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Kim Hill: Sick

Editor’s Note: This essay, by Deep Green Resistance Australia member Kim Hill, first appeared in Stories of Creative Ecology.  Worldwide 40 percent of all human deaths are attributable to industrial pollution, according to Cornell University.   In the US Southwest, coal mines and power plants, oil and gas fracking, agricultural chemicals, mining and smelting wastes, military wastes, and many other hazards all pose a risk to the health of humans and other living things.  

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I think I’m dying. My heart is beating too fast, I’m too weak to get out of bed most days, and some days I don’t even have the energy to eat. It’s been like this for years. It’s been getting gradually worse.

I haven’t read a book, taken a walk, watched a movie, visited a friend, or done anything useful in months. I can’t focus, can’t even think most of the time.

I’m not the only one. Many of my friends are also ill. I see the sickness all around me. Every year there are less fish in the sea, less birds in the trees, less insects. The air smells more toxic, the industrial noise is getting louder. Every day, 200 species become extinct. Most rivers no longer support any life. Around half of all human deaths are caused by pollution. We’re all dying of the sickness.

My own illness can be attributed to heavy metal and chemical toxicity, from mining, vaccines, vehicle exhaust, and all the chemicals I’m exposed to every day, indoors and out. They’re in my food, in the air, in the water I drink. I can’t get away from them. There’s no safe place left to go. I can’t get any better while these are still being made, being used, being disposed of into my body.

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It’s not just chemicals, but electromagnetic fields, from powerlines, phones, wifi and cell phone towers. The food of industrial agriculture, grown in soils depleted of nutrients and becoming ever more poisoned, is all I can get. It barely provides me with the nutrients I need to survive, let alone recover. Let food be thy medicine, but when the food itself spreads the sickness, there’s not much hope for anyone.

When the soil life dies, the entire landscape becomes sick. The trees can’t provide for their inhabitants. They can’t hold the community of life together. The intricate food web, the web of relationships that holds us all, collapses.

Will I recover? With the constant assault of chemicals, electromagnetic fields, and noise, it seems unlikely. Will the living world recover, or will it die along with me, unable to withstand the violent industries that extract the lifeblood of rivers, forests, fish and earth, to convert them into a quick profit?

Western medicine can’t help me. All it can offer is more chemicals, more poisons. And new technology can’t help the land, the water, the soil. It only worsens the sickness.

If I am to heal, the living world must first be healed. The water, the food, the air and the land need to recover from the sickness, as they are the only medicine that can bring me back to health.

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The machines need to be stopped. The mining, ploughing, fishing, felling, and manufacturing machines. The advertising, brainwashing and surveillance machines. The coal, oil, gas, nuclear and solar-powered machines. They are all spreading the sickness. It’s a cultural sickness, as well as a physical one. Our culture is so sick that it barely acknowledges the living world, and has us believe that images, ideas, identities and abstractions are all we need. It all needs to stop. The culture needs to recover, to repair.

I need your help. I can’t do this myself. I’m close to death. To those who are not yet sick, those who have the strength to stand with the living, and stop the sickness: I need you now. Not just for me, but for everyone. For those close to extinction, those who still have some chance of recovery. We all need you.

Today is the last day on Earth for many species of plants and animals. Every day, the sickness consumes a few more of us. If I didn’t have friends and family looking after me, I wouldn’t be alive today. When the whole community becomes sick, there is no-one left to take care. This is how extinction happens.

It doesn’t have to happen. It can be stopped. Some people, mostly those in the worst affected areas, are taking on the sickness, fighting because they know their lives depend on it. They see the root cause of the affliction, not just the symptoms. They are taking down oil rigs, derailing coal trains, and sabotaging pipelines and mining equipment. They’re blockading ports, forests, mine sites and power stations, and doing everything they can to stop the sickness spreading further. They are few, and they get little thanks. They need all the help they can get. With a collective effort, the sickness can be eradicated, and we can all recover our health.

SW Energy responsible for oil spill in Green River–second spill from old well

First Published May 28 2014 07:16 pm • Last Updated May 29 2014 02:03 pm

It likely will take crews another week to finish scraping oil-contaminated dirt and rocks from Salt Wash, a dry streambed on public land 12 miles south of Green River that was filled with thousands of barrels of an oil-water mix when an oil well failed last week.

Heavy rainfall Friday night breached the emergency dams erected to contain the oil, and a small amount flowed into the Green River, said an on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Curtis Kimbel, from the EPA’s Region 8 office in Denver, said he arrived Saturday after crews had stopped the flow into the river.

He was told by those working to contain the spill that only a small amount — a matter of gallons, rather than barrels — reached the river, which is running high with the spring runoff, he said.

