November 19, 2014

Sturgeon making a comeback

The homely sturgeon was nearly wiped out in the James River by overfishing in the late 1800s. NOAA listed four varieties of Atlantic sturgeon as endangered in 2013. But they seem to be making a comeback. A few have been spotted in the James River and in various spots in the Chesapeake Bay. Are they Chesapeake Bay sturgeon or migrating from the Potomac River? Some have radio tags and are being tracked. But these are not easy fish to capture.

An alternative to Keystone XL

The TransCanada website includes a lot of information about their alternative 2858 mile pipeline, called Energy East, from the Alberta tar sand to the EAST coast of Canada.

Now that Keystone XL is still being debated, and the First Nations tribes are still opposing a pipeline west through their land, look for more news about this alternative pipeline. The oil will move. Whether by train, highways or pipeline is the only question. And there will be spills any way they move it. How much of a threat can we handle?

Fracking in Virginia forests update

I have posted about the threat to Virginia's George Washington National Forest before. But this is good news "of a sort." A compromise has been reached.

In 2011, the drafted plan would allow fracking in quite a lot of the 1.1 million acre forest in the Shenandoah mountains that I love so well. The new compromise now will allow drilling on merely 10,000 acres where mineral rights are privately owned.

Why is this a big deal? According to the New York Times,

"Streams in the George Washington National Forest contribute drinking water to nearly three million people in Virginia, and the forest is the largest federal property in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The region includes some of the top agricultural counties in the state and supports a $10 million recreation and tourism economy."

Good news about styrofoam

Styrofoam is the one plastic that no one seemed to know how to recycle. Until now.

A company in Mexico, Rennueva, claims to have designed a machine that can separate the plastic polymers out of styrofoam into pellets that can be used to make transparent rigid plastic.

The process, called termodensification, heats styrofoam cups, packaging materials and those famous food-storage clam shells to the point that the five percent of it that is plastic can be compressed into pellets. Who knew that styrofoam was 95% air?

The company says that they will create another 12 to 18 recycling units before the end of 2014. If they can, this will be good news to landfill operators since that has been the final destination for a LOT of coffee cups, etc.

November 16, 2014

Dead zones in the Chesapeake

Those large areas of Chesapeake Bay that don't have enough oxygen in the water to support happy critters or happy underwater grasses did not get much attention this past summer. In fact, at the beginning of summer, things looked fairly good. Hurricane Arthur stirred up the bay nicely. But every heavy rain also washes a lot of phosphorus and nitrogen into the bay. In the October issue of PropTalk, the dead zone was estimated to be about 1.32 cubic miles. The crab harvest of 2014 was certainly lower. The increasing aquaculture of oysters is a good effort to clean our waters as well as provide some tasty morsels at happy hour. But our bay is anything but happy.

James River at risk?

You're darn right. The James River wake-up call was last April's train derailment in Lynchburg and subsequent fire. Lots of crude oil spilled into my favorite river that day. I posted about it then.

The James River Association has a new website at devoted to other high risks to the James from such things as storage of toxic coal ash and other chemicals that don't seem to get much monitoring.

Five inspectors to check the train tracks that carry a million gallons of crude oil should get your attention too. It is a patriotic duty to protect this historic river.

The folks in 37 counties and 18 cities who rely on the James as a major source of their drinking water should be especially vigilant.