Coal

Coal mining: part 2 of 3 in fossil fuel series

 

Coal is one of the top three major fossil fuels. The methods of coal mining throughout the years have never been very safe. Even today, coal has big impacts on our air, environment and the people who live near the mining. There are 27 coal mining states in the U.S. The top four include: Montana, Illinois, Wyoming, and West Virginia.

There are many method for coal mining, but the most controversial one is mountain top removal (MTR). MTR is done by blasting apart a mountain to reach the seams of coal buried beneath. All of the rocks and rubble from the explosions have to go somewhere. So, the companies dump millions of ton of rocks, clogging streams below, and destroying ecosystems. MTR has already destroyed more than 500 mountain tops spreading across more than 1 million acres of central and southern Appalachia.

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Water pollution and coal just seem to go hand in hand together. When old abandoned mines fill with water it mixes with bad chemicals, causing acid mine drainage that leaks into streams, rivers, and aquifers. Coal companies also contaminate a lot of water by using a method of separating the impurities from the coal, called washing. They “wash” the coal with chemically treated water. The nasty black sludge water that comes off of the coal is called slurry. According to the Sierra Club, “up to 90 million gallons of slurry is produced every year in the U.S.” The slurry usually gets stored in large waste pits called impoundments. These impoundments have been known to leak into local ground water.

Coal mining can affect anyone, The people of West Virginia have first hand experience of how it can disrupt our lives. In 2004, Dr. Diane Shafer, an orthopedic surgeon in Williamson WV, noticed that an increasing number of her patients in their 50’s were diagnosed with early onset dementia. At the same time she began hearing more and more complaints about thyroid problems, kidney stones and, stomach issues. Shafer also found that the incidents of cancer and birth defects where rising. Another citizen of WV, Ben Stout, tested the water from 15 local wells. What he found was not good. They were contaminated with heavy metals including. Lead, arsenic, beryllium,
and selenium. In several of the wells the level exceeded the federal drinking water standards by as much as 500%. Stout said, “The metals found in the wells were consistent with the metals in the slurry ponds.” A lot of people near mining or impoundment ponds had their water turn black. Sometimes they would wake up to coal dust covering everything.

Coal companies are trying to sell coal as clean energy, yet coal-burning plants are the #1 source of CO2. There is no such thing as “clean” coal.

A lot of coal companies say that without coal there would be no lights. That doesn’t have to be true. There are other options. In one documentary called Coal County it showed the coal miners conflicts. In many of the rural areas the workers have to choose between their families going hungry or working a job that will probably make them sick. Coal mining is a complicated issue, but despite everything, we can’t keep doing it.

Coal mining may have started out as something to bringing us into the future, but I see what it is doing to the people , the environment, and our water. I see it, and I don’t want that future. We can’t continue to use coal.

What can you do to help? Find out what is happening in your area, find out how coal is being mined or used in your state. Learn more. There is always more to learn. Check out http://www.powerpastcoal.org.

There are many people actively making a difference. Talk to them. And talk to your friends and family about why we shouldn’t use coal. You can make a difference.

 

sources:

Big Coal by: Jeff Goodell

The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change by: Yoram Bauman, Grady Klein

Coal Country

http://www.powerpastcoal.org

foodandwaterwatch.org

 

 

Today I went to the Salem, OR climate march, in support of the Paris climate talks. I didn’t get to be there for the march, but I was there for the speeches after. It was an interesting experience, since it was my first protest. The first of many more to come! At the march I was glad to see so many people wanting to do something and show support for the climate talks. I hope in the future that more youth will get involved with things like this. It’s good to be reminded that so many people are fighting right alongside you. The people speaking were talking a lot about  global warming and making the switch to clean energy. They also spoke about stopping the transportation of and terminals for  fossil fuels in Oregon, something I think is really important.  As I have been learning, global warming effects water in many ways. But as I was going home, the sun was setting, off in the distance where Mt. Hood can usually be seen, was thick smog. The mountain was barely visible. It was a stark reminder of just how important this climate talk in Paris is. I’m showing my support.

Fracking

Fracking: part 1 of 3 in fossil fuel series.

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a way to extract natural gas from shale that is deep underground. Natural gas is one of the three major fossil fuels. We often use natural gas for heating, cooking, and to generate electricity. However, there is a lot of controversy about whether fracking is safe for people or the environment.
Fracking has many steps. First the workers drill straight down. The depth they have to drill to reach the shale can vary depending on geology, location, stage of drilling, etc. But typically a layer of shale lies 3,000 feet or more beneath the surface. One the shale is reached the drilling continues, horizontally this time, a mile or two. Underground it would look like an L. The borehole is then lined with a steel and cement casing to try and prevent any groundwater contamination. After the borehole is incased they pierce the horizontal pipe to create small holes. This I done several ways, including, using explosives. The workers then inject the fluids into the borehole at high pressure. The fluid has a mixture of sand, water, and chemicals. When the mixture reaches the shale, flowing out the end of the wellbore, it fractures the shale. The natural gas can then escape up the borehole. The “flowback” stage allows the pressure to stop. Then much of the fluid in the well returns to the surface. They dump the polluted water into lined pits. When getting a well reading to produce natural gas up to 25 fractures stages can be used. That’s a total, in some cases, of about 10 million gallons of water before the well is fully operational.

