Fresh water pollution costs at least $4.3 billion a year
December 1 2008
Researchers at Kansas State University found that pollutants aren’t just bad for lakes and streams-they’re bad for American’s pocketbooks also.
Walter Dodds, professor of biology of KSU says freshwater pollution impacts individuals on a level as basic as bottled water costs. If the municipal water plant has to spend more to treat water coming through the taps, that cost is passed onto consumer through water bills.
“Monetary damages put environmental problems in terms that make policymakers and the public take notice,” Dodds said in a statement from KSU.
The team of researchers looked at U.S. EPA data on nitrogen and phosphorus levels in bodies of water across the country-both these pollutants are applied to plants as nutrients. Most of these pollutants reach lakes and other water from various points, like runoff from row crop agriculture.
The KSU team calculated the money lost from pollution by examining many factors like decreasing lakefront property values, the cost of treating drinking water and revenue lost when fewer people take part in recreational activities like fishing or boating. They found that freshwater pollution by nitrogen and phosphorus costs government, drinking water facilities and individual Americans at least $4.3 billion a year.
“We are providing underestimates,” Dodds said in the statement. “Although our accounting of the degree of nutrient pollution in the nation is fairly accurate, the true costs of pollution are probably much greater than $4.3 billion.”
The research appeared in the Nov. 12 online issue of Environmental Science and Technology.
Human cost of valley’s dirty air: $6.3 billion
By Mark Grossi
November 13 2008
FRESNO – There’s a new annual price tag for breathing dirty air in the San Joaquin Valley: $6.3 billion, mostly because more than 800 people die years earlier than they should.
That’s more fatalities due to bad air than car accidents, said nationally known economist Jane V. Hall, who Wednesday released her latest analysis of poor air quality in this region.
The dollar and death figures are nearly twice as high as Hall found in her first study two years ago, partly because stricter federal standards are in force. The new standards assume more people are harmed by bad air.
But she also said new research indicates microscopic specks of soot and chemicals are more dangerous than previously thought.
“There is a clearer consensus that lives are being shortened,” she said.
The study, funded with a $90,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, is intended to jolt residents, regulators and political leaders.
Hall, a California State University, Fullerton, scientist, worked with researchers Victor Brajer and Frederick W. Lurmann on the study, which also covered the South Coast Air Basin.
The study points out the continuing need to battle air pollution, said Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. But he also said people still should understand air quality has improved.
“Things are not getting worse. These bigger numbers are the result of a new standard,” said Sadredin. “But this study does give the valley good justification to advocate for more support in fighting air pollution.”
The premature deaths and mounting costs are unacceptable, said Liza Bolaños, coordinator for the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, a nonprofit group representing public health and environmental organizations.
“We have the capacity to clean this up,” she said. “This is a wake-up call.”
Hall and the other researchers said more than half the state’s residents – 20 million people in the valley and South Coast – are exposed regularly to unhealthy levels of ozone and particle pollution.
The researchers combined the cost of breathing dirty air in both basins, arriving at a total of $28 billion. Health care costs and time lost at work are included in the total, but more than 80 percent of the cost is related to the value of the estimated 3,800 lives lost prematurely each year.
Microscopic specks called PM-2.5, which are more prevalent in colder weather, are the biggest worry. Most of the region’s $6.3 billion cost is the value of people who die prematurely from exposure to PM-2.5.
Fresno last year had 75 bad days for PM-2.5, Bakersfield had 68 and Visalia 64. In the north valley, Modesto had 39 bad days. This region is considered one of the worst in the state for such pollution.
“In the San Joaquin Valley, 100 percent of the residents are exposed to fine-particle pollution at some time during the year,” said Hall.
The PM-2.5 comes from many sources, such as diesel engines and fireplaces. But it also forms in the moist winter air when ammonia from dairy waste combines with vehicle exhaust.
Fresno County residents suffer the valley’s biggest effects, with the loss of 212 people each year, valued at $1.4 billion, according to the report. The county also has the valley’s highest yearly total of non-fatal heart attacks related to air quality – 156. PM-2.5 pollution has been linked to heart disease.
Hall and Brajer said the valley’s 823 annual air-related deaths occur about 14 years sooner than they should.
The cost of each premature death is set about $6.7 million, a figure based on mainstream economic and federal studies of social value. Such figures have been used in economic analysis of social problems for decades, researchers said.
“We’re not trying to value a single person,” said Brajer. “This is a social value on reducing the risk of early death.”
Charles River Property Owners Must Now Control Stormwater
December 1, 2008
The U.S. EPA and the state of Massachusetts are about to impose stormwater permit controls on industrial, commercial and high-density residential facilities in the Charles River watershed.Stormwater containing high levels of phosphorus is blamed for neon blue-green algae blooms of toxic cyanobacteria that have taken over the river in the summer months for the past several years.
