By: Sarah Huskin
Summary: Between the mayhem our daily lives and the commotion that 2020 has presented, many Detroit citizens are unaware of the Detroit River spill that occurred this past November. The spill, likely due heavy storms and shoreline erosion from high tides, caused the collapse of limestone aggregate into the river. Revere Dock LLC currently owns the land of the spill site located on the shore of this essential tributary to five freshwater bodies in the region. Speculation in news articles seem to relay the same message that there’s been little to no accountability, and they have lacked concern. Many deadlines have been missed when the company was supposed to announce plans to clean up the mess and prevent others from occurring in the future. Now several agencies have been testing locations upstream, downstream and on-site for uranium, lead, chemicals and other heavy metals that have been released by the incident. A multitude of soil and water contamination tests, performed by several federal and local agencies, have concluded that the levels are safely below federal standards and poses “no current threat to human or environmental health”, according to main-stream-media articles. Several other problems with the property remain a risk, including an ever-widening sinkhole on the site, and the probable continual leaching of hazardous materials. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) used sonar to examine the extent of the collapse in order to find the size and shape that a barrier would need to surround it. Silt-curtains are a special type of barrier placed around debris in rivers to prevent fine sediments from contaminating the body of water. In the months following the spill, the EPA and other organizations have donated $2.5 million since November towards cleaner and safer water for the Detroit River. Local and federal government agencies including the EPA, EGLE, the Great Lakes Water Authority and others are reaching out to Michigan’s lawmakers. Stricter regulations, precautionary measures, and closer monitoring of industrial sites and manufactures are some general ideas that people are pushing for now, in order to prevent the pollution and contamination of Michigan’s Great Lakes.
Why we should care? Despite being considered an Area of Concern (AOC) under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1987, the Detroit River has been contaminated by manufacturing sites for decades.
I was interested in this article because I’ve lived in the Detroit area for most of my life and can remember the times we drove downtown as a family. I always felt disgust towards the scenery that I-94 has to offer of Detroit. Chimney smoke-stack factories graze the horizon and steel scrapyards litter the landscape. For 23 years I have driven past this and as a child I thought it would have changed by this point in my life. It’s kind of hard to understand why people have known about the problem and ways to resolve them for a very long time and yet nothing has significantly changed within the last few decades. One thing about this topic that stands out to me is the fact this massive freshwater resource is being polluted, and a lot of people don’t even blink an eye because it happens every day, and to be frank, it doesn’t really make the best headline. I hope that if there is a single positive outcome of the 2019 river spill, it would be that more people hear about this, and wake up and see the reality I’ve driven past 1,000 times in my 23 years.
Science in Action.
Liesl Clark was appointed as the Director of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy by Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer in January of 2019.
Resources, Environmental policy, and agricultural policy have been the focus points throughout Clark’s career, finding herself taking up a variety of roles regarding them. When thinking about environmental disasters like the Detroit river spill, we can’t lose hope or give up or become enraged or angry. It’s important remember we have Liesl Clark and thousands of others like her that are working tirelessly, and never backing down in fighting for our future. People like this are good role models and are remarkable for their strength and willpower.
By: Brianna Childers
Summary: The market for alternative energy is becoming dominated by wind and solar energy in order to reduce carbon emissions. Alternative renewable energy is becoming more popular from the fact that the world needs to reduce the need for burning coal and gas generated electricity. Many substantial companies such as DTE Energy have been investing millions of dollars in renewable energy sources for years. DTE is now transforming its power generation by building wind turbines. In 2019, a new wind park was created in Gratiot and Isabella County with more than 60 wind turbines. The Pine River Wind Park is now one of the largest wind farms in Michigan and generates enough power for more than 54,000 homes. The new project by DTE will reduce 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year which is equivalent to removing about 63,000 cars off the road for a year according to officials. Last year, DTE committed more than $2 billion in renewable energy for the next five years. By 2020 the energy company expects to generate enough energy to power more than 800,000 homes.
One of the obvious benefits of wind power is that wind turbines do not produce carbon dioxide, particulates, acid gases etc. that could contaminate the atmosphere or groundwater. Other benefits of this energy are that wind turbines have a shorter planning period than nuclear power plants. Also, wind power projects are modular meaning that more wind turbines can be added to an area if necessary, to capture more energy. The biggest benefit however is that there is no fuel costs and air emissions. However, location is slightly tricky because the area needs to be windy in order to generate and capture the most amount of energy.
Why we should care? Anyone who is concerned about global warming or running out of renewable resources should consider learning more about clean energy such as wind power. Right now, wind power is one of the largest suppliers of alternative green energy in the world!
