September 15, 2013

Waxed fruit?

I saw a small label on some recently purchased fruit: "protected by food grade wax." Quickly lost my appetite for that fruit. So a recent article in Science Daily caught my eye. There is more to know about edible films than I was aware of, now that ready-to-eat fruits and veggies have become popular with many consumers.

Apples, bananas and cucumbers already have a handy God-made covering, but mankind wanted more. Browned apples and bananas don't look very appetizing. So a thin layer of carnauba wax from the leaves of palm trees did the trick. Other common coatings include starch, carrageenan, gluten, whey and beeswax. Yum.

But there's something unnatural about sliced apples that last 2-3 weeks without turning brown, even with the newer process of coating them with Vitamin C. Coating foods has been done since the 1100s when Chinese merchants shipped oranges to Europe. They used melted fat from hogs. Yum again.

Definitely don't need bacteria to enter our food, but waxed fruit is still not my thing. My grandson agrees. Note the teeth marks above.

September 9, 2013

Recycling highway

Recycling occurred via Interstate 95 this weekend as we hauled a huge bag of #3-7 plastics to our son's home in Philly. That might seem ridiculous unless you knew that our county no longer accepts them at our dropoff recycling centers. And they never wanted them in our curbside program. ONLY plastic bottles with necks, please! But Philadelphia has a market for them.

Then we drove a huge bag of beloved son's castoff clothing back here to Virginia to drop off at a local Goodwill store. I call this green trafficking at its best.

Fracking in Virginia?

Yikes! We are heading to the western portion of Virginia, the Skyline Drive area, next week. And just in time.

Fracking, the questionable practice of horizontal drilling for shale gas, may occur in Virginia's portion of the George Washington National Forest soon if the U.S. Forest Service gives the go-ahead. The jury is still out on whether this process and the millions of gallons of water used during the drilling contaminates nearby underground water. Or even worse, causes earthquakes.

And in this particular forest are the headwaters of the James and Potomac rivers. That brings this decision close to me. I live along the James and sail on the Potomac. Even more important, millions of folks get their drinking water from these waters. Just ask the folks in Pennsylvania who can light the water coming out of their faucets if methane is a nice additive to their water.

Half of this forest sits on top of the Marcellus shale deposit, so it is a likely target in the near future as our energy hungry country keeps up its appetite for natural gas. Wind turbines in this mountainous area would wreck havoc on these forests as well. So there is no easy answer.

September 7, 2013

Dominion Power towers still pending

17 towers, some as high as 300 feet, may soon be coming to the James River if Dominion Power gets its final approval. To focus more on numbers, that translates to 550 pilings affecting at least 1000 square feet of river bottom to support those towers. All to provide a 500 kilovolt line from the Surry Nuclear Power Station. That line crosses 2 navigation channels, many private oyster lease areas and a dredge spoil area. The scenery suffers too if power lines are not your thing when sailing this historic river.

And here are the amazing words that might mean no mitigation to make amends for any waterfowl or wetlands affected or digging up the river bottom and dispersing the kepones hiding below:
"Direct impacts to aquatic resources are minimal and have been avoided and minimized to the maximum extent practicable. As such the applicant in proposing no compensatory mitigation."
At the very least, the Corps of Engineers should require some major mitigation measures for Dominion Power to undertake. Of course we the customers would absorb those costs, since Dominion's bottom line is sacred. Profit rules the day again.

September 4, 2013

Blowin' in the wind UPDATED

Before Virginians can begin to receive any wind-generated energy, almost 113,000 acres off our coast need to be auctioned off for wind farm development rights. Eight companies (including Dominion Virginia) were pre-qualified to bid on them. [Dominion won with a $1.6 million bid.]

Last July 165,000 acres off Massachusetts and Rhode Island were similarly auctioned.

Our offshore land, nearly 24 miles off Virginia Beach, could someday generate enough power for 700,000 homes. The process is somewhat complicated, and it will not be generating electricity until 2028 at the earliest. So coal plants will be with us for some years.

Solar power is another option of course, but that is also moving slowly. I saw this home off Carter Creek, near Tides Inn, last weekend that had a huge portion of its roof covered with solar panels. Hurrah for them!

Red tide rising

With cooler recent nights, I had hoped that the Chesapeake Bay would not see major red tide blooms this summer. But alas, this news from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation got my attention. The VIMS photo below, taken on August 30, by the Monitor Merrimack bridge also says it all.

This huge algae bloom was fed by large amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen, most of that from fertilizers and storm water runoff. And it most likely a harmful species of algae to boot! Probably a marine dinoflagellate called red tide that kills fish.