Wasted Wells

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Water!  In my recent search for a country home to retire towards, I found a dreamy, antique house in Connecticut that essentially had no water.  The home was set high on a ridge, water cascading everywhere from a recent storm, but the well test ran dry after 20 minutes!  This is a profound thing to witness.  I learned that water was in short supply on that ridge.   A new well would potentially reduce water from a neighbor’s well and in the case of this particular well it needed to be 5 X deeper.  Multiple wells were drilled on each of the properties in the area and more developers were coming in to take advantage of the views and the closeness to New York City.

Our water issue is intimidating.

Water is a permanent and inseparable element to human life.   As climate change affects our water supplies, and our population continues to grow and shift, it becomes increasingly important to develop and implement innovative, long-term strategies for making sure we have enough clean water when and where we need it.

March 22, 2016 was United Nations World Water Day.  In conjunction, the Obama Administration hosted a White House Water Summit to raise awareness of water issues in America, find potential solutions, discuss ideas and catalyze actions through innovative science and technology that can help us build a sustainable and secure water future.

Thirst for Power: Energy, Water and Human Survival by Michael Webber is a good place to start gaining an understanding of the issues.  He is the Director of the Energy Institute @ the University of Texas, Austin and he recently wrote an article for the New York Times titled, Our Water System: What a Waste.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, America’s infrastructure for providing safe, clean water is seriously challenged.   Repairing our water and wastewater systems will cost more than $1.3 trillion.

We need breakthroughs in water treatment technology that would enable larger-scale recycling and reuse of storm water, treated water, desalination, aquifer storage and recovery.

We also have to fix our data gaps.  These gaps create blind decision making on a nationwide scale perpetuating waste and inefficiencies on how best to use the water we have. Compared to the energy sector, where solid statistics on prices, production and consumption are generated weekly, critical information on water use and supply is published only once every five years.  That means the latest survey completed in 2014 gave the statistics for 2009.  http://www.usgs.gov/water/

Creating a Water Information Administration, to collect, curate and maintain up-to-date, publicly available water data could inform policy makers and the markets in a timely manner.

As with hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, government-backed research and development could help prompt a wave of innovation and investment towards our water future.

David Sedlak, author, Professor and Director of the Institute for Environmental Science and Engineering at UC Berkeley, has developed cost-effective, safe and sustainable systems to manage water resources in California.  His four “tap” approach is presented in his TED Talk presentation. https://www.ted.com/talks/david_sedlak_4_ways_we_can_avoid_a_catastrophic_drought?language=en

How You Can Help:

  • Support and encourage your local authorities to upgrade your water infrastructure.
  • Water needs to be conserved.  Become aware of how much water you use and try new ways to reduce.   Your clothes probably don’t need washed after one wear.  https://www3.epa.gov/watersense/pubs/indoor.html
  • Update and maintain your household water systems.
  • Water in plastic bottles is not the answer.  Protect and use your tap.  If your tap water is not safe, you can save a lot of money and resources buying water in 10 gallon jugs.
  • Look what a few people in Oregon are able to accomplish!!  

Until next week,images

Garbage Girl


Yogurt Wheyst



Greek yogurt is a booming $2 billion a year industry that produces tons of waste.  Greek yogurt companies, food scientists, and state government officials are scrambling to figure out uses for this waste that can make a profit.

In upstate New York, two trucks a day, seven days a week arrive at Neil Rejman’s dairy farm from Chobani with 8,000 gallons of acid whey, a byproduct of Greek yogurt.

The straining process that gives Greek yogurt its highimages protein content and lush mouthfeel creates acid whey, resulting in a byproduct as acidic as orange juice.  Most of it is water with five to eight percent other materials such as lactose (milk sugar), some minerals and a very small amount of proteins.

For every four ounces of milk, Chobani can only produce one ounce of creamy Greek yogurt.  The remainder, acid whey, is illegal to dump because its decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers.  If it can’t be used, it must be transported to approved water filtration facilities.

