Sep 19, 2017

Chemical Safety Board Releases Final Report into 2016 Refinery Fire that Seriously Injured Four Workers

Report Issues Key Lessons to Prevent Future Incidents

September 18, 2017, Washington, D.C. -the U.S. Chemical Safety Board released a safety bulletin on the November 22, 2016 fire that severely burned four workers at the ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Link to Safety Bulletin:

The fire occurred during maintenance activities when operators inadvertently removed bolts that secured a piece of pressure-containing equipment to a plug valve. When the operators attempted to open the plug valve, the valve came apart and released flammable hydrocarbons, which formed a vapor cloud that quickly ignited.

Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, "Our investigation found that these accepted practices were conducted without appropriate safety hazard analysis, needlessly injuring these workers. It is important to remember that good safety practices are good maintenance practices and good business practices."

The CSB released a detailed animation showing the events that led to the 2016 fire. To view the full animation Link to animation:

A key safety lesson discussed in the bulletin is the "hierarchy of controls." This is a method of evaluating safeguards to provide effective risk reduction. Within the hierarchy of controls, an engineering control, such as improved valve design, is more effective than a lower level administrative control, such as a sign warning workers that the gearbox support bracket connects to pressure-containing components. The CSB reports concludes that updating all of the older valves to the safer valve design, as was done to approximately 97% of the valves in the unit, would have ultimately prevented the incident.

Investigator Mark Wingard said, "Our investigation also revealed a culture at the refinery that was accepting of operators performing maintenance on malfunctioning plug valve gearboxes without written procedures or adequate training, which in this instance, resulted in a hazardous event."

The CSB is issuing Key Lessons to address the shortcomings revealed by the investigation:

1.Evaluate human factors - humans associated with operational difficulties that exist at a facility in relation to machinery and other equipment, especially when the equipment is part of a process covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Process Safety Management (PSM) standard. Apply the hierarchy of controls to mitigate the identified hazards.

2.Establish detailed and accurate procedures for workers performing potentially hazardous work, including job tasks such as removing an inoperable gearbox.

3.Provide training to ensure workers can perform all anticipated job tasks safely. This training should include a focus on processes and equipment to improve hazard awareness and help prevent chemical incidents. The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents.

The agency's board members are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations examine all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure or inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but makes safety recommendations to companies, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Please visit their website, 

Excellent new paper on health effects from Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Dr. Jennifer Rusiecki and her co-workers have just published a very strong study of nearly 9000 Coast Guard responders to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

They found positive associations between crude oil exposure and various acute physical health symptoms among responders, as well as medium term health effects. Using follow-up surveillance, this cohort will be well positioned to evaluate longer-term effects of oil spill exposures using both self-reported and clinical health data.

Our Bodies Are Becoming Plastic

Dr. Mercola: With plastics now entering the farthest reaches of the globe, what does that mean for the environments where these pollutants are known to accumulate? Mismanaged waste is particularly problematic in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, which together make up the top five countries for plastic pollution.3 In the U.S., one of the top waste-generating countries, littering is a major issue, especially in the form of single-use plastics, like soda bottles, drinking straws and potato chip bags.

According to environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy, some plastic products persist for so long, even in salty ocean water, that they'll still be recognizable after 400 years.4 However, an equally alarming problem is the plastics that do get broken down into tiny pieces. Microplastic particles, which are less than 5 millimeters long, are literally clouding the oceans in spots.

Carried along with the ocean's currents, swirling gyres of "plastic smog"5 now cover about 40 percent of the world's ocean surfaces.6They're being eaten by fish and other marine life — that is well-known. But only recently did researchers take the logical next step to determine that it's not only marine life ingesting plastic — you probably are too.

