Saturday, August 1, 2015

An illuminating Empire State salute to endangered animals

Tonight, using 40 stacked, 20,000-lumen projectors on the roof of a building on West 31st Street, digital projection mapper Travis Threlkel and film director Louie Psihoyos "will be illuminating the night from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. with a looping reel showing what Mr. Psihoyos calls a “Noah’s ark” of animals. A snow leopard, a golden lion tamarin and manta rays, along with snakes, birds and various mammals and sea creatures will be projected onto a space 375 feet tall and 186 feet wide covering 33 floors of the southern face of the Empire State Building — and beyond, thanks to cellphones and Internet connections."

Tom Roston of the New York Times writes:

For years the landmark Empire State Building has been drawing the city’s attention with changes to the lighting scheme on its spire, and the displays have been growing more adventurous. In 2014, in honor of the retiring Yankee Derek Jeter, the building put his number, 2, up in lights at the base of the antenna. And this spring, to note the Whitney Museum of American Art’s move downtown, it interpreted famous paintings, like Warhol’s “Flowers,” with a light show running from the 72nd floor up. But actual moving images have never been displayed on the building and never with the clarity of 5K resolution.

Four years ago, Mr. Psihoyos’s Oceanic Preservation Society hired Mr. Threlkel’s San Francisco company, Obscura Digital, to put on elaborate light shows to help draw attention to the alarming rate at which species are dying out in what Mr. Psihoyos contends is Earth’s sixth mass extinction. The men began discussing “the most dramatic thing we could do to get the world to know about what we’re losing,” Mr. Psihoyos said. They wanted to use the photography of Mr. Psihoyos’s colleagues at National Geographic, incorporate a musical element and project the images on a newsworthy facade.

The project is coming to fruition at the end of a week when wild animals have been prominent in the news, among them endangered elephants, whose plight was emphasized in a speech President Obama gave in Kenya announcing restrictions on the sale of African elephant ivory, and Cecil the lion, a tagged animal lured from a wildlife preserve in Zimbabwe, shot by an American hunter with a crossbow, then tracked and ultimately killed.

The Empire State Building was an obvious choice for the project, not only because of its high-profile global status but also because, after a refurbishing in 2009, it became known as one of the most sustainable buildings in New York.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Judge denies stay in Exxon-NJ deal; will rule in weeks

The Christie administration and ExxonMobil Corp. on Thursday urged a state judge to approve a settlement New Jersey has reached with the oil giant over contamination claims, arguing the accord would bring much-needed resolution to a decade of litigation, Andrew Seidman reports for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Environmental groups and legislative Democrats have protested the deal, which was announced in April, and tried to stop it in court.

Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan said Thursday he would deny the groups' motion for a stay of his decision, saying they hadn't demonstrated substantial or irreparable harm. Hogan, sitting in Burlington County Superior Court, said he'd issue his decision on the settlement near the end of August.

He previously ruled that environmental groups and State Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (D., Union) could not intervene in the case.

"This is a fair and reasonable settlement," Acting Attorney General John Hoffman told the judge.

The case stems from Exxon's decades-long contamination of more than a thousand acres of land at two of its facilities in North Jersey. At trial last year, the state sought $8.9 billion in natural resources damages. Exxon had already agreed to remediate the sites.

Attorneys for the environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, charged in court filings that the state "would surrender more than 98 percent" of its initial claim under the settlement "and release Exxon from natural-resource damage liabilities at hundreds of other sites and other laws - without committing a cent to restoring and replacing resources."

The settlement also covers contamination at gas stations and 16 other sites, including one in Paulsboro

Read the full story here  

Related news
Lawyers for N.J., Exxon defend controversial pollution settlement in court 
Decision on Exxon Mobil-New Jersey settlement weeks away 

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EPA proposing a modified cleanup plan for Shieldalloy site

Below is the full text of a news release from Region 2 of the USEPA announcing proposed changes to the current cleanup plan for the Shieldalloy site in Newfield and Vineland, NJ. It also contains information about an August 12 public hearing on the modified plan. 

(New York, N.Y. – July 30, 2015) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed modifications to the plan to address contaminated groundwater at the Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corp. site in Newfield and Vineland, N.J.  A plan originally put into place by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection when it was mainly responsible for the site had required a system that pumps the groundwater out of the ground and treats it. The new EPA plan proposed today instead calls for using non-hazardous additives to treat the groundwater and break down the contaminants and then allow the contaminants to naturally decline while monitoring them.

Groundwater at the site is contaminated with hexavalent chromium and volatile organic compounds from ore and metal processing that took place at the site from 1955 to 2006. Exposure to hexavalent chromium and volatile organic compounds can damage health including nervous system damage and an increased potential of developing certain types of cancer. The groundwater at this site doesn’t present a direct threat because wells in the area are not used for drinking water since residents have been connected to a clean municipal water source.