The scale of the problem—or opportunity, depending on who you ask—is daunting.  The Greek yogurt market has become one of the biggest success stories in the food industry with production in New York, alone, nearly tripling from 2007 to 2013.  New plants continue to open all over the country adding to the waste stream.

Chobani is so desperate to get rid of their whey that they pay farmers like Rejman to take it off their hands.

Rejman, a third-generation dairy farmer with a Cornell animal science degree, mixes it with silage to feed his 3,300 cows, combines it with manure in a giant pit to fertilize his fields and converts it into biogas to make electricity for his farm and others.

There are challenges to integrating acid whey into the workings of a farm like when dried silage to feed the cows gets mixed with the watery, sugary whey it quickly becomes an unmanageable slop.  Due to the high sugar content of the whey, Rejman says its like feeding cows candy bars — they really like it but too much is bad for their digestive systems so it only makes a small dent in the waste problem.

Policy makers in Albany are also interested in addressing this issue.  The first-ever Yogurt Summit was convened in 2012 by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and attended by state and industry officials who are trying to deal with the ocean of whey that Greek yogurt is producing.  They are racing to find solutions, some of the most promising of which are listed below.

Attendees like, Dave Barbano, a dairy scientist at Cornell, specializes in filtration methods for the separation and recovery of protein.  The tiny amount of protein in acid whey might be usable as an infant formula ingredient if he can figure out how to extract it in a cost-effective way.

In a related part of the dairy industry, cheese-makers developed a lucrative business selling their byproduct, sweet whey, as body-building supplements and food ingredients.  Sweet whey is more valuable than acid whey because it has a lot more protein and its easier to handle due to its lower acidity.   The Greek yogurt industry would welcome a similar outcome.

Scientists from the Center for Dairy Research @ University of Wisconsin-Madison have been experimenting on how to get edible-grade lactose out of acid whey.  Dean Sommer, a food technologist at the center thinks that many companies are already considering building plants to convert acid whey into lactose.  The industry-financed research is proprietary so the conversion process is not being shared.

Neil Rejman, an Upstate New York dairy farmer, stands before a lagoon of manure mixed with acid whey. This slurry will be turned in to energy by a machine called an 'anaerobic digester.'

Neil Rejman, an Upstate New York dairy farmer, stands before a lagoon of manure mixed with acid whey. This slurry has passed through a system called an ‘anaerobic digester,’ which converted some of it into electricity.

What a smell!    Acid whey mixed with the large amount of cow manure Rejman’s farm produces creates a river of shit that flows into an underground concrete tank known as an anaerobic digester.  Here the fetid mixture percolates, gets heated up and keeps for 20 days so the bacteria can break up the lactose and release the methane.  The methane is fed into generators to power the farm and sell to the local utilities.  Odor control was one of the benefits that Rejman found by converting acid whey into methane.  The processed manure smells a lot less.

Only 20 of New York’s 5,200 dairy farms are operating with digesters because the $4.5 million setup cost is out of reach for most farmers.  Even with the Rejman’s $1 million state subsidy, this huge issue needs many simultaneous solutions to make a dent in the problem, according to Curt Gooch, a waste management engineer at Cornell.

If and when any of the big yogurt companies come up with a better whey, they’re being guarded and the tidal wave of acid whey is not slowing down.   As one producer said at New York’s Yogurt Summit: “If we can figure out how to handle acid whey, we’ll become heroes.”

How You Can Help:

  • Regular yogurt costs a lot less and has fewer calories!
  • Avoid single serving yogurt containers that add even more to the waste stream.
  • Consider a healthy environment while you make a healthy body.

Until next week,Unknown-1

Garbage Girl

Coal Tar Waste Sites~Surprise!

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Many areas of the country have sites that are a serious health concern and we don’t even know about them.  Some of them are your driveway.  Coal tar is the reason.