94 Percent of US Tap Water Contains Plastic Fibers

Research commissioned by media outlet Orb revealed alarming data about plastic pollution in tap water, with 83 percent of samples tested worldwide coming back as contaminated. In the U.S., 94 percent of tap water samples were found to contain plastic — the most out of all the locations tested. According to Orb:7

"Fibers in tap water … are both a discovery and a marker — a visceral sign of how far plastic has penetrated human life and human anatomy. We can't see the long-chain molecules of pollutants like polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, even if they do reside in more than 98 percent of the population. But when fibers are filtered in a laboratory and enlarged by a microscope, the contamination becomes real.

The first studies into the health effects of microscopic plastics on humans are only just now beginning; there's no telling if or when governments might establish a 'safe' threshold for plastic in water and food. Even farther away are studies of human exposure to nanoscale plastic particles, plastic measured in the millionths of a millimeter."

Orb found, for example, 16 fibers in tap water taken at the visitor's center in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., along with fibers in samples taken from Trump Tower in New York. Plastic fibers were also found in water taken from Indonesia, India, Ecuador, Uganda, England and Lebanon.

Where Are the Primary Sources of Microplastic?

Orb noted six primary sources of "invisible plastics,"8 one of which is synthetic microfibers from synthetic clothing like fleece, acrylic and polyester. Microfibers from clothing are released during washing, to the tune of 1 million tons a year. It's unknown what the environmental effects of microfiber pollution may be, but their irregular shape may make them harder for marine life to excrete than other microplastics (like microbeads).

According to the Mermaids (Mitigation of Microplastics Impact Caused by Textile Washing Processes) project, whose goal is to cut microfiber shedding during washing by 70 percent, the apparel industry has been slow to respond in taking steps to stop microfiber pollution.9

A Mermaids report suggested special coatings may help to stop the loss of microfibers during washing, as well as recommended laundry detergents be reformulated to minimize fiber shedding. However, as it stands Orb estimated that more than half of the microfibers released during the wash are missed by water treatment plants and end up in the environment.

Microbeads — those tiny plastic pellets you may have seen in your face wash or hand soap — are another primary source. Microbeads are so small they get flushed right down the bathroom drain and travel through wastewater treatment plants easily, because the filters used are too small to catch them. Research has only begun to reveal the extent of environmental pollution that microbeads have caused.

In a 2012 survey of the Great Lakes, it was found that the area has "some of the highest concentrations of microplastic found in the environment, and microbeads were prevalent."10 One-third of the fish caught in the English Channel also contain microbeads, as do 83 percent of scampi sold in the U.K. 11 Bans on microbeads have taken place in the U.S. and Canada, but not yet in the EU. Orb estimated that more than 8 trillion microbeads ended up in U.S. waterways in 2015. Other sources noted in Orb's report include:12

  • Tire dust, which contains styrene butadiene rubber. According to Orbit, "Cars and trucks emit more than 20 grams of tire dust for every 100 kilometers they drive."13
  • Paints: Microplastics are distributed in paint dust, which comes from house paint, ship paint, road markings and more.
  • Secondary microplastics: Single-use plastics like forks, bags, straws and takeout containers also litter the environment, with 8 million tons washing into waterways each year. Eventually, these items get broken down into microplastics.
  • Airborne plastic fibers: This is a new area of research, but it's thought that your limbs brushing against each other may be enough to release synthetic fibers into the air, which can be inhaled as well as float down to further contaminate the environment. In Paris, airborne microplastics have been found to fall to the ground at rates of up to 10 tons a year.14

Toxic Microplastics May Be Transferred to Farmland

Much of the research on microplastic pollution focuses on marine environments, but the toxic bits are also likely accumulating on land. According to research published in Science of the Total Environment, "Annual plastic release to land is estimated at four to 23 times that released to oceans."15 The use of sewage sludge, or biosolids, as fertilizer may be particularly problematic. It's basically made up of whatever's left over after sewage is treated and processed.

Writing in Environmental Science & Technology, researchers reported that in Europe and North America, about 50 percent of sewage sludge is used for agricultural purposes. Using data from farm areas, population and sewage sludge usage, along with microplastic emission estimates, they found that between 125 and 850 tons of microplastics per million inhabitants may be added to European agricultural soils each year.