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Is fracking contaminating our ground water? That is the question indeed. The fracking companies say that it does not. But the people, whose land is being fracked, would argue differently. It starts with the fracking companies approaching land owners who have a good spot for fracking. They offer a lot of money per well that they will drill.
But once they start, there is no turning back. 1 in 20 wells will fail immediately, leaking methane into the ground water. If that didn’t make you pause for a moment, how about this, 50% of the cement wells will also leak upon the first use. While the methane is bad enough, there are about 600 chemicals used in fracking fluids, including known carcinogens and toxins such as mercury, radium, lead, uranium, ethylene glycol, methanol, hydrochloric acid, and formaldehyde. Most of what is in fracking fluids is protected from disclosure by various “trades secret” exceptions under state and federal law. A lot of the chemicals found in contaminated fracking water cause many different cancers, embryo malformations, bone marrow suppression, brain damage, and nervous system problems. The waste of the fracking fluids is put into open air lined pits to evaporate releasing harmful VOC’S (volatile organic compounds) into the air, causing acid rain, and ground level ozone. The contamination of our environment from hydraulic fracturing is extensive. In many homes near fracking sights people can set their tap water on fire. Not only does that mean they are unable to drink it, but it also means their home is in danger of exploding.

So, why is fracking still going on? It is because fracking is also a political problem. The gas companies are making a huge profit. And they say you can’t pin anything on fracking in court. Never mind 1,000 documented cases of water contamination next to areas of gas drilling, as well as cases of respiratory, sensory, and neurological damage due to contaminated water being ingested. The government protects them. The Haliburton loop hole makes fracking exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Dimock, a town in Pennsylvania, was suffering from ground water contamination caused by fracking. The town got the EPA involved, saying they needed to bring our town fresh water. To make a long story short, after false hope, and test results they wouldn’t disclose, the EPA announced on national television that their water was safe to drink. However, when the people who say it’s safe, are offered a glass of it, they always refuse to drink it. I know I wouldn’t drink it after the research I have done.
Even though the EPA is not helping to stop fracking, several states have banned fracking in the US: New York, Maryland, and Colorado. And that’s just in the United States. Many people are working on stopping fracking.

What can you do? Well, keep educating yourself in this issue. The information that is out there about hydraulic fracturing is extensive, and the information I have shared isn’t even a third of it. Some great places to find out more are: foodandwaterwatch.org, www.dangersoffracking.com, and gasland.com. I would also recommend watching the documentary Gasland. Another thing you can do is find out if fracking is happening about you. What is being done about it? I know there is a big movement against fracking. Fracking is harmful to people and the environment, especially water, and needs to be stopped.
Sources:

Gasland part 1 and 2

Hydrofracking by: Alex Prud’homme

The real cost of fracking by: Michelle Bamberger

www.dangersoffracking.com

Open Letter to Oregon’s Governor

 

Dear Governor Kate Brown,
My name is Gus Bluejay and I am 16 year old girl from Mulino, Oregon. My grandparents took me to see Maude Barlow speak at the 2013 Salem Peace Lecture. I was prepared to be bored; I brought my book and music. But I was so surprised and horrified by what Maude Barlow told us that I never even glanced at them. Maude Barlow spoke about water. She is the chair of the Washington DC based international Food and Water Watch organization and she was senior adviser to the president of the United Nations on water issues. Some of what I learned that day was:
1. Our earth holds 97% salt water and 3% fresh water. Almost all of that 3% is polluted.
2. Every 3 and a half seconds in poor countries a child dies from a waterborne disease.
3. By 2030 world demand for fresh water will be 40% more than what we have.
4. Right now 1/3 of the daily water withdrawn by the US is exported in the forms of goods.

One of the things I found out from Maude Barlow’s documentary Blue Gold, was that US is currently very low on clean fresh water. We will eventually (10 to 20 years) have to compete with other countries, who have also run out of water, for a source of fresh water. This could create a world water war.
After hearing Maude Barlow talk I was ready to take action. What I decided to do was educate other youth on the water issues our world is facing. I started a website for youth called blueyouthwaterproject.wordpress.com. And I began to find out as much as I could about what was happening in our world with water.
This led me to an amazing 15 year old girl called Robyn Hamlyn. She lives in Canada and is trying to make a difference by getting communities all across Canada to become Blue Communities. The idea of Blue Communities came from the Council of Canadians, which is an organization that brings Canadians together to act for social, economic, and environmental justice in Canada and around the world. There are 3 steps to becoming a Blue Community:

1. Ban the sale of bottled water at public facilities and municipal events.
Bottled water companies are selling us our own water that we can get from the tap at a huge profit.
To manufacture one liter of bottled water, 3 to 5 liters of water is required.
Despite recycling infrastructure that exists in order to facilitate the recycling of these bottles, according to the Container Recycling Institute, 86% of plastic water bottles used in the US become garbage that ends up in landfills throughout the country. Considering that approximately 60 million plastic water bottles are used every day in the US, we can assume that nearly 18,834,000,000 end up in the landfill each year. Each bottle can take up to 700 years to decompose.
In order to convince people to spend 200-3000 times what they spend on tap water, these companies say that their water is safer, but this isn’t true. They say that they are providing a healthier alternative, but what they are actually doing is selling us convenience. We can easily bring continuously tested, cheaper tap water from home like people used to do before bottled water ever existed.
We have to open our eyes and see that our earth can no longer support this convenience. We were all fine before bottled water came along, and we will all be fine without it.

2. Recognize water as human right.
We want water to be used responsibly and distributed fairly. Now, I know that some communities are scared of this resolution. They think that it’s an international issue. I completely disagree. I believe that we need to start small, person by person, community by community and this will then grow to a national level and then hopefully to an international level. We can do this.

3. Promote publicly owned and operated water and waste water services.
We need to protect our water resources and keep our water services publicly owned. When water and sanitation services are privatized, the workforce usually gets cut and the price to the customer gets increased. In the end service is poorer, and the company ends up with bigger profits.

A Blue Community treats water as belonging to no one and as the responsibility of all. It must be governed by principles that allow for reasonable use, equal distribution, and responsible treatment in order to preserve water for nature and future generations like mine. I would like to see Oregon become a Blue Community. I know we can do this but I need your support. Can I come and meet with you to discuss these resolutions? You can reach me at my email address: blueyouthwater@gmail.com
Water is a very serious problem. Because of that I am making this an open letter in the hopes of starting a public conversation on these issues. I will also be speaking at the Salem Water Fair on May 23rd. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Gus Bluejay

Your Water Footprint: A Review

By Gus Bluejay

My water footprint is huge. To be honest, I never even thought about or paid attention to, water footprints, but then I read Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products by Stephen Leahy. That book really put things into perspective for me.

Your Water Footprint starts with an introduction packed full of information . It talks about the water footprint of bottled water, energy, electricity, home use, food, and clothing.
Leahy’s book moves on to talk about some of the different bodies of water on Earth. Leahy wrote, “If Lake Mead fell below the minimum power pool elevation of 320 meters (1,050 feet) above sea level, the Hoover dam’s turbines would shut down and the light would start going out in Las Vegas. Hydrologists have projected that Lake Mead has a 50% of running dry by the year 2025.” Another fact he wrote was about the Ogallala aquifer, which provides 81% of water used in the Great Plains. He said it is falling 9 feet every year.

He then began laying out and explaining the water footprint of shirts, eggs, butter, chocolate bars, etc. It is a colorful book and uses both the American system of measurement and the metric system.

It is an easy book to understand and full of important information. At the end of the book, Leahy expresses his gratitude towards several people, including Maude Barlow, whose work is a big inspiration to me. I really appreciate the information this book has. I feel like this is really important to read, because it’s a wake-up call on how our lifestyle is endangering our water supplies.

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Erin Brockovich

By: Gus Bluejay

Erin Brockovich was a single mom looking for a job in 1991. She had 3 kids and was unemployed. That is, until, she was hired at a law firm to file papers. She did just that until she stumbled upon a huge legal case.

Erin began investigating why the people of Hinkley, living next to PG&E’s (Pacific Gas & Electric) plantation, where getting sick. And why PG&E was trying to buy up all the houses around their plantation. She checked old water records and took water samples from the plantation. The water samples showed high levels of hexavalent chromium (chromium 6) in PG&E’s water. Chromium 6, in dangerous amounts, causes several different kinds of cancer, severe noise bleeds, liver failure, heart failure, etc., all symptoms the people of Hinkley were dealing with. They found out that PG&E had not lined their cooling pools where they dumped their dirty water with chromium 6. This caused chromium 6 to leak into Hinkley’s ground water. They finally were able to link what was happening in Hinkley to the corporate offices of PG&E. They won the Hinkley case in 1996 and PG&E had to give up $333 million for all the people of Hinkley to split, making this the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S history.

Erin’s story was made into a movie in 2000. Julia Roberts won several awards for playing Erin, including an Academy Award and Golden Globe. The movie is great and really well done. However, because of “strong language” and “some sexual references,” the recommended age is 14 and up. But again, Erin Brockovich’s story is really inspiring, and this movie is really important to see.

Erin is still out in the world fighting for us. She has requests for help in ground water contamination complaints in every U.S. state, Australia, and other international hot spots. She calls herself a consumer advocate and you can find out more information on her at her website http://www.brockovich.com/