Chemical tests from new oil near DeepWater Horizon site matches last year’s BP oil spill samples. (Pictures and fly over video inside)

As reported on August 20, 2011 (read previous blog, New sub sea oil plumes found near the Deepwater Horizon oil platform) the oil sheen sitting nearly on top of the Deepwater Horizon rig (the location of the last year’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico) is quickly expanding.

On Wings of Care, California nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wildlife, wild habitat, and natural ecosystems, flew over the reported oil sheen and the pilot Bonny Shumaker stated that the oil “stretched for miles with one continuous sheen stretching for nearly 10 miles.” (Pictured above.  Credit: Press-Register/Jeff Dute).

To view the August 30, 2011 fly over of the oil spill (Credit: On Wings of Care) click below:

Robert Bea, an internationally prominent petroleum engineer and professor emeritus at the Berkeley campus of the University of California indicates that he feels that the primary source of the oil with the highest probability is the Macondo well/Deep Water Horizon rig.

“(It) looks suspicious. The point of surfacing about 1 mile from the well is about the point that the oil should show up, given the seafloor at 5,000 feet – natural circulation currents would cause the drift,” Bea said. “A Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) could be used to ‘back track’ the oil that is rising to the surface to determine the source. This should be a first order of business to confirm the source.”

On August 26, 2011- BP, the US Coast Guard, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, representatives from the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida as well as the GCIMT (Gulf Coast Incident Management Team) came together in New Orleans, LA to participate in a standard visual wellhead inspection via Remote Operated Vehicles of the Macondo Well (MC 252) and the relief well.

In the video- there were small, intermittent bubbles rising from cement ports at the base of the wellheads. These bubbles were determined to be nitrogen bubbles, a residual byproduct of the nitrifed foam used in setting the wells but no oil or hydrocarbons were found indicating a breach of the cement plug and/or the areas of the Macondo Well.

Yet samples of the sheen were  analyzed by Louisiana State University researchers and tests showed it was a chemical match to the 4 million+ barrels of sweet Louisiana crude that gushed from BP’s exploding well.

Scientists suggest that perhaps it was trapped within the riser pipe or the rig itself which is still sitting at the bottom of the Gulf which could result in trapped oil floating out of the wreckage.

Another option is that the bacteria degraded the oil on the seafloor and the lighter fractions were released and floated to the surface although that oil would be considerably more weathered.

Now the questions are directed towards BP once again- how much oil is trapped, why has the wreckage not been salvaged  and why has there not been a concentrated efforts on ways to clean up the ocean floor (and subsequently; add oxygen back into the dead zones?)

Copyright (c) August 31, 2011. All rights reserved.


BREAKING NEWS: 3 types of Plutonium and Caesium 137 has been found in addition to Iodine 131 near Japanese reactors and what can be taken to counteract.

Not only has  radioactive iodine 131 been detected outside the Fukushima nuclear plant but 3 types of potent Plutonium and Caesium 137, has been found at 5 different points inside the plant grounds.

Officials are declining to indicate which types of Plutonium has been found which is concerning as the half life on Plutonium can range anywhere from PU-233’s 20 minute half life to PU-239’s half life of 24,000 years.

In comparison, Iodine 131 has a half life of 8 days and is expected to disappear in a few weeks.  Caesium 137, which has a half-life of 30.17 years is more of a concern of mine as it poses a health threat for far longer.

Back in 1986, the Chernobyl accident report stated that highly contaminated areas were defined as those with over 1490 kilobequels (kBq) of caesium per square metre. Vegetables and fruits from soil with 550 kBq/m2 were destroyed.

In Japan, the highest contaminated level was 6400 kBq/m2, about 35 kilometres away, while caesium reached 1816 kBq/m2 in Nihonmatsu City and 1752 kBq/m2 in the town of Kawamata.

“Some of the numbers are really high,” says Gerhard Proehl, Head of Assessment & Management of Environmental Releases at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

There are many dependents to note that indicate the severity of the caesium as sandy soil releases it but clay containment binds it. Analysis has not been done on the different areas to see what type of land mass has come into contact with the caesium.

Either way, people need to be on the lookout for iodine 131 and caesium 137 contamination.

As well as the Japanese, US & Canadian government needs to be proactive in setting up testing and analysis to ensure as little contamination breach as possible. Our lives may very well depend on it.

Caesium 137 is water-soluble and the biological behavior of caesium is similar to that of potassium and rubidium.  

Once it enters the body, caesium centralizes in muscle tissues.

