A week after the dumping of at least 20,000 gallons of toxic and potentially radioactive fracking waste into a storm drain that empties into a tributary of the Mahoning River in Youngstown, Ohio, by Hard Rock Excavating, state regulators have yet to disclose information about the quantity of waste and the chemicals involved.
Dang. Most storm drains dump untreated run-off into a river, pond, lake, or some other body of water. Storm drain infrastructure drains roads and parking lots of rain water and snow melt.
My understanding is that it is illegal under the Clean Water Act (e.g., the EPA) to dump toxic chemicals into these drains since fish, riparian mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, birds, kids, swimmers, and farmers use surface waters on a regular basis.
If the above is correct (I’m skeptical), that frackers are dumping chemical-waste-water into storm drains, holy shit - Ohioans downstream are in for a big surprise…
Above: one of several fires on the Cuyahoga River in Ohio. Used as a dump for about two centuries, it caught fire on a regular basis. “When the Cuyahoga burst into flame in 1969, it was not a huge deal to locals. After all, the river had burned almost every decade over the previous century,” writes James Salzman. The Cuyahoga was not the only river to catch fire. Indeed, dozens of rivers around the nation were terribly polluted (Salzman tells of a fall into the Charles River in Boston in the ’70s. He went to hospital for skin treatment).
It is inconceivable to think that our rivers were actually this bad, but they were: there were no environmental laws, and no system of regulations or penalties. Waste was dumped into rivers for decades and decades. The Cuyahoga fires were an accidental symbol of deterioration that verged on scandal. Now rivers are pretty much cleaned up thanks to the Clean Water Act, which just turned 40.
Duke environmental law professor, James Salzman wrote about the Clean Water Act (CWA) for Slate. Salzman’s article, “Why Rivers No Longer Burns” shows that politicians can work together, so long as they have the guts to actually govern. He writes that the Clean Water Act is one of the greatest successes in environmental law. It’s a short overview of how the CWA came to be. I remember being inspired to go to law school when I read similar short articles on the environment. Perhaps you will too…
In 1972, a landmark law reversed the course of this filthy tide. Today, four decades later, the Clean Water Act stands as one of the great success stories of environmental law. Supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, the act took a completely new approach to environmental protection. The law flatly stated there would be no discharge of pollutants from a point source (a pipe or ditch) into navigable waters without a permit. No more open sewers dumping crud into the local stream or bay. Permits would be issued by environmental officials and require the installation of the best available pollution-control technologies.
The waste flushed down drains and toilets needed a different approach, so the Clean Water Act provided for billions of dollars in grants to construct and upgrade publicly owned sewage-treatment works around the nation. To protect the lands that filter and purify water as it flows by, permits were also required for draining and filling wetlands. Protecting our nation’s waters may seem like common sense today, but the idea of nationally uniform, tough standards against polluters was both original and radical. Thinking big, the Clean Water Act’s preamble declared that the nation’s waters would be swimmable and fishable within a decade, with no discharges of pollutants within a dozen years. These weren’t idle boasts.
Another great climate webinar from NOAA today at 12pm EST. Sign up here.
Glaciers are one of Nature’s best thermometers, and perhaps its most sensitive and unambiguous indicator of climate change. This webinar will discuss the “inconvenient truth” of global climate change through an introduction to climate change, a brief look at how past climate changes have impacted Peruvian cultures, the latest evidence for the recent acceleration of the rate of glacier loss world-wide, and evidence that some glaciers like the Quelccaya ice cap (the world’s largest tropical ice cap) in the Andes of Peru are now smaller than they have been in over 6,000 years. This evidence will then be discussed in terms of our “inconvenient mind”.
Here we will look at some of our basic belief systems, as identified by behavior analysts, that relate to how humans respond to climate change issues. In addition, I will discuss what I see as our options and the greatest challenges of the 21st Century.
“On June 22, 1969 a river fire in Cleveland captured national attention. This event helped spur an avalanche of pollution control activities resulting in the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and the creation of the federal and state Environmental Protection Agencies.
The 1969 fires was not the first. Fires plagued the Cuyahoga River beginning in 1936 when a spark from a blow torch ignited floating debris and oils. The largest river fire in 1952 caused over $1 million in damage to boats and a riverfront office building. By the 1960s the lower Cuyahoga River in Cleveland was used for waste disposal, and was choked with debris, oils, sludge, industrial wastes and sewage. These pollutants were considered a major source of impact to Lake Erie, which was considered dead at the time. The 1969 fire has been the subject of several songs, including Randy Newman’s 1972 song “Burn On”, R.E.M.’s 1986 song “Cuyahoga”, and Adam Again’s 1992 song “River on Fire”.”
The Cuyahoga River, in Ohio, caught fire dozens of times over a 100 year time period, from 1868 to 1969. Before environmental regulations were signed into law in the 1970s, the oil and gas, chemical, metal, and mining industries dumped toxic waste into the river for decades and decades. Worse, over 35 cities directly dumped sewage into the river for hundreds of years.
So toxic was the Cuyahoga that it caught on fire countless times to the point it became a joke. The river flowed into Lake Erie, taking toxins and death with it. Nothing could survive in the river, and was considered “legally dead” by the time Nixon signed the EPA into law.
For more on the Cuyahoga River fires and pollution, click HERE.
For news on how the river (cleaner, but still polluted) is doing today, click HERE.
Ohio is bracing for an oil boom as companies, led by Chesapeake, gobble up leases covering millions of acres in the eastern half of the state. While no one’s yet proven the commercial potential of the Utica formation, an oil-rich layer of rock that underlies this area, some believe it will yield crude on par with the largest shale reservoirs in the U.S. and spark a Rust Belt resurrection.
Oil-drilling in Ohio’s Utica, along with natural-gas drilling in the Marcellus shale there “could be a godsend” to the hard-scrabble region, Gov. John Kasich said in a written statement.
The budding boom here is the latest version of a story that has developed across North America in the last decade, as producers have figured out how to crack open deeply buried energy-bearing rocks, first unleashing floods of natural gas and later transferring the techniques to oil extraction. Surging global demand for crude and low natural gas prices have led to the highest level of oil drilling activity the U.S. has seen in more than 20 years.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
Professional and sponsorship inquiries, please