable water? Unfortunately, West Virginia is no stranger to having its living conditions compared to those in developing countries.

Fifty years ago, Michael Harrington authored his incisive depiction of poverty in the United States, aptly titled The Other America. The bestselling book—named one of the ten most influential books of the twentieth century by Time—is widely believed to have inspired John F. Kennedy’s commitment to addressing the dire conditions of the “invisible poor,” whom Harrington noted generally lived in rural or inner-city isolation, making them easier to ignore. After Kennedy’s assassination, this commitment was passed on to his successor, culminating in Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of an “unconditional war on poverty.”

West Virginia’s problems figured prominently in Harrington’s narrative. In one evocative passage, he describes the paradox of the state’s beauty and its grave socioeconomic conditions.“Driving through this area, particularly in the spring or the fall, one perceives the loveliness, the openness, the high hills, streams, and lush growth.” However, “beauty can be a mask for ugliness,” and “this is what happens in the Appalachians.”

This ugliness masked by supreme natural beauty has not disappeared in the fifty years since Harrington wrote these words. As a lifelong West Virginian who was raised among the southern coalfields of this state, I’ve witnessed firsthand the misery that permeates life here. “This irony is deep,” Harrington writes, “for everything that turns the landscape into an idyll for the urban traveler conspires to hold the people down. They suffer terribly at the hands of this beauty.” The suffering has largely come at the hands of the coal industry, which for the past century has purchased the blind loyalty of the state’s most influential institutions as it exploited the population for labor in criminally dangerous conditions, all while destroying the pristine grandeur of the environment to extract the abundant coal below the surface.
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Colorado floods break pipeline and engulf gas wells

Note: For more photos and accounts of oil and gas contamination from flooding in Colorado, click here: Is there a Media Blackout on the Fracking Flood Disaster in Colorado?

-The GJEP Team

By September 15, 2013. Source: The Marcellus Effect


The rain pummeling Colorado this past week caused epic flooding. Photos show miles of devastation: homes lost, crops underwater, surviving livestock on flooded pastures, people in shelters.

In addition to rescuing stranded people, emergency crews have also had to contend with broken oil and gas pipelines – and those that haven’t broken yet are exposed due to eroded ground.

According to reports from the Denver Post, “Oil drums, tanks and other industrial debris mixed into the swollen river flowing northeast. County officials did not give locations of where the pipeline broke and where other pipelines were compromised.”
Weld County is home to about 20,000 oil and gas wells, and companies have been drilling on the flood plains. Once the gas and oil companies were notified of the threats, they began shutting down drilling operations and transmission pipelines. Even so, that still leaves wells, tanks, gathering lines and transmission lines in the path of raging waters.

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Exxon charged with illegally dumping fracking waste in Pennsylvania

By Will Kennedy, September 11, 2013. Source: Bloomberg

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the world’s largest energy company, was charged with illegally dumping more than 50,000 gallons (189,000 liters) of wastewater at a shale-gas drilling site in Pennsylvania.

Exxon unit XTO Energy Inc. discharged the water from waste tanks at the Marquandt well site in Lycoming County in 2010, according to a statement on the website of Pennsylvania’s attorney general. The pollution was found during an unannounced visit by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

The inspectors discovered a plug removed from a tank, allowing the wastewater to run onto the ground, polluting a nearby stream. XTO was ordered to remove 3,000 tons of soil to clean up the area. Wastewater discharged from natural-gas wells can contain chlorides, barium, strontium and aluminum, the attorney general’s statement showed.
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Chilean court sides with Indigenous Diaguitas, blocks world’s largest gold mining company

July 15, 2013. Source: Washington Post/Associated Press 

Photo: Jorge Saenz, File/Associated Press

Photo: Jorge Saenz, File/Associated Press

A Chilean appeals court ruled against the world’s largest gold mining company on Monday, favoring Chilean Indians who accuse Barrick Gold Corp. of contaminating their water downstream and creating more doubts about the future of the world’s highest gold mine.

The judges in the northern city of Copiapo unanimously ruled that Barrick must keep all its environmental promises before moving forward with construction of the Pascua-Lama mine at the very top of Chile’s mountainous border with Argentina. They also said Barrick must monitor the condition of three glaciers next to the mine project.

Chile’s environmental watchdog agency already ordered construction stopped until Barrick builds systems to keep the mine from contaminating the watershed below, and Barrick executives have publicly committed the company to fulfilling the requirements of its environmental permit.

