What BP Doesn’t Want You to Know About the 2010 Gulf Spill ~ The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was even worse than BP wanted us to know.


Apr 22, 2013 

 

 

“It’s as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid.” That’s what Jamie Griffin says the BP man told her about the smelly, rainbow-streaked gunk coating the floor of the “floating hotel” where Griffin was feeding hundreds of cleanup workers during the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, the workers were tracking the gunk inside on their boots. Griffin, as chief cook and maid, was trying to clean it. But even boiling water didn’t work.

BP Oil Spill
An agonizing 87 days passed before the BP oil spill was finally sealed off. According to US government estimates, 210 million gallons of Louisiana sweet crude had escaped into the Gulf, making this disaster the largest unintentional oil leak in world history. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

“The BP representative said, ‘Jamie, just mop it like you’d mop any other dirty floor,’” Griffin recalls in her Louisiana drawl.

It was the opening weeks of what everyone, echoing President Barack Obama, was calling “the worst environmental disaster in American history.” At 9:45 p.m. local time on April 20, 2010, a fiery explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had killed 11 workers and injured 17. One mile underwater, the Macondo well had blown apart, unleashing a gusher of oil into the gulf. At risk were fishing areas that supplied one third of the seafood consumed in the U.S., beaches from Texas to Florida that drew billions of dollars’ worth of tourism to local economies, and Obama’s chances of reelection. Republicans were blaming him for mishandling the disaster, his poll numbers were falling, even his 11-year-old daughter was demanding, “Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?”

Griffin did as she was told: “I tried Pine-Sol, bleach, I even tried Dawn on those floors.” As she scrubbed, the mix of cleanser and gunk occasionally splashed onto her arms and face.

Within days, the 32-year-old single mother was coughing up blood and suffering constant headaches. She lost her voice. “My throat felt like I’d swallowed razor blades,” she says.

Then things got much worse.

Like hundreds, possibly thousands, of workers on the cleanup, Griffin soon fell ill with a cluster of excruciating, bizarre, grotesque ailments. By July, unstoppable muscle spasms were twisting her hands into immovable claws. In August, she began losing her short-term memory. After cooking professionally for 10 years, she couldn’t remember the recipe for vegetable soup; one morning, she got in the car to go to work, only to discover she hadn’t put on pants. The right side, but only the right side, of her body “started acting crazy. It felt like the nerves were coming out of my skin. It was so painful. My right leg swelled—my ankle would get as wide as my calf—and my skin got incredibly itchy.”

“These are the same symptoms experienced by soldiers who returned from the Persian Gulf War with Gulf War syndrome,” says Dr. Michael Robichaux, a Louisiana physician and former state senator, who treated Griffin and 113 other patients with similar complaints. As a general practitioner, Robichaux says he had “never seen this grouping of symptoms together: skin problems, neurological impairments, plus pulmonary problems.” Only months later, after Kaye H. Kilburn, a former professor of medicine at the University of Southern California and one of the nation’s leading environmental health experts, came to Louisiana and tested 14 of Robichaux’s patients did the two physicians make the connection with Gulf War syndrome, the malady that afflicted an estimated 250,000 veterans of that war with a mysterious combination of fatigue, skin inflammation, and cognitive problems.

Meanwhile, the well kept hemorrhaging oil. The world watched with bated breath as BP failed in one attempt after another to stop the leak. An agonizing 87 days passed before the well was finally plugged on July 15. By then, 210 million gallons of Louisiana sweet crude had escaped into the Gulf of Mexico, according to government estimates, making the BP disaster the largest accidental oil leak in world history.

In 2010, Pulitzer Prize-winning animator Mark Fiore created this humorous and poignant take on the BP oil spill.

Yet three years later, the BP disaster has been largely forgotten, both overseas and in the U.S. Popular anger has cooled. The media have moved on. Today, only the business press offers serious coverage of what the Financial Times calls “the trial of the century”—the trial now under way in New Orleans, where BP faces tens of billions of dollars in potential penalties for the disaster. As for Obama, the same president who early in the BP crisis blasted the “scandalously close relationship” between oil companies and government regulators two years later ran for reelection boasting about how much new oil and gas development his administration had approved.

Such collective amnesia may seem surprising, but there may be a good explanation for it: BP mounted a cover-up that concealed the full extent of its crimes from public view. This cover-up prevented the media and therefore the public from knowing—and above all, seeing—just how much oil was gushing into the gulf. The disaster appeared much less extensive and destructive than it actually was. BP declined to comment for this article.

That BP lied about the amount of oil it discharged into the gulf is already established. Lying to Congress about that was one of 14 felonies to which BP pleaded guilty last year in a legal settlement with the Justice Department that included a $4.5 billion fine, the largest fine ever levied against a corporation in the U.S.

What has not been revealed until now is how BP hid that massive amount of oil from TV cameras and the price that this “disappearing act” imposed on cleanup workers, coastal residents, and the ecosystem of the gulf. That story can now be told because an anonymous whistleblower has provided evidence that BP was warned in advance about the safety risks of attempting to cover up its leaking oil. Nevertheless, BP proceeded. Furthermore, BP appears to have withheld these safety warnings, as well as protective measures, both from the thousands of workers hired for the cleanup and from the millions of Gulf Coast residents who stood to be affected.

The financial implications are enormous. The trial now under way in New Orleans is wrestling with whether BP was guilty of “negligence” or “gross negligence” for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. If found guilty of “negligence,” BP would be fined, under the Clean Water Act, $1,100 for each barrel of oil that leaked. But if found guilty of “gross negligence”—which a cover-up would seem to imply—BP would be fined $4,300 per barrel, almost four times as much, for a total of $17.5 billion. That large a fine, combined with an additional $34 billion that the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida are seeking, could have a powerful effect on BP’s economic health.

Yet the most astonishing thing about BP’s cover-up? It was carried out in plain sight, right in front of the world’s uncomprehending news media (including, I regret to say, this reporter).

BP Oil Spill
More than half of the Corexit was dispersed by C-130 airplanes, often hitting workers. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

The chief instrument of BP’s cover-up was the same substance that apparently sickened Jamie Griffin and countless other cleanup workers and local residents. Its brand name is Corexit, but most news reports at the time referred to it simply as a “dispersant.” Its function was to attach itself to leaked oil, break it into droplets, and disperse them into the vast reaches of the gulf, thereby keeping the oil from reaching Gulf Coast shorelines. And the Corexit did largely achieve this goal.

But the 1.84 million gallons of Corexit that BP applied during the cleanup also served a public-relations purpose: they made the oil spill all but disappear, at least from TV screens. By late July 2010, the Associated Press and The New York Times were questioning whether the spill had been such a big deal after all. Time went so far as to assert that right-wing talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh “has a point” when he accused journalists and environmentalists of exaggerating the crisis.

But BP had a problem: it had lied about how safe Corexit is, and proof of its dishonesty would eventually fall into the hands of the Government Accountability Project, the premiere whistleblower-protection group in the U.S. The proof? A technical manual BP had received from NALCO, the firm that supplied the Corexit that BP used in the gulf.

