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China's soil pollution

Nowhere is the global push to restore degraded land likely to be more important, complex and expensive than in China, where vast swaths of the soil are contaminated by arsenic and heavy metals from mines and factories.

A tenth of China’s farmland contains “excessive” levels of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium a government study has found. Other estimates of soil pollution range as high as 40%, but as expected, an official risk assessment is unlikely to be made public for several years.

The government has spent six years on a soil survey involving 30,000 people, but the academics leading the project said they have been forbidden from releasing preliminary findings, the Guardian reports.

Unlike in Europe where persistent organic pollutants are the main concern China’s worst soil contamination is from arsenic, which is released during the mining of copper, gold and other minerals. Roughly 70% of the world’s arsenic is found in China – and it is increasingly coming to the surface with horrendous consequences.

The Economic Information Daily reported this month that pollution ruins almost 12 billion kilograms of food production each year, causing economic losses of 20 billion yuan.

Experts say no more than 20% of China’s soil is seriously polluted but the problem was likely to grow because 80% of the pollutants in the air and water end up in the earth.

“If we don’t improve the quality of farmland, but only depend on increasing investment and improving technology, then – regardless of whatever super rice, super wheat and other super quality crops we come up with – it will be difficult to guarantee the sustainable development of our nation’s agriculture,” Huang Hongxiang, a researcher from the Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, summed up the problem in an interview with the Guardian highlighting the need for China to widen its focus from production volumes.

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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Agriculture

 

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"Fracking" Fuels Environmental Concerns – Video

Gas drilling is linked to contamination in people’s drinking water and it’s dividing rural landowners. Armen Keteyian reports.
 
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Posted by on November 14, 2010 in Oil, Policy, Videos

 

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Explosion Increases Anxiety over Natural Gas "Fracking" Technique

A recent well explosion in Pennsylvania which blew contaminated gas and water 75 ft in the air has renewed awareness, and in some cases anxiety, over the highly productive yet controversial natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Conventional gas drilling processes use approximately 80,000 gallons of water per well.  However,  the new method of horizontal drilling combined with “fracking” uses millions of gallons of water that has been laced with a cocktail of sometimes toxic chemicals.  These new techniques have opened up gas resources in many previously inaccessible areas, and dramatically increased U.S. natural gas production.

However, environmental pollution concerns have steadily increased in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, across which spans the giant Marcellus Shale formation.  New York has already limited drilling in certain areas because of fears of possible groundwater contamination in watershed regions.   It is likely that similar regulations will soon be put in place to ensure protection of the environment as fracking drilling expands.

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Posted by on June 11, 2010 in Natural Resources, Traditional Energy, Water

 

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Major Oil Leak Threatens Louisiana Gulf Coast; May Derail Plans to Expand U.S. Offshore Drilling

A veritable environmental catastrophe is developing in the Gulf waters around the Louisiana coastline following a fatal explosion on an offshore BP oil rig.

Last week’s incident left eleven workers missing and presumed dead,  and broke open a deep-sea pipe, which is currently leaking an estimated 5,000 barrels a day into the ocean.  Coordinated efforts from the U.S. Coast Guard and BP – which as leaser of the rig is responsible for all clean-up costs – have not succeeded in containing the oil slick.  Today’s reports indicate that strong winds are pushing the oil towards the shoreline, which is home to a variety of sensitive ecosystems and species that would all be in danger if the oil were to reach land.

The consequences of this major spill could spell disaster for President Obama’s proposal to expand offshore drilling in the United States, which he was offering as a way to encourage bipartisan support for a more far-reaching climate bill.  The President has ceased issuing new offshore drilling leases until a deeper investigation into this explosion is conducted.

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Posted by on April 30, 2010 in Natural Resources, Oil, Traditional Energy, Water

 

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Records show – millions in US drink dirty water – latest post by Anric Blatt

More than 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.

“This administration has made it clear that clean water is a top priority,” said an E.P.A. spokeswoman, Adora Andy, in response to questions regarding the agency’s drinking water enforcement. The E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, this year announced a wide-ranging overhaul of enforcement of the Clean Water Act, which regulates pollution into waterways.

“The previous eight years provide a perfect example of what happens when political leadership fails to act to protect our health and the environment,” Ms. Andy added.

Water pollution has become a growing concern for some lawmakers as government oversight of polluters has waned. Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, in 2007 asked the E.P.A. for data on Americans’ exposure to some contaminants in drinking water.

The New York Times has compiled and analyzed millions of records from water systems and regulators around the nation, as part of a series of articles about worsening pollution in American waters, and regulators’ response.

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Posted by on February 10, 2010 in Water

 

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