Experiments with dogs showed that a single dose of 3800 μCi/kg (approx. 44 μg/kg of caesium-137) is lethal within three weeks.

Good news- If caseium is accidentally swallowed (in the case of drinking containment tap water/milk or vegetables/fruits) , it can be treated with the chemical called Prussian blue, which binds to it chemically and then speeds it expulsion from the body.

Copyright (c) March 29, 2011. All rights reserved.

BP and EPA in cohorts and shortchanging Gulf states.

Who hasn’t seen those “Making It Right” ads that BP is using to flood the media like so much run-away oil saturating the Gulf?

Over the past nine months, BP has conducted a full-throttle charm offensive, taking out full-page ads in The New York Times , sponsoring small-town festivals all along the Gulf Coast, and running countless television spots, repeating their relentlessly conciliatory message.

They’re pulling out all the stops — clearly subscribing to the notion that the amount of penance owed is directly proportionate to the size of the sin. And with the enormity of the transgression of public trust embodied in the spill, BP sure has a lot of “Making it Right” to do.

But BP’s a company whose bottom line doesn’t account for the cost of restoring our precious natural resources or the health of our communities.

The amount of “Making it Right” BP is going to do is purely a function of some number-crunching cost/benefit analysis. They spend money on ads because they’re more interested in cleaning up their image than cleaning up the Gulf. A clean image means increased profits; a clean Gulf means financial losses in the form of remediation and wildlife rehabilitation costs and Clean Water Act fines.

So while they’re working hard, with a whole lot of fanfare, in street festivals and in TV commercials to make it right, they’re quietly working even harder behind closed doors in Washington to make it all wrong.

In DC, they’re undercutting the American public and our Gulf Coast communities, ensuring that at the bottom line of the ledger, they protect their shareholder profits.

This shouldn’t be news. From day one, BP has tirelessly downplayed the number of barrels of oil that gushed into the Gulf waterways during their 87-day disaster. Remember when they claimed only a 1,000 barrels a day, and then, when pressed, 5,000? That whole time, their internal documents that were turned over to Congress had BP admitting that in truth, 100,000 barrels a day could have been pouring from their blown well.

Even today, in the midst of their “Making it Right” push, BP still struggles mightily to re-shape the truth.

It is now rumors that BP is lobbying hard in private meeting rooms at the Environmental Protection Agency to once again minimize their impacts and stick a make-believe low number on the amount of barrels that poured forth per day from their disastrously faulty oil rig.

It seems as if BP has the EPA over a barrel — the word is that EPA is actually negotiating with agency to officially reduce the number of barrels spilled in order to reduce the company’s fines under the Clean Water Act. By not living up to the true size of this disaster, BP is doing anything BUT making it right.

Correctly assessing the number of barrels released per day during those three months matters. It directly impacts the Clean Water Act fines that BP must pay.

Since this money is to be used to help restore the millions of devastated lives, miles of coastline, and communities that were impacted by BP’s negligence, the impacts of BP’s attempt to rewrite history goes way beyond the immediate financial impacts to the company.

Without an accurate accounting of how much oil was really dumped into the Gulf by BP’s irresponsible actions, researchers will be at a significant disadvantage. There’s no reason, other than pure profit, for BP to lie about the amount of oil it released.

Surely, we can all recognize that “making it right” is nothing more than a transparent public relations slogan; we shouldn’t expect more from a multinational that’s in the business of making money.

But, if its true that EPA is in fact considering officially reducing the scope of BP’s oil spill, than we should question this slogan: “to protect human health and the environment.”

The EPA’s job is protect America’s waters and people – not to protect a polluter corporation or to soften the blow of accountability against a bad actor, mandated by the federal laws the EPA was created to uphold.

The industry-wide problems that led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster must be fixed. We can’t stand by and watch BP shy away from taking total responsibility from fixing its own mess nor can we stand by and watch the company move into less protected and less organized areas to wreck havoc on their environment, health and way of life.

“Making it right” means being honest about how much oil was spilled into the Gulf, paying the fines owed under the Clean Water Act – in their full and correct amounts. It means providing Gulf Coast communities impacted by this disaster with whatever it takes to restore their lives and their livelihoods.

If BP and the EPA won’t make it right, then it’s up to you and me to compel them to truly “make things right”. Lives and livelihoods are dependent on the Truth.

Copyright (c) February 14, 2011. All rights reserved.

Generating electricity from turbines in aqueducts, Italian style.