An electronic copy of that manual is included in a new report GAP has issued, “Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf.” On the basis of interviews with dozens of cleanup workers, scientists, and Gulf Coast residents, GAP concludes that the health impacts endured by Griffin were visited upon many other locals as well. What’s more, the combination of Corexit and crude oil also caused terrible damage to gulf wildlife and ecosystems, including an unprecedented number of seafood mutations; declines of up to 80 percent in seafood catch; and massive die-offs of the microscopic life-forms at the base of the marine food chain. GAP warns that BP and the U.S. government nevertheless appear poised to repeat the exercise after the next major oil spill: “As a result of Corexit’s perceived success, Corexit … has become the dispersant of choice in the U.S. to ‘clean up’ oil spills.”

BP Oil Spill
Numerous fishermen on BP’s payroll helped with the cleanup by dispersing Corexit. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

BP’s cover-up was not planned in advance but devised in the heat of the moment as the oil giant scrambled to limit the PR and other damages of the disaster. Indeed, one of the chief scandals of the disaster is just how unprepared both BP and federal and state authorities were for an oil leak of this magnitude. U.S. law required that a response plan be in place before drilling began, but the plan was embarrassingly flawed.

“We weren’t managing for actual risk; we were checking a box,” says Mark Davis, director of the Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy at Tulane University. “That’s how we ended up with a response plan that included provisions for dealing with the impacts to walruses: because [BP] copied word for word the response plans that had been developed after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill [in Alaska, in 1989] instead of a plan tailored to the conditions in the gulf.”

As days turned into weeks and it became obvious that no one knew how to plug the gushing well, BP began insisting that Corexit be used to disperse the leaking oil. This triggered alarms from scientists and from a leading environmental NGO in Louisiana, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).

The group’s scientific adviser, Wilma Subra, a chemist whose work on environmental pollution had won her a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, told state and federal authorities that she was especially concerned about how dangerous the mixture of crude and Corexit was: “The short-term health symptoms include acute respiratory problems, skin rashes, cardiovascular impacts, gastrointestinal impacts, and short-term loss of memory,” she told GAP investigators. “Long-term impacts include cancer, decreased lung function, liver damage, and kidney damage.”

(Nineteen months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, a scientific study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Pollution found that crude oil becomes 52 times more toxic when combined with Corexit.)

BP even rebuffed a direct request from the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, who wrote BP a letter on May 19, asking the company to deploy a less toxic dispersant in the cleanup. Jackson could only ask BP to do this; she could not legally require it. Why? Because use of Corexit had been authorized years before under the federal Oil Pollution Act.

In a recent interview, Jackson explains that she and other officials “had to determine, with less-than-perfect scientific testing and data, whether use of dispersants would, despite potential side effects, improve the overall situation in the gulf and coastal ecosystems. The tradeoff, as I have said many times, was potential damage in the deep water versus the potential for larger amounts of undispersed oil in the ecologically rich coastal shallows and estuaries.” She adds that the presidential commission that later studied the BP oil disaster did not fault the decision to use dispersants.

Knowing that EPA lacked the authority to stop it, BP wrote back to Jackson on May 20, declaring that Corexit was safe. What’s more, BP wrote, there was a ready supply of Corexit, which was not the case with alternative dispersants. (A NALCO plant was located just 30 miles west of New Orleans.)

But Corexit was decidedly not safe without taking proper precautions, as the manual BP got from NALCO spelled out in black and white. The “Vessel Captains Hazard Communication” resource manual, which GAP shared with me, looks innocuous enough. A three-ring binder with a black plastic cover, the manual contained 61 sheets, each wrapped in plastic, that detailed the scientific properties of the two types of Corexit that BP was buying, as well as their health hazards and recommended measures against those hazards.

BP applied two types of Corexit in the gulf. The first, Corexit 9527, was considerably more toxic. According to the NALCO manual, Corexit 9527 is an “eye and skin irritant. Repeated or excessive exposure … may cause injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidney or the liver.” The manual adds: “Excessive exposure may cause central nervous system effects, nausea, vomiting, anesthetic or narcotic effects.” It advises, “Do not get in eyes, on skin, on clothing,” and “Wear suitable protective clothing.”

When available supplies of Corexit 9527 were exhausted early in the cleanup, BP switched to the second type of dispersant, Corexit 9500. In its recommendations for dealing with Corexit 9500, the NALCO manual advised, “Do not get in eyes, on skin, on clothing,” “Avoid breathing vapor,” and “Wear suitable protective clothing.”

It’s standard procedure—and required by U.S. law—for companies to distribute this kind of information to any work site where hazardous materials are present so workers can know about the dangers they face and how to protect themselves. But interviews with numerous cleanup workers suggest that this legally required precaution was rarely if ever followed during the BP cleanup. Instead, it appears that BP told NALCO to stop including the manuals with the Corexit that NALCO was delivering to cleanup work sites.

“It’s my understanding that some manuals were sent out with the shipments of Corexit in the beginning [of the cleanup],” the anonymous source tells me. “Then, BP told NALCO to stop sending them. So NALCO was left with a roomful of unused binders.”

Roman Blahoski, NALCO’s director of global communications, says: “NALCO responded to requests for its pre-approved dispersants from those charged with protecting the gulf and mitigating the environmental, health, and economic impact of this event. NALCO was never involved in decisions relating to the use, volume, and application of its dispersant.”

BP Oil Spill
The gulf’s vital tourism industry lost billions as oil poured into the water. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

Misrepresenting the safety of Corexit went hand in hand with BP’s previously noted lie about how much oil was leaking from the Macondo well. As reported by John Rudolf in The Huffington Post, internal BP emails show that BP privately estimated that “the runaway well could be leaking from 62,000 barrels a day to 146,000 barrels a day.” Meanwhile, BP officials were telling the government and the media that only 5,000 barrels a day were leaking.

In short, applying Corexit enabled BP to mask the fact that a much larger amount of oil was actually leaking into the gulf. “Like any good magician, the oil industry has learned that if you can’t see something that was there, it must have ‘disappeared,’” Scott Porter, a scientist and deep-sea diver who consults for oil companies and oystermen, says in the GAP report. “Oil companies have also learned that, in the public mind, ‘out of sight equals out of mind.’ Therefore, they have chosen crude oil dispersants as the primary tool for handling large marine oil spills.”

BP also had a more direct financial interest in using Corexit, argues Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, whose members include not only shrimpers but fishermen of all sorts. As it happens, local fishermen constituted a significant portion of BP’s cleanup force (which numbered as many as 47,000 workers at the height of the cleanup). Because the spill caused the closure of their fishing grounds, BP and state and federal authorities established the Vessels of Opportunity (VoO) program, in which BP paid fishermen to take their boats out and skim, burn, and otherwise get rid of leaked oil. Applying dispersants, Guidry points out, reduced the total volume of oil that could be traced back to BP.

“The next phase of this trial [against BP] is going to turn on how much oil was leaked,” Guidry tells me. [If found guilty, BP will be fined a certain amount for each barrel of oil judged to have leaked.] “So hiding the oil with Corexit worked not only to hide the size of the spill but also to lower the amount of oil that BP may get charged for releasing.”

BP Oil Spill
“You could smell oil and stuff in the air, but on the news they were saying it’s fine.” (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

Not only did BP fail to inform workers of the potential hazards of Corexit and to provide them with safety training and protective gear, according to interviews with dozens of cleanup workers, the company also allegedly threatened to fire workers who complained about the lack of respirators and protective clothing.

