AmeriScan: July 12, 2007

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Global Warming Will Hit Northeast Hard Without Quick Action

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, July 12, 2007 (ENS) - If heat-trapping emissions are not limited now, global warming will change critical aspects of the Northeast's character and economy, finds a new report by the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, NECIA, a two year collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists, UCS, and a team of more than 50 scientists and economists.

Near-term choices about energy, transportation, and land use will determine the extent and severity of climate change, the report shows.

"Global warming represents an enormous challenge, but we can meet it if we act swiftly," said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at UCS and chair of the NECIA team. "Our response to global warming in the next few years will shape the climate our children and grandchildren inherit."

The peer-reviewed report, "Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast," incorporates and builds on NECIA's 2006 study that described how the climate of the nine Northeast states will change under two scenarios.

The first scenario assumes an increase in global warming emissions from continued heavy reliance on fossil fuels, and the second assumes substantially lower emissions due to an increased reliance on clean energy sources.

Global sea level is "conservatively" projected to rise 10 to 23 inches under the higher-emissions scenario and 7 to 14 inches under the lower-emissions scenario.

Using these estimates, cities such as Boston and Atlantic City can expect a coastal flood equivalent to today's 100-year flood every two to four years on average by mid-century and almost annually by the end of the century under either scenario.

New York City is projected to face flooding equivalent to today's 100-year flood once every decade on average under the higher-emissions scenario and once every two decades under the lower-emissions scenario by century's end.

Sea-level rise is also projected to increase shoreline erosion and wetland loss, particularly along the vulnerable coasts of Cape Cod, Long Island, and the Jersey Shore.

The Northeast cannot reduce global warming alone, but can help drive national and international progress in reducing emissions.

The report concludes that sustained efforts to reduce emissions in the region - on the order of 80 percent below 2000 levels by mid-century and just over three percent per year on average over the next several decades - can help pull global emissions below the lower-emissions path used in this study.

Some steps are already underway. All the states in the report except Pennsylvania have joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the first multistate, market-based plan to reduce heat-trapping emissions from power plants.

Most states - Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island - have renewable electricity standards requiring utilities to obtain some of their power from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and biomass.

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont have adopted California's law requiring vehicle tailpipe emissions reductions of 30 percent below 2002 levels by 2016, beginning with the 2009 model year. Implementation is contingent upon a ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

These initiatives are laudable, but the region can do much more to lower emissions and help protect its people and economy, said James McCarthy, professor of biological oceanography at Harvard University, vice-chair of the NECIA, and president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"The Northeast has a tremendous opportunity to help lead us to a secure climate future. Fortunately, more and more people understand the stakes and are mobilizing around the problem," he said. "The time to act is now."

The new report and a complete list of collaborating scientists and economists are available at: www.climatechoices.org/ne/resources_ne/nereport.html.

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Conservation Key as Climate Change Curtails Western Water

SAN FRANCISCO, California, July 12, 2007 (ENS) The drought now parching Western states is a taste of things to come, finds a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council that assesses the effects of global warming on water supplies in the West.

Drastic steps can be avoided if water managers begin preparing now, the report says.

"Global warming will make it harder for farms and cities to find water," said Barry Nelson, study co-author and co-director of NRDC's western water project.

"The latest global warming science is clear - drought-like conditions are likely to increase. This means that conservation and water use efficiency will become our most important sources of new water supply," Nelson said.

Over the past eight years, the Colorado River, which supplies water to parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, has received just over half its average flow.

Southern California is experiencing its driest year on record. The state Department of Water Resources predicts that every river in the southern Sierra Nevada will receive less than half of normal runoff this year.

Global warming may cause winter precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow, reducing water supply from the snowpack. Hotter summer temperatures will cause more water to evaporate out of watersheds, rivers and reservoirs.

"Whether you're turning on the tap in Los Angeles, irrigating a crop in Colorado, fishing for salmon on the Columbia River or rafting down the Grand Canyon, there will likely be less water," said Nelson. "Global warming will affect water supply for everyone in the West."

Conservation tops the list of proven water supply solutions. For example, water use in the City of Los Angeles has remained steady for 30 years despite population growth due to investments such as low flow showerheads. The city can save even more water by promoting drought tolerant landscaping.