The Pont du Gard in Nîmes, France.  It is 160 feet tall and was built by the Romans by stacking three bridges.  Photographer: Frank Sear

The ancient Romans used water pressure to bring the city’s monumental baths and fountains to life. Today modern Romans Flavio and Valerio Andreoli are using it to produce clean power.

Encouraged by generous renewable energy incentives, their company, Hydrowatt, specializes in generating electricity from turbines in aqueducts.

An aqueduct is a channel or pipe used to transport water from a remote source to a desired location, such as a town, city or agricultural area. The word “aqueduct” is derived from the Latin word aqua (“water”) and ducere (“to lead”).

“Without producing any kind of waste, we use energy that would otherwise be lost,” Flavio Andreoli says as he squeezes his 6-ft., 3-in. frame down the stairs and into a subterranean plant the size of a two-car garage.

Located in the hills of Central Italy, 150 miles northeast of Rome, the room is filled with buzzing turbines that tap into the Ascoli aqueduct to produce 2 million kilowatt-hours a year.

Hydrowatt generates nearly 60 million kWh per year—enough for about 30,000 homes—from 40 plants on aqueducts across Central and Northern Italy, making it the largest producer of its kind in the country.

Ancient Rome was known as Regina Aquarum, or “The Queen of Waters,” reflecting the skill early engineers showed in harnessing water to feed the city’s hundreds of fountains and power the empire’s mills.

They could make water run uphill through the use of gravity and pressure, providing Romans two millennia ago with as much as 250 gallons of water per person daily. The first of the city’s 11 ancient aqueducts opened in 312 BC, and the remains of Roman waterworks can be found from England to North Africa.

The brothers tap into modern water pipelines that typically follow the same routes as the old aqueducts. Much like ancient engineers who studied the land and looked for sources at higher elevations to provide the pressure needed to reach Rome, Hydrowatt’s engineers seek out places where pipelines have valves designed to release excess pressure as the water flows rapidly down the mountainsides.

Once they identify such a site, the brothers offer local authorities that control the aqueducts a deal to replace the valves with Hydrowatt’s turbines.

“We saw there was this excess pressure from water that was lost and could even pose a problem, so we replaced the valves with turbines that could make energy,” Andreoli says. “Around this idea we built a company.”

Andreoli says Hydrowatt is “small but profitable,” with revenue of about €11 million ($14 million) last year. “Incentives certainly allowed us to start off, but profitability is now guaranteed even without them,” says Andreoli,  an engineer and native Roman whose grandfather was deputy mayor of the city in the 1950s.

The brothers recently bought four small hydroelectric plants in New England, and they aim to double production globally in the next 36 months by adding more plants and diversifying into biomass and other renewables.

Each kilowatt of capacity translates into 8,000 kWh of power annually, Andreoli says, at least four times the average output of solar or wind plants which indicates that small hydro is a good alternative to wind and solar while leaving little of a carbon footprint.

Copyright (c) January 21, 2011. All rights reserved.

EPA’S new water pollution standards impact Florida.

EPA standards, which were finalized for Florida in November 2010, set specific numerical limits on nutrient pollution levels allowed in lakes, rivers, streams and springs in a state which relies heavily on tourists who enjoy its waterways and world-famous Everglades wildlife refuge.

Nutrient pollution is caused by phosphorous and nitrogen contamination from excess fertilizer, storm water and wastewater that flows off land into waterways. The EPA estimates nearly 2,000 miles of Florida’s rivers and streams, as well as numerous lakes and estuaries, are affected.

However, a lawsuit was filed in Pensacola’s federal court, accusing the EPA of trampling over the state’s rights while seeking to impose rules that would cost taxpayers and local agricultural business too much.

“Studies produced by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as well as two independent studies all show that the impact to Florida’s economy will be in the billions,” the statement from the attorney general’s office said.  “The EPA’s anticipated cost is the outlier, projecting a cost closer to $200 million,” it added.

Looks like somebody’s math is off. From my research, it is estimated that it will cost a household $70 annually, which equals approximately $5.83 a month.

A cost that is well worth it. However, it is imperative that Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services compare and contrast notes with the EPA to ensure that the cost of this project is kept within the budgetary allotment of which the Environmental Protection Agency initially quoted.

Explaining they would be flexible, “common sense” and site-specific, Keyes-Fleming said the rules would help protect hotels and tourist attractions that faced lost revenue through pollution making waterways too foul for swimming or fishing.

The only complaint that I have is that it is ran by the federal Environmental Protection Agency when the testing control should be granted to the state. Perhaps a state ran agency can step up to the plate and take the lead?