“I worked with probably a couple hundred different fishermen on the [cleanup],” Acy Cooper, Guidry’s second in command, tells me in Venice, the coastal town from which many VoO vessels departed. “Not one of them got any safety information or training concerning the toxic materials they encountered.” Cooper says that BP did provide workers with body suits and gloves designed for handling hazardous materials. “But when I’d talk with [the BP representative] about getting my guys respirators and air monitors, I’d never get any response.”

Roughly 58 percent of the 1.84 million gallons of Corexit used in the cleanup was sprayed onto the gulf from C-130 airplanes. The spray sometimes ended up hitting cleanup workers in the face.

“Our boat was sprayed four times,” says Jorey Danos, a 32-year-old father of three who suffered racking coughing fits, severe fatigue, and memory loss after working on the BP cleanup. “I could see the stuff coming out of the plane—like a shower of mist, a smoky color. I could see [it] coming at me, but there was nothing I could do.”

“The next day,” Danos continues, “when the BP rep came around on his speed boat, I asked, ‘Hey, what’s the deal with that stuff that was coming out of those planes yesterday?’ He told me, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ I said, ‘Man, that s–t was burning my face—it ain’t right.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ I said, ‘Well, could we get some respirators or something, because that s–t is bad.’ He said, ‘No, that wouldn’t look good to the media. You got two choices: you can either be relieved of your duties or you can deal with it.’”

Perhaps the single most hazardous chemical compound found in Corexit 9527 is 2-Butoxyethanol, a substance that had been linked to cancers and other health impacts among cleanup workers on the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill in Alaska. According to BP’s own data, 20 percent of offshore workers in the gulf had levels of 2-Butoxyethanol two times higher than the level certified as safe by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Cleanup workers were not the only victims; coastal residents also suffered. “My 2-year-old grandson and I would play out in the yard,” says Shirley Tillman of the Mississippi coastal town Pass Christian. “You could smell oil and stuff in the air, but on the news they were saying it’s fine, don’t worry. Well, by October, he was one sick little fellow. All of a sudden, this very active little 2-year-old was constantly sick. He was having headaches, upper respiratory infections, earaches. The night of his birthday party, his parents had to rush him to the emergency room. He went to nine different doctors, but they treated just the symptoms; they’re not toxicologists.”

BP Oil Spill
Doctors misdiagnosed Danos, a BP clean-up worker who was exposed to Corexit, with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

“It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” Ever since the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, that’s been the mantra. Cover-ups don’t work, goes the argument. They only dig a deeper hole, because the truth eventually comes out.

But does it?

GAP investigators were hopeful that obtaining the NALCO manual might persuade BP to meet with them, and it did. On July 10, 2012, BP hosted a private meeting at its Houston offices. Presiding over the meeting, which is described here publicly for the first time, was BP’s public ombudsman, Stanley Sporkin, joining by telephone from Washington. Ironically, Sporkin had made his professional reputation during the Watergate scandal. As a lawyer with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sporkin investigated illegal corporate payments to the slush fund that President Nixon used to buy the silence of the Watergate burglars.

Also attending the meeting were two senior BP attorneys; BP Vice President Luke Keller; other BP officials; Thomas Devine, GAP’s senior attorney on the BP case; Shanna Devine, GAP’s investigator on the case; Dr. Michael Robichaux; Dr. Wilma Subra; and Marylee Orr, the executive director of LEAN. The following account is based on my interviews with Thomas Devine, Robichaux, Subra, and Orr. BP declined to comment.

BP officials had previously confirmed the authenticity of the NALCO manual, says Thomas Devine, but now they refused to discuss it, even though this had been one of the stated purposes for the meeting. Nor would BP address the allegation, made by the whistleblower who had given the manual to GAP, that BP had ordered the manual withheld from cleanup work sites, perhaps to maintain the fiction that Corexit was safe.

“They opened the meeting with this upbeat presentation about how seriously they took their responsibilities for the spill and all the wonderful things they were doing to make things right,” says Devine. “When it was my turn to speak, I said that the manual our whistleblower had provided contradicted what they just said. I asked whether they had ordered the manual withdrawn from work sites. Their attorneys said that was a matter they would not discuss because of the pending litigation on the spill.” [Disclosure: Thomas Devine is a friend of this reporter.]

The visitors’ top priority was to get BP to agree not to use Corexit in the future. Keller said that Corexit was still authorized for use by the U.S. government and BP would indeed feel free to use it against any future oil spills.

105790620BL045_oil_spill
Benjamin Lowy

A second priority was to get BP to provide medical treatment for Jamie Griffin and the many other apparent victims of Corexit-and-crude poisoning. This request too was refused by BP.

Robichaux doubts his patients will receive proper compensation from the $7.8 billion settlement BP reached in 2012 with the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, 19 court-appointed attorneys who represent the hundreds of individuals and entities that have sued BP for damages related to the gulf disaster. “Nine of the most common symptoms of my patients do not appear on the list of illnesses that settlement says can be compensated, including memory loss, fatigue, and joint and muscular pain,” says Robichaux. “So how are the attorneys going to file suits on behalf of those victims?”

At one level, BP’s cover-up of the gulf oil disaster speaks to the enormous power that giant corporations exercise in modern society, and how unable, or unwilling, governments are to limit that power. To be sure, BP has not entirely escaped censure for its actions; depending on the outcome of the trial now under way in New Orleans, the company could end up paying tens of billions of dollars in fines and damages over and above the $4.5 billion imposed by the Justice Department in the settlement last year. But BP’s reputation appears to have survived: its market value as this article went to press was a tidy $132 billion, and few, if any, BP officials appear likely to face any legal repercussions. “If I would have killed 11 people, I’d be hanging from a noose,” says Jorey Danos. “Not BP. It’s the golden rule: the man with the gold makes the rules.”

As unchastened as anyone at BP is Bob Dudley, the American who was catapulted into the CEO job a few weeks into the gulf disaster to replace Tony Hayward, whose propensity for imprudent comments—“I want my life back,” the multimillionaire had pouted while thousands of gulf workers and residents were suffering—had made him a globally derided figure. Dudley told the annual BP shareholders meeting in London last week that Corexit “is effectively … dishwashing soap,” no more toxic than that, as all scientific studies supposedly showed. What’s more, Dudley added, he himself had grown up in Mississippi and knows that the Gulf of Mexico is “an ecosystem that is used to oil.”

Nor has the BP oil disaster triggered the kind of changes in law and public priorities one might have expected. “Not much has actually changed,” says Mark Davis of Tulane. “It reflects just how wedded our country is to keeping the Gulf of Mexico producing oil and bringing it to our shores as cheaply as possible. Going forward, no one should assume that just because something really bad happened we’re going to manage oil and gas production with greater sensitivity and wisdom. That will only happen if people get involved and compel both the industry and the government to be more diligent.”

And so the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history has been whitewashed—its true dimensions obscured, its victims forgotten, its lessons ignored. Who says cover-ups never work?

