Monday, November 17, 2014

CSB DuPont- LaPorte, TX Investigation Update

The CSB investigation into the tragic accident at DuPont's La Porte, Texas, chemical plant got underway this morning at 8 a.m.  Seven members of the eight-member team met with company and local union representatives to map out the direction of the CSB investigation. This took place in a  company building conference room at the facility.
Subsequently, investigators began interviews of several DuPont personnel, with plans being made to interview shift workers and other possible witnesses to the events that led to a release of highly toxic methyl mercaptan, exposure to which killed four workers early Saturday morning. Those interviews were continuing this afternoon.
The CSB is coordinating the worker interviews with the help of International Chemical Workers Union Council representatives.  
The team has not yet been able to access the area where the leak and the deaths occurred, described by Investigator Banks as an approximately 5-stories high enclosed structure with piping, valves and other equipment.
Mr. Banks said, "DuPont is taking steps to assure the area is safe to access. We will be evaluating that process and when we determine it is safe for our team members to document the site we will enter. We don't know how soon that will be. We have asked the company to preserve the status of the process, valve and other equipment settings as close as possible to where they were at the time of the accident to aid in our investigation."
He continued, "At this point, obviously it is too soon for us to be able to determine the immediate cause of this accident.  We will release information to the public as soon as confirmed findings are known."
Investigators are preparing document requests which typically concern maintenance schedules, operator training, equipment histories, hazard analyses and other information critical to determining the root cause of the accident.
CSB Managing Director Daniel Horowitz, will join the team this evening in Houston, bringing the total to eight members. He will manage CSB public affairs on site. He can also be reached through public@csb.gov.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Top 100 Papers (according to Nature)

http://www.nature.com/news/the-top-100-papers-1.16224?WT.mc_id=FBK_Nature_1410_Top100papers_PORTFOLIO

Thursday, November 6, 2014

EPS-HDT: SOCIOECONOMIC PROFILES

Economic Profile System –
Human Dimensions Toolkit

EPS-HDT is a free, easy-to-use software application that runs in Excel, from your desktop, and produces detailed socioeconomic reports of communities, counties, states, and regions, including custom aggregations and comparisons.
EPS-HDT uses published statistics from federal data sources, including the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce; Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor; and others.
System Requirements:
Windows (XP/Vista/7) with Microsoft Excel (Office 2003/07/10/13).
Mac (OS X 10.6+) with Microsoft Excel (Office 2011).
Price: Free. Download Size: 4MB.
The new Excel 2013 compatible version of EPS-HDT is now available! Click “register” to download it now.
For more information, contact:
Patricia Gude at 406.599.7425 or [email]

Sunday, October 26, 2014

In Shenandoah, What Else Can You See?

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Shenandoah National Park and drive along the blue ridge parkway in Virginia and what an incredible experience that was. At the highest elevations, you will see gold colored trees, shining in the sunlight. Others are bight red or a mix of yellow, brown, red, orange. In the distance  they appear like live size painting, still and peaceful. During the day, the colors are so striking that I felt like I  was in an enchanted forest during my hikes. There are several hike trails at low or high elevations, some more popular than others with visitors. I did a 2.2 mile hike first down the mountain, leading to beautiful waterfalls, and then up the mountain leading to a comfortable walk in the last stretch. Overall, an incredible experience worth trying.  At night,camping  in the complete dark and after many years of urban living, saw the starts and the moon again and that experience is another blog entry on its own!










Thursday, August 21, 2014

EPA Report Shows Progress in Reducing Urban Air Toxics Across the United States

WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress - the final of two reports required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to inform Congress of progress in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics. 
“This report gives everyone fighting for clean air a lot to be proud of because for more than 40 years we have been protecting Americans – preventing illness and improving our quality of life by cutting air pollution - all while the economy has more than tripled,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “But we know our work is not done yet. At the core of EPA’s mission is the pursuit of environmental justice - striving for clean air, water and healthy land for every American; and we are committed to reducing remaining pollution, especially in low-income neighborhoods.”
Using national emissions and air quality data, the Urban Air Toxics Report shows the substantial progress that has been made to reduce air toxics across the country since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.
-   A 66 percent reduction in benzene;-   A nearly 60 percent reduction in mercury from man-made sources like coal-fired power plants;-  An 84 percent decrease of lead in outdoor air, which slows brain development in children;-  The removal of an estimated 1.5 million tons per year of air toxics like arsenic, benzene, lead and nickel from stationary sources and another 1.5 million tons per year (about 50 percent) of air toxics from mobile sources. This is significant because air toxics (also referred to as hazardous air pollutants or HAPs) are known or suspected of causing cancer and can damage the immune, respiratory, neurological, reproductive and developmental systems;
- And, approximately 3 million tons per year of criteria pollutants, like particulate amtter and sulfur dioxide, have been reduced from cars and trucks as co-benefits of air toxics reductions.