The federal and state actions will require the owners of industrial, commercial and residential facilities in the upstream towns of Milford, Franklin, and Bellingham with two or more acres of impervious area – such as parking lots, roofs, and roads – to operate under a Clean Water Act permit.
“Polluted stormwater runoff causes serious water quality problems, and is the next great challenge for cleaning the Charles River,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of the EPA’s New England office.
“By working closely with Massachusetts and our other partners, we will make great environmental improvements, while at the same time providing facilities with flexibility and time to meet the new standards,” Varney said. “Working together cooperatively, we can solve these problems.”
The new actions, announced in November, will ensure that property owners take responsibility for runoff from their sites.
Blue-green algae on the Charles River as it flows through Boston, Massachusetts (Photo courtesy EPA)
In a separate but related action, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is enacting a statewide requirement for facilities with five or more acres of impervious area to reduce stormwater runoff.
“Many of our state’s waters are severely degraded as a result of stormwater pollution,” said Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles. “Now is the time to take action to reduce pollution and return more water to the ground, where it will be cleaned naturally and added to our water supplies.”
Under both the federal and state actions, new requirements will be phased in to reduce polluted stormwater runoff at sites with large paved areas, including shopping malls and industrial areas.
While the statewide standard will be five acres, Massachusetts is proposing to match EPA’s two-acre requirement in the Charles, where a higher level of control is needed to address chronic water quality problems.
“Until now, managing stormwater has largely been the responsibility of the cities and towns,” said Laurie Burt, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “It is critical now for other property owners to step up to the plate and do their part. This new program creates a level playing field by requiring that the responsibility for managing stormwater be shared by municipalities and private property owners.”
Cities and towns across Massachusetts have invested in improving their sewer and stormwater infrastructure, yielding substantial water quality benefits, said Varney.
“Our work will also help local municipalities, who up until now have shouldered the burden alone to take action to reduce pollution to our rivers, lakes and other waterways,” he said.
Commercial, industrial and high-density residential facilities with two or more acres of impervious area will be required apply for a Clean Water Act permit for stormwater discharges which eventually reach the Charles River.
The permits will require that these facilities reduce phosphorus discharges by 65 percent through a variety of stormwater management practices. Ultimately, these requirements will likely apply to the entire Charles River watershed, said state and federal officials.
“EPA’s extension of the Clean Water Act to include polluted stormwater runoff from commercial and industrial parking lots is both bold, and necessary,” said Bob Zimmerman, executive director of the Charles River Watershed Association.
“We will never clean up urban rivers without cleaning up existing runoff from pavement. This bold move will aid cities and towns meet their requirements, and help restore a more natural balance to the way water works in metropolitan regions, not just in the Charles River, but ultimately across the United States,” Zimmerman said.
“It is time for existing commercial and industrial developments to do their fair share to clean up the stormwater pollution that is threatening public health and recreation in New England’s waters,” said Christopher Kilian, director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s Clean Water and Healthy Forests Program. “The EPA took this precedent-setting action because the Clean Water Act’s mandates don’t allow this pollution to go unaddressed.”
In October 2007, EPA and the state began a process to limit phosphorus entering the Charles River by establishing a new Total Maximum Daily Load for discharges of phosphorus into the lower Charles River.
Since 1995, the EPA’s Clean Charles Initiative has coordinated efforts between EPA, state and local governments, private organizations, and environmental advocates. Cities and towns along the Charles have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in stormwater and sewer improvements.
The cost of coal use last year was EUR 360 billion, according to a new report, which accounts for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, health impacts and mining accidents in determining the ‘true’ price paid by global society for relying on the dirtiest of fossil fuels.
The report, “The True Cost of Coal,” released by Greenpeace and the independent Dutch Institute CE Delft, arrived at this figure by looking the external costs of coal in 2007 for damages attributable to climate change, human health impacts from air pollution and fatalities due to major mining accidents–factors for which reasonably reliable global data is currently available.
“The relentless expansion of the coal industry is the single greatest threat to averting dangerous climate change. Coal is the most climate-polluting fossil fuel, responsible for one third of all CO2 emissions, and is projected to increase to 60% of emissions by 2030,” Joris Thijssen, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace International, told a press conference. “Clearly, quitting coal will benefit not only the climate, but also reduce the other impacts which everybody else has to pay for.”
The report was released as Industry Ministers from at least 20 big emitting countries met in Warsaw with the world’s climate-polluting industries.
Earlier in the day Greenpeace activists dumped lignite, dirty brown coal that makes up a large portion of Poland’s mining output, outside of the Warsaw Sheraton..