Mark Hertsgaard is a fellow at the New American Foundation and the author, most recently, of HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth. This article was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/04/22/what-bp-doesn-t-want-you-to-know-about-the-2010-gulf-spill.html

 

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4MIN News April 20, 2013: Earthquakes, ISON, Disaster Update


Published on Apr 20, 2013

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TODAY’s LINKS:
New Hubble Photo: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hub…
East Coast Tsunami Risk: http://phys.org/news/2013-04-tsunami-…
ISON: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/…

Logo by Xaviar Thunders

Original music by Nemes1s
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Radio Anomaly: http://iridl.ldeo.columbia.edu/maproo…
US TEC: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ustec/images…
US Windmap http://hint.fm/wind/
US Severe Weather: http://www.weather.com/news/tornado-c…
UK/EU MET Office: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/e…
NOAA: http://www.weather.gov/forecastmaps
EU Weather Alerts: http://www.meteoalarm.eu
US Weather Warnings: http://www.weather.gov

The REAL Climate Changer: http://youtu.be/_yy3YJBOw_o
Ice Age Soon? http://youtu.be/UuYTcnN7TQk
An Unlikely but Relevant Risk – The Solar Killshot: http://youtu.be/X0KJ_dxp170

 

Thousands of birds crash land at Dugway Proving Ground


By , Deseret News

Published: Monday, April 15 2013

Staff at Dugway Proving Grounds found several hundred struggling and dead Eared Grebes birds Monday, April 15, 2013. The birds were looking for water and were apparently fooled by the snowstorm. Once they land, the birds apparently cannot take off without water due to their body structure.

Derek Petersen, Deseret News

 

 

DUGWAY PROVING GROUND — Wildlife biologists are on the scene of an unusual natural disaster.

 

A huge flock of birds thought they were making a splash-down in water Monday morning, but instead crash landed on hard ground at Dugway Proving Ground.

 

As many as 5,000 birds hit the ground, and about a third of them died from the impact.

 

A group of Eared Grebes, a kind of migratory water fowl also known as Black-necked Grebes, stage at the Great Salt Lake. They are currently at the peak of their migration season. These waterfowl were looking for water and were fooled by the snowstorm. Because of the birds’ body structure, they cannot take off without water.

 

The challenge has not only been to clean up the area, but to rescue whatever birds can be rescued. Many have broken wings and legs. So far, approximately 2,000 birds have been rescued.

 

“We want to save as many as we can, responsibly collect them, handle them and release them,” said Robbie Knight with Dugway Proving Ground. The surviving birds are being transported as quickly as possible to the nearest water, which is a smaller pond on base.

 

From there, biologists say it’ll take the birds, which still got soaked in the ordeal, about 24 to 48 hours to dry off to their normal state, preen and take flight again.

 

Dugway’s Environmental Programs Office, along with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. are working together to save the birds.

 

“Whether they want to land on a wet asphalt surface that looks a lot like a lake, or the weather just pushes them to the ground, whatever pushes them down, they end up in large numbers on the ground,” Knight said.

 

The birds that did not survive will be picked and transported later. To report sightings of birds, call 435-831-3448.

 

Experts said such an incident is not that unusual Scientists say it happens perhaps every couple of years somewhere in the state.

 

In December 2011, thousands of migratory birds were killed or injured after apparently mistaking a Wal-Mart parking lot in Cedar City, a football field and other snow-covered areas in southern Utah as bodies of water. They plummeted to the ground and crashed. More than 3,000 birds were rescued, but as many as 1,500 died.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865578300/Thousands-of-bird-crash-land-at-Dugway-Proving-Ground.html

Editorial from JumpinJackFlashHypothesis.blogspot.com

Note: The official explanation is that the birds thought they were landing on water. If they flew through some methane and/or hydrogen sulfide then they might get disoriented and crash out of the sky too. The only way to know the actual cause would be to test the birds (which they didn’t) or to ask the birds (which they can’t). Ergo, they’re guessing…

Signs Of Change The Past Week Or So, April 2013 (Part 2)


See http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/ for more info on hydrogen sulfide expulsion event, which is most likely linked to the mass mammal and marine deaths in China. Be sure to check the page on preventative measures for protecting your home and loved ones from being affected.

Published on Apr 16, 2013

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The series moves on for yet another week. Earthquake, landslides, massive sinkholes, record snowfall and more has taking place the past week or so..(More Below)


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Dead dolphins and shrimp with no eyes found after BP clean-up


 

 

Chemicals used to disperse Gulf of Mexico spill blamed for marine deaths and human illness

Hundreds of beached dolphin carcasses, shrimp with no eyes, contaminated fish, ancient corals caked in oil and some seriously unwell people are among the legacies that scientists are still uncovering in the wake of BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill.

This week it will be three years since the first of 4.9 billion barrels of crude oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, in what is now considered the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. As the scale of the ecological disaster unfolds, BP is appearing daily in a New Orleans federal court to battle over the extent of compensation it owes to the region.

Infant dolphins were found dead at six times average rates in January and February of 2013. More than 650 dolphins have been found beached in the oil spill area since the disaster began, which is more than four times the historical average. Sea turtles were also affected, with more than 1,700 found stranded between May 2010 and November 2012 – the last date for which information is available. On average, the number stranded annually in the region is 240.

Contact with oil may also have reduced the number of juvenile bluefin tuna produced in 2010 by 20 per cent, with a potential reduction in future populations of about 4 per cent. Contamination of smaller fish also means that toxic chemicals could make their way up the food chain after scientists found the spill had affected the cellular function of killifish, a common bait fish at the base of the food chain.

Deep sea coral, some of which is thousands of years old, has been found coated in oil after the dispersed droplets settled on the sea’s bottom. A recent laboratory study found that the mixture of oil and dispersant affected the ability of some coral species to build new parts of a reef.

Doug Inkley, a senior scientist for the US National Wildlife Federation and author of a report published this week on wildlife affected by the spill, said: “These ongoing deaths – particularly in an apex predator such as the dolphin – are a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem.”

Scientists believe that the 1.8 million gallons of dispersant, sprayed as part of the clean-up, have cemented the disaster’s toxic effect on ocean life and human health. The dispersant, called Corexit, caused what some scientists have described as “a giant black snowstorm” of tiny oil globules, which has been carried around the ocean in plumes and has now settled on the sea floor. A study last November found the dispersant to be 52 times more toxic than the oil itself.

Larry McKinney, director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, said: “Before we depend on dispersants to get rid of oil and get it out of sight, we need to understand what it can do in the open ocean. We’re told to keep oil off the shore and away from estuaries, but we’ve not dealt with something like this before, that’s in the open ocean and gone from top to bottom, affecting the whole water column.”

Scientists believe the addition of dispersants to the oil made it more easily absorbed through the gills of fish and into the bloodstream. Dr William Sawyer, a toxicologist, has studied concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC) in edible fish and shellfish in the region. Samples before the spill had no measurable PHC in the tissue, whereas fish tested in recent months show tissue concentrations as high as 10,000 parts per million, or 1 per cent of all tissue. He said: “The study shows that the absorption [of the oil] was enhanced by the Corexit.”

BP says the dispersants it used are “government approved and safe when used appropriately”, and that extensive testing has shown seafood in the Gulf states is safe to eat.

Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences has found sea life in the Gulf with lesions and deformities that it believes may be linked to the use of dispersants. These include shrimp with no eyes and crabs with no eyes or without claws. BP claims these abnormalities are “common in marine life”, had been seen in the region before, and are caused by bacterial infections or parasites.