“The important thing is once it was discovered, modifications were put into place to make sure no more got into the river,” Kimbel said Wednesday. “We’re confident the material is now contained in the wash.”

Oil spill sheen on Green River

Oil spill sheen on Green River. Photo by Jim Collar.

Beth Ransel, Moab field manager for the Bureau of Land Management, said BLM technicians are inspecting the river banks, and the National Park Service plans to float the river to inspect it for any residue in the water or along the banks.

While it’s unknown how much oil made it into the river, she said, those on site believe it was small because there were only small pools of oil and oil-coated rocks left when the severe rains hit.

The conclusion that only a small amount reached the river is being challenged by at least one area resident, Jim Collar, a software developer based in Moab who was camping on the rim above the Green River Friday night.

Collar shot photos of what he and his friends believe was oil film from the rim of Labyrinth Canyon at the Bow Knot, a famous bend on the Green River.

“On Saturday morning when I got up, I took my camera to the canyon rim to take some pictures. I was startled to find this oil sheen on the river,” which was about 1,000 feet below, he said. “It was very visible. It was river wide, wall to wall. It was there when we left the next day.”

The spot is 15 to 20 river miles downstream from where Salt Wash enters the Green.

John Weisheit, conservation director of Living Rivers and the Colorado Riverkeeper, said, “This pollution is unacceptable,” and called it a sign that oil companies and their regulators are not doing their jobs.

The Green River joins the Colorado River downstream from the spill, flows into Lake Powell, through the Grand Canyon, into Lake Mead and onto the farms of California’s Imperial Valley and into the taps of millions of people in Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego, he said.

“Is this a drinking water system or not? It is. Start acting like it,” he said. “Protect our watersheds. The people downstream need to know that.”

Kimbel said it’s not clear how much oil and water escaped after the rupture, which was discovered May 21. The 45-year-old well belongs to SW Energy of Salt Lake City. The company did not immediately return a phone call left at its office on Wednesday.

According to the BLM, an estimated 80 to 100 barrels of the oil-water mixture streamed, each hour, into the Salt Wash about four miles from where it reaches the Green River. The flow continued for 30 hours before crews were able to dump in several truckloads of a high-density mud to seal the well Thursday afternoon.

Based on those estimates, the spill could have been 2,560 to 3,000 barrels, or up to 126,000 gallons of the oil-water mixture. Ransel at the BLM, however, cautioned against such a conclusion. “There are a lot of unknowns about the amount coming out of the well,” she said.

The well operator had used vacuum trucks to suck up much of the spilled oil-water mixture by Thursday, and built berms and placed absorbent materials in the wash to prevent the oil from reaching the Green River.

Heavy rain Friday night, however, breached the dams closest to the river. Rainwater rushed over the oil-coated rocks and picked up small pools of oil that were in the wash about a mile or so from the river, according to Ransel and the BLM’s updates about the spill on its website. The BLM oversees the oil lease and the surrounding land.

New dams stopped the flow Saturday, and those did not fail during rainstorms that night, Kimbel said.

Kimbel said he and representatives from SW Energy, the BLM and the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining “walked the entire area several times” and came up with a strategy to remove all contaminated material from the wash.

There are no culinary wells in the area, he said.

A number of pieces of heavy equipment are now working in the wash to remove rock, sand and dirt, which will be taken to a landfill certified to take such contaminated material.

White Mesa Uranium Mill Problems Provoke Legal Notice [Press Release]

For Immediate Release, January 29, 2014

Contact:  Anne Mariah Tapp, Grand Canyon Trust (512) 565-9906

Uranium Mill Problems Provoke Legal Notice

SALT LAKE CITY, UT— Ongoing violations of the Clean Air Act at the nation’s only operating uranium mill have prompted Grand Canyon Trust to file a 60-day notice of intent to sue Energy Fuels Resources, the owner of the White Mesa Mill, located near White Mesa and Blanding, Utah.

White Mesa Mill | Photo: Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust

White Mesa Mill | Photo: Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust

In the notice Grand Canyon Trust cites data showing that in 2012 and 2013 the annual average radon-222 emissions at the mill exceeded hazardous air pollutant standards. Exposure to radon-222 is linked to cancer, genetic defects, and increases in mortality. It further alleges that, during that same time period, mill owners operated six tailings impoundments when only two are allowed, and that two of those are larger than the maximum allowed size of 40 acres.

If a lawsuit is required to remedy problems, the Trust will ask a federal district court to impose upon Energy Fuels appropriate injunctive relief, civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day per violation, mitigation, and other costs.

“Our position is simple: Radiological pollution is dangerous, and uranium milling must comply with laws lessening that danger,” said Anne Mariah Tapp, attorney with Grand Canyon Trust.