The report calls on regions to develop cooperative solutions that meet their water needs together with other benefits.

For example, groundwater de-salters in California's Chino basin produce water supplies, while cleaning up contaminated underground aquifers.

Urban stormwater retention programs designed to reduce flooding and pollution can also supply water.

The report highlights wastewater recycling as a promising solution because it will not be affected by global warming, but advises that traditional approaches - dams, diversions and groundwater pumping - are likely to perform poorly in the future.

The report concludes that global warming may increase the risk of floods, so water strategies must include ways to protect people and property.

The report recommends that water agencies join other environmental and business executives in calling for aggressive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, stressing that quick action now will mean better future control in the face of global warming.

The full report, "In Hot Water: Water Management Strategies to Weather the Effects of Global Warming," is online at: http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/hotwater/contents.asp

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Dow Chemical Removes Contaminants Near its Home Factory

MIDLAND, Michigan, July 12, 2007 (ENS) - The Dow Chemical Company began work this week to remove contaminated sediments in the Tittabawassee River, just upstream of the Dow Dam in the company's hometown of Midland.

The sediments are contaminated with high levels of dioxins and furans, chlorobenzenes, metals, and other materials.

On June 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 gave Dow five days to respond to the agency's demand to start cleanup of three hot spots downstream of its facility on the Tittabawassee River that are contaminated with dioxins.

The EPA requires that Dow negotiate the final terms of three EPA administrative consent orders for the cleanup within 15 days and start field work by August 15.

EPA has documented that dioxins in soil pose risks to human health and the environment. Cleanup must take place in a large part of the Upper Tittabawassee River this construction season, the agency says.

In late November 2006, Dow identified dioxin hot spots along the first six miles of the Tittabawassee River contaminated with levels up to 87,000 parts per trillion, far in excess of state and federal requirements. The areas of concern are subject to flooding and erosion that could spread the contamination.

Dow's corrective action work under its 2003 Michigan Resource Conservation and Recovery Act license "has taken too long," the EPA said.

Now Dow must develop a removal plan, including field sampling. The company must excavate and/or dredge soil, bottom deposit, sediment, submerged sediment, riverbank and floodplain soil to an EPA-approved cleanup level. All dioxin-contaminated material, including water, must be properly disposed.

Dow has been constructing a mile and a half long pipeline and a sediment dewatering facility on the Dow plant site over the past several months. After dewatering, the sediments will be disposed of in the Dow Salzburg Road Landfill.

The company also must cut back and stabilize the river bank and re-vegetate floodplain areas with native plants, backfilling and erosion control. Sampling and chemical analysis will take place as removal progresses.

A coffer dam will be constructed in the river to contain the materials and facilitate its removal, and boaters and fishermen are advised to maintain a safe distance from construction activities.

To address contamination that was found outside of the footprint of the original project area, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a revised permit for Dow to construct the steel coffer dam. The dam will be removed at the end of the project.

An additional 11 miles of the river, to the State Road Bridge in Saginaw County, is scheduled for sampling this year.

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First Mid-Atlantic Green Shopping Center in the Works

OWINGS MILLS, Maryland, July 12, 2007 (ENS) - The site has been purchased and development is underway on the first retail shopping center in the Mid-Atlantic region that will be certified to the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED, standard.

Main Street Eldersburg, a 90,000 square foot "lifestyle center" near the intersection of Maryland Routes 32 and 26 in Carroll County, received final approval from the County Planning Commission in May. Groundbreaking will take place this summer, and the $20 million shopping center is scheduled to open by fall 2008.

The developer, Black Oak Associates, of Owings Mills says the project has received pre-construction Silver Core and Shell LEED certification from the United States Green Building Council, due to a number of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly design features in the center.

The center will have a passive solar daylighting system with glass panels for interior daylighting. A high efficiency heating, ventilating and air conditioning package and advanced energy modeling will contribute to an expected energy savings of 30 percent each year over traditional building technologies.

There will be a cistern water system that captures and reuses rainwater from the project's roof that, when combined with the use of drought-resistant plants, will save 30 percent of water use annually.