In a blow to the region’s tourism, tar balls continue to wash up along the affected coastline, which now stretches from the beaches of Louisiana to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Marco Kaltofen, a chemical engineer at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, said: “We have a reservoir of petroleum and petroleum-contaminated sediment that lies just offshore of several Gulf beaches. Every time we have a storm, all of a sudden you’re getting these tar balls washing up.”

It is not just wildlife that scientists believe has been affected. Michael Robichaux, a Louisiana doctor, has documented 113 patients who he thinks were made ill by exposure to chemicals associated with the spill. Their most common symptoms include headaches, memory loss, fatigue, irritability, vertigo, nausea, blurred vision and insomnia.

One of Dr Robichaux’s patients, Jorey Danos, 32, is a formerly healthy father of three. Since working for BP on the clean-up, he says he has experienced serious ill health, including severe abdominal and joint pain that has left him walking with a cane. Several doctors, including a neurologist, have put his condition down to the neurological impact of exposure to the chemicals related to the spill.

Mr Danos said: “I worked 21 days in one of the boats skimming the oil and we were sprayed directly with Corexit from above on three occasions. My skin came out with bumps and burning and I started having breathing problems. When a speedboat with BP representatives came by I asked for a respirator but they said no, because it would lead to bad media attention. Now I’m still dealing with it three years later.” BP said all workers were provided with safety training and protective equipment and would have had the opportunity to join a class action settlement.

Geoff Morrell, BP’s head of US communications, said: “No company has done more to respond to an industrial accident than BP has in the US Gulf of Mexico.”

http://www.sott.net/article/260843-Dead-dolphins-and-shrimp-with-no-eyes-found-after-BP-clean-up

 

Rare birds killed off after migration north sees them face freezing temperatures back in UK


 

 

Remains of 8 malnourished stone curlews recently back from Africa and Spain found in Norfolk, Suffolk and Wiltshire

The stone curlew is one of the UK’s most threatened birds and has recently returned from their wintering grounds in Africa and Spain

Rare birds have fallen victim to Britain’s prolonged cold weather with the bodies of several breeds found dead across the country.

The remains of eight malnourished stone curlews – one of the UK’s most threatened birds, recently returned from their wintering grounds in Africa and Spain – were discovered in fields in Norfolk, Suffolk and Wiltshire in the past few days, the RSPB has reported.

The malnourished creatures, which weighed around 300g each compared to a healthy weight of 450g, are believed to have died after struggling to find enough food to survive following their annual migration to the UK.

A number of puffins and other seabirds including razorbills and guillemots were found dead off the coast of Scotland and North East England two weeks ago as a result of continuous freezing conditions and stormy seas making it hard to find food.

There have also been reports of short-eared owls and barn owls found dead after cold weather hindered their ability to hunt.

The late onset of spring has meant a lack of activity usual for this time of year. An influx of migrant birds should be returning to British shores to breed and build nests, but conservationists have noted very little activity. There has been a much lower number of sightings of chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps than is usual for this time of year, which is worrying given last year’s poor breeding season.

A number of birds have been confused by lower than normal temperatures. Winter migrants like waxwings, fieldfares and redwings are still present in large numbers across the countryside, showing little sign of preparing to head north. Starling murmurations – traditionally a winter evening spectacle – were recorded as late as the Easter weekend in areas including Swindon and Aberystwyth Pier.

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper said: “I can’t remember a spring like this – nature has really been tested by a prolonged period of very cold weather.

“We should be hearing the sound of chiffchaffs calling from the trees – a classic sign that spring is here – but that isn’t the case. Some may have stalled on their migration route, while for others the severe lack of insect food available means they are conserving what little energy they have.

“The discovery of eight stone curlews is a stark reminder of how fragile this species is. This amounts to around one per cent of the total UK population of these birds but the total number of deaths is likely to be higher. Many of these birds are only here because of the dedication of farmers who have been creating safe habitats for them in key areas.”

http://www.sott.net/article/260734-Rare-birds-killed-off-after-migration-north-sees-them-face-freezing-temperatures-back-in-UK
Note: When I first began awakening in 2007, one of the indicators that Earth is coming to the end of a cycle was learning that mass extinctions began a century ago before the population explosion began infringing on natural habitats, and before industrial pollution and toxic chemical cocktails overtook the land, air and seas. For everything there is a season, as we close the last Great Year cycle (26,000yrs) we must remember that our Earth Mother has a Divine plan for all creatures large and small, she’s done this before on several occasions and came out with entirely new species after the shifting events. Gaia has a plan so magnificent it’s absolutely blinding in it’s brilliance, therefore it’s impossible for us to see from our limited perspective.
A spiritually grounded culture would’ve recognized the “signs” 100 years ago and would have begun to prepare for the changes we’re seeing now in a fashion that would help our Great Earth Mother gently move through the unfolding shift. Instead we’re waking up at the final hour, with little time for the masses to prepare. Therefore those of us who are awakened must carry the torch for the greater good, with an understanding that everything is as it should be as the Divine plan unfolds. Thankfully Gaia has an inter-dimensional management team working hard to move her thru the shift with as little loss of human life as possible, as well as helping the nature kingdom make the transition over the Rainbow Bridge to the other side.
For myself, being a highly sensitive empath the mass animal and bird kills have been one of the most difficult issues to understand and come to terms with. I still have occasional meltdowns and am particularly sensitive to cetacean and bird deaths, but at the same time I also “see” a Higher purpose and understand in my heart that God has a marvelous plan for all souls, that it’s always darkest before the dawn. Much love to all…

Three years after BP oil spill, USF research finds massive die-off


Note: This photo is a man with a goggles over his eyes, absolutely sickening…

 

 

BP Oil

© Tampa Bay Times

The oil that spewed into the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon disaster three years ago killed off millions of amoeba-like creatures that form the basis of the gulf’s aquatic food chain, according to scientists at the University of South Florida.

The die-off of tiny foraminifera stretched through the mile-deep DeSoto Canyon and beyond, following the path of an underwater plume of oil that snaked out from the wellhead, said David Hollander, a chemical oceanographer with USF.

“Everywhere the plume went, the die-off went,” Hollander said.

The discovery by USF scientists marks yet another sign that damage from the disaster is still being revealed as its third anniversary looms. Although initially some pundits said the spill wasn’t as bad as everyone feared, further scientific research has found that corals in the gulf died. Anglers hauled in fish with tattered fins and strange lesions. And dolphins continue dying.

The full implications of the die-off are yet to be seen. The foraminifera are consumed by clams and other creatures, who then provide food for the next step in the food chain, including the types of fish found with lesions. Because of the size of the spill, the way it was handled and the lack of baseline science in the gulf, there’s little previous research to predict long-term effects.

The disaster began with a fiery explosion aboard an offshore drilling rig on April 20, 2010. It held the nation spellbound for months as BP struggled to stop the oil, but the spill has largely faded from national headlines. The oil is still there, though.

Weathered particles of oil from Deepwater Horizon are buried in the sediment in the gulf bottom and could be there for as much as a century.

“These are not going away any time soon,” Hollander said.

