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Community/Politics

Friday
Sep262014

New York City To Receive State And Federal Funding For Coastal Storm Resiliency Projects

New York City has received the first phase of federal approval for a coastal flood protection infrastructure plan for the community of Breezy Point, Queens.

An aerial photo taken April 26, 2013, showed how Breezy Point, Queens, looked six months after Superstorm Sandy devastated the area. Photo courtesy of DailyNews.com.

The plan will include building a double dune barrier system, along with other bayside flood and erosion protection measures to protect the community from future damage from extreme weather.

Breezy Point is located on the westernmost end of the Rockaway Peninsula of Queens and suffered some of the city’s worst damage from Hurricane Sandy. Waves struck from the Atlantic and rising waters poured into the community from Jamaica Bay.

The mayor’s office reported that storm damage in the area included electrical power systems and sparked “fires that ultimately consumed135 homes.” Overall, about 350 homes in the area were lost as a result of Sandy.

The newly proposed dune system would continue the existing dune line on the Atlantic side of Breezy Point. This would provide natural flood and erosion protection using the area’s natural features.

The city says that the dunes will be designed to withstand a sea level rise of about 2.5 feet in the area over the life of the project.

In addition, it’s planned that these measures will be complemented on the bayside of Breezy Point and Roxbury by constructing bay walls and groins to combat flood and erosion.

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Tuesday
Apr082014

Chicago Bans New Pet Coke Storage Facilities And Prohibits The Expansion of Existing Ones

A new ordinance in Chicago is now in effect that bans new petroleum coke also known as pet coke facilities from being established within the city limits, and prohibits the expansion of existing facilities.

The Willis Tower in downtown Chicago provides a backdrop to a huge mound of petroleum coke, or pet coke, in a residential southeast part of the city. Photo courtesy of gazettenet.com, which was taken by Charles Rex Arbogast.

For those that don’t know what it is, pet coke is a solid carbon material that’s a byproduct of the oil refining process. Pet coke is used as a fuel source for a number of industries including power plants and factories.

Pet coke also has a lot of other uses. It’s a component in the production of electrodes used in furnaces of the steel and aluminum industries, and it’s also used as a component of anodes used in the aluminum, steel, and titanium industries.

The problem with all this is that pet coke is also very unhealthy to be around. Pet coke contains high concentrations of carbon and sulfur, and trace elements of metals including: lead, nickel, chromium, and vanadium. 

A concern of the Chicago Department of Public Health has been that, “Inhaling pet coke can contribute to serious respiratory health problems, particularly for individuals who suffer from heart and lung disease and asthma.”

Another issue the mayor’s office cited for approving the ordinance was that the airborne particles from the pet coke storage facilities created a dark sut that “blackened” vehicles and homes.

The mayor’s office added that these coke facilities have also had other detrimental effects on nearby communities – significantly impacting residents’ quality of life, as well as reducing property values and inhibiting economic development.

Beyond prohibiting existing coke storage facilities from expanding, the new ordinance will also require them to “fully enclose their storage piles.” The mayor’s office added that they will be required to “establish buildings to contain all of their materials.”

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Thursday
Jan022014

EPA Gets Warrant In New Jersey To Cleanup Abandoned Leaking Chemical Storage Site

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency has received a warrant allowing it to go in and clean up an abandoned New Jersey drum and container recycling facility that was also a wholesale industrial supplier. The site was storing numerous toxic materials and chemicals.

EPA toxic chemical cleanup at the abandoned Superior Barrel and Drum facility, a former drum and container recycling site that was also a wholesale industrial supplier in Elk Township, N.J. Photo courtesy of the EPA.

The site, formerly owned by the Superior Barrel and Drum company, located in a rural, wooded area of Elk Township, N.J., was found in disrepair with over 2,000 containers, with mostly 55-gallon drums and 275-gallon totes that could be seen from the road.

Local and Gloucester County officials discovered the facility in its deteriorated state. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and county HazMat were contacted and identified the hazardous substances.

