null_sequence

Archive for June 2010

It’s Always the Cover-up

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According to a variety of videos made by Gulf Coast locals, someone is using heavy equipment to plow over oil deposits on beaches. The clips show that you can easily dig down a few inches and strike gunk.

As each day sees more and more oil emulsion fouling beaches it probably won’t take too many days of mixing before the beach is less “sugar-sand” than tar-oil-sand aggregate, flavored with dispersant chemicals.
The beaches in the videos are apparently still open.

There are arguments that suggest it’s better to let the oil build up on the beaches, and to scrape them less frequently. Replacement sand would presumably need to be dredged up offshore and may be even more oil-laden than the beach it is to replenish, so scraping may need to be kept to a minimum.

Of course tourist beaches need to be open for business, so frequent scraping may be driven by the hard economics of summer.

But for sure, mixing the Gulf coast beaches into one big toxic, nasty batch of petrochemical-laced cookie dough is a killing blow to the beach tourism industry.

Written by nullsequence

June 30, 2010 at 4:18 am

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A Gift that Keeps on Dosing

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Forecasts, at least for the moment, are predicting a mostly westward trajectory for tropical storm Alex. Such tracking should keep it away from the bulk of the Deepwater Horizon spill and thus avoid or at least delay the massive toxin emulsion mixing experiment everyone fears. Fortune, for now.

There are worries over oil-laced rainfall from whatever storms that DO hit the large, ever-increasing spill area. Already there have been a couple of (frustratingly ambiguous) video clips of sheening rainwater from a thunderstorm in New Orleans.

But I’d expect that the biggest danger would come from a heavy storm surge that could dump massive amounts of oil emulsion over significant chunks of coastline. Those sickening photos of the beaches at Pensacola and Gulf Islands park (Ft. Pickens area) convey only a fraction of the damage that might occur even in a moderate storm surge. Having seen the reach of such surges at that very spot I am especially prone to gloom right now.

During hurricane Katrina, storm surge effects in the New Orleans area acted to stir, transport and distribute large quantities of toxic sediments across land and waterways. Even a medium size hurricane churning around the ever-increasing DWH spill area could easily surge our new batch of toxins over wide areas. The result of that toxin dosing won’t be subtle or ambiguous, and will linger for years. Those Chernobyl comparisons might not be far off the mark. Wormwood, indeed.

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June 27, 2010 at 7:38 am

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Anyway, Water Makes you Fat

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Like a lot of people I watched the premier of the stunning documentary Gasland the other night. While the ugliness of hydraulic fracturing was not entirely unknown to me, the scale of the current practice, as well as the manic increasing rate HF-based NG drilling was shocking.

According to the excellent investigative journalism organization ProPublica, 2008 saw 52,616 new HF-NG wells drilled in the US. Yes, 52616 new wells. The previous year saw 49220 new wells drilled, 47984 in 2006 and, well you get the picture.

Tens of thousands of fresh wells drilled every year. Tens of thousands.

For 2008 (ProPublica’s most recent data) that means about 144 new wells drilled each day in the US, or about 2.8 per day for each of the 50 states.

And for those water consumers out there (you know who you are), consider these tasty little data nuggets:

…as much as 85 percent of the fluids used during hydraulic fracturing is being left underground after wells are drilled…

That means that for each modern gas well drilled in the Marcellus and places like it, more than 3 million gallons of chemically tainted wastewater could be left in the ground forever.

(link)

That’s up to 3 million gal/well, 8.4 million gal/state-per-day or 420 million gal of toxin-laced drilling fluids and waste-water left underground each day in the USA.

And of course “forever” would assume no possible fluid communication between the traumatically fractured rock formations and aquifers. Right.

Sometimes even a chronic optimist such as myself is throttled by the notion that perhaps it really is a Doomer world, and we’re just dying in it.

Written by nullsequence

June 25, 2010 at 6:53 am

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Heavy Metal Thunder

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Chemistry happens, biology is a structure and ecology is… Everything.

The entire ocean life is just loaded with a series of contaminants, most of which have been released by human beings…

(link)

If whale populations really are terminally poisoned by heavy metals and other toxins, I guess we’ve finally shown those blubbery sentience upstarts just who’s boss. More likely, as we dose ourselves into oblivion, we are mere disposable meat puppets for those damn scheming jellyfish. Enjoy the planet guys and try to keep the tentacle pr0n down to a minimum. Cthulhu’s watching.

Written by nullsequence

June 25, 2010 at 6:04 am

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I Want to Say Just One Word to You…

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It’s probably not unreasonable to bet that there are some significant long term health syndromes ready to erupt out of the populations of the Gulf Coast. Having just seen the premiere of the hydro-fracking expose Gasland I’d add a few tens of millions of people to this pool. Over the next decade the only shocking thing will be if this toxin-dosed cohort does NOT present a variety of chronic neurological and diffuse systemic ailments.

Since we seem to be producing toxic pollution at an insane rate, perhaps toxicology or epidemiology might not be bad career choices these days. If of course, you can find a non-evil someone to pay your salary, here in the midst of the Great Recession.

Written by nullsequence

June 22, 2010 at 7:49 am

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Chuck it in, See What Happens

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As the manic addition of millions of gallons of dispersant into the core of the Gulf Gusher has apparently become the new normal, I suppose silly questions of lethality and toxicity have become the new quaint.

At the most extreme, stripped-of-consequence nub is a confusion of science with engineering, of knowledge with hacking. We assume that we can not only detect the perturbations but also measure their effects. Perhaps this might be possible if we even knew all the moving parts in the Gulf biology. But we don’t. Nor will we ever, it seems.

Medical researchers work within a very strict regulatory framework.A research proposal where you suggest measuring lethal toxicity by simply bathing your subjects in various concentrations of known toxins and waiting for them to twitch might be easily approved for bacteria, but not so much for animals and certainly not humans.

Yet we are doing that in the Gulf RIGHT NOW!

The oil is being mixed with the “dispersing” agent and sunken out of the line of sight of the TV cameras patrolling the sugar-sand beachfronts. This subsurface emulsion is destined to bioaccumulate up whatever hierarchy of marine life that is not poisoned outright. What this means here at the human end of the food chain is anyone’s guess. It probably won’t be yummy.

We’re now at the end of June. Given some serious drilling-fu and a double handful of pixie dust the blowout might stopped by August. So, depending on your pessimism level this Gulf Coast season might be either “The Lost Summer” or the previous season “The Last Summer”.
Either way, a comfortable normality has been traded away for the potential possession of a few days consumption of oil. And, maybe, a few reams of data on how much toxic crap an ocean biome can suck up before it dies, or morphs into something untasty. Which is something, I guess.

A cup half-full, of poison.

Written by nullsequence

June 21, 2010 at 7:39 am

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A Look, a Sniff, Dinner!

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OK, I’m sure these guys are fairly good at what they do, but sniff testing for oily fragrance would seem to be a very rough way of judging toxin loads in seafood.

And I suppose that it’s smart of them to staff-up, as the oil won’t be stopping anytime soon.

But who really thinks that the human nose will be adequate to whiff-out not only poisoning hydrocarbons, but also the toxic dispersant chemicals? Sorry, only some double-blind tests with HPLC verification could make me comfortable with this method of assay.

Anyway, there needs to be much more than just occasional backup lab testing of whatever seafood remains to be harvested in the Gulf. Apart from the massive public health issue, the sale and distribution of even one tainted batch of Gulf Coast shrimp will nuke the tattered remains of a once proud industry.

Written by nullsequence

June 13, 2010 at 2:01 am

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