I found this article interesting because it mentions DTE, one of the biggest suppliers of energy in Michigan. DTE is my personal energy supplier in Detroit, therefore I was interested to read what they are doing to reduce carbon emissions. Global warming is becoming an enormous problem; therefore, I think that it is very important for larger companies to be taking steps to a cleaner future. Wind power is one of the most cost-effective ways to produce renewable energy and I am happy to see that this alternative energy is dominating the market along with solar energy. While researching this topic, I came across an article about possibly building offshore wind turbines which I also found very interesting as it may happen in the near future.
Science in Action.
Josh Paquette is a research scientist in the Wind Energy Technologies Department at Sandia National Laboratories.
Paquette’s research includes understanding the dynamics of wind at different elevations in order to capture greater energy source. His research also includes addressing the structural and system dynamics of wind turbines. New materials and manufacturing processes are needed in order to address the emerging issues of scalability, transportation, and recycling as these turbines continue to get larger. Lastly, Paquette mentions that we need to focus on making renewable energy cost effective by designing and operating wind power plants to support and foster grid reliability and resiliency. Paquette’s research is relevant to my topic because for a wind plant to be successful, is must be cost effective, controllable, and placed in the right location.
By: Max Gouin
Summary: On February 27th, the Environmental Rules Review Committee voted to establish a draft of regulations that would implement enforceable standards on the levels of toxic fluorochemicals, known as PFAS, found in Michigan’s public water supplies. PFAS has been found at varying levels in different water systems, serving more than 1.9 million Michiganders. With these new regulations in place, around 2,700 water supplies in the state would establish sampling for PFAS chemicals, public notification, and laboratory certification of public supplies serving more than twenty-five people. Michigan state officials began drafting maximum contaminant levels for seven PFAS compounds in order to establish safe levels across the state. These new maximum contaminant levels are measured at parts per trillion (ppt) and include PFNA at 6 ppt, PFOA at 8 ppt, PFOS at 16 ppt, PFHxS at 51 ppt, GenX at 370 ppt, PFBS at 420 ppt, and PFHxA at 400,000 ppt. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) hopes to have these new standards in place by the end of April.
If these new rules are adopted, this will be the first time that Michigan has developed its own drinking water standards. Water regulations are usually put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at a Federal level and adopted by individual states. In this case, many states feel that the EPA is not moving at a fast enough pace for such an important issue. On February 20th, the EPA announced a preliminary determination stating that the agency planned to regulate just two of the harmful PFAS chemicals found in drinking water, PFOS and PFOA. Even if the EPA decides to move forward with these rule making, the process is expected to take several more years. Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, said “We can no longer wait for the federal government to act, which is why I directed EGLE to establish PFAS drinking water standards to protect Michiganders. Moving forward with the rulemaking process moves us one step closer toward building public confidence and achieving real solutions that ensure every Michigander can safely bathe their kids and give them a glass of water at the dinner table."
Why we should care? The harmful PFAS chemicals found in the drinking water of more than a million Michiganders can have detrimental effects on their health.
This news article, written by Garret Ellison, provides an in-depth view of the issues surrounding the PFAS chemicals contaminating Michigan’s public waters. I found this particular article interesting because it was one of the few I found that went in depth on all aspects of the topic. Many of the others I had read only described Governor Whitmer’s views. Ellison first describes the reasoning behind the new regulations, along with the groups involved in making these regulations. He then lists the harmful affects of the chemicals along with Michigan’s reasoning for moving forward at a state level, instead of following the lead of the EPA. Overall, I felt that this article was the most informative.
Science in Action.
Steve Silver is the executive director of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART).
Silver and his team traveled the state testing the water systems of communities, schools, child care providers, and tribunal lands for any amount of these dangerous chemicals. While 90% of the water systems showed no levels of PFAS contamination, roughly 7% had shown levels below 10 parts per trillion (ppt). While a majority of Michigan’s communities had clean water, 3% of the water tested had PFAS levels between 10 ppt and 70 ppt. Two locations in the state, the city of Parchment and Robinson Elementary School, had dangerously high levels of PFOA and PFOS. These test levels exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) safety standards at over 70 ppt. Steve Silver said, “This first-in-the-nation study of all public water systems in the state resulted in 3,500 people in Parchment and Robinson Township being protected from high levels of previously unknown PFAS contamination in their drinking water last year”. Without the research of Steve Silver and MPART, many more of Michigan’s residents would have their health negatively affected by these contaminants. Research has shown that PFAS contamination severely affects infants and older children. By conducting these tests and finding dangerously high levels of PFAS at Robinson Elementary School, the health of hundreds of children were protected.