When factoring in the range of sludge application rates, and assuming data from certain other countries with similar plastics usage are comparable, the study found a "total yearly input of 63,000 to 430,000 and 44,000 to 300,000 tons of microplastics to European and North American farmlands, respectively …

This would be an alarmingly high input," the researchers noted. "Comprehensively, this exceeds the total accumulated burden of 93,000 to 236,000 tons MPs [microplastics] currently estimated to be present in surface water in the global oceans."16 In a related publication, the researchers called for an urgent investigation to "safeguard food production," considering the finding that large quantities of microplastics are likely being transferred to agricultural land via sewage sludge.17,18

Plastic Particles Smell Like Food to Fish

It's long been known that fish are eating plastic debris, but a disturbing study revealed this isn't occurring by happenstance. Instead, fish may be actively seeking out plastic particles in the ocean to eat, mistaking them for food because of their odor. When microplastics exist in the ocean, they form a biological covering made of algae and other materials that smell like the food the fish would normally eat.19

The study is the first to reveal not only that anchovy use odors to forage, but also that the odor of microplastic in the ocean induces foraging behaviors in schools of the fish. The Center for Biological Diversity noted that fish in the North Pacific are known to ingest 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic every year and, in a study of fish markets in California and Indonesia, one-quarter of the fish were found to have plastics in their guts.20

Plastics and other man-made debris was also found in 33 percent of shellfish sampled.21 The Orb report even reported that plastic particles less than 50 nanometers long have been shown to collect in plankton, potentially blocking their gastrointestinal tract, as well as accumulating in the many creatures that depend on plankton as a food source. It's yet another route of plastics exposures to humans, because if the fish are eating plastic, so, too, are the creatures that end up eating the fish.

What effects this will ultimately have on human health remains unknown, but chemical contamination is a real concern. Once in the water, microplastics easily absorb endocrine-disrupting and cancer-causing chemicals like PCBs. Plastics may concentrate such toxins at levels 100,000 to 1 million times higher than the levels found in seawater.22 It's even possible that plastic particles may end up in places in your body other than your gut. Orb reported:23

"If plastic fibers are in your water, experts say they're surely in your food as well — baby formula, pasta, soups, and sauces, whether from the kitchen or the grocery. Plastic fibers may leaven your pizza crust, and a forthcoming study says it's likely in the craft beer you'll drink to chase the pepperoni down. It gets worse.

Plastic is all but indestructible, meaning plastic waste doesn't biodegrade; rather, it only breaks down into smaller pieces of itself, even down to particles in nanometer scale — one-one thousandth of one-one thousandth of a millimeter. Studies show particles of that size can migrate through the intestinal wall and travel to the lymph nodes and other bodily organs."

Main source:

Sep 18, 2017

National Preparedness Month — September 2017

Many emergencies happen without warning; it is important for all persons to take steps ahead of time to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. Research shows that only 46% of persons think a natural disaster is likely to occur in their community (3). It is vital to take immediate and appropriate actions in the event of an emergency.

This year, CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response focuses on empowering individuals to better prepare for public health emergencies. The 2017 theme "The Power of Preparedness" highlights the importance of building and updating an emergency kit, having and reviewing an emergency plan, inspiring others to prepare, and taking immediate action to save lives. This issue of MMWR includes a report describing a series of unannounced mystery patient drills that were conducted in New York City emergency departments to assess response to potential infectious disease threats. Individual and community preparedness resources are available at

  1. CDC. In an emergency you can't respond effectively if you are not ready. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2017.
  2. Redd SC, Frieden TR. CDC's evolving approach to emergency response. Health Secur 2017;15:41–52. CrossRef PubMed
  3. Federal Emergency Management Agency. Preparedness in America. Washington, DC: US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency; 2014.