Reducing toxics is a top priority for EPA, and even with this progress, we continue to improve our understanding of them, so we can effectively reduce remaining risks, particularly in overburdened communities. EPA’s Plan EJ 2014is making sure environmental justice is addressed in programs and policies across the agency. EPA is working closely with state, local and tribal agencies to promote area-wide and regional strategies to address air toxics and support a number of community-based programs that help communities understand, prioritize and reduce exposures to toxic pollutants in their local environment. For example, in Indianapolis, we are working with partners on the ground through an EPA grant for the “Building Lead Safe Communities” Project in the Martindale-Brightwood and Nearwest neighborhoods. We’re addressing the risk of toxic lead exposure in children through outreach efforts and compiling block level soil lead data, identifying hotspots utilizing air sampling and developing synergistic local solutions.

Additionally, recent EPA actions will further address toxic pollution in communities. Since 2005, EPA has taken steps to address air emissions from stationary sources that include major reductions from boilers, power plants, and Portland cement facilities. For example, the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will prevent about 90 percent of the mercury in coal burned in power plants from being emitted to the air. The 2007 Mobile Source Air Toxics rule is projected to reduce toxics emitted from highway vehicles and nonroad equipment, which are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health and environmental effects, by 330,000 tons in 2030, including 61,000 tons of benzene, and VOC emissions (precursors to ozone and PM2.5) by over one million tons. We expect reductions in air toxics from cars and trucks to grow to 80 percent by the year 2030 as we get newer, cleaner vehicles on the road. The proposed updates to emission standards for petroleum refineries would reduce emissions from the 150 petroleum refineries across the U.S., many of which are located near communities.  It would also reduce emissions of chemicals such as benzene, toluene and xylene by 5,600 tons per year.  These efforts, along with the implementation and adoption of new and existing national rules for stationary and mobile sources of pollution, will improve public health for all Americans by providing further reductions in air toxics.
More information on the report: http://www2.epa.gov/urban-air-toxics

Monday, August 4, 2014

EPA Issues Policy Supporting Tribal and Indigenous Communities

CONTACT:
Jennifer Colaizzi
Colaizzi.Jennifer@epa.gov
202-564-7776

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2014

EPA Issues Policy Supporting Tribal and Indigenous Communities
WASHINGTON – Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples, reinforcing the agency’s commitment to work with tribes on a government-to-government basis when issues of environmental justice arise.
“All tribal and indigenous communities deserve environmental and public health protection. Through this agreement, we are reinforcing our commitment to tribal communities, especially in addressing issues of Environmental Justice,” said Administrator McCarthy.  “We know that tribes are uniquely impacted by a changing climate, which highlights the importance of this agreement and other agency actions, including funding research through the STAR Tribal health grants.”
Over the past 20 years, the agency has made substantial progress in developing both its tribal and environmental justice programs. Building on EPA’s Plan EJ 2014, the policy integrates 17 environmental justice and civil rights principles. The plan also identifies existing informational and resource tools to support EPA in its endeavor to make indigenous regions environmentally safe.
This policy, started in 2011, was developed through tribal government consultations, meetings with state and tribalorganizations and three public comment periods engaging indigenous communities and other stakeholders.
More information on:
 EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peopleshttp://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/resources/policy/indigenous/ej-indigenous-policy.pdf
EPA’s Plan EJ 2014http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/resources/policy/plan-ej-2014/plan-ej-2011-09.pdf
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

IMPRESSIVE Simulation of Aerosols Transport Courtesy of NASA

Even if we can't see them, aerosols play an important part in weather, pollution, and air quality. As NASA points out, they are recognized as one of the most important forcing agents in the climate system (Forster et al. 2007).  Using GEOS-5,  NASA's  Global Modeling and Assimilation Office have made available two very impressive simulations of aerosols distribution throughout the earth. It looks like gentle smoke moving about with the wind,  but it helps us see clearly how pollution can spread far and wide. We are more connected than we realize. 

http://gmao.gsfc.nasa.gov/research/aerosol/modeling/nr1_movie/