But Monday’s ruling goes beyond that by demanding repairs to damage in the watershed below, by calling for increased monitoring of the impact on surrounding glaciers, and by opening up the project’s environmental license for review. The judges found no evidence of contamination due to mine construction, but said the watershed could face “imminent danger” without more environmental protections.
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Filed under Corporate Globalization, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, Mining, Pollution, Victory!, Water

Michigan officials step up scrutiny of Enbridge after water law violations

By David Hasemyer, July 9, 2013. Source: Inside Climate News

Damaged pipe from Enbridge's 6B pipeline project. The pipe was recently removed near the home of Michigan landowner Jeffrey Insko after hydrostatic testing detected flaws. The flaws were caused when the pipe was pushed through a hole dug under a road. Photo: Jeffrey Insk

Damaged pipe from Enbridge’s 6B pipeline project. The pipe was recently removed near the home of Michigan landowner Jeffrey Insko after hydrostatic testing detected flaws. The flaws were caused when the pipe was pushed through a hole dug under a road. Photo: Jeffrey Insk

An oil pipeline being built across the southern part of Michigan is drawing new scrutiny from state regulators who recently cited the pipeline’s operator—Canadian-owned Enbridge, Inc.—for violating laws that protect Michigan’s waterways.

The violations occurred when Enbridge allowed nearly all the water it was using to test the pipeline’s strength to escape into a creek instead of capturing some of it for treatment—and when the company did not self-report the violationto the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), as required by law.

MDEQ officials told InsideClimate News they will now re-examine reports Enbridge filed after conducting similar tests on two other sections of the line. The new pipeline is supposed to replace Line 6B, which ruptured in 2010 and poured more than a million gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil into the Kalamazoo River.

The reports are important because the agency relies on pipeline operators to follow regulations and to inform officials when things go wrong. Enbridge violated that trust, the state said, when it failed to abide by at least 11 terms of the permit that allowed the company to conduct the test. The violations included not having a qualified operator at the site to supervise the procedure and not properly analyzing the water it put back into the creek.
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Duke study links fracking to water contamination as EPA drops study on fracking water contamination

Note: More evidence that Obama’s Climate Action Plan is sure to take us over the climate and ecological cliff.  As always, the devil is in the details (although they were also plenty apparent in the rhetoric of Obama’s speech).

-The GJEP Team

By Steve Horn, June 25, 2013. Source: DeSmog Blog

shutterstock_82030636Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) kicked the can down the road on a key study designated to examine the connection between hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming.

A study originally scheduled for release in 2014 and featured in Josh Fox’s “Gasland 2,” it will not be complete until 2016 in a move that appears to be purely politically calculated by the Obama Administration, akin to the EPA’s dropped and censored groundwater contamination study in Weatherford, TX.

Now, just days later, a damning study conducted by Duke University researchers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences again links shale gas fracking to groundwater contamination. The Duke researchers did so by testing samples of 141 drinking water samples of Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale basin.
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Victory! Industrial manufacturers agree to pay $21 million to St. Regis Mohawk

By Tim Fenster, March 28, 2013. Source: Watertown Daily Times

Photo: NOAA

Photo: NOAA

Roughly 30 years after contaminants from local industrial operations caused the state Department of Health to issue a warning against eating fish from the Grasse River, two settlements have been reached to help correct the damage that was caused to both local fisheries and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s heritage.

Tribal officials announced they have reached a $19.4 million settlement with Alcoa, Inc. and the Reynolds Metals Co. for the damage caused by contaminants released by the aluminum manufacturers’ Massena operations since the 1950s. Combined with $1.8 million from a 2011 bankruptcy settlement from General Motors, the two settlements will provide more than $21 million toward restoring local fisheries, protecting the environment and working to restore aspects of Mohawk Indian heritage that were affected by the decades-long fishing ban.

Approximately $8.4 million of the settlement funds will support traditional Mohawk cultural practices, such as apprenticeships on Mohawk language and traditional teachings, youth outdoor education programs and horticulture programs for medicine, healing and nutrition.

“The majority of the funds going to the tribe will be used to restore our relations with nature. Due to the contamination, a lot of our relations to nature have been lost,” said Barbara Tarbell, natural resource damage assessment program manager for the Mohawks.
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Ohio gas driller indicted, accused of dumping fracking waste into river

By James F. McCarty, February 28, 2013. Source: Cleveland.com

Benedict Lupo is the owner of Hardrock Excavating and D&L Energy, which operates numerous fracking wells in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Photo: AP

Benedict Lupo is the owner of Hardrock Excavating and D&L Energy, which operates numerous fracking wells in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Photo: AP

A federal grand jury returned an indictment against the owner of an oil and gas drilling company on Thursday, charging him with violating the Clean Water Act by dumping more than 20,000 gallons of fracking waste into a river in Youngstown.