USF researchers dug up core samples from the gulf bottom in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and they plan to return this year and next to compare what they found. Their examination uncovered the massive die-off, according to researcher Patrick Schwing. They also noted an absence of microscopic worms that are normally seen in those areas. The researchers could not estimate how many square miles the die-off covered.

In the core samples, they could see that most of the grayish sediment on the bottom built up gradually over centuries, said Isabel Romero, a researcher working with Hollander. But on top they found a large, dark clump of sediment from the time of the 2010 disaster. The amount registered as 300 times the normal amount of oil-based particles found on the bottom.

The oil in the sediment samples definitely came from the 2010 disaster, Hollander said. The substance bears the same chemical signature as Deepwater Horizon oil.

Effects on fish

That’s also the chemical signature of the substance that has clogged the livers of red snapper and other fish found with lesions. The fish livers were trying to screen out the impurities but could not cope with the quantities, he said.

“We’re seeing lots of connections with fish diseases,” Hollander said. “We’re seeing compromised immune systems.”

The diseased fish began turning up a few months after BP was able to shut off the flow of oil in July 2010. The discovery of fish with lesions faded out the following year, said Steve Murawski, a USF fisheries biologist who has overseen a project that examined 7,000 fish caught in the gulf.

Scientists are now looking for more subtle effects in red snapper, such as reductions in the number of large fish and a decline in the total population, Murawski said. They are looking for any genetic mutations, too, he said.

“If they get sick, that’s one thing,” Murawski said. “But if it changed their genes so that they’re less resistant to disease or have lower weights, that’s a big deal. That would be a real game-changer if true.”

BP spokesman Craig Savage said, “No company has done more, faster to respond to an industrial accident than BP did in response to the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010. As a result of our $14 billion cleanup effort, BP-funded early restoration projects as well as natural recovery processes, the gulf is returning to its baseline condition – the condition it would be in if the accident had not occurred.”

But USF oceanographers and biologists are finding lingering effects of Deepwater Horizon. That’s no surprise to the biologists, who recall that eight years passed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill before the herring population crashed from immune system problems.

“I spent a lot of time in the marshes in Louisiana,” Murawski said. “You can still find a lot of oil in there.”

Why soiled sediment?

One intriguing question is why some oil settled into the sediment on the bottom of the gulf a mile deep and stayed there. Hollander says that may be the work of two factors. One is the dispersant called Corexit that BP used to try to spread the oil out so it wouldn’t wash ashore. The other is the Mississippi River.

BP sprayed Corexit directly at the wellhead spewing oil from the bottom of the gulf, even though no one had ever tried spraying it below the water’s surface before. BP also used more of the dispersant than had been used in any previous oil spill, 1.8 million gallons, to try to break up the oil.

Meanwhile, the spill coincided with the typical spring flood of the mighty Mississippi, which sent millions of gallons of freshwater cascading in to push the oil away from the coast.

The Corexit broke the oil droplets down into smaller drops, creating the plume, Hollander said. Then the smaller oil droplets bonded with clay and other materials carried into the gulf by the Mississippi, sinking into the sediment where they killed the foraminifera.

In some areas where the die-off occurred, he said, the tiny creatures came back, but in others the bottom remains bare. Meanwhile, some of the burrowing kind are digging down into the contaminated sediment – and stirring it up all over again.

http://www.sott.net/article/260526-Three-years-after-BP-oil-spill-USF-research-finds-massive-die-off

 

Five floating dead black swans join China’s animal apocalypse


 

Shichang Xinbao27March

At the north-eastern corner of Anhui University’s old campus in Hefei, capital of Anhui province, there’s a scenic pond that’s inhabited by a bevy of black swans. The swans have been there for more than a decade already, and were – as the front page of local newspaper Star News (市场新报) laments today – an object of fondness for locals.

 

The black swans at Anhui University in happier times

 

Yet early this morning, five of these black and beautiful swans were found floating lifeless on the surface of the pond. The latest instance of floating dead animals in China – first pigs, then ducks, and now black swans – these mere five black swans became an object of heated discussion on the Internet right after the announcement was made.

 

How did they die? Was it a natural disaster or another man-made one? As Star News tells us today, upon hearing of the news yesterday it immediately sent a journalist to the scene to find out exactly what happened. What he found was just one more filthy pond filled with oily water and garbage.

 

The swans are something to behold. The picture above is taken from a photo album that was uploaded to the website 万家热线, or “Ten Thousand Hotline” (a news and information portal focused on Anhui province), in 2011. Now clouded with a sense of sadness, the album shows the then 13 black swans as they appeared last winter. There are now eight swans left.

 

The journalist was not impressed by the scene he found the pond. The water had an oily quality to it, and quite a lot of garbage could be seen on the surface. From what he could ascertain from locals, many people often used the pond to rinse cloths, mops, mats and other items containing various chemicals.

 

The journalist could not see the dead swans anymore, because, as he was informed, they have been preserved and will be studied carefully to determine the cause of death. After this their remains will be used as specimens for academic research.

 

With the cause of death as yet entirely unknown, the Star News today offers four possible causes of death in a desperate attempt to establish whether it was a natural occurrence or not:

 

  1. Killed by other animals: According to a witness interviewed by the journalist, on Sunday afternoon a large dog was seen chasing and biting the swans
  2. Poisoned by garbage: Just ten days ago a black swan was born in the pond, and this caused an increase in the number of visitors. Many of these were seen to throw peels, leaves and other things into the pool, and one of these items may have poisoned the swans
  3. Water pollution: In the last few years, the quality of the water in the pond worsened considerably. Incredibly, sewage was pumped into the pond sometime last year, leading to an outbreak of blue-green algae 
  4. Disease or some other natural cause

 

So what caused these five black swans to go the same way as thousands of pigs and ducks, all discarded into a watery grave? Speaking to the people responsible for the maintenance of the area, the journalist was told that new measures are now to be implemented at the pond, including strengthening patrols by local security, improving the quality of the water, and removing the garbage. But alas, it’s too late for the five black swans, who were preyed on by predators, bombarded with garbage, and left floating lifeless like just some worthless pig.

http://www.danwei.com/five-floating-dead-black-swans-join-chinas-animal-apocalypse/

Note: The symbology in this sad event surely didn’t escape the ptw…Black swans indicate deep mysteries within us that are longing to be set free to express themselves creatively

Also, five deaths at once could be linked to hydrogen sulfide release. With the recent rash in pig deaths in, something other than your ordinary environmental for pollution or too many “peels” is killing large numbers of animals in China.

Gulf Authorities “Silenced” on Spike in Baby Dolphin Deaths, Dead Sea Lions “Everywhere” in Los Angeles, Dead Manatees in Florida…


For anyone who hasn’t noticed, the elephant has entered the room. Does this mean we’ve reached a tipping point, is this obvious rash of deaths the beginning of environmental collapse? I don’t have the answer, but it sure looks grim without Divine Intervention factored in at some point in the near future. Even if the masses rose up against the PTW tomorrow, we don’t have the technology to “fix” the environmental damage. All we could possibly do is stop the destruction from the power industry’s and chemtrail distribution and let nature go through her natural cleansing process, catastrophic or not she may have to turn and burn some earth before she’s finished clearing away the toxins, but so be it.

