Author and activist Naomi Klein just won the $60k Hilary Weston Prize for her book about climate change, ‘This Changes Everything’. This is a very thought provoking interview that should give you good reason to read it. While the government of our neighbors to the north in Canada race to be match China by being the most polluting country on the planet, willing to trade any environmental protection for the almighty and in this case, appropriately named, Loonie, Naomi has focused whether the very fundamental nature of the free market is dooming us all. If you aren’t interested in reading a long book, then try a sample of her thoughts.
It’s always been a question mark in my mind, about how much of the bad stuff in the Sound are we eating with our delicious meals of shellfish. Now we know. And it’s a good word of caution that if you are regularly eating shellfish, that buying them from growers who are away from urban environments, or harvesting them yourself in remote places, is the best rule of thumb. And it also gives us a very easy way to measure the recovery efforts at work. The bad news is that PCBs, long banned, continue to be found in the water, as do flame retardants. Both are cancer causing. It points out that storm water runoff and our crazy notion that we can pour our sewage into our Sound, have consequences for us.
Scientists used shellfish to conduct the broadest study to date of pollution levels along the shore of Puget Sound. And in some places, it’s pretty contaminated. This past winter the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife put mussels at more than 100 sites up and down Puget Sound. After a few months, volunteers and WDFW employees gathered the shellfish and analyzed them for metals, fossil fuel pollution, flame-retardants and other chemicals. The WDFW just released the results. [http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01643/] Ashley Ahearn reports. (EarthFix)
The ongoing nightmare on Quesnel Lake from the Mount Polley Tailing “Pond”, has huge ramifications for us in Washington State and the Olympic Peninsula. This fiasco is being whitewashed by the politicians from both the Provincial and the Federal level in Canada. The official line is ‘it’s not that bad” when the truth is it’s likely far worse than anyone imagines. Huge amounts of highly toxic materials, including the possibility of radioactive material (that is now being discussed in official circles), pose grave downstream risks to the Salish Sea and the wildlife that passes through it on their way elsewhere.
The primary talked about toxin in this stew is mercury. Lots of it. It’s used in this kind of mining and ends up being a by-product that can’t be removed, just managed. We already deal with mercury in our fish, to a manageable degree, and it’s affects are well known and avoided. However, without knowing how much mercury might be in the tailings that are now in the Lake, the government has been suggesting that there is nothing to fear from the water. Let’s be clear, mercury ingested in significant amounts can cause Minamata’s Disease. Look it up on Wikipedia. It was highlighted in a Pulitzer Prize winning article in Life Magazine in the 1970s, photographed by Eugene Smith, when an entire village in Minamata Japan suffered from horrible birth defects because of unregulated mercury poisoning. The Canadian Government is putting it’s people at serious risk by inaction. And us too.
To quote part of the Wikipedia article:
Symptoms (of mercury poisoning and Minamata Disease) includeataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision, and damage tohearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanity, paralysis, coma, and death follow within weeks of the onset of symptoms. A congenital form of the disease can also affect foetuses in the womb.
All these were experienced in Japan in the 70s in Minamata.
And this is just one of the toxins that was contained behind this tailing dam.
Without immediate work to setup coffer dams and drain the areas around the spill in Quesnel Lake, we may see a huge amount of mercury, along with other toxins, enter the Salish Sea, and undoubtably affect the Sockeye that come out of Quesnel, one of the largest sockeye spawning habitat in Canada.
These fish make up the primary food of the remaining local pods of Orcas. And our fishermen catch them and we eat them. Lots of them. In other words, our fishing industry and our Orcas could be at risk.
We need our politicians to act now, to demand that the Canadian government stop pretending this not a serious problem and begin cleanup of this spill. There has been to date, no work begun on cleaning up the spill! (as of Sunday August 24)
This is not just about the lame excuses that Victoria and their muzzled scientists gives us about how they think their untreated sewage is not affecting the Straits. This is about possibly poisoning our fish and ourselves. And if we don’t stop it soon, it may be permanent. An oozing toxic mess that’s not cleaned up will pose a threat for decades to come. Just ask the folks at Hanford. The comments coming from high level government Canadian officials are true doublespeak. To be clear, the simplest way of understanding this is that if the massive amounts of tailing waste were not a danger to human health and the environment why are they held behind these ponds in the first place? It’s because they have been proven, for over 100 years, to be very harmful, if not deadly, to plants and animals, including us! There is no ‘lucky break’ (as stated by a senior government official) in a dump of this magnitude, there is only a bad outcome of various magnitudes.
The mine managers and the regulators that refused to enforce the laws, have created an environmental disaster of monumental proportion that has yet to fully unfold. What matters now is protecting the entire river systems that will carry this muck to the ocean. And protect the drinking water that might be pulled out of the river for human consumption.
What’s the possibility of the US having a significant say in this issue? Read the following excellent article about our treaties with Canada, and the power that we have to force them to change legally. And remember that it’s because we have a Democratic, environmentally supportive president that we can read something like this. In a different previous era, our government would likely have been looking the other way in support of rampant environmental degradation.
Disturbing new study from University of Hawaii. Looks like Sea Bass may be off the list of food to eat, since it’s impossible to know where it really came from. Or which part of the sales chain is falsifying the data. It appears to be the people sourcing it.
New measurements from fish purchased at retail seafood counters in 10 different states show the extent to which mislabeling can expose consumers to unexpectedly high levels of mercury, a harmful pollutant, according to a new study from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Original Study named:
Seafood Substitutions Obscure Patterns of Mercury Contamination in Patagonian Toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) or “Chilean Sea Bass”
This short story by KOMO on the efforts of various environmental groups to carry out a federally funded program to test waters for pollutants via filter feeders, or mussels. The good news is that high levels of pollutants were not found in more remote areas (like Jefferson County), but that where the high levels were found, we are still seeing problems from PCBs, paint toxins and other chemicals that were banned decades ago.
Port Angeles and Hood Canal have been part of the program, but apparently Hood Canal was not tested in 2008. PA appears to be not polluted enough to worry about.
The one thing to remember is that these filter feeders do collect toxins. If you want to protect yourself while eating filter feeders, always ask where they were harvested.
If you’d like to explore the results of the program nationally, including all the sites in the Salish Sea, go to this web site:
This program has been ongoing for 20+ years, so we are able to now see long term trends in the analysis of the data.
KOMO story is here:
The New York Times today reports of a new method of slowing combined sewer overflow. Given the expensive and earthquake prone methods that Port Angeles is currently proposing, this seems like an interesting alternative.
It happens dozens of times a year, undermining water quality, closing beaches and endangering aquatic life: Hit by major rainfall, New York’s sewers release raw sewage and polluted storm water into New York Harbor. These “overflow events” account for an estimated 27 billion gallons of pollutants annually in the city’s waters.