In addition to the charges against Benedict Lupo, 62, of Poland, Ohio, the grand jury also returned Clean Water Act indictments against Lupo’s company, Hardrock Excavating, and an employee of the company, Michael Guesman, 34, of Cortland.

Guesman previously told federal agents that on Jan. 31 he dumped a toxic stew of drilling mud containing salt-water, crude oil and several hazardous pollutants, including benzene and toluene, into a storm drain that emptied into a tributary of the Mahoning River, according to a court document. The employee said he was acting on Lupo’s orders.
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U.N.’s water agenda at risk of being hijacked by big business

By Thalif Deen, February 11, 2013.  Source: Inter Press Service

Amidst growing new threats of potential conflicts over fast-dwindling water resources in the world’s arid regions, the United Nations will commemorate 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation (IYWC).

But Maude Barlow, chairperson, Council of Canadians and a former senior advisor on water to the president of the U.N. General Assembly in 2008-2009, warns the U.N.’s water agenda is in danger of being hijacked by big business and water conglomerates.

“We don’t need the United Nations to promote private sector participation under the guise of greater ‘cooperation’ when these same companies force their way into communities and make huge profits from the basic right to water and sanitation,” Barlow told IPS.

At this time of scarcity and financial crisis, she said, “We need the United Nations to ensure that governments are fulfilling their obligations to provide basic services rather than relinquishing to transnational corporations.”

The Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which has been designated the lead U.N. agency, formally launched IYWC at a ceremony in the French capital Monday.

In New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned of the new pressures on water, including growing populations and climate change. One-third of the world’s 7.1 billion people already live in countries with moderate to high water stress, he said.

“Competition is growing between farmers and herders; industry and agriculture; town and country,” Ban said. Upstream and downstream, and across borders, “We need to cooperate for the benefit of all now and in the future… Let us harness the best technologies and share the best practices to get more crop per drop.”

Back in December 2010, the 193-member General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring 2013 as the IYWC, following a proposal by Tajikistan.

The 2013 World Water Day, which will take place on Mar. 22, will be dedicated to water cooperation.

Barlow told IPS big water corporations have gained influence in almost every agency working at the United Nations.

The CEO Water Mandate, a public-private sector initiative launched by the United Nations in July 2007 and designed to assist companies in the development, implementation and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices, puts corporations such as Nestle, Coca Cola, Suez and Veolia directly into a position of influence over global water policy and presents a clear conflict of interest, she said.

“For-profit private companies cannot uphold the public interest if it conflicts with their bottom line,” said Barlow, who is also founder of the Blue Planet Project.

Even the World Water Development Report is now advised by an industry group on “business, trade, finance and involvement of the private sector,” she added.

Tom Slaymaker, senior policy analyst on governance at the London-based WaterAid, told IPS the United Nations recognised the “human right to water and sanitation” back in 2010.

“But today over 780 million lack improved water supplies and 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation facilities,” he added.

The 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation will be a critical year for the United Nations to reflect on why universal access has not yet been achieved, he said.

Slaymaker said it’s also time to reflect on the kind of political leadership and new forms of partnership that are required to accelerate progress towards universal access as part of the emerging post-2015 development framework of the United Nations.

According to the United Nations, the primary objective of IYWC is to raise awareness, both on the potential for increased cooperation, and on the challenges facing water management in light of the increase in demand for water access, allocation and services.

Since the General Assembly recognised the human right to water and sanitation, a number of countries, including Mexico, Kenya, Bolivia, The Dominican Republic, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ecuador, El Salvador, The Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and France, have either adopted laws recognising the right to water or amended their constitutions to do so.

The Vatican recently recognised the human right to water and added that “water is not a commercial product but rather a common good that belongs to everyone.”

And last June, all 193 member states signed the Rio+20 Declaration which includes the recognition of the human right to water and sanitation as a universal right.

Specifically zeroing on the role of the private sector, Barlow told IPS that corporations are among those pledging their support for IYWC.

Aguas de Barcelona, the water company at the heart of a fierce debate in Spain over control of drinking water, is participating, she pointed out.

So are “corporations who fought us on the right to water are now scrambling to claim it in their own image”.

She quoted Nestle as saying that 1.5 percent of the world’s water should be put aside for the poor and rest should be put on the open market.

If Nestle gets its way, she argued, there will one day be a water cartel similar to big oil, making life and death decisions about who gets water and under what circumstances every day.

“But at least we have this recognised and acknowledged right that no one should be allowed to appropriate water for personal gain while others die from an inability to pay for water,” she said.

With time, “we will build consensus around the right to water and the understanding that water is a common heritage and a public trust.”

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