February 4, 2014
No significant cleanup work is planned after a valve or cap mishap on a Canadian Pacific rail car spilled 12,000 gallons of crude oil between Winona and Red Wing.
According to officials at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the incident was reported at 11:41 a.m. Monday, after crews discovered the leak. The spill involved less than half the contents of a typical tanker car, which holds about 26,000 gallons of liquid.
According to David Morrison, a member of the MPCA emergency response team sent out Tuesday, the spill was more pronounced along the tracks in Winona when he inspected rail crossings in the city Tuesday afternoon. Morrison said this was probably due to increased snow cover on the tracks, making the spill more visible, and the train traveling more slowly through the city, depositing more oil.
No major cleanup work was planned as of Tuesday, MPCA public information officer Catherine Rofshus said, due to the low volume of oil along the tracks, but could change if larger pools of oil are found or oil threatens any waters along the tracks.
Rofshus said MPCA staff were still examining critical areas such as river crossings Tuesday morning to assess any environmental damage or amounts of oil requiring cleanup. Another option the MPCA is looking into is dispatching staff when snow melt occurs to look for oil sheen and runoff.
“The main goal of the MPCA today is to protect any waters from contamination as the railroad tracks cross the Zumbro and Cannon rivers, as well as Wells Creek, along with close proximity to wetlands, including Weaver Bottoms,” Rofshus said in an email Tuesday morning. “Initial reconnaissance found only a spattering of oil across Wells Creek north of Lake City.”
Rofshus said the MPCA’s first goal with the incident is response, followed by an investigation. No fines or citations will be issued until that investigation is completed, she said.
State law requires any spill of five gallons or more of fuel or oil be reported to the duty officer at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Oil was spilled in 2009, when a leaking Union Pacific locomotive splattered 15 houses on Winona’s East End with oil before traveling on to Milwaukee. Union Pacific employees initially neglected to report the leak, coming forward several days later. The total amount of oil leaked was never disclosed, with Union Pacific officials calling it a small amount.
Other spills have been reported to the MPCA over the years, mostly involving small amounts of hydraulic fluid or fuel leaked or spilled from locomotives. The largest rail incident in recent memory was the 2008 Dresbach derailment that dropped more than two dozen cars into the Mississippi River, released 3,200 gallons of fuel and diesel, and more than 33,000 gallons of liquid fertilizer.
Ed Greenberg, spokesman with Canadian Pacific, said the company is cooperating with the MPCA investigation and is also doing one of their own into what caused the leak. The tanker car that had the malfunction has been pulled from service, Greenberg said, and if future clean up efforts are required, Canadian Pacific will cooperate fully.
“All indications are the product remained between the rails,” Greenberg said. “Any potential mitigation actions will take place if identified.”
January 22, 2014
A second chemical was mixed in with the previously identified MCHM crude that leaked from a storage tank at Freedom Industries chemical company earlier this month and tainted drinking water in a large swath of West Virginia, a spokeswoman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin confirmed to Al Jazeera Tuesday evening.
State authorities said that earlier Tuesday they had received a document from Freedom Industries indicating the presence of the second substance, a modified form of a chemical called PPH. Thechemical spill into the Elk River prompted authorities to impose a Jan. 9 ban on drinking, bathing or even touching water from taps.
The ban was lifted Jan. 19, but residents this week were still reporting symptoms such as rashes or nausea after coming into contact with the water. Some also complained of a strange, licorice-like odor coming from taps and toilets.
Some residents are still refusing to drink the water, and authorities have warned pregnant women against drinking it until levels of MCHM are undetectable.
The West Virginia governor’s office had strong words for the chemical company, whose storage facility held MCHM, a material used in the processing of coal. The company on Tuesday revealed to state authorities that the modified PPH was also in the tank.
"It was Freedom’s responsibility to let people know there was another chemical in the tank and they did not," Amy Goodwin, the director of communications for Tomblin, told Al Jazeera.
"At this point there is very limited trust in any of the information that is being provided by Freedom, but the second we found out about it, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health and Human Resources, the National Guard and the Office of Homeland Security went out and did testing within the system," she said.
Members of the West Virginia National Guard did about 20 tests, which reportedly take several hours to complete. When this story was published, they believed the levels were nondetectable but were waiting for confirmed results.
The tests were done using samples collected from the tank the day the spill was originally identified, Jan. 9.
Goodwin said the second chemical was a “stripped form” of the chemical PPH, meaning it has certain elements removed from its pure form.
About 300 gallons of the chemical were in the tank, making up about 5 percent of the tank’s total capacity, Goodwin said.