Instead of posting all the articles I included links below for anyone interested in details, the titles alone were enough for me after following stories on Fukushima radiation and the BP Gulf oil “catastrophe” that was followed by dumping millions of gallons of Corexit in the waters – an environmental crime still being carried out over the waters of the Gulf today. The people responsible for this are criminally negligent, psychopaths who deserve nothing less than life in jail for their crimes against every living creature on this planet, they deserve the same mercy given toward victims of their perpetual malfeasance.

Published: March 29th, 2013 at 12:39 pm ET
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Title: Spike in marine mammal strandings documented along La., Miss. coast
Source: WWL
Date: March 20, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Angela Hill, Anchor: […] Now experts say we’re seeing an unusual spike in dead dolphins washing up in both Louisiana and Mississippi. […]

Dr. Moby Solangi, executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport: Yes, we have seen a spike in dolphin strandings. […]

Maya Rodriguez, Reporter: Since the start of this year strandings have been climbing, with 29 in Louisiana and 23 in Mississippi so far.

Solangi: The unusual part in Mississippi is that 18 of the 23 are baby dolphins. […]

Rodriguez: Answers are tough to come by. Dr. Solangi said because of the ongoing investigation and litigation involving the BP oil spill, they can’t share their findings.

Solangi: We have been advised not to discuss our findings or any results from our necropsies or analysis […]

See also: “Manatees Dying in Droves on Both Coasts of Florida” — Deaths of pelicans, turtles, dolphins also increasing — “Scientists fear this is the beginning of a devastating ecosystem collapse”

LATEST HEADLINES

Pilot whales beach in South Africa


Six of 19 pilot whales that were stranded Sunday on a beach in the South African city of Cape Town have died and authorities said they planned to euthanize some of the surviving whales.

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA

Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG —Six of 19 pilot whales that were stranded Sunday on a beach in the South African city of Cape Town have died and authorities said they planned to euthanize some of the surviving whales.

Police and other rescue workers had hosed down the surviving whales at Noordhoek Beach to try to keep them alive.

The South African Press Association quoted Craig Lambinon, a spokesman for the National Sea Rescue Institute, as saying authorities had considered whether to try and refloat the whales, which washed up on the beach on Sunday morning.

“Seven are in poor health,” SAPA quoted Lambinon as saying. “We are still trying our best to save them, but those that can’t be saved will be humanely euthanized.”

One whale was being transported to a naval base and will be taken out to sea, according to authorities.

“At this stage the first whale is on its way on a trailer to the naval base,” Lambinon said. “There are a remaining five whales in good health and we are going to attempt to do the same for them.”

He appealed to the public to stay away from the beach because enough workers are there, trying to help the whales.

In 2009, authorities in the Cape Town area removed the carcasses of 55 whales that beached themselves and had to be shot despite the frantic rescue efforts of hundreds of volunteers.

http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2020629682_apafsouthafricabeachedwhales.html?syndication=rss

 

 

Signs Of Change The Past Week Or So March 2013 Part 3


Published on Mar 19, 2013

HawkkeyDavisChannelHawkkeyDavisChannel

The extreme events of 2013 do continue. Floods, landslides, dead fish and more has taking place the past week or so. These videos do not mean that the world will end. Please respect other peoples comments and beliefs when leaving a comment. Thanks for watching here and be safe all!

Music
1…. Epic Score — Someday I’ll Be Redeemed
2…. KMP Music — Sea Of Neptune

My channel on FB
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hawkkey…

Thank you Julie and others at Weird Weather Group on FB for keeping up on extreme weather events.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/Weird…

Watch More Of This Series From The Playlist
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=…

I do not own any of these videos thanks to all the people who film these disasters and the news medias that report them.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This video may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

 

More weirdness – Thousands of dead prawns and crabs wash up on beach in Chile


BBC News
Wed, 20 Mar 2013
Thousands of dead prawns have washed up on a beach in Chile, sparking an investigation. Hundreds of dead crabs were also washed ashore in Coronel city, about 530km (330 miles) from the capital, Santiago.

© Reuters
Authorities are still collecting evidence to find an explanation for the red tide

Fishermen suggested the deaths may have been caused by local power stations that use seawater as a cooling agent. The power firms have not commented. Experts are looking into water temperature and oxygen levels and other details to explain the deaths.

“We’re investigating the Coronel Bay to establish the physical parameters of temperature, electric conductivity and, above all, the oxygen,” said local environment official Victor Casanova.

© Reuters
Hundreds of dead crabs were washed ashore on the weekend

Local fishermen blamed nearby power generation plants Bocamina 1 and 2 and Colbun.

“I’m 69 years old and started fishing when I was nine, but as a fisherman, I never saw a disaster of this magnitude,” Gregorio Ortega told local Radio Bio Bio.

While some blame pollution, others say the death of the crustaceans could be a consequence of the El Nino phenomenon, which warms the waters of the Pacific.

Marisol Ortega, a spokeswoman for the fishermen, said she feared the deaths would affect the livelihood of their community.

“The way everything is being destroyed here, come the high season in November, we’re already thinking we won’t have anything to take from the sea,” she said.

Note: It appears that the deaths are limited to bottom dwellers in a seismically active region, could the culprit possibly be hydrogen sulfide or heat from volcanic eruptions on the ocean floor?

Lagoon In Rio De Janeiro Is So Polluted That Thousands Of Fish Just Floated Up Dead


Here’s the scene in Rio de Janeiro…

 

This lagoon, called Rodrigo de Freitas, is where the Olympic rowing competitions will be held in 2016.  The fish died after oxygen levels in the water dropped because of pollution, local media said.

Note: Lack of oxygen mostly likely is a result of methane hydrate or hydrogen sulfide release.

 

 

Could Alaska’s mystery seal illness be Arctic sunburn?


Jill Burke

March 13, 2013
Skin lesions on a ringed seal flipper.
Photo courtesy North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management

It began in July 2011. Indigenous hunters in Alaska’s Arctic noticed ice seals they rely on for food and other uses covered in oozing sores and losing hair. They were sick and some were dying. Ultimately, more than 200 ice seals turned up with similar symptoms, prompting the federal government to declare the phenomena an “unexplained mortality event,” thus opening up research funding and attracting science minds to try to solve the mystery.

As of this month, despite the international group of scientists and researchers the declaration pulled together, no cause has been officially identified for the illness plaguing the ice seals.

In the time since the first sick seal was discovered, walruses and polar bears have turned up with similar ailments. The smallest of the species — seals — has fared the worst. Polar bears seemed to weather their sickness the best, with no fatalities connected to the illness and no clear clues about whether walruses and polar bears were afflicted with the same disease that had struck the seals.

Curiously, the symptoms seem to have diminished since the first sightings of sick seals and other animals began in mid-2011. And Bruce Wright, a scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, thinks he knows why.

Sunburn.

“I suspected right from the beginning it was UV radiation,” Wright said in an interview from his Anchorage-based office this week. “I was expecting there would be consequences for an ozone hole that had formed over the Arctic.”

Between March and April 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) documented “unprecedented chemical ozone losses” in the Arctic. Less ozone means more of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays reach Earth. Perhaps counter intuitively amid an era of climate change, it was cold temperatures in 2011 that lead to the UV increase. As NOAA explains, cold temperatures in the stratosphere allow polar stratospheric clouds to form, which create a good surface for chemical reactions to occur, namely the creation of chlorine, a gaseous agent capable of rapid ozone depletion.