By: Todd Honeycutt
Summary: PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl substances, are chemicals that can take up to a thousand years before they break down and can lead to such health issues as testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid issues, and many other heath issues. PFAS have been used as the non-stick coating of Teflon pots and pans and flame retardant for military use. But PFAS have also been found in biosolids, or a mix of human and industrial waste, which gets used as cheap fertilizer. PFAS have originally been found in drinking water, potentially from industrial and/or fertilizer runoff. Now, recent studies have shown around the world that produce and livestock are also becoming contaminated with PFAS. The PFAS are being absorbed by vegetation from contaminated soil which is then eaten by livestock. Then, with every bite of contaminated feed, these chemicals accumulate inside the livestock which people then consume in more concentrated quantities than the livestock. PFAS are now also being found in dairy milk from contaminated cows. While it is known that PFAS are a health hazard, the federal government has not currently taking any steps to form policy on limiting the levels of PFAS found in food, leaving it up to the states. Some states have started more food testing and created thresholds for PFAS levels that are safe for consumption, although studies have shown that the current limit is much higher than what should be allowed. This brings us to Michigan, where the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has stated that they will not be directly testing any agricultural products such as meat or dairy. They plan to do a broader testing for PFAS and are only focusing directly testing on livestock and farms that have possibly used water or biosolids that have higher levels of PFAS in them. Their reasoning for this is that they want to find a means of testing that would not cause any permanent damage to farmers. There are a few examples of when farmers had cows tested for PFAS levels, cows with high levels were to be exterminated or farms had to be closed temporarily and causing some to go out of business. Public health is extremely important, and the public relies on the government to make sure foods and beverages do not cause us harm. But until further studies are done to find out what, if any, levels of PFAS are safe for human consumption, the federal government will not step in to disrupt the supply chain of common goods or affect any businesses that are apart of this issue. It is up to the people of Michigan to let their legislators know that we want to know what is being found in our water, in our food, and in our milk.
Why we should care? PFAS have been linked to many very serious health issues including testicular/kidney cancers, and thyroid issues and more precedence should be taken to prevent citizens from ingesting these chemicals.
This article talks about the complexity of the situation at hand. While the responsibility of the EPA should be to report the findings of PFAS found in milk and animals on the farm, this could ultimately cause the farm to be shut down. The EPA does not want to any farmers out of business, so they are finding other means to test for PFAS as to not single out a farm for having livestock contaminated with PFAS. While it seems obvious that getting these chemicals out of the food and beverages meant for human consumption, it still comes at a cost to certain peoples’ livelihoods.
Science in Action.
Kay Fritz is a Toxicologist for Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
Part of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development position is to “safeguard the public’s food supply”. This means that they are responsible for testing the food in Michigan for potential contaminants that could be harmful to public health. One pollutant that has been becoming increasingly prevalent in many areas around the world is in the form of PFAS. This research is very relevant as the public needs to be aware of food potentially being contaminated with PFAS, how they are becoming contaminated, and how this can be prevented. With MDARD also being a government agency, they will also have more sway when it comes to creating state policies to ensure the health of the public.
By: Jala Daniels
Summary: My topic is about how global warming is affecting Antarctica and Greenland. Over the years Greenland and Antarctica have been rapidly losing their ice population. This has been happening naturally, but it has been sped up as a result of global warming. Global warming is the release of greenhouse gases, mainly because of human activity that causes the world to become warmer. Places that are made mostly of ice, such as Antarctica and Greenland are getting hit hard by global warming. This is a big issue because certain animals may go extinct if this issue isn’t controlled and sea levels are going to drastically rise as a result of the ice losses. Global warming is causing this issue, but the ice is melting at such a fast pace because the more ice that melts, the more of the dark sea is uncovered, and the sea actually absorbs sunlight and heat, making the surrounding ice melt even quicker. Without the snow and ice covering Greenland and Antarctica, the ice will just keep melting faster and faster.
Why we should care? We should care about this issue because animal populations are being hit hard by the loss of ice in Greenland and Antarctica. Also, this is our planet and we should be protecting it, not harming it.
I found these two articles interesting because they didn’t just talk about the effects that the melting ice have on the animals in Greenland and Antarctica, but it talked about how it would affect humans. I’ve heard people who don’t care about animals disregard the effect of global warming in Antarctica/Greenland because they don’t think it will affect them, but this article let’s people know that it will affect them. I also like that these articles break things down so that common people can understand. The articles are very easy to understand without being a scientist so it can possibly reach a larger audience.