State officials worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) throughout the day Tuesday to learn more.
In its initial assessment of the chemical spill, the CDC said it is unlikely that the chemical poses any new threat to people’s safety.
"An initial review of the currently available toxicologic information does not suggest any new health concerns associated with the release of PPH," a CDC statement read. "It is likely that any amount of PPH currently in the water system would be extremely low. However, the water system has not been tested for this material."
And while “toxicologic information on PPH is limited,” it appears to be of a lower toxicity than MCHM, the CDC said.
During the height of the tainted water crisis last weekend, officials said they were waiting for tests to show that MCHM had dropped to around 1 part per million, which authorities had deemed a safe threshold.
American Water — the parent company of West Virginia American Water, the company responsible for the region’s water supply — told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that it was doing its own tests.
"We have described in detail our water treatment process with state chemical experts, who ascertained that our current treatment process would likely have removed this chemical," water company spokeswoman Maureen Duffy told Al Jazeera. "We are also testing water samples collected last week to further confirm this and will share those results when available."
After consulting with other authorities in the wake of the revelation of the second chemical’s presence, American Water said it determined that the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources was “best positioned to discuss health-related questions about this chemical.”
According to the local Charleston Gazette newspaper, Gary Southern, president of Freedom Industries, told West Virginia environmental regulator Mike Dorsey about the presence of the second chemical about 10 a.m. Tuesday.
January 15, 2014
The U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries aren’t on the same page regarding environmental policies within the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, and the dissension has been exposed by WikiLeaks.
Organizations who have viewed the leaked version of the TPP’s environment chapter say it shows that the U.S. could ease up on pollution control requirements, a shark fin harvesting ban and other regulations it had previously been negotiating for. Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, told The New York Times that the environment chapter no longer contains language she believes would have ensured that more trade doesn’t equate to destruction of the environment.
“It rolls back key standards set by Congress to ensure that the environment chapters are legally enforceable, in the same way the commercial parts of free-trade agreements are,” she said.
Other groups worry that TPP passage could ignore fracking bans in the U.S. The draft documents are dated Nov. 24. There has been one meeting since then.
The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) banded together to analyze the document and discover what was missing. Their findings include:
- A “clear step back” from the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) agreed on by the U.S. and TPP countries in 2007. At the time, Congress and the Bush Administration agreed to “incorporate a specific list of multilateral environmental agreements” in its free trade agreements (FTA), committing the countries to adopting and maintaing those measures and subject them to dispute settlement procedures if need be. Now, TPP countries like Japan, Mexico and New Zealand only need to “affirm” its commitment” to implement the MEAs to which it is a party.
A considerable rollback from the dispute resolution process presented in the May 2007 and recent FTAs. Six years ago, violations of the obligations in the environment chapter could be treated like violations of commercial chapters of the agreement. The organizations who authored Wednesday’s analysis say that’s a critical piece of the agreement that provides backing to environmental provisions and ensures that there are consequences for violating them. According to the Sierra Club, NRDC and WWF, “the consolidated text of the TPP environment chapter, however, sends countries back to a pre-2007 world.”
- The credibility of the article on marine capture fisheries has been severely undercut by a failure to subject commitments to binding dispute settlement. Environmental organizations believe that sections on shark finning, fisheries subsidies and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fish are among those that must be strengthened.
“This peek behind the curtain reveals the absence of an ambitious 21st-century trade agreement promised by negotiating countries,” Carter Roberts, the U.S. CEO of WWF, said in a statement. “The lack of fully-enforceable environmental safeguards means negotiators are allowing a unique opportunity to protect wildlife and support legal sustainable trade of renewable resources to slip through their fingers. These nations account for more than a quarter of global trade in fish and wood products and they have a responsibility to address trade’s impact on wildlife crime, illegal logging, and overfishing.”
The groups fear that the leaked draft is the final product. If that’s the case, Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, believes President Barack Obama’s environmental record would end up being worse than that of Bush.
“This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues—oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections,” Brune said. “In fact, (the environment chapter) rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts.”
We warned that one day you would not be able to control what you have created. That day is here. Not heeding warnings from both Nature and the People of the Earth keeps us on the path of self destruction. This self destructive path has led to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Gulf oil spill, tar sands devastation, pipeline failures, impacts of carbon dioxide emissions and the destruction of ground water through hydraulic fracking, just to name a few. In addition, these activities and development continue to cause the deterioration and destruction of sacred places and sacred waters that are vital for Life.
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Lakota, with the Council of Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples in a statement of resistance to environmental destruction, saying there is “no time left to defend the Earth.”