NJDEP’s 1996 groundwater cleanup plan included enhancing an existing system of pumps to bring the polluted groundwater to the surface where it could be cleaned. The EPA oversaw a study of using certain additives to bring down contamination levels and data collected in recent years indicate that natural processes are effectively reducing the levels of some contaminants and that treatment of the groundwater by adding non-hazardous additives to the groundwater effectively reduces levels of others. The EPA has concluded that a system to pump the groundwater to the surface to be treated is not as effective as using the non-hazardous additives, and that the pump system is no longer necessary.

The EPA will hold a public meeting to explain the proposed plan on August 12, 2015 at 7:00 p.m., at the Newfield Borough Hall, 18 Catawba Avenue, Newfield, N.J. Public comments will be received by the EPA until August 28, 2015.

The proposal modifies the plan that relied on a pump and treat system to treat the groundwater. The EPA is proposing the modification after an in depth study, conducted from 2010 to 2014, which looked at the effectiveness of  applying non-hazardous additives to the groundwater to promote the breakdown of contaminants. This approach is proving effective. In addition, data collected since the original cleanup plan was selected indicates that natural processes are viable for reducing the levels of contaminants.  The EPA is requiring monitoring of the groundwater to verify that the level and extent of contaminants are declining and that people’s health and the environment are protected. The EPA will conduct reviews at a minimum of every five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup, until the cleanup is finished.

The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. The EPA searches for parties legally responsible for the contamination at sites and it holds those parties accountable for the costs of cleanups.  The cleanup of the Shieldalloy site is being conducted and paid for by the company with oversight by the EPA. 

The site includes a 67-acre area where the Shieldalloy facility was located, as well as the Hudson Branch of the Maurice River. The company discharged industrial wastewater directly into lagoons and surface water. Contaminated areas of the facility, nine waste water lagoons, and storage tanks have been addressed by previous actions. Processing operations have stopped, but the site is still utilized today as office space and for warehousing. The site was listed on the EPA’s Superfund list in 1984. 

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

American Littoral Society betting on baby oysters to thrive on their new reef home and start to clean up Barnegat Bay

Tiny baby oysters on shells headed into Barnegat Bay (Mary Ann Spoto photo)

"The American Littoral Society held a send-off party in Ocean Gate for 1.5 million oyster spat, or seedlings, which were taken by boat to an artificial reef about a quarter-mile off a section of Berkeley Township called Good Luck Point, " Bruce Shipkowski writes for the Associated Press.

Several small boats took part in the procession to bring the oyster spat to the reef. Staff and volunteers then dumped the spat into the bay and returned to shore.

The goal of the colony is to help improve water quality in the struggling bay; the shellfish naturally filter out pollutants and impurities. But there's another benefit as well: hardening the shoreline against devastating storms like Superstorm Sandy. The hard shells and the irregular, raised profile of the oyster beds help blunt the impact of waves and storm surges on the shoreline.

The colonies also serve as important habitat for fish and crabs, which are vital to the recreational fishing and boating industries along the bay.

"We are putting the pieces back in the bay, and we are doing it by pure willpower," said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society. "Ultimately, restoration of the bay and fixing its problems will have to be solved by the community but this shows we are on the right path."

The send-off party comes about three months after the group hired a barge to dump 160 tons of whelk shells onto the bay floor. Oysters, which are naturally attracted to shells, attach themselves and grow.

Because oyster shells are comparatively hard to come by, the group chose the much larger whelk shells as a substitute. But the Littoral Society also has started a shell recycling program in which a restaurant will retain the shells of oysters eaten by customers. The group will then pick up the shells and add them to the reef.

Now that you've read the story, watch and listen to Lauren Wanko's NJTV News report.

Wait, wait, there's more Mary Ann Spoto also was on dock when the shells were loaded.

She filed 
These babies aim to clean up Barnegat Bay  for

To top off a bright summer day for oysters, environmentalists and the media, Mary Ann's story was accompanied by an excellent video by Andre Malo
k.  Watch it  below.
(Be patient, it's a bit slow-loading).

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Tests find radiation in Pennsylvania mine water

                                                                                    Getty Images via NewsCred
Recent testing by the West Virginia Water Research Institute has found evidence of radiation contamination in water discharges from the abandoned underground Clyde Mine in Washington County (Pa.) near the Monongahela River that are likely related to past dumping of shale gas drilling wastewater, Don Hopey reports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The new water test findings were announced last week as the state Department of Environmental Protection continues to investigate radiation levels in Ten Mile Creek, a Monongahela River tributary in southern Washington County, and several abandoned mine discharges in the area. DEP tests done in April 2014 but released only last month in response to a citizen’s Right-to-Know request found radium at levels up to 60 times higher than allowed by federal drinking water standards.
The water research institute testing, conducted on June 25 of this year, did not support the DEP’s 2014 findings of widespread radiation contamination, except for the Clyde Mine discharge, which also contained high levels for bromides. Shale gas drilling wastewater often contains high concentrations of bromides, salts and other dissolved solids as well as natural radioactive elements picked up during the drilling and hydraulic fracturing of shale formations deep underground.
“There’s something going on there that’s not right,” said Paul Ziemkiewicz, a mine drainage expert and director of the water research institute. “The radiation, together with higher bromide levels than you would expect to see coming out of a deep mine, point to drilling wastewater. It’s something that’s worth continuing to take a look at.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Your opinion on PADEP's proposed ash-spill settlement?