Science in Action.
Dr. Nick Golledge is an Associate Professor in the Antarctic Research Centre at the Victoria University of Wellington.
Dr. Golledge is studying how ice sheets in Antarctica react to different greenhouse gases that are released because of global warming/ climate change. I believe this is relevant to my blog because I’m writing about accelerated ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica, and his research is estimating how long it will take for Antarctica’s ice to be mostly gone if the
world continues to live the way we are now. This is also helpful because he is estimating how much the world needs to lower their greenhouse gas emissions to slow down the effects of global warming in the Antarctic.
By: Alexandria Schurig
Summary: In Florida every four years new predictions are made on how much the sea level is going to rise. In 2019, the new set of predictions came with quite a shock. The sea levels rising is nothing new, however, they are now expected to rise at an even faster rate than before. Most scientist state that the levels are expected to rise anywhere from 17 to 31 inches in just 40 years, by the year 2060. This puts Florida’s lower laying areas at great risk for becoming covered in water. These areas have already seen an increase in yearly flooding which is only going to get worse, sometimes flooding can last up to 3 months. In places like Miami and Key West government officials are discussing ways to take these new numbers into account and prepare for the future. They know there is no way to avoid the water and that they must accommodate. In the Keys plans of raising roadways have been discussed as to avoid having them flood, but this is an expensive project for areas where not a lot of people live. It would cost about $128 million just to raise the roadways to the predicted levels of 2045, and a total of $181 million to meet the 2060 predictions. The scientists who study and release these numbers play an important role, cities use them to decide how to build their new buildings while placing the most important in areas of less risk. Communities in Florida have come together to recognize that this is a real problem that isn’t going away. They must come together to fight this ongoing battle and find solutions, like affordable housing, that work for all members of society no matter the social class.
Why we should care? Everyone should care about the rising sea levels in Florida because people are at risk of losing their homes. Also, there is potential that we could lose beautiful destinations like the Keys.
I found this particular article interesting because it explains how much protecting these areas is really going to cost. Florida, while not being the only state that needs help, needs the most support at a cost of about $75 billion. The article gets the perspective of a man who lives in Delray Beach who explains that water is no longer just a problem when it rains. It has become an everyday issue that needs solutions quickly. The main reason this article peaked my interest is because a lot of these towns can’t afford to do all of the work as its very expensive. It was purposed in the article that the fossil fuel companies should cover the cost of anything related to the seas levels rising and climate issues. Considering these companies are some of the main contributors to this crisis I don’t think that is a bad idea
Science in Action.
Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera is Director of Florida International University’s Sea Level Solutions Center.
Dr. Obeysekera's research is relevant to the blog topic because the students and faculty at Florida International University are constantly looking for solutions to the rising sea levels. They are always monitoring sea levels and thinking of solutions as things change. This is allowing differences to happen sooner. I also think it’s very important that they are training students in how to predict the sea and come up ways to protect people and infrastructure. This means when its their time to be the ones leading the charge against climate change, they’ll have plenty ideas of what is effective and what to do. Hopefully this means in the future we will be better prepared to handle the always changing sea levels.
By: Matthew Terryn
Summary: Most people know about the tradition of Groundhog Day on February 2nd. The tradition is, if a groundhog emerges from hibernation on Feb. 2 and sees its own shadow, then it will retreat into hibernation and we will have another six weeks of winter. However, Punxsutawney Phil is no phenologist and doesn’t have a great track record for predicting spring. Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycles and how they vary seasonally and inter-annually. The way that phenologists mark the annual arrival of spring is when plants begin the process of growing very tiny leaves, known as “leaf-outs.” Different plants have different bloom times; some bloom during the early part of spring and others can be extended to the middle or end of spring. All of the different data from the “leaf-outs” is taken into consideration for observing the beginning of spring. The season’s arrival has been increasingly early in the past few years. In the Southeast U.S., cases of early spring arrival in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida have been up to 3 weeks ahead of schedule in 2020 and decreasing in variability the further northwest you go. This is the earliest known spring arrival in 39 years of recorded data. The premature arrival of spring is correlating to the global temperature rise in recent years. The data observed could be causation from our current global climate crisis. This vast spring variation in the Southeast U.S. is something we should continue to monitor for data purposes in the future.