Sep 14, 2017

UVic scientist says peak contamination levels from Fukushima disaster are now known

The disaster created concern over the potential impact on marine life and human health, but UVic chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen said contamination never reached a level where it was a significant threat to marine or human life in this area of the North Pacific. According to Cullen, radioactive isotopes from Fukushima were first detected in June 2012 and the highest levels reached offshore B.C. in 2015 and 2016.

"At their highest levels, contamination from Fukushima reached about one-tenth of what was seen in the North Pacific in the late 1950s and 1960s, before the ban of above-ground nuclear weapons tests," Cullen said in a statement. "We are now seeing levels of Fukushima-related contamination similar to levels in the 1970's and expect these to further decline in 2017-2018."

Credit: Fukushima InFORM

Cullen leads Fukushima InFORM (Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring), a network that monitors marine radioactivity at distances up to 1,500 kilometres off the coast of B.C. the project is funded by the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network.

Data from samples collected in January and February of this year indicate that the coastal average concentration of cesium-137 is now at 2.7 Bq per square metre. While that is nearly 300 per cent of the pre-Fukushima levels, Fukushima InFORM's observations are "extremely low" when compared to the 10,000 Bq per square metre drinking water limit set by Health Canada's Radiation Protection Bureau.

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Sep 13, 2017

Global Treaty to Halt Invasive Aquatic Species Now in Effect

(PIANT.ORG) The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) went into effect on Sept. 8, 2017. The BWM Convention seeks to stop the spread of potentially invasive aquatic species by requiring ships to manage their ballast water to remove, render harmless, or avoid the uptake or discharge of aquatic organisms and pathogens within ballast water and sediments.

The BWM Convention was adopted in 2004 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations' specialized agency with responsibility for developing global standards for ship safety and security and for the protection of the marine environment and the atmosphere from any harmful impacts of shipping.

The International Paint and Printing Ink Council, for which ACA serves as Secretariat, works on this issue through its Marine Coatings Technical Committee (MCTC). The MCTC is currently examining whether increasingly aggressive ballast water treatment systems using active substances that are anticipated to be installed as a result of this Convention could potentially impact ballast talk linings currently subject to approval under the IMO's Performance Standard for Protective Coatings requirements.

Ballast water is routinely taken on by ships for stability and structural integrity. It can contain thousands of aquatic microbes, algae and animals, which are then carried across the world's oceans and released into ecosystems where they are not native. Untreated ballast water released at a ship's destination could potentially introduce new invasive aquatic species. Expanded ship trade and traffic volume over the last few decades have increased the likelihood of invasive species being released. Hundreds of invasions have already taken place, sometimes with devastating consequences for the local ecosystem, economy and infrastructure.

Under the BWM Convention all ships must carry a ballast water record book and an International Ballast Water Management Certificate. All ships engaged in international trade are also required to manage their ballast water to avoid the introduction of alien species into coastal areas, including exchanging their ballast water or treating it using an approved ballast water management system.

Initially, there will be two different standards, corresponding to these two options:

  1. The D-1 standard requires ships to exchange their ballast water in open seas, away from coastal waters. Ideally, this means at least 200 nautical miles from land and in water at least 200 meters deep. By doing this, fewer organisms will survive and so ships will be less likely to introduce potentially harmful species when they release the ballast water.
  2. D-2 is a performance standard which specifies the maximum amount of viable organisms allowed to be discharged, including specified indicator microbes harmful to human health.

New ships must meet the D-2 standard from Sept. 8, 2017, while existing ships must initially meet the D-1 standard. An implementation timetable for the D-2 standard has been agreed, based on the date of the ship's International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (IOPPC) renewal survey, which must be undertaken at least every five years.

Eventually, all ships must conform to the D-2 standard. For most ships, this involves installing special equipment.

Shipboard ballast water management systems must be approved by national authorities, according to a process developed by IMO. Ballast water management systems have to be tested in a land-based facility and on board ships to prove that they meet the performance standard set out in the treaty. These could, for example, include systems which make use of filters and ultraviolet light or electrochlorination.

