_logo_phere . . . the blog

. . .takin’ the “BS” out’a the BlogoSphere (and MSM), one shovel-full at a time

Connecting the dots on PBDEs in the Potomac

Bloged in Miscellaneous by Gutter Grunt Sunday February 10, 2008 at about 4:45 pm

Dr. Rob Hale is a dedicated environmental scientist working for the Va. Institute of Marine Science. Rob is one of the world’s authorities on a particular organic contaminant found in BS: polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs. He also sits on the new BS oversight board for the Va. Dept. of Environmental Quality. Here are a few of his recent publications. Link.>

In many ways organic contaminants are the toughest problem with BS. Metals and micro-organisms are of limited types and can be detected, and there is a pretty good scientific basis for setting acceptable levels. But organic compounds are often quite exotic, which means that often not a lot is known about them or the levels at which they are toxic. It also means that detecting and measuring them can be difficult. Just the sheer numbers of such compounds rules out any possibility of monitoring them all — at least with today’s technology. Organic contaminants are virtually all man-made, which means that huge numbers of different types can be produced, so you never have a final list of the problem compounds.

PBDEs are one good example of the problem with organics in BS. PBDEs have been around as household flame-retardants for quite a while. They are sprayed on furniture and on electronic components. They are ubiquitous products of human synthesis and society, but there is at least one report of them being produced naturally by whales, not as flame-retardants of course because whales live underwater and don’t have couches or computers, but as a by-product of presumably normal metabolism.

Since the late 1990’s the Swiss have been all over PBDE’s as toxins, and it seems that until recently most of the research on these compounds is from Swiss scientists. Switzerland banned PBDE’s in 1998 — way before the rest of the world caught on. IN fact, the rest of the world hasn’t quite caught on yet, but the number of research articles on PBDE’s is growing every year.  A few green US states have started banning them. As of Jan 1, 2008 Calif. bans all products using the compounds. Washington and Maine are not far behind, but with more limited bans. Wiki Link>

PBDE’s are found in high concentrations in BS and wastewater treatment plant effluents. Recently Rob Hale and colleagues published an article showing that as a result of trash/sewage-dumping activities, McMurdo Base in Antarctica is a point source of PBDE pollution of one of the most and last pristine areas on the planet. Link.

Rob, a marine scientist, has focused a lot of his effort on understanding and documenting the hormone-disrupting effects of PBDE’s on fish — specifically, male fish producing eggs. PBDEs are also known to have effects on the thyroid, impair brain development, decrease sperm counts. They are concentrated in human breast milk. Studies published in 2007 show feminization of bass and other species in the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, including near the outflow of the Blue Plains wastewater treatment facility on the Potomac in Washington, D.C. Link. Blue Plains is a major contributor to BS spread on Virginia rural land.

You connect the dots, especially if you’re breast feeding a baby boy.

The cost of war — diverted and delayed domestic projects

Bloged in Technology by Gutter Grunt Tuesday February 5, 2008 at about 3:12 am

As a patent lawyer I am seeing a fair few projects related to green energy heading down the patent pipeline. And as a sludge-warrior I am hopeful and optimistic that soon all BioSolids (BS) will be converted into kilowatts. I believe that someday soon, rural communities will be begging NYC to send them more BS so they can convert it to energy. Whoever brings this technology to market first will have a gold mine. A quite a few companies are trying hard.

A company in Bakersfield, Ca. named Liberty Energy may be leading the pack in this race. It’s ironic that they’re in Bakersfield because that whole Kern County situation is currently a huge BS mess, both in the courts and in the political arena. But Liberty Energy has got some full-scale, honest-to-God projects almost to the construction stage. There are a couple projects scheduled in Calif. and one in Hamilton, Ontario,

One project, in Banning, Calif, is due to be operational by 2011. It will cost $180 million, pump 15 MW into the local grid, and generate $2 million per year in tax revenue. Go to Liberty’s site and check it out. Link.   They explain the process quite well.

With a meager 1/100th of the $600 billion Bush is pumping into the Iraq war, this whole BS problem could have been easily solved for good in a way that would put huge amounts of electricity into the grid. A number of technologies are virtually ready to go on-line. The need is there, the technology is there, the money is going down a hole in Iraq — a hole called Halliburton/KBR.

A Sleepy Session for Sludge in the Va. Legislature

Bloged in Miscellaneous, Sludge, Environment -- Humans Screwing Nature by Gutter Grunt Sunday February 3, 2008 at about 8:08 am

Only 4 bills mentioning “sludge” have been filed so far in the Va. General Assembly — HB 1331, HB 1332, SB 423, SB 446 — and two of these are identical. After a tiny legislative BS revolution last year, the policy-makers are sitting back to see if the 2007 changes are going to fix the problem. Most of the legislative changes this year just correct various bills that used to refer to the Dept. of Health in the BS regulation statutes.

So far I see only two noteworthy changes in the laws. The first is excluding sludging your fields from the definition of “agriculture” and “silviculture” in the Right to Farm Act. This is significant because Synagro has raised a defense based on the Right to Farm Act in Wyatt v. Synagro, which was reported in the blog on Jan09.08. No doubt Synagro will throw their money at this bill to try and get it defeated. But the BSers’ seem to be coming up short in the legislature lately so maybe the brown tide has turned against them.

The other BS-related change requires compost fertilizer derived from sludge to be labeled with the source. I guess the bags will have to be marked “Human Rectum.”

Powered by Wordpress, theme by neuro