The topic of early spring in the Southeast United States should be of concern for a lot of people for many different reasons. For those involved in agriculture, an early spring would mean altered hibernation time for plants and animals. If a plant blooms too early, this could potentially mean pollination time for the plant and the pollinators responsible for transferring pollen might not line up, which could do a number to someone’s income for that year’s growing season. Another issue that goes along with an early spring is produce being damaged due to the varying and unpredictable temperature fluctuations so early on in the year. Plants and animals rely on seasonal cues in the spring and fall for when hibernation starts and ends. If these patterns continue to change, then migration locations could change as well, affecting entire habitats and
Why we should care?
What drew me to this topic first was my curiosity about seasonal change and the science behind it has always fascinated me. I think my fascination on this topic stems from the aesthetics of the seasons changing but that is enough to inspire me to learn more about how it works. Another reason I found this topic interesting is because of the correlation between the date of spring increasing in variability and the current climate crisis we are in now. I don’t think that it is just a coincidence that the data lines up this way. There is a lot of interesting science that is involved in a topic like this one. It has to do with climatology because of the way the temperature changes with each coming season and global warming impact. The seasons changing in general has to do with astronomy and the way that our Earth is tilting when it revolves around the sun. Phenology is the study of animal and plant life cycles and how they are influenced by seasonal change. Botany is present because of the seasonal impact of breeding and pollinating creating genetic variability for stronger species to thrive in the future. So many different fields of science are involved with this topic
Science in Action.
Dr. Theresa Crimmins is the Director for the USA National Phenology Network.
Theresa Crimmins contributes to many scholarly articles that correlate to the topic of my blog. She is very accomplished and has many letters and
articles published in multiple scientific journals. A notable letter she is cited on is about warming experiments on plants to estimate their response to the fluctuations in temperature caused by global climate change. Her research in plant reactions to climate directly relates to the impacts of an early spring in the SE U.S.. She also contributes to this topic as the director of USA-National Phenology Network, overseeing and contributing to the scientific and non-scientific community.
By: Amanda Lydon
Summary: The rise of greenhouse gases is a major concern amongst climate scientists. One of our biggest contributors to greenhouse gases is livestock, which releases more methane into the atmosphere than all cars, trucks, and automobiles combined. Right now, the population is growing at an exponential rate, which means the rate of food and livestock produced must also go up and is causing more emissions to be released into the atmosphere now more than ever.
Along with growing emission levels caused by livestock, there is an issue of deforestation to clear land to raise livestock which also affects climate change because less carbon dioxide can be absorbed, leaving it to stay in the atmosphere contributing more to the issue. With these issues came the idea of promoting more “meat consciousness” among consumers. People don’t have to completely cut meat out of their diet, but rather choose to purchase and consume it once to twice a week, or do days such as meatless Mondays. Scientists believe if people begin to do this, the demand for meat will fall, meaning less cows will have to be produced as livestock so less methane will be sent into the atmosphere. Having to raise less livestock also means not as much land will have to be taken up for the animals as well leaving the trees and forest that once before had to be cleared more plentiful and able to intake more of our atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Why we should care? With growing concerns of climate change, it is important that everyone contributes in any way they can, even if it is a small one such as skipping out on a steak and opting out for a salad instead.
I found this article interesting because it talked about how much land would be left over if we did reduce the amount of livestock we were raising which was said to be about the size of the continent of India. The article also went on to say what we could do with this large amount of land that is available that would be environmentally beneficial. The ideas of more efficient food
production like growing high protein lentils, and plating new forests to help absorb more carbon dioxide were ideas that were proposed. Overall I think this topic was very interesting because I think the idea of going vegan or at least vegetarian is becoming increasingly more popular and promoted in mainstream media, even if it isn’t with the intention of helping the planet. It is amazing to think how big of a difference we can make while committing to an action that really seems so irrelevant to the issue of climate change.
Science in Action.
By: Mark Miller
Summary: It’s no secret that Australia has been dealing with wildfires for a long time. Their particularly dry climate and terrain makes for the easy spreading of wildfires if they cannot get controlled. Australia has a wildfire season every year that typically starts during the last few months of the year. Wildfires in Australia are never easy to combat and aren’t something they can brush off to the side, but last year’s wildfire season was particularly bad. During the massive bush fires that ravaged through Australia during mid to late 2019 and into early 2020, 46 million acres of land burned, almost 6,000 buildings were destroyed and there were over 30 deaths. Another important thing to consider when assessing the damage is the harm to wildlife. As such, many species of animals were greatly affected by last year’s fires. Perhaps the most unfortunate species to be affected were Australia’s koala bears, which are arguably the most recognized and well-known animal from the country. It’s estimated that about 25,000 koala bears were killed during the fires, with most burning to death or dying from complications caused by the fires, like dehydration, starvation and burns. Given the massive number of koalas that died at once, the species is unfortunately facing complete extinction. The widespread dying of Australia’s koalas hasn’t been taken lightly by any means, with numerous charitable foundations and every day citizens donating money or stepping in to assist with rehabilitation of the surviving bears.