Note that the coming into force of the BWM Convention has no impact on the requirement to comply with existing U.S. Coast Guard requirements, which differ in some important respects from the IMO requirements and are imposed on ships in U.S. waters under U.S. port state authority.

Per the IMO, to date, more than 60 ballast water treatment systems have been given type approval.


The Hidden Health Hazards After Flooding

MERCOLA: Across the world, countries have experienced significant changes in weather patterns in the past decades.1 Recently, the southern U.S. coastline was again hit with category 4 hurricane winds, dumping over 50 inches of rain on Texas.2 People in Louisiana are still digging themselves out of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and experts expect Houston may experience the same long-term consequences that have affected the residents of New Orleans.

Meteorologists are calling the flooding and storms that hit Texas "like no other."3 However, scientists did expect the storm,4 and expect even more over the coming years. In fact, the National Weather Service records Hurricane Harvey as the 25th 500-year flood to occur in the U.S. since 2010. The amount of rain that fell was in a class by itself. Only tropical storm Amelia was close, dropping 48 inches over Texas' Guadalupe River basin in 1978.

While scientists did predict a storm would hit the coast of Texas, the scale of the storm appeared to take the city by surprise. Warmer ocean temperatures created more energy for the storm to tap,5 as a hurricane converts ocean warmth into rain.6 Houston's infrastructure could not deal with the magnitude of the storm. City planners had made changes that reduced the ability of the land to drain.7 City officials also didn't expect the storm to reign as much destruction as it did.

As Hurricane Harvey was due to make landfall, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued this statement, which was then contradicted by local officials,8 "Even if an evacuation order hasn't been issued by your local official, if you're in an area between Corpus Christi and Houston, you need to strongly consider evacuating."

While not as many were able to evacuate as would have been optimal, Houston and surrounding cities will still face decades of rebuilding to regain previous manufacturing ability and reclaim land and structures from Mother Nature. In the interim, residents are facing short-term and long-term problems in much the same way residents of other areas hard hit by hurricanes and massive amounts of water damage, such as Red Hook, New York, after Hurricane Sandy and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

Houston Evacuees First Seeking Shelter and Health Care

Meteorologists first noticed the development of tropical storm Harvey on August 17, 2017.9 The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression August 19, but it then regenerated and quickly gained strength before making landfall the following week. Before rescuers picked through debris, the death count from the storm had reached 45. Nearly 1,800 fatalities were attributed to Hurricane Katrina.10 Experts believe the number of deaths in Houston won't be as high.

The majority of those who die during the immediate flooding drown.11 Just 2 feet of rapidly moving water can sweep away an SUV weighing up to 6,000 pounds.12 Many underestimate the power of water. If 6 inches of water is moving quickly, it can easily knock over an adult.

However, deaths attributed to the storm are only the first casualties to be counted. In the coming weeks, months and years it will be necessary for the cities flooded by Hurricane Harvey to address structural damages. In the immediate time period this includes finding adequate shelter for the inhabitants of the 48,700 homes that sustained flood damage.13 Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, those who are chronically or mentally ill and the homeless, are especially at risk during a storm and in the aftermath.

Getting people out of harm's way is the first goal for rescuers. However, as people begin entering shelters, rescuers also have to address their physical needs, as well as mental concerns that result from overwhelming stress and anxiety.

Respiratory and gastrointestinal problems occur from exposure during heavy rain, as people try to salvage food and water or are exposed to airborne toxins. Others with pre-existing conditions need immediate care to avoid a life-threatening situation, such as those who have kidney disease, heart disease or diabetes.14

Floodwaters also affect wild animals that may be attempting to flee the rising water, such as snakes that are flooded out of their homes, increasing the potential for snakebites.15 floodwaters contain more than rain, debris and unexpected wild animals. Flooded sewer systems spill out, increasing the risks of infections. Following Hurricane Katrina, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 30 cases of MRSA, a staphylococcus bacterium resistant to antibiotics, in the evacuees from New Orleans sent to Dallas.