Greenpeace Poland campaign director Maciej Muskat said that Greenpeace strongly suspected the Polish Government had organised the meeting for the wrong reasons.
“The Polish people are already paying a high price for the cost of coal, through health impacts and the loss of lakes and ecosystems. Instead of concentrating on trying to shore up opposition against action on climate at both the Poznan meeting and the EU climate-energy package, the Polish government should implement its own renewable energy target and tap into the enormous potential of energy efficiency,” he said.
The Warsaw meeting will probably talk about ‘clean coal’ technology that has the potential to sharply reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. However, the Greenpeace report ‘False Hope’ shows that so-called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a dangerous distraction. The technology is unproven, contains inherent risks and comes with an enormous price tag. Global greenhouse gas emissions need to start declining in the next seven years and CCS is in no position to play a role in making this happen.
The impacts of coal are not only related to climate change. Coal also pollutes water resources, dirties the air and causes black lung disease. The report contains ‘on the ground’ stories from 12 countries that describe, for example, how human rights are violated in Colombia while mining coal, how mountain tops are blown apart in the United States and how coal use adds dramatically to air pollution in China.
Low Concentrations Of Pesticides Can Become Toxic Mixture For Amphibians
November 18, 2008
Ten of the world’s most popular pesticides can decimate amphibian populations when mixed together even if the concentration of the individual chemicals are within limits considered safe, according to University of Pittsburgh research.
Such “cocktails of contaminants” are frequently detected in nature, a new paper notes, and the Pitt findings offer the first illustration of how a large mixture of pesticides can adversely affect the environment.
Study author Rick Relyea, an associate professor of biological sciences in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, exposed gray tree frog and leopard frog tadpoles to small amounts of the 10 pesticides that are widely used throughout the world. Relyea selected five insecticides-carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, endosulfan, and malathion-and five herbicides-acetochlor, atrazine, glyphosate, metolachlor, and 2,4-D. He administered the following doses: each of the pesticides alone, the insecticides combined, a mix of the five herbicides, or all 10 of the poisons.
Relyea found that a mixture of all 10 chemicals killed 99 percent of leopard frog tadpoles as did the insecticide-only mixture; the herbicide mixture had no effect on the tadpoles. While leopard frogs perished, gray tree frogs did not succumb to the poisons and instead flourished in the absence of leopard frog competitors.
Relyea also discovered that endosulfan-a neurotoxin banned in several nations but still used extensively in U.S. agriculture-is inordinately deadly to leopard frog tadpoles. By itself, the chemical caused 84 percent of the leopard frogs to die. This lethality was previously unknown because current regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do not require amphibian testing, Relyea said. His results showed that endosulfan was not only highly toxic to leopard frogs, but also that it served as the linchpin of the pesticide mixture that eliminated the bulk of leopard frog tadpoles.
“Endosulfan appears to be about 1,000-times more lethal to amphibians than other pesticides that we have examined,” Relyea said. “Unfortunately, pesticide regulations do not require amphibian testing, so very little is known about endosulfan’s impact on amphibians, despite being sprayed in the environment for more than five decades.”
For most of the pesticides, the concentration Relyea administered (2 to 16 parts per billion) was far below the human-lifetime-exposure levels set by the EPA and also fell short of the maximum concentrations detected in natural bodies of water. But the research suggests that these low concentrations-which can travel easily by water and, particularly, wind-can combine into one toxic mixture. In the published paper, Relyea points out that declining amphibian populations have been recorded in pristine areas far downwind from areas of active pesticide use, and he suggests that the chemical cocktail he describes could be a culprit.
The results of this study build on a nine-year effort by Relyea to understand potential links between the global decline in amphibians, routine pesticide use, and the possible threat to humans in the future. Amphibians are considered an environmental indicator species because of their unique sensitivity to pollutants. Their demise from pesticide overexposure could foreshadow the fate of less sensitive animals, Relyea said. Leopard frogs, in particular, are vulnerable to contamination; once plentiful across North America, including Pennsylvania, their population has declined in recent years as pollution and deforestation have increased.
Relyea published a paper in the Oct. 1 edition of “Ecological Applications” reporting that gradual amounts of malathion-the most popular insecticide in the United States-that were too small to directly kill developing leopard frog tadpoles instead sparked a biological chain of events that deprived them of their primary food source. As a result, nearly half the tadpoles in the experiment did not reach maturity and would have died in nature.
The cost of pollutions is definitely in the trillions.
Of course I don’t think anyone has ever added up the total cost planet wise.
The above is just a couple of estimates from a few places.
One has to think of the planet as a whole. The cost is horrendous.
Cleaning up after it is extremely costly.
The cost to health care is staggering.
The cost of lives lost because of it cannot be calculated.
Well you can’t put a price tag on someones life.
How much is your life worth?
Think about it.