While I am normally against regulation, Florida’s $60 billion-a-year tourism industry is its economic lifeblood and one of the largest state industries, with more than 80 million visitors a year bringing in 21 percent of all state sales taxes and employing nearly 1 million Floridians.

Take it from a panhandle resident who saw the effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill first hand- once the waters become polluted, tourism diminishes exponentially. $5.83 a month seems like a small price to pay to ensure our state’s livelihood and prosperity.

Copyright (c) January 17, 2011. All rights reserved.

Restarting Alaskian pipeline will leak more oil, said Alyeska.

The ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee is raising concerns that a decision to temporarily restart a leaking Alaskan pipeline could result in spilled oil that will be difficult to clean up.

The Trans Alaska Pipeline System will continue to leak some oil during the restart. Alyeska, the pipeline operator, has promised to quickly clean it up.  However, Rep. Edward Markey said Tuesday he is concerned the oil will be difficult to clean up because it will leak underground.

Alyeska decided late Tuesday to restart it at a lower flow rate in order to keep the line from freezing amid sub-zero temperatures in Alaska’s North Slope.

In a letter sent to Alyeska President Thomas Barrett, Markey says the decision to restart the line “appears to be based on the assumption that all leaked oil will be recoverable; however, given that the leak is underground, this assumption is dubious.”

As a result, Markey asked for “detailed documentation” on the amount of oil spilled and the ways in which Alyeska will dispose of it. An answer has yet to be received.

Here is the full letter, in case you are interested.

January 12, 2011
Vice Admiral Thomas Barrett, USCG (Ret.)
Alyeska Pipeline Service Company
900 East Benson Blvd.
Anchorage, AK 99508
Dear Admiral Barrett:
As Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, I am deeply concerned about the recently discovered leak at Pump Station #1 of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS).  The Natural Resources Committee has jurisdiction over TAPS and I am therefore writing to request additional information regarding the leak investigation and your announced plan to restart pipeline operations before the scope of the leak has been established.
Among the many tragic lessons learned from the BP disaster in the Gulf is that the public’s right to transparent and complete information regarding the causes and consequences of a failure of this type is paramount.  Given the enormity of what is at stake – not only the continued operation of the pipeline, but also impacts to fragile natural resources – your cooperation in providing the public the necessary information will be critical.
Sadly, this incident is reminiscent of a March, 2006 leak from a BP pipeline which released 267,000 gallons of oil at Prudhoe Bay.  At a 2007 hearing before the Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I also serve, Alyeska testified under oath that accelerated corrosion was not a threat to TAPS integrity and trumpeted “several new corrosion monitoring locations at Pump Station One.”  You testified at the hearing in your capacity as Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.  It would appear that those new monitoring locations were insufficient.  
Apparently, Alyeska has moved forward with a plan to “briefly restart the pipeline for an interim period” and “recover oil as needed.”  This proposal appears to be based on the assumption that all leaked oil will be recoverable; however, given that the leak is underground, this assumption is dubious.  In fact, Situation Report #3, issued on January 10 and posted on your website, clearly states that, “It has not yet been determined whether oil has been released into the ground outside the concrete pipe casing and booster pump building.”
Please provide detailed documentation regarding the amount of oil expected to be released during this restart, the methods that will be used to recover the leaked oil and evidence demonstrating that oil is not being released into the environment.
Please provide such documentation, as well as responses to the questions below, by 12:00pm, Tuesday, January 18.
1.      What caused the leak in the basement of Pump Station #1, which was discovered on Saturday, January 8, 2011?  Please provide any schematics or blueprints depicting how and where the failure took place as well as detailed information regarding the scope of the leak, including the total amount of oil that has leaked and an exact description of any and all areas impacted by the leak.

2.      How was the leak detected and what leak detection systems, if any, were in place at the time of the leak? Did those leak detection systems function as intended and if not, why not?

3.      What corrosion detection measures were being used on the TAPS feeder line that ruptured and similar feeder lines? When were these lines last inspected for corrosion and how many times have these lines been inspected and maintained in the last 5 years?

4.      Did any recent inspections show evidence of corrosion on the line that ruptured or any other lines in the TAPS system?

5.      In the wake of the 2006 spill, it was learned that BP had not “pigged” some of its lines for years prior to the accident.  How often was the feeder line that ruptured, and similar TAPS feeder lines, pigged and are so-called “smart-pigs” ever used on these lines?  Is such activity required by statute and if so, how often?

