The Latest On: Water
The saga of mountaintop removal continues, and this time it's headed to Congress. Two proposed bills—one in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives—could curtail mountaintop removal mining by banning certain activities related to this destructive mining practice.
Earthjustice was thrilled this month when a strong new set of rules was issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect California’s endangered salmon species. We've working to protect California salmon since the 1980s and the new biological opinion is a huge step in the right direction.
But some people just hate good news about the environment.
A disappointing decision by the federal appeals court in Atlanta will legalize pollution in many American drinking water supplies, and we have the former Bush administration to thank for it.
Back in my early days at Earthjustice I got into an argument with a colleage that has stuck with me ever since. She (no names) observed that if we—the movement in general—conceded that restoration of damaged ecosystems is possible that we'll never be able to protect forests, wetlands, parks and the like because developers could simply say they'll eventually restore the land to its former glory.
Wildlife Quiz: What river valley has the most important habitat for grizzlies, wolves, wolverines and lynx in the Rocky Mountains?
Hint: The river forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park, and straddles the Canadian/US border between British Columbia and Montana.
Answer: The Flathead River.
The Flathead was recently named British Columbia's most endangered river, and the fifth most endangered river in the United States.
Have you been following our Name That Fish contest? As part of our Cleaning Up Mercury, Protecting Our Health campaign, we just rechristened the Bluefin Tuna as “Blue Infection Tuna.” The timing couldn't be more perfect... a new Federal study was just released this month on the alarming mercury levels in tuna and other fish in the Pacific ocean.
As part of our campaign to clean up sources of toxic mercury pollution, we experimented with Google Earth to tell the story of how pollution from cement kilns is hurting local communities. Below is a video we produced that features two cement kilns right along the water in Seattle, WA.
Let's get a quick show of hands: How many of you have lost hours at work living out your flying fantasy in Google Earth? Well, me too.
We've told you about the dangers of eating mercury-contaminated fish. Today, the US Geological Survey released a comprehensive study linking the mercury emissions from smokestacks here in the US and abroad, and the contamination of fish like tuna and other marine life in the Pacific Ocean. According to the NY Times and Greenwire:
The study documents the formation in the North Pacific of methylmercury, a highly toxic form of mercury that rapidly accumulates in the food chain to levels that can cause serious health concerns for people who consume seafood. Scientists have known for some time that mercury deposited from the atmosphere can be transformed into methylmercury, but the study focuses on how that transformation occurs.
USGS showed that methylmercury is produced in mid-depth ocean waters by processes linked to "ocean rain." Algae, which are produced in sunlit waters near the surface, die quickly and rain downward to greater water depths. The settling algae are decomposed by bacteria and the interaction of this decomposition process in the presence of mercury results in the formation of methylmercury.
Many steps up the food chain later, predators like tuna receive methylmercury from the fish they consume, the study shows.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "This study gives us a better understanding of how dangerous levels of mercury move into our air, our water, and the food we eat, and shines new light on a major health threat to Americans and people all across the world."
Just last week, the EPA proposed significant cuts in cement kiln mercury emissions (up to 16,000 pounds a year), and we’re hopeful they will continue this leadership when they work to cut mercury from coal-fired power plants sometime in the future.
Mercury is a neurotoxin especially dangerous to young and unborn children, and women of childbearing age are often warned to limit their consumption of contaminated fish (like tuna, shark, walleye, or wild striped bass).