County officials said that attempts to reach the property owner failed on numerous occasions. The owner filed for bankruptcy in 2012, but the case was dismissed due to lack of information provided by the plaintiff.

Elk Township was planning on foreclosure proceedings due to back property taxes owed, but the Gloucester County Fire Marshal’s Office recommended they hold off on the proceedings because of site conditions.

The NJDEP brought the EPA in on the project because of the size of the undertaking and the amount of resources needed.

The EPA said, “Many containers were found to be leaking, without tops, exposed to weather elements, rusted, damaged due to gunshots, stored improperly, and laying on their sides.

“Several drums and containers were found in standing water throughout the property, and many were located within the onsite wetlands. These wetlands are included in the National Wetlands Inventory, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

The EPA collected 84 samples for analysis from on-site containers, surface soil and surface water. The results found chemicals, many of them carcinogens, including benzene, toluene, trichloroethylene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and lead. 

“Many of these compounds were found in containers that are actively leaking onto surface soils,” added the agency.

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Friday
Aug162013

Adding To New Sustainable DC Plans, District Gets Nearly $100,000 For Stormwater Initiative

Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray introducing Sustainable DC Plan initiatives. Photo courtesy of wusa9.com

As part of a package of grants totaling an estimated $400,000 to be distributed among several municipalities and nonprofit organizations around Maryland and Washington, D.C., the District will receive a grant of $95,000 to support stormwater management and green street development adjacent to the famed Dunbar Senior High School which is also being newly renovated.

The school’s roots date back to 1870, when it was founded as the “Preparatory High School for Colored Youth,” before being renamed the “M Street School.” With the re-opening of the school’s previous campus in 1916, it was renamed in honor of Paul Laurence Dunbar who was among the first African-American poet to ever gain national critical acclaim.

Dunbar’s works addressed African-Americans’ difficulties to achieve equality in America during the turn of the 20th century.  Dunbar was born on June 27, 1872 to Matilda and Joshua Dunbar, both natives of Kentucky. His mother was a former slave and his father had escaped from slavery and served in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War.

The Dunbar school is known for its rigorous academic reputation. The grant announcements were made by Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray. The other six grants will include projects in Cambridge, Md., Prince George’s County, Md., Northumberland County, Pa., and Richmond, Va.

Each of the projects has been designed to improve water quality, increase efficiency, and promote environmental best practices. The grants are part of the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) program, which is a public-private partnership supporting urban green infrastructure to improve watershed protection and community livability.

The G3 program is a collaborative effort that includes participants such as the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

In Washington, D.C., the stormwater project will work in conjunction with the District’s newly passed Sustainable DC Plan. The 20-year plan – with targets set for 2032 – is designed to improve citywide health through measures including creating new green building infrastructure, transportation improvements, clean air regulations, new city gardens, and increased wetland protection and restoration.

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Thursday
Feb282013

Massachusetts Municipality Is First In U.S. to Ban Sale of Water In Personal Size Plastic Bottles

Making history and creating new controversy, in the town of Concord, Mass. a ban on the sale of water in personal size plastic bottles has taken effect, and officials have begun enforcement.

Jean Hill, a Concord resident in her eighties who petitioned for the bylaw, told Wicked Local Concord that her primary concern throughout the process was for the environment. She told the publication that she “believes even with recycling that plastic water bottles harm the environment by using fossil fuels and producing excess carbon dioxide emissions.”

The Center for Microbial Oceanography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa says that it takes about 100 years for a plastic bottle to biodegrade and the problem is huge.

The Ban the Bottle campaign further adds that, “Last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38, and that overall, “Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added more broadly that, “Of the 30.7 million tons of plastic generated in 2007, only 2.09 million tons or less than seven percent were recycled.”

To address these issues in its own small way, the Concord bylaw specifically prohibits the sale of non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water contained in 1 liter (34 ounce) or less sized self-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.

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