Why we should care? The koala bear population is facing near complete extinction, given the amount of them that died during the 2019 fire season. Koala bears are beloved animals by many and seeing them fall into complete extinction would be a heartbreak for a significant amount of people. Also, people should care about this because koalas need human help, or they will not survive.
I found this particular article interesting because it outlines just how serious these issues regarding koala bears are. The article, from CNN, describes how close Australia’s koala bear population is to extinction, and breaks down the main reasons why. An important tidbit from the article is how drought, bushfires, and man-made causes have attributed to nearly two-thirds of the koala bear population dying. The first two are natural causes and are hard to avoid, but man-made causes of koalas dying should be swiftly eliminated. Also, not only do I think it’s an interesting article, I think it’s an important one because hopefully it will inspire people to assist with helping to stop the extinction of koala bears.
Science in Action.
Dr. Dan Lunney is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Sydney, Australia.
Dr. Lunney’s research is relevant to my topic because he has researched and written on how Australia’s wildfires have had an impact on koala populations in numerous parts of Australia. In one of his published articles, he states that the “reduction of the size and severity of large catastrophic fires improved the probability of survival for the population”. Here, he was referring to the population of koalas in question in his studies. This research is vital because he is clearly stating that wildfires are partly to blame for the near extinction of koala bears. Hopefully, his research is taken seriously by people who are in a position to enact changes.
By: Keara McLaughlin
Summary: With stay-at-home orders implemented in many states to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic, the power industry is working in a critical capacity to make sure that the “lights stay on” while keeping the workers safe. Nuclear power is proving to be a critical contributor to life during this time for a number of reasons. The first being the fact that the day-to-day work of power production in a nuclear reactor is far less than that of other sources of energy. Coal and gas power need constant fuel replenishing and emit substantial amounts of greenhouse gasses whereas nuclear power fuel only needs to be replenished every 12-18 months and emits zero greenhouse gases. During a pandemic that requires people to limit contact with one another, power that requires less transportation of fuel, and other human to human contact is critical to keeping people safe. Because of the significantly lower day to day hands on operation required for a nuclear plant, the nuclear power industry has the advantage of being able to close mines, and limit personnel contact both in mines and in reactors without the stress of lacking fuel and power supply.
Nuclear technology and usage of the powerplants has a large impact on the medical needs during this pandemic. Nuclear derived testing kits and equipment have been provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Many nuclear reactors work to produce medical isotopes that are proving to be beneficial to the treatment and diagnosis of COVID-19 and other illnesses.
Beyond security of power, and direct medical applications, nuclear reactors are being used to produce Cobalt 60 for mass medical equipment sterilization. In many places, irradiation facilities typically used for reactor equipment, are also being used to destroy the coronavirus along with other bacterium and viruses on medical equipment that must be reused due to shortages.
Nuclear power and the reactors themselves have always been a beneficial and critical part of society, but during a pandemic as severe and unknown as COVID-19, leaning towards the advantages of nuclear power is proving to be extremely beneficial to the medical community and those simply requiring power, all while keeping their employees and communities safe through taking proper precautions and limiting unnecessary person to person contact
Why we should care? Nuclear power has been a heavily debated topic over the years, but in the midst of a pandemic, it has proven to be a clean, safe and secure saving grace that should be regarded higher well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
I found this article to be interesting because it outlines why nuclear power is becoming a critical force in the power industry during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The article clearly articulates the advances that nuclear reactors are helping to make regarding the diagnostic and sterilization techniques as well as what they are doing to protect their employees. It is clearly conveyed in this article that nuclear power has many applications that are often overlooked in the debate of the pros and cons. In an emergency such as this pandemic, the stressors of lack of fuel and protecting employees by limiting contact has a far less significant impact on the security of power output. The advantages of nuclear power are clarified in this article and serve to show that nuclear power has a significant place in society for power production and medical advancements far beyond a pandemic.
Science in Action.
Dr. Hussein S. Khalil is the Director of Argonne National Laboratory’s Nuclear Engineering research program.
Dr. Hussein S. Khalil’s research focus’ are the optimization of fast-reactor core designs and the improvements of reactor physics, dynamics and fuel cycle analysis. He has been on the forefront of research on small modular reactors which are proving to be the future of nuclear reactors. His current work primarily focuses on the security and economics of nuclear power while expanding commercially.