A study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology is one of the first steps in understanding how this widely used carcinogen is impacting human health.  Further information can be obtained from the blog Coal Free America.   http://coaltarfreeamerica.blogspot.com/p/references.html

Coal tar is a thick, black or brown liquid byproduct of carbonized coal for the steel industry.  Coal-tar used for pavement sealants is the viscoelastic polymer resin that has 50% or more PAHs by weight and is known to cause cancer in humans.

PAHs are a group of chemical compounds (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) that form whenever anything with a carbon base is burned.   PAHs are of environmental concern because several are toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic (causing birth defects) to aquatic life, and seven are probable human carcinogens.  Of all known PAH sources, the highest concentrations are in coal tar and the related compound creosote. The International Agency for Research on Cancer states that up to one-third of the contents of coal-tar sealants is cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

PAHs are substances that remain in the environment for a long time, do not decompose and bioaccumulate in the human body.   Substances that combine these characteristics represent a particular level of environmental concern labeled PBTs.  (Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic substances)

images-1And!  PAHs don’t stay put.  Wear and tear from tires and sneakers on coal tar sealed pavement breaks down the dried sealant allowing tiny PAH particles to be tracked into homes or blown through open windows. The small particles from tire abrasion can be washed off by rain and carried down storm drains into streams.  Other sealcoat particles adhere to tires and get transported to other surfaces or blown offsite by wind.

Sealcoat in high traffic areas wears down within a few months and manufacturers recommend a new application every 2 to 4 years.


Partners for a Healthier Community gfrpartners.com

Black house dust is a source of human exposure to many contaminants, including PAHs.  Small children, who spend time on the floor and put their hands and objects into their mouths and active kids playing ball games are most vulnerable.   In 2008, the United States Geological Society measured PAHs in house dust from 23 ground-floor apartments and in dust from the apartment parking lots.   PAH concentrations in the dust from the parking lots with coal tar seal coats were an average of 530 times higher than parking lots with other surface types.  The indoor concentrations were 25 times higher.

Anything above 1.0 is considered a mutagen.  Coal tar sealants average 450.  Mutagens are physical or chemical agents that change the genetic material of an organism and  increase the frequency of mutations that can cause cancer.

Motor oil, a product that’s illegal to pour down storm drains, contains about 500 milligrams per kilogram of PAH chemicals.  Coal tar contains about 50,000 mg/kg, but we’re still spreading it on our parking lots, driveways and playgrounds with the potential for rains to wash it down storm drains.

Oddly enough, coal tar is rated Category I (safe and effective) for over the counter products to treat dandruff, seborrhoea, eczema, and psoriasis, according to the Food and Drug Administration.   Because of its use in medicines, as well, many studies have been performed over nearly a century to see if the patients who intentionally expose themselves to high level doses of coal tar for long periods of time have increased risk of cancer.  All the studies have reached the same conclusion – there is no evidence of cancer.

Brand name products using coal tar to treat  skin disorders are Betatar Gel, Cutar Emulsion, Denorex, DHS Tar, Doak Tar, Duplex T, Fototar, Ionil-T Plus, Medota,  MG 217, Neutrogena TDerm, Neutrogena TGel.

How You Can Help:

  • Create a no-shoes policy.  PAHs are easily tracked into the home, so shedding shoes before entering the home can cut back on exposure.
  • Close your windows.  Coal-tar-treated surfaces continually shed dangerous PAH chemicals, but the air levels are extremely high in the hours and days following a fresh coal-tar application.
  • Don’t trust labels.   Coal tar may not appear on the sealant bucket.  There are dozens of names for coal tar, including RT12, distilled tar, or refined tar. “Tar,” is the word you want to avoid.
  • Do your homework.  An online search of the product name plus Material Safety Data Sheet will reveal the number unique to coal tar as 65996-93-2.
  • Shop where it’s not.   Home improvement chains like Lowes, Home Depot, Ace, or Menards have all banned coal tar sealants nationwide.
  • Know the product.  Find out the exact name of the sealing product your driveway company uses.   Warn neighbors.  Applicators typically try to sell their services to an entire neighborhood.
  • Alert store managers and playground officials of the dangers of carcinogenic coal-tar sealants, and let them know that alternatives containing thousands of times fewer PAHs are readily available.
  • Speak up.  For broad-sweeping protection in your city, borough, or township, consider joining forces with concerned neighbors and lobby your local and state governments to ban the sale and application of coal-tar sealants.  These bans are popping up all over the country, from Washington, DC, to Washington state.  Look at Austin, Texas!
  • Go for gravel.  Consider building a blacktop-free driveway.  Healthier driveways made of gravel or permeable pavers helps reduce harmful motor oil runoff from your property.  That helps keep pressure off of water treatment plants and helps reduce flooding in your community.
  • Make driveway art safe!

