Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BP spill 'more damaging' than first thought - Nearly 80% of of the crude oil released into the Gulf of Mexico remains in the area's ecosystem, researchers have concluded in a report that contradicted the rosier estimates of the Obama Administration. Up to 3.2 million barrels of the toxic substance have not been cleaned up, the independent researchers found. "The oil is still out there, and it will likely take years to degrade." They suggested that US Government scientists may have underestimated the dangers that the oil poses to local communities. For example, oil that was dispersed as micro-droplets, for instance, may still be "highly toxic," the study said. "The most toxic components of crude oil are the least likely to be naturally degraded." Even some of the oil that all parties agreed was released and subsequently purged could still be a threat. Oil that was evaporated into the atmosphere, for one, could still be a danger for years to come.
Meanwhile, another study published overnight in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested the spill's impact on human health is subtle and may not be seen immediately. They discovered, for example, that workers on the 1989 Exxon-Valdez spill in Alaska have, years later, a higher prevalence of chronic airway diseases.
Clean-up workers tend to suffer most because they are exposed to volatile organic compounds, chemicals that tend to evaporate when they reach the water's surface. But, the potential health impacts extend beyond the workers on oil spills. Nearby residents, too, may develop health problems either by exposure to crude oil in the water or by chemicals in the air. There also exists the possibility that seafood and drinking water in those communities may become contaminated. The consequences are not only physical. People exposed to the Exxon Valdez spill also proved, years later, to have high rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

**It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.**
Howard Ruff

This morning -

Yesterday -
8/16/10 -

Quake sparks landslides on largest Aeolian island off Sicily - An earthquake Monday on one of the Aeolian islands off of Sicily caused landslides but no major damage or injuries. "No one has been hospitalised, but we are monitoring the situation." The quake measured 4.5 degrees on the Richter scale and struck shortly before 3:00 pm (1300 GMT) some six kilometres (3.5 miles) from Lipari island and its epicentre was some 19 kilometres deep. Some people panicked by the earthquake jumped into the water where they were stung by jellyfish, and up to seven had suffered light injuries. Lipari is the largest in the volcanic Aeolian archipelago in the Tyrrenian Sea north of Sicily.

WASHINGTON - Earthquakes silent to the naked ear are revisiting the North Olympic Peninsula. Crews are doubling the number of seismic recording devices between Port Angeles and Port Townsend to measure tremors that make their presence known every 15 months or so in northwestern Washington.
The "tremor-and-slip" events have occurred about every 15 months since they were first detected in 2002. The latest were felt Sunday north of Olympia and west of Tacoma. They are expected to travel north under the Peninsula to Vancouver Island. The tremors are expected to last about three weeks and chances are "very small" that they will be felt on the surface. Over the course of several weeks, these silent tremors can release as much energy as a magnitude 6 earthquake. They emanate from the Cascadia subduction fault zone about 50 miles off the Washington coast. Scientists hope the data that's gathered helps them understand "what controls the timing of these events." The surface of the fault "is right under your feet there" about 20 miles below surface. "We don't understand why they are such weak events. It lets out few centimeters every year, compared to the big ones, which let out 10 meters of slip every 500 years," or 33 feet. "Another mystery is why it takes two or three weeks for all this movement to occur rather than a couple of minutes like a giant earthquake. We are trying to understand what is happening with this kind of faulting." The last subduction zone earthquake in the Pacific Northwest was in 1700, so the chance is "very small" that a large earthquake will occur during the present round of tremors.

No current tropical cyclones.

State Of Emergency Declared for Louisiana - As remnants of Tropical Depression Five move toward Louisiana, state prepares for possible severe weather and flooding. The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is monitoring possible severe weather associated with the remnants of Tropical Depression 5, which currently is moving westward through the Gulf of Mexico and heading toward southeast Louisiana. The National Weather Service is forecasting heavy rainfall through Wednesday. Some parishes could receive up to eight inches of rain and should prepare for possible flooding. The ground is saturated in many areas because of heavy rain in recent days. The NWS has issued a Coastal Flood Watch and a Flash Flood Watch for parts of coastal and central Louisiana. "We are in the most active part of hurricane season and this severe weather is an example of how a storm system can dissipate and then resurrect itself and quickly affect our state. This is why all families need a plan for protecting themselves when severe weather strikes."