Severe flooding also knocks over power lines, causing power outages and risks from live wires. Homeowners who use portable power generators may be at risk from breathing carbon monoxide gasses.

A review of natural disasters found that 83 percent of deaths from carbon monoxide gas could be attributed to operating portable generators for temporary power.16 Damage to the Texas community may reach or exceed $160 billion for cleanup, equal to the combined cost of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and leave the fourth largest city in the U.S. uninhabitable for weeks.17

Infections After Flooding Driven by Several Factors

Once the initial days of rescue and relocation are underway, experts recognize there may be a growing concern for individuals who suffer from infections. The factors affecting risk associated with mass flooding are many. Crammed together in tight-quartered shelters, the potential for the spread of respiratory infection rises dramatically.18 Coupled with the inevitable poor sanitation from lack of a clean water supply, individuals are also at risk for contracting gastrointestinal viruses that also spread quickly.

The uncertainty of what happens next takes a significant mental toll on everyone, negatively impacting the immune system and increasing the risk of further infection and physical sickness, as well as rising numbers suffering from situational anxiety and depression.

Although the risk of infection rises, access to medical care, clean food and water and prescription medications decline. Thomas Tighe, president and chief executive of the medical nonprofit Direct Relief, believes a lot was learned from the medical care needed after Hurricane Katrina and in the 12 years since.19

In those years, medications have been stockpiled along the Texas coast and other areas prone to hurricanes. Several consumer pharmacies in Houston have stayed open despite the storm, operating on portable generators to help distribute needed medications and antibiotics.

Standing water is a prime target for mosquitoes to lay eggs and explode the local population. During the flood, containers that are often breeding grounds for mosquitoes are washed away. After the water recedes, the mosquito population recovers rapidly, and the number of diseases they carry may more than double in areas in the path of the hurricane. Following Hurricane Katrina, experts noted an increase in the spread of arboviruses commonly passed by mosquitoes, such as West Nile virus and dengue.20

Forget Tetanus as Bacterial Infection Is More Likely

Texas health officials are recommending people get a tetanus shot to protect against the disease if they should get a cut.21 These suggestions are based on the idea that contact with flood water will increase your risk of contracting the potentially life-threatening illness. However, more health experts call this an "old wives' tale … a myth."22

Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, is concerned that authorities in the affected areas may recommend mass tetanus vaccinations. The CDC agrees, stating,23 "Exposure to floodwaters does not increase the risk of tetanus and tetanus immunization campaigns are not needed."

The perception that a tetanus shot is needed after a flood is widespread. Following Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago, the health care system was swamped with the demand for tetanus shots.24 The CDC and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration do recommend people involved in the cleanup process after a flood are up to date with their tetanus shots to prevent the disease if they suffer a puncture wound wading through floodwaters and removing sharp-edged debris.

The disease is also known by the common name, lockjaw. Caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, it produces a toxin in your body that affects your nervous system to trigger stiffening of your muscles and severe breathing difficulties that may be fatal.25 While there is treatment available, it is not uniformly effective, and the fatality rate is close to 20 percent.26 However, the rate of infection in the U.S. is extremely low, with just an average of 30 reported cases each year.

The most common ways of contracting tetanus are through puncture wounds, exposure to saliva or feces from an infected animal or person, and burns or wounds with necrotic (dead) areas.27 Symptoms of fever, diarrhea and headache start seven to 10 days after you are exposed to the bacterium.

Toxic Fumes Flood Houston After Water Damages Petrol Plants

Workers and residents in Houston are also contending with toxic fumes that have been released from local petrol refineries forced to shut down quickly due to flooding and power outages.28 Residents in the industrial fence-line communities first reported foul fumes within hours of the flooding, with some residents experiencing headaches, sore throat and itchy eyes. Though these are much the same symptoms of allergic reactions, the source of the irritant is not harmless like pollen, but has long-term effects on your health.