His work relates to this topic because what has become clear during the COVID-19 Pandemic is the need for energy security. His work on fuel cycle analysis has been beneficial for many nuclear energy systems to optimize the fuel efficiency of the reactors. His current research is beneficial and relevant to this topic because the above article articulates the benefits of nuclear power and Dr. Khalil’s research is important to help grow nuclear power commercially.
By: Anna Eccleton
Summary: For years people have been fighting to get plastics banned. Several states have enforced laws that prohibit the use of plastic bags in stores, but currently that action is being put on hold. Plastic companies are claiming that it is unsanitary to be using reusable bags in this time of crisis and that they carry germs on them. Major coffeeshops, like Starbucks are no longer allowing customers to use their reusable cups. While this is all said to be temporary, many are worried that the policies that were put in place for plastics will not be reinstated. New York is one of these states who was just about to implement a policy on plastic bags. Another state affected was Maine. Maine was about to begin the plastic bag ban, but then pushed it back to next year.
According to Leslie Kaufman at Bloomberg.com, “researchers found the greatest spikes in demand for face masks and the thin film used in plastic wraps.” (Kaufman). More people are also drinking from plastic water bottles, because the idea of refilling them at a drinking fountain makes them nervous of the germs that could be on them. When the lockdown first was implemented, people rushed to stock up on cases of water. The thought of reusable bottles took a backseat to fear. Everyone must keep in mind, that while plastic companies are insisting this will not affect us in the long term, no one knows what the future holds. All of the work that we have done to limit the use of plastics has gone out the window.
Why we should care? I believe we should care about this topic because it affects us directly. Thinking about how many plastic bags are being use daily due to the rushes at the grocery stores blows my mind. The amount of people who go through a drive through and now have to use plastic cups instead of their own reusable ones also makes me think. While some say this is not going to significantly affect us and that after this is over we’ll go back to how we were, I don’t know if I believe that. No one knows how long this virus spread is going to last. It could be weeks, or even months.
Example News Article:
I found this article interesting because it explains both sides. It provides valid points to both sides of the argument. It does a good job of explaining the different bans being lifted, and the reasons behind it. It gives perspectives as to why we would be using more plastics during this time, but doesn’t necessarily encourage it.
Science in Action.
Dr. Amanda Mae Simanek is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the
School Of Public Health in the University of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Dr. Simanek studies public health and infectious diseases. She has been studying the coronavirus, and believes that the CDC has not yet studied the carrying of the disease by plastics.
By: Sophia Mekled
Summary: Our local sewage systems and toilets are getting backed up due to the shortage of toilet paper during this pandemic. People are turning to baby wipes, paper towel, napkins anything you can think of to substitute toilet paper. Though many people are following the guidelines that the government and public health officials have given us Americans, it is causing some issues. These guidelines include sterilizing household, and keeping yourself sanitized, but now we are facing a problem that many people are tossing their disinfectant wipes, paper towels, and other products that aren’t toilet paper down the toilet. What does this do? These products completely clog the sewage systems and toilet pipes. Flushable wipes may seem like they can be flushed, but they actually should not be. Most wet wipes are made from non-woven materials, unlike toilet paper, and this causes them to take a long time to breakdown in water and sometimes they don’t at all. In older residential sewers wipes get caught on misaligned pip joints and as more wipes are flushed, they accumulate catching all the waste until they eventually clog the sewer. Wipes that eventually make it to the water treatment facilities clog intake pumps which in this case would require costly fixes. Essentially toilet paper should be the only thing going down the toilet.
Why we should care? Fatbergs, a congealed mass in a sewage system formed by the combination of flushed non-biodegradable solid matter, such as wet wipes, and congealed grease or cooking fat, give us the opportunity to [re]consider what we flush down our drains and how it impacts our water infrastructure and the drinking water it is meant to supply us. This could potentially contaminate the water that we use in our homes. People need to dispose of wipes into the garbage. Not only wipes, but paper towel, napkins, and other paper products that are not toilet paper.
Example News Article:
I found that this article was interesting because it explained the topic very well and helps the readers understand the situation better. They stated in this article that in some county’s they already have to remove 300 tons of wipes from its sewage system every month. Imagine now in this crisis how many more tons will be collected since the decrease in toilet paper supply and the increase in wet wipe purchases. It is interesting to think how much just one person can affect an entire sewage system. There was another point in the article that they are actually now getting issues of people using too much toilet paper. I would think that since there is such a scarce amount of toilet paper people would be paying more attention to how much they use.