6.      The investigation into the 2006 incident also revealed a hostile workplace environment and regular harassment preventing employees from reporting evidence of corrosion.  What steps have been taken to remedy this situation since 2006?

7.      In the last 10 years, how many times has oil leaked from the TAPS system?  For each instance, please provide the date, location, cause and volume of oil that leaked.

8.      Who is responsible for cleanup and repair costs associated with this pipeline leak?

9.      Please detail any potential problems or complications related to a “cold restart” following the current shutdown of the TAPS system, including any danger posed by the two “pigs” currently stuck in the pipeline?
Finally, please be aware that preservation of any and all records relating to this leak, and the response to this leak, is fundamental to the public’s right to know.  It is expected that all such records will be preserved. 
Your cooperation in providing the Committee this and any other relevant information going forward is appreciated. 
 Edward J. Markey
Ranking Democratic Member
Committee on Natural Resources

Senators ask EPA to set chromium 6 standard for drinking water.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have called on the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the public from hexavalent chromium, a chemical commonly discharged from steel and pulp mills, metal-plating plants and leather-tanning facilities.

In a  letter from Senator Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, states that she plans to introduce legislation that would set a deadline for the EPA to establish an enforceable standard for the chemical also known as chromium 6. The committee will also hold a hearing on the issue in February 2011.

The letter was sent after the release of a study by the Environmental Working Group that analyzed drinking water in 31 cities across the country. The five cities with the highest levels of chromium 6 were Norman, Oklahoma; Honolulu, Hawaii; Riverside, California; Madison, Wisconsin and San Jose, California with other cities such as Tallahassee, Florida; Los Angeles, California and Chicago, Illinois coming in a close second.

The EPA currently tests for total chromium levels but the letter said the tests do not show precise amounts of chromium 6.

In September, a scientific review of samples of drinking water were released. When the assessment is finalized in the summer of 2011, the agency will determine whether new standards need to be set.

Studies show that chromium 6 can cause cancer in people and has also been found to cause damage to the liver, gastrointestinal tract and lymph nodes of animals.

The federal government’s current total chromium standard is 100 parts per billion. California has set a goal for safe limits for chromium 6 at 0.06 parts per billion.

The public became aware of the dangers of chromium 6 as a result of the hit movie “Erin Brockovich” in 2000, which followed a case in which Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. was accused of leaking the contaminant into the groundwater of Hinckley, a small desert town.

The utility subsequently agreed to a $333 million settlement with more than 600 residents who blamed the contamination for a variety of health problems including cancer.

With this, I raise my glass of water to research and development in hopes that there will not be a repeat performance.

Copyright (c) January 11, 2011.

Offshore wind farms- a dream turned reality

When wind energy is mentioned, the first thought is not that of ocean winds. However, global satellite maps from NASA promise a new hope. Nearly a decade of data from NASA’s QuikSCAT satellite gives us hope that we can harness ocean’s wind for energy generation. These maps can help in locating and planning the offshore wind farms for producing electric energy.

QuikSCAT is detecting the speed, direction and power of winds near the ocean surface. A specialized microwave radar instrument named SeaWinds is gathering data continuously for QuikSCAT. This data will also help in predicting storms and reducing the inaccuracy in weather forecasts. A two for one, if you will.

It is estimated that wind energy has the potential to provide 10 to 15 percent of future world energy requirements. Yet, if we can make use of ocean areas with high winds for wind energy, they could potentially generate 500 to 800 watts of energy per square meter. Though it is slightly less than solar energy (which generates about one kilowatt of energy per square meter), wind power can be converted to electricity more efficiently than solar energy and at a lower cost per watt of electricity produced.

It seems that floating wind farms in the open ocean will soon be a reality. A number of wind farms are already operating worldwide. Ocean wind farms have less environmental impact than onshore wind farms and is the preferred method of  Heart of America.

Another advantage of onshore wind farm is they have generally stronger currents over the ocean than on land because there is less friction over water to slow the winds down. One more positive aspect is – there are no hills or mountains to block the wind’s path.

Ideally, offshore wind farms should be situated in locales where winds blow continuously at high speeds. The new research discovers such areas and presents clarifications for the physical mechanisms that produce the high winds.

Additionally, the new QuikSCAT maps, will be helpful to the shipping industry by highlighting areas of the ocean where high winds could be dangerous to ships, allowing them to steer clear of these areas.

In addition to solar and bio thermal, wind farms are definitely a forerunner in the alternative energy revolution realm and should be taken into consideration when determining our long term energy needs.

Copyright (c) January 10, 2011.