Russia lashed by storm after heatwave - Russia's record-breaking heatwave looks set to come to a dramatic end, with a severe storm now heading for Moscow after battering St Petersburg on Sunday. Nearly 100,000 people around St Petersburg were left without power, rail services were halted and trees felled amid high winds and heavy rains. Moscow is expected to be hit later. Temperatures there dropped to 25C on Monday after nearing 40C for weeks. Fires that have raged across western Russia are being brought under control. The emergencies ministry said the area affected by peat and forest fires was down to 45,800 hectares, compared to a peak of almost 200,000 hectares.
The fires took hold amid a heatwave unseen in Russia since records began, 130 years ago. More than 50 people have died in the forest fires, but the wider death toll is much larger. Hundreds, or thousands, more people perished from the direct effects of the heat, or from drowning while trying to escape it, or from the smog that has blanketed Moscow and other regions during the fires. The smog has returned to Moscow, despite the lower temperatures and reduced fire area, but is expected to be dispersed by the coming winds.
The fires and drought have also had a devastating effect on Russia's wheat harvest. This year's crop could be as low as 60 million tonnes, well below last year's 97 million. The shortage is such that a ban on grain exports has been introduced, possibly until the end of the year. The measures are designed to keep domestic food prices under control, but could push world prices still higher.
Concerns remain about fires near Russia's major nuclear research facility in Sarov, about 400km (250 miles) east of Moscow, and in the Bryansk region, heavily affected by radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Officials said on Monday that fires near Sarov had been controlled. But an environmentalist warned that radioactive material near Bryansk still posed a threat. "Almost a million cubic meters of dead radioactive wood pose serious danger if the fires spread,. The forest is practically impenetrable, and we practically have no aviation so we'll have nothing to fight the fires if they spread." Officials said any fires that had reached the area so far have been extinguished.


Surge in Salmonella Enteritidis prompts egg recall - An outbreak of Salmonella infections has triggered a national recall of 13 shell egg brands and an extensive traceback investigation focused on an Iowa company that reportedly produced the eggs. IWright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, said it is recalling specific Julian dates of shell eggs because they may be contaminated with Salmonella. The eggs were distributed to food wholesalers, distribution centers, and foodservice companies in eight states: California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it, the FDA, and the US Department of Agriculture are investigating a fourfold national increase in the number of Salmonella Enteritidis isolates with the same pulsed-field gel electrophoresis pattern. In June and July about 200 isolates with that PFGE pattern, the most common in the PulseNet database, were submitted, compared with about 50 monthly uploads usually seen over the past 5 years. The CDC said many states have reported increases in the pattern since May. The CDC said its investigators are conducting DNA analysis of the isolates to identify illnesses that may be part of the outbreak.
Epidemiologic investigations in California, Colorado, and Minnesota have revealed several possible case clusters that suggest shell eggs are a likely source of infections. Traceback investigations suggested that shell eggs from the single firm, Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, were consumed at many of the restaurants or events linked to the case clusters.
Eggs subject to the recall were distributed nationally and were packaged under 13 different brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph’s, Boomsma’s, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms, and Kemps. The eggs are packaged in different sized cartons, including 6-egg, dozen, and 18-egg cartons. Recalled eggs have Julian dates that range from 136 to 225 with the plant numbers 1026, 1413, and 1946. Dates and codes are stamped on the end of an egg carton. The stamp begins with the letter P, followed by a space and then the Julian date. (The Julian calendar numbers days consecutively throughout the year rather than by month.) Galt is located in north central Iowa. Iowa is the nation's top producer of eggs, averaging about 53,500,000 layers.