Send your comments to the PADEP
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection wants to hear from you, Mr., Mrs., and Ms. Public, on its planned settlement with parties responsible for the August 2005 ash spill at the Martins Creek Steam Electric Station in Lower Mount Bethel Township, Northampton County.

The spill occurred after a wooden stop log in the Ash Basin No. 4 discharge structure failed, causing an estimated 100 million gallons of ash material to spread across local fields and into the Oughoughton Creek and the Delaware River.
“DEP would like to hear from the public on this important and final piece in the resolution of this matter. A significant amount of time and effort has been spent on assessing impacts from the spill and crafting this settlement. We believe this is a sound and well developed approach to addressing the Department’s claims for damages to the natural resources of the region,” said Mike Bedrin, Director of DEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilkes-Barre. “Any comments the Department receives will be considered in the final determination of settlement.”
Spill settlement details from the DEP
The proposed settlement calls for the payment of $1,325,200 to fund dam removal and mussel restoration projects on tributaries to the Delaware River in the area of the spill. From that amount, $373,050 will be paid to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for New Jersey-based restoration projects under a separate agreement with that agency.
In May 2008, DEP reached a separate settlement with PPL that required payment of a $1,500,000 civil penalty and corrective action for violations of various state statutes associated with the ash spill. That settlement preserved the Department’s claims for natural resource damages, which are now being resolved in this action and requires public comment.
Natural resource damages may occur at sites such as rivers or streams as a result of releases of hazardous substances, such as ash, or oil. States and state agencies, including the DEP, can act as “trustees” on behalf of citizens to pursue claims for natural resource damages.
DEP is working in conjunction with members of a Natural Resource Damage Assessment Team, which includes representatives of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and the Delaware River Basin Commission.
DEP staff, working in conjunction with members of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment team, had extensive involvement in overseeing and permitting cleanup of the spill. This included reviewing and commenting on three phases of cleanup, as well as PPL’s Phase IV Completion Report that addressed residential property and shoreline inspections, sediment and surface water sampling, and ecological investigations, such as damage to mussels.  
Written public comment invited 
Persons wishing to comment on the proposed settlement documents are invited to submit comments in writing to: Colleen Connolly, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701-1915. TDD users may contact the Department through the Pennsylvania Relay Services at 800-645-5984 FREE.
The public comment period will end on September 23, 2015. Copies of the settlement documents are available in the Department’s Wilkes-Barre offices and also the Bethlehem offices, located at 4530 Bath Pike, Bethlehem 18017.  
An electronic copy is also available on the Department’s Northeast Regional Office webpage. To access, go, click on “Regional Resources in the left hand column, then click on the Northeast Regional Office icon, go to the right hand of page and click on “Community Resources.”
After the public comment period ends, the Department will file a response to significant written comments or indicate that no such comments were received. 

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New Jersey considering a lemon law for farm tractors

Friday, July 24, 2015

Farm tractor lemon law bill on Gov Christie's desk

The New Jersey Legislature has handed Gov. Chris Christie a bill that should be quite popular in the farm state of Iowa where Christie currently is campaigning for the White House.

The state Senate yesterday gave final passage to A-1812 (Wilson) which extends coverage of the state's lemon law to farm tractors. [New Jersey considering a lemon law for farm tractors]

When the  bill was released from the Assembly Agriculture Committee back in February, Brittany M. Wehner reported in the South Jersey Times
New Jersey is known for agriculture and farming -- a lifestyle that relies on strong machinery like plows and tractors -- but when a new or leased vehicle is flawed and malfunctions, it leaves farmers with a big problem. 
Because farmers work around a weather window, which depends on the time of year to plow, plant and take care of crops, if the vehicle is faulty, it impacts the entire season of farming, according to Cumberland County Board of Agriculture member Hillary Barile.
"Replacement for equipment is not always available and you can't just go down the street and rent a new tractor to get your work done. Often, there is a really long, from a month to a year for a waiting list," Barile, who is also a farmer at Rabbit Hill Farms, in Shiloh, said Monday afternoon.
If someone purchases a new farm vehicle and it has an engineering defect, there is a loss of opportunity based on the weather, and that can be really bad, Barile added.

Will Christie sign it? What do you think? If interested, use the comment box below.

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