Until next week,images

Garbage Girl





Don’t Let Your Remains Go To Waste

More people are embracing a concept that has been around as long as we have!

Green, or natural, burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact.  It aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduces carbon emissions, protects worker health, and restores or preserves the habitat by using non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as baskets, shrouds, and urns.

The group that educates organizations and advocates for individuals about the environmental, societal, and economic benefits of green burials is The Green Burial Council .   Google them or look for GBC certificates at your funeral facilities.   http://www.gravematters.us/faqs.html

GBC certification makes distinctions between the three levels of green burial grounds: hybrid, natural or conservation.  It requires cemetery operators to commit to transparency, accountability and third party oversight.  It prevents them from going back on ecological or aesthetic promises, such as limitations on burial density. that protect a local ecosystem or prohibitions against the use of monuments that would negatively impact the setting.

More and more death care professionals are embracing this new ethic.

Embalming fluid is usually comprised of the carcinogen chemical formaldehyde.  A study by the National Cancer Institute revealed that funeral directors have a much higher incidence of myeloid leukemia as a result of constant exposure to formaldehyde.  Fortunately, there are now several formaldehyde-free embalming fluids, including one made of nontoxic and biodegradable essential oils, earning the GBC seal of approval.  The sanitation and preservation of a decedent can almost always take place without the use of chemicals, as is done in just about every nation in the world.

Concrete and metal vaults may be considered “natural.”  However, manufacturing and transporting vaults uses a tremendous amount of energy and causes enormous carbon emission.  They last a very, very long time and cannot give nutrients back to the land.

Cremation uses far fewer resources than almost any other disposition option, but it still has an environmental impact.  Cremation burns fossil fuels, and some older cremation facilities can use significantly more energy compared to newer ones.  Mercury is  emitted when a person with dental amalgam fillings is cremated, but effective filtration devices that can fully mitigate mercury pollution are coming on the market soon.  Other metals and substances are intensified in the cremains after burning, so the ashes may not be as pure as we think.

No standards exist yet that allow consumers to determine which crematoriums produce the most pollution and carbon emissions.  Recycling medical parts and making a contribution to a carbon fund are ways to make the process more environmentally friendly.

Caskets used in a standard burial are steel, wood, plastic, or metal and they require a much larger amount of land.  Caskets, urns, or shrouds suitable for a green burial are made from materials or substances that are nontoxic, readily biodegradable, and not harvested in a manner that destroys habitat.  The land used is only as big as the body.

Standard grave sites are landscaped and manicured environments that require fossil fuels, pesticides, and fertilizers to maintain.  Natural burial sites are left natural.

Home funerals allow for families to care for a decedent and all aspects of a funeral at their home.  Common in the U.S. until the mid-20th century, a home funeral can be facilitated by a family in almost every state, or may be done with the assistance of a licensed funeral director.  A home burial might require a minimum number of acres and often the filing of a plat map with the planning department.

How You Can Help:

  • Plan and direct your end of life needs.
  • Eliminate the impact on your loved ones and the environment.
  • Learn about the options for a natural burial and let your loved ones know your concerns and desires.
  • You too could become a field of flowers!

Until next week,green-funerals

Garbage Girl