The smells are concentrated over East End Houston, but the chemicals may travel in the wind over longer distances in lower concentrations than the human nose can detect. Bryan Parras, an activist with the grassroots environmental justice group TEJAS, suspects the source of the chemical smells to be from numerous refineries in the Houston area as they are shutting down, causing an abnormal event.29 According to a report issued by the Environmental Integrity Project that evaluated emissions from refineries:30

"Because pollution released during upsets is almost never monitored, reports are based on estimates that can understate actual releases by an order of magnitude or more. The short-term impact of these events can also be substantial.

Upsets or sudden shutdowns can release large plumes of sulfur dioxide or toxic chemicals in just a few hours, exposing downwind communities to peak levels of pollution that are much more likely to trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory systems. The working class and minority populations typical of neighborhoods near refineries and chemical plants bear the brunt of this pollution."

Shell and Mobile oil companies have shut down their refineries in Houston and the Corpus Cristi area, among others, amounting to a nearly 1 million barrels per day loss.31 Even if the damage from flooding is controlled rapidly, the refineries won't be able to open quickly, leaving thousands out of work and driving gas prices up at the pump.

Long-Term Consequences of Flooding Not Immediately Apparent

As difficult and heartbreaking as most of the immediate effects are, the long-term devastation from mold will be experienced by home and business owners for decades. Mold is a toxic hurricane holdover. Mary Hayden of the National Center for Atmospheric Research notes that evacuees may not be able to return to their homes for up to three weeks.32 During that time, waterlogged homes will bake in the sun, giving mold ample time to grow in most of the walls and homeowners' belongings.

Mold growth after Hurricane Katrina was implicated in the deaths of four Southern University at New Orleans professors, who all worked in the same building damaged by the storm and died within a few months of each other.33

The economic loss and water damage from mold can be severe. In the Houston area, nearly 20 trillion gallons of water poured over the city as just the past month President Trump nullified requirements put in place by the previous administration to build infrastructure projects that would be able to withstand rising sea levels.34 The same infrastructure and topography that has kept the water from draining quickly creates a prolonged period for fungal growth that will be felt for decades.

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Sep 8, 2017

Energy Department Announces up to $8.8 Million for Innovations in Algae Technology

The U.S. Department of Energy announced the selection of four additional projects from the Productivity Enhanced Algae and ToolKits funding opportunity to receive up to $8.8 million. These projects will deliver high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms in order to reduce the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts. The funding for this initiative now totals over $16 million, and supports the development of a U.S. bioeconomy that can help create jobs, spur innovation, improve quality of life, and achieve national energy security.

The selected projects include the following:

Colorado School of Mines (Golden, Colorado): The Colorado School of Mines, in partnership with Global Algae Innovations, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Colorado State University, will improve the productivity of robust wild algal strains using advanced directed evolution approaches in combination with high-performance, custom-built, solar simulation bioreactors.

University of California, San Diego (San Diego, California): The University of California, San Diego, will develop genetic tools, high-throughput screening methods, and breeding strategies for green algae and cyanobacteria, targeting robust production strains. The team will work with three key industrial partners: Triton Health and Nutrition, Algenesis Materials, and Global Algae Innovations.

University of Toledo (Toledo, Ohio): The University of Toledo, in partnership with Montana State University and the University of North Carolina, will cultivate microalgae in high-salinity and high-alkalinity media to achieve productivities without needing to add concentrated carbon dioxide. The team will also deliver molecular toolkits, including metabolic modeling combined with targeted genome editing.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Livermore, California): Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will ecologically engineer algae to encourage growth of bacteria that efficiently remineralize dissolved organic matter to improve carbon dioxide uptake and simultaneously remove excess oxygen.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy supports early-stage research and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that make energy more affordable and strengthen the reliability, resilience, and security of the U.S. electric grid. The Bioenergy Technologies Office contributes to EERE's mission by working with industry, academia, and national laboratory partners on a balanced portfolio of research in algal biofuels technologies.