White pavers will be used to reflect light in order to reduce the heat island effectthat happens when black surfaces absorb heat.

About 10 percent of all materials used in the construction of Main Street Eldersburg will be made with recycled content, 75 percent of construction wastes will be recycled and 50 percent of building materials will be manufactured locally, reducing transportation fuel costs.

Dixon Harvey, Jr., president of Black Oak Associates, said, "The trend towards creating new projects that are environmentally friendly and energy efficient is quickly gaining momentum and is top-of-mind among government entities, retailers and the consumer public. Our company's goal is to be among the first development groups in the retail sector to demonstrate the importance of building green.

Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, said, "In the past few years, we have seen a monumental increase in the amount of green building nationwide. Builders, developers and consumers alike are becoming aware of the benefits of sustainable design. Green buildings offer decreased operating costs, improved indoor environmental quality, increased employee productivity and increased market value."

"Retail stores in particular have much to gain from going green," Fedrizzi said. "Studies have linked the skylights in green retail spaces to increased sales, products located under sky lit areas sell better than products located in non-sky lit areas of the store. Besides boosting in-store sales, green buildings pay for themselves within one to two years and yield a 25 to 40 percent return on investments."

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Million Dollar Engineer Gives His Invention Away

FAIRFAX, Virginia, July 11, 2007 (ENS) - The winner of a $1 million engineering prize is using most of the money to distribute his invention, which removes arsenic from well water, to poor communities in his native Bangladesh and elsewhere.

Abul Hussam, a chemistry professor at George Mason University in Virginia, won the National Engineering Academy's 2007 Grainger Challenge Prize in February.

He began working on the arsenic problem when his brother, a physician in Kushtia, Bangladesh, asked him to develop a technique for precise arsenic measurement.

Hussam developed an electrochemical analyzer and used it to develop a measurement protocol.

"The first sample we measured was our home tube well and we found 160-190 parts per billion, ppb, - 50 ppb is the limit - arsenic. We then decided to develop a water filter," he said.

Hussam found that the entire neighborhood in which he grew up and 60 percent of Kushtia's 400,000 residents were drinking arsenic-contaminated water. While he and his siblings did not develop symptoms of arsenic poisoning, others in his community did.

In Bangladesh, between 77 million and 95 million people are drinking water contaminated with arsenic. Even in low concentrations arsenic can cause skin ailments, nerve damage, fatal cancers, organ failure and the loss of arms and legs.

Hussam's SONO filter works without electricity, using two stacked buckets. The top bucket is filled with coarse river sand and a composite iron matrix - the active arsenic removal component. The bottom bucket contains wood charcoal to remove organic impurities.

Both buckets contain fine river sand and brick chips to remove fine particles and stabilize water flow.

The SONO filter is manufactured in Bangladesh using local raw materials at a cost of $35 to $40 each. It produces 20 liters of clean water per hour, requires little maintenance, produces no hazardous waste, and lasts a minimum of five years.

Hussam says he and his brothers have distributed 32,500 of the filters in Bangladesh, more than 1,000 have been placed in schools.

As a result, people are being eased of the skin ailments caused by arsenic such as melanosis and keratosis.

"We are beginning to see the effect of drinking clean water on patients being cured of melanosis and keratosis, and most people feel better," he said. People are also more aware of the importance of clean, potable water.

Hussam and his brothers now plan to distribute the filter in India and Nepal.

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Poll: Certified Safe Label Needed for Household Products

OLYMPIA, Washington, July 12, 2007 (ENS) - By a wide majority, respondents to a new Washington state survey said a label on household products stating that they are non-toxic and safe would be useful.

Commissioned by the Washington state Department of Ecology, the survey found the public is equally divided in trusting that household products found in stores are safe for them and their families.

Respondents most associated the words "toxic" and "hazardous substances" with household cleaners, bleach, paint, solvents, gasoline products, and lawn/garden products.

Seventy-two percent of those polled said it would be very or extremely helpful to have a label similar to a "certified organic" or "Energy Star" to show that a household product has met a clear standard for being safe and non-toxic.

Eighty-five percent said it was very or extremely important to them that government require manufacturers to label all their products with a complete list of ingredients.