Citing poor market conditions, Energy Fuels in December announced that it plans to close the mill in 2014 and potentially reopen it 2015. It also announced that it would shutter its Pinenut mine, located just north of Grand Canyon and, pursuant to a legal agreement with Grand Canyon Trust, the Havasupai Tribe and others, cease efforts to open its controversial Canyon mine.

“The mill’s closure presents Energy Fuels an opportunity to remedy problems,” said Tapp. “Those problems must be fixed before it reopens.”

The mill produces “yellowcake;” the pollution stems from processing and storage of mined ore and radioactive waste called “alternate feed” that is collected from sites across the U.S.

People and communities continue to be impacted by the Colorado Plateau’s uranium legacy, which incudes thousands of abandoned mine sites, polluted soil, air, and water. Federally funded uranium mill cleanups have been required near Moab, Tuba City, Shiprock, Mexican Hat, Monticello, and Uravan. The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, whose reservation includes land just a few miles from the mill, has repeatedly voiced concern over the mill’s air, dust and water pollution.

“Communities and taxpayers for decades have shouldered the high costs of radiological pollution in our region,” said Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with Grand Canyon Trust. “It’s one of America’s worst environmental injustices, and it’s imperative that we now fix rather than further that legacy.”

Original article by Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust

Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Linked to Fracking Found in Colorado River

The Colorado River flows through the town of Rifle in Garfield County, Colorado. Photo (taken 1972) by David Hiser,courtesy of U.S. National Archives, Flickr/Creative Commons.

The Colorado River flows through the town of Rifle in Garfield County, Colorado. Photo (taken 1972) by David Hiser, courtesy of U.S. National Archives, Flickr/Creative Commons.

Original article by Sandra Postel, National Geographic

 

This week, more evidence came in that hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) poses potentially serious risks to drinking water quality and human health.

A team of researchers from the University of Missouri found evidence of hormone-disrupting activity in water located near fracking sites – including samples taken from the Colorado River near a dense drilling region of western Colorado.

The Colorado River is a source of drinking water for more than 30 million people.

The peer-reviewed study was published this week in the journal Endocrinology.

Fracking is the controversial process of blasting water mixed with sand and chemicals deep underground at high pressure so as to fracture rock and release the oil and gas it holds. It has made previously inaccessible fossil fuel reserves economical to tap, and drilling operations have spread rapidly across the country.

The University of Missouri team found that 11 chemicals commonly used in the fracking process are “endocrine disrupters” – compounds that can affect the human hormonal system and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and infertility.

“More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function,” said Dr. Susan Nagel, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and women’s health at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, in a news release.

“With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.”

The research team collected samples from ground water and surface water from sites in Garfield County, Colorado, where fracking fluids had accidentally spilled, as well as from the nearby Colorado River, into which local streams and groundwater drain. They also took samples from other areas of Garfield County where little drilling has taken place, as well as from a county in Missouri where there had been no drilling at all.

They found that the samples from the spill site had moderate-to-high levels of endocrine-disrupting activity, and the Colorado River samples had moderate levels.  The other two samples, taken from areas with little or no drilling activity, showed low levels of endocrine-disrupting activity.

The new findings add urgency to calls for moratoriums on fracking until the risks have been fully assessed and regulations and monitoring put in place to safeguard water supplies and public health.

Due to the so-called “Halliburton loophole,” the oil and gas industry is exempt from important requirements under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and states have been slow to fill the regulatory gap.

Colorado, in particular, should exercise the utmost caution.

According to a report by Ceres, a Boston-based non-profit organization that educates investors about corporate environmental risks, 92 percent of Colorado’s shale gas and oil wells are located in “extremely high” water stress regions, defined as areas in which cities, industries and farms are already using 80 percent or more of available water.

Adding contamination risks to the high volume of water fracking wells require – typically 4-6 million gallons per well – argues strongly for a precautionary approach to future development and a pause in existing production until the full range of environmental health risks can be assessed.

But Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has said the state will sue any city that bans fracking within its borders.  Indeed, in July 2012, the state sued the front-range town of Longmont, which had issued such a ban.

A statement about the new findings of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in waters near fracking sites issued by Concerned Health Professionals of New York, and posted here, concludes with this warning:

“These results, which are based on validated cell cultures, demonstrate that public health concerns about fracking are well-founded and extend to our hormone systems. The stakes could not be higher. Exposure to EDCs has been variously linked to breast cancer, infertility, birth defects, and learning disabilities. Scientists have identified no safe threshold of exposure for EDCs, especially for pregnant women, infants, and children.”

And environmental health expert Sandra Steingraber writes in a letter posted at the same site:

“[I]t seems to me, the ethical response on the part of the environmental health community is to reissue a call that many have made already:  hit the pause button via a national moratorium on high volume, horizontal drilling and fracking and commence a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment with full public participation.”