Science in Action.
Dr. Tracie Baker is an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University in the Institute of Environmental Health Science and Department of Pharmacology.
Tracie Baker studied the large-scale sewer blockages that happen world why. They are caused by massive buildup of discarded fats, oils, and grease. Baker was a part of a team of Wayne State University researches to better understand the physical, chemical, and biological character of these fatbergs through real-time video, in-line sensor data and advanced physiochemical analysis of the blockages. What was studied is that they are often caused by people improperly disposing of non-biodegradable items in homes, restaurants, and in various industries and businesses. She said that, “Our study will help identify contaminants of interest in fatbergs by extracting and evaluating the concentrations of emerging contaminants including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care, products and plastic,” said Baker. By researching these aspects and going through the results their goal was it to be helpful in seeing the potential risks correlated with blockages and then to furthermore inform prevention and mitigation efforts. I never thought about people actually studying and researching such situations like this, and thankfully there are because it helped me better understand what my topic was.
By: Zoey Trombley
Summary: Due to the shelter in place order that has been enacted in California the air quality there has been much cleaner. This has to do with the fact that many people are staying home from school and work, meaning that motor vehicle traffic and industrial activities are greatly reduced. Motor vehicles are responsible for about 30% of the fine particles that are found in soot and that accumulates in the air. However, since people have started staying home because of the coronavirus, motor vehicle activity at Bay Area bridges has been approximately 70% lower. Due to this decrease the amount of tiny particles that are found in soot have declined by approximately 20%.
The decrease in driving has also impacted the amount of nitrogen oxide, which is a chemical found in smog, and carbon dioxide found in the air. Within the Bay Area nitrogen oxide has been reduced by 40% and carbon dioxide has decreased by 20%. Counties all over the Bay Area are seeing increases in air quality. Each week air-quality sensors are measuring less and less particulate matter in the air. Within the last two weeks these sensors have shown the lowest averages of particulate matter of any week so far in 2020. Each county has seen a decrease in soot and smog, Oakland has had a 21% decrease, San Jose 36%, and San Francisco 41%.
Experts state that this is just a temporary increase in air-quality and that air pollutants will go back up when economic activity picks up again. However, for people with health issues such as asthma and the elderly, this momentarily clean air is highly beneficial. There is data showing that the number of Bay Area deaths from air pollution has reduced to about 10 a week since the coronavirus shutdown. While Covid-19 is in no way a good thing it has shown a future worth striving for when it comes to air-quality. Hopefully in the future we are able to see air-quality increase again as electric vehicles become more available and more air pollution laws are required for factories. This has given us more insight on why we need to change how the economy runs, so it can be more beneficial to the environment and our health.
Why we should care? The coronavirus has given us an opportunity to see what air-quality could look like in the future if we continue to work on implementing air pollutant regulations, higher availability of electronic vehicles, and changing the economy to run in a way that is more beneficial for the environment.
Example News Article:
For me the article “Coronavirus: Bay Area Air Quality is Improving as People Stay Home”, was interesting to me because it is amazing to see almost immediate environmental changes that happen when the economy is halted. It is no secret that how we live our lives is the main contributor to environmental issues, and when it comes to air-quality motor vehicle use and industrial activities are the two main pollutants to our air. It is incredible to see how quickly air-quality starts to improve when these two major economic activities are reduced. Our health is also directly related to air-quality, the article mentions since air-quality has improved so has respiratory related illnesses in different parts of the world such as China, Italy, and California. The coronavirus shut downs have given us a chance to see how changing our economic practices could help us remedy environmental issues, like air-quality. This temporary improvement in air-quality is a good example of why in the future we should change our economic practices to ones that are more beneficial to our health and the environment.
Science in Action.
Dr. Ronald C. Cohen is Director at Berkeley Atmospheric Center and Professor of Chemistry and of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Professor Cohen does research on the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. He uses experimental and new modeling strategies to understand past atmospheric composition which will help to predict future chemical compositional changes. Currently his research is focusing on nitrogen oxides and water isotopes. Through his research he is trying to understand the atmospheric residence time of nitrogen oxides, the global impact nitrogen oxides have on oxidants, and how they impact the biosphere and aerosol properties.
Professor Cohen’s research is relevant to my blog topic because what he is studying is directly related to air-quality control. His research focuses on how certain chemicals alter the Earth’s atmosphere which can impact our air-quality. He also studies past atmospheric compositions which is important for predicting what the air-quality will look like in the future.