While finding information and convenient places to buy non-toxic alternative household products are barriers to purchasing such products, price is not as high a barrier, finds a new statewide survey of Washington households.

"The more we learn about toxic chemicals, the more we realize they are everywhere - in our air, water, soil and in the products we buy and use at home and work," said Darin Rice, manager of Ecology's Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program.

"We want to work with retailers and non-profit organizations to help Washington citizens make informed choices about the products they buy," he said.

The agency's public survey was conducted during February through March 2007 by an independent consultant, Applied Research Northwest.

The survey sampled 601 households across the state. The consultant analyzed the results statewide, and according to 10 demographic and geographic subgroups.

A significant number, 68 percent, said they never or rarely had concerns about toxic household products in the past year. Still, throughout the survey, female respondents had a higher level of concern than males. Those with concerns most frequently reported health concerns related to children and pets, ahead of environmental concerns.

A majority of respondents, 56 percent, said they always or often looked at ingredient or warning labels on non-food products they were considering for purchase.

Eighty-two percent agreed that companies, rather than the government, are responsible for informing the public about the hazards of their products.

About one-quarter, 26 percent, of survey respondents said that concerns about the dangers of toxic products are exaggerated.

Nearly half of respondents, 47 percent, would go first to non-profit/independent organizations for information on toxic ingredients; 24 percent would go to government and 19 percent to business.

The survey will help guide Ecology's education and outreach efforts, particularly for reducing toxic threats to young children.

The public can contact Ecology's Hazardous Substance Information and Education Office, HSIEO, at 1-800-633-7585 or www.ecy.wa.gov/HSIEO with questions about hazardous substances and safe use. HSIEO will be launching an improved website in August to assist the public.

Disposing of products correctly protects the environment. To find out how, visit Ecology's Recycling Website http://1800recycle.wa.gov/ or call 1-800-RECYCLE (1-800-732-9253).

The final report is online at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/biblio/0704013.html.

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California Leaf Blower Exchange Cultivates Clean Air

DIAMOND BAR, California, July 12, 2007 (ENS) - Loud, polluting leaf blowers are slowly becoming historical relics in California.

Professional gardeners can reduce air and noise pollution by trading in their old leaf blowers for new machines, and the state of California will cover more than half the cost.

In one year, the average leaf blower emits as much pollution as 80 new cars, each driven 12,500 miles, California air quality officials say. The new models are four times cleaner than the California Air Resources Board's standard for new blowers.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, AQMD, sponsors the leaf blower exchange program in four counties where professionals can exchange their machines this month Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

"At the same time that leaf blowers are cleaning up our yards and gardens, they are dirtying our air," said AQMD Governing Board Member Beatrice LaPisto-Kirtley. "These machines are a significant source of smog-forming emissions."

For the second year, 1,500 old, highly polluting backpack leaf blowers will be exchanged for low-emission, quieter models manufactured by STIHL. As a result, the AQMD says 14 tons per year of smog-forming emissions will be eliminated.

The new machines are gas-powered, four-stroke motors that operate at a noise level of 65 decibels - about 14 percent quieter than the average two-stroke backpack blower.

They cannot be used in the 20 California cities that have banned gas-powered leaf blowers, some only within residential neighborhoods.

The California Landscape Contractors Association acknowledges that leaf blowers can be a nuisance, but opposes bans, saying, "We believe the culprits are old technology and improper use. Both problems can be remedied by means other than indiscriminate bans."

At the exchange events, STIHL representatives will train gardeners in proper use of the blowers to minimize dust and noise.

AQMD underwrites every leaf blower exchange, allowing gardeners to purchase a new blower valued at $470 for $200. Each business may exchange up to 10 blowers.

The program is funded by $225,000 from AQMDs Air Quality Investment Program, financed by companies that pay a fee in lieu of offering rideshare incentives as required by an AQMD rule.

The agency says its leaf blower exchange program will reduce more emissions than would be achieved by an employer rideshare program.

To qualify for the leaf blower exchange, participants must pre-register by calling 888-425-6247.

Exchange events are scheduled for:

The leaf blower exchange is modeled on the agency's successful residential lawn mower exchange program. Since 2003, AQMD has exchanged more than 16,000 polluting gas-powered mowers for zero-emitting electric models.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.