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Entries in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (3)


EPA Has Finalized Plan For Cleaning Up Toxic Contamination Within New York’s Gowanus Canal

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just finalized a plan to clean up the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, N.Y., which is considered one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country.

Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Completed in 1869, the canal has been one of the nation’s busiest commercial waterways, serving industries including: gas works (manufactured gas plants), coal yards, cement makers, soap makers, tanneries, paint and ink factories, machine shops, chemical plants, and oil refineries.

In recent decades, the canal has been used as a repository for untreated industrial wastes, raw sewage, and runoff.

Today, the EPA says that although much of the industrial activity along the canal has ceased, high levels of contamination remain in its groundwater and sediment. Contamination stills flows into the canal from overflows of sewer systems that carry sanitary waste from homes, as well as from rainwater coming from storm drains and industrial pollutants.

The EPA’s remedial investigation of the site found that it has been polluted with high levels of over a dozen contaminants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and heavy metals, including mercury, lead, and cooper.

PAHs and heavy metals were also found in the canal water. PAHs are a group of chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, or other organic substances.

PCBs were used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment, and their manufacture was banned in 1979.

The EPA says that, “PCBs and PAHs are suspected of being cancer-causing, and PCBs can have neurological effects as well,” also expressing concern that, “To this day, people can still be found fishing in the Gowanus despite advisories about eating fish from the canal.”

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20 Yrs Later- Alaskan Beaches Remain Polluted by Oil From Exxon Valdez Spill

The Exxon Valdez oil spill killed tens of thousands of animals during the initial days of the disaster alone. Photo courtesy of Nature’s Crusaders.

On Thursday evening, March 23, 1989, the Exxon Valdez, a very large crude carrier and one of Exxon’s then two largest oil tankers, left the Port of Valdez for Long Beach, Calif.

“The shipped passed through the Valdez Narrows and the pilot disembarked. Captain Joe Hazelwood ordered the vessel to procced outside the normal traffic separation lanes in order to avoid ice which had calved from the Columbia Glacier and was reported near the shipping lanes.

“The captain indicated to the mate where he wanted the vessel to turn to bring it back into the shipping lanes and then left the bridge. The ship did not make the turn prescribed by the captain, and shortly after midnight on Friday, March 24, 1989, struck Bligh Reef and fetched up hard aground.

“The grounding punctured the single-hulled vessel, resulting in the rupture of 11 of the vessel’s crude oil tanks. As a result, over 11 million gallons of crude oil were released into the pristine environment of Prince William Sound.”

This is how Craig Tillery, deputy attorney general for the Alaska Department of Law, described the events of those days to the Alaska Forum on the Environment during his keynote presentation, last February, when he brought attendees up to speed on the continuing effects of the disaster and restoration efforts.

As part of that address, he talked about the fact that about 10 years ago the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council noticed that “oil remained in greater quantities and at greater levels of toxicity than anyone that anticipated.”

Recent research findings from Temple University say that “it is estimated that nearly 20,000 gallons of oil remain in the beaches.”

Late last month, Nature Geoscience published the results of a three-year study by researchers from Temple University and China University of Geoscience which examined the effects of oil still remaining from the spill.

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Cancerous House Dust Across America Linked to Pavement Sealcoats

Coal-tar-based sealcoat being applied. Photo by Peter Van Metre.

We all have memories as children of being told to wipe our feet before coming in. Well, it might be more important than ever to follow that advice with a new study about what we may be tracking in.

Coal-tar-based sealcoal - that black, shiny stuff sprayed or painted on many parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds - has been linked to elevated concentrations of the contaminants polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in house dust.

Houses and apartments next to areas treated with this type of sealcoat contained dust with much higher concentrations of PAHs than those next to areas treated with other types sealcoats, according to the new study published by Environmental Science and Technology.

Asphalt-based sealcoat being applied. Photo by Guardtop.In contrast, “asphalt-based products have concentrations of PAHs that are 1,000 times less than what are in coal-tar-based products,” said Dr. Barbara Mahler, one of the authors of the study and a research hydrologist with the water resources division of the U.S. Geological Survey.

The concern is that “PAHs are highly potent carcinogens than can produce tumors in some organism at even a single dose. Mammals can absorb PAHs by inhalation, dermal contact or ingestion,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Fish exposed to PAH contamination have exhibited fin erosion, liver abnormalities, cataracts, and immune system impairments leading to increased susceptibility to disease,” adds the agency.

Working to assess water quality across the nation, “what caught our attention was there was one group of contaminants that was increasing, and that was the PAHs, which were primarily increasing in urban lakes in the U.S.,” said Mahler.

She went on to say that, “What we also found was that the PAH concentrations in the dust on these parking lots were extremely high, much higher than we had seen from any other PAH sources, including things like motor oil.”

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