Wright isn’t suggesting all symptoms uncovered during necropsies of the affected seals are sun-burned related. Some of the animals were found to also have bleeding and swelling in their lungs, livers, lymph nodes and other internal organs. Scientists contemplated whether this was the result of secondary bacterial or fungal infections or depleted immune systems. Still, Wright questions the inter-relatedness of multiple stressors, including sun and UV radiation exposure, and other illness or nutritional deficiencies on the overall health of the animals.

He plans to present his theory in May at a science conference in Russia. “It all just made sense to me. I have just been baffled that nobody else has proposed this (sunburn) hypothesis,” he said.

When told about Wright’s theory, Kathy Burek-Huntington, an Eagle River veterinarian who’s assisting with the federal study of sick seals, said, “I think that that’s pretty unlikely.”

If sunburn were the culprit, she’d expect a more straight-forward pattern to the injuries, such as burns or lesions on the top of the head or the back — areas where seals would be most likely to get sun exposure.

Still, the team of scientists Burek-Huntington is assisting has been looking into whether something called photo-sensitization is an aspect of the mystery illness. They wonder whether some other illness in the body is producing light-sensitive blood chemicals, similar to what can happen with hepatitis.

Some skin injury patterns detected on seals support this theory, with lesions consistently found on the eyes, mouth and flippers. Yet, severe hepatitis hasn’t been found in the sick seals. And so the mystery deepens.

One theory? A large algal bloom started in 2009 and which has continued every summer since in the Kotzebue Sound / Chukchi Sea is also being investigated as a factor. Could the bloom cause some chemical reaction in the Arctic animals that in turn has creates photo-sensitivity? Possibly.

“We don’t have a complete answer yet,” said Burek-Huntington, conceding that while many causal agents have been ruled out, there’s much work yet to be done.

Preliminary tests to determine whether exposure from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant accident in Japan have also not revealed any answers. More tests on tissue samples for radionuclides associated with the event are being conducted, but those done so far have not yielded any direct connection.

Metabolic and nutritional testing is also being conducted.

Adding to the puzzle is the fact that the cases have tapered off, suggesting either a viral infection or some unique convergence of multiple factors that hasn’t repeated itself. Researchers are also checking if the illness might be just a common ailment in the general population of the animals, like colds are among humans, or if it’s a more limited agent that results in some immunity after first exposure.

Burek-Huntington is suspicious that while there is no proven illness link between the sick seals, walruses and polar bears, there is reason to look for connections. Both seals and walruses showed up with observable illness in 2011, and in both species, some died. Polar bear symptoms were discovered the following spring, in 2012, but none died and none were as ill. The timing makes the veterinarian suspect they are all somehow related. But if they are, connecting the dots will likely be difficult.

Only seals and walrus are included in the current federal study because polar bear symptoms — hair loss, irritated skin, mouth sores — were different and less severe, and there have been previous periods of documented hair loss in the polar bear population. But ringed seals, the ice seal species thought to be most affected by the disease, are a primary food source for polar bears. It stands to reason bears may have become ill after feeding on sick seals in the months leading up to spring 2012.

Unfortunately, when the illness may be linked to multiple factors, it’s harder for scientists to pinpoint the cause.

“The one thing I’ve learned about studying the environment is that it is always more complex than you think,” said Wright, acknowledging there are complexities even to his simple sunburn theory.

And the truth is, many times with investigations of “unexplained mortality events,” the outcome is a frustrating “we don’t know.”

Burek-Huntington remains hopeful this investigation will turn out differently.

“There’s still a lot of possibilities that we are investigating (but) no definitive answers at this point,” she said. “We haven’t given up.”

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130313/could-alaskas-mystery-seal-illness-be-arctic-sunburn

Signs Of Change The Past Week Or So March 2013 Part 2


Published on Mar 12, 2013

HawkkeyDavisChannelHawkkeyDavisChannel

There has been some strange and extreme weather going on this year. Earthquakes, massive snowstorms, loud booms, locust invasions and more has taking place the past week or so. This series does not mean the world will end, they show our climate and earth changes in a 7 to 10 time frame. Please respect other peoples comments and beliefs when leaving a comment. Thanks for watching here and be safe all!

Music Used
Future World Music – Spritual Awakening

Strange Booms
MisterMachine1977
http://youtu.be/J54BDU2cLss

My channel on FB
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hawkkey…

Thank you Julie and others at Weird Weather Group on FB for keeping up on extreme weather events.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/Weird…

Watch More Of This Series From The Playlist
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=…

I do not own any of these videos thanks to all the people who film these disasters and the news medias that report them.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This video may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

 

Number of dead pigs flooding Shanghai river rises to nearly 6,000


Chinese officials maintain that the drinking water is still safe despite the surge in swine found in the city’s Huangpu River. The carcasses are believed to have been dumped by farmers following police efforts to halt the illegal trade of pork products from diseased pigs.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Tuesday, March 12, 2013, 3:10 PM
A dead pig floats on the river Monday, March 11, 2013 on the outskirts of Shanghai, China. A recent surge in the dumping of dead pigs upstream from Shanghai - with more than 2,800 carcasses floating into the financial hub through Monday - has followed a police campaign to curb the illicit trade in sick pig parts. (AP Photo)

AP

The Shanghai government announced on Tuesday that some 5,916 swine carcasses have been pulled from the Huangpu River.

BEIJING — The number of dead pigs found floating in a river flowing into Shanghai has reached nearly 6,000.

The Shanghai municipal government said in an online announcement that 5,916 swine carcasses had been retrieved from Huangpu River by 3 p.m. Tuesday, but added that municipal water remains safe.

PIGS13N_5_WEB

Eugene Hoshiko/AP

City officials say the municipal drinking water is still safe to consume.

The surge in the dumping of dead pigs – believed to be from pig farms in the upstream Jiaxing area in the neighboring Zhejiang province – has followed police campaigns to curb the illicit trade of pork products harvested from diseased pigs.

Shanghai authorities said the city has taken proper measures to safely dispose of the pig carcasses and that the city’s water plants are stepping up efforts to disinfect public water and testing for six common swine viruses.

PIGS13N_4_WEB

AP

Officials believe the carcasses were dumped by farmers in a neighboring province.

The Shanghai government reported no major swine epidemic, widespread pig deaths or dumping of pigs within the city boundaries of Shanghai.

The state-run China News news agency said Monday that Zhejiang province had reported no swine epidemic but that a provincial agriculture official blamed cold weather for the deaths of the pigs.

PIGS13N_3_WEB

Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Authorities check the dead pigs, not seen, which have been pulled out from the river on Monday.

The official, who was identified only by his family name Gu, told China News that the practice of dumping dead pigs into rivers lingers among some pig farmers in the city of Jiaxing. “We are still introducing the practice of collecting dead pigs,” Gu was quoted as saying.

Shanghai authorities have been pulling out the swollen and rotting pigs, some with their internal organs visible, since Friday – and revolting images of the carcasses in news reports and online blogs have raised public ire against local officials.

Beijing-based writer Li Mingsheng expressed shock when he learned of the latest number of dead pigs in Shanghai.

“This is not only an environmental issue but also a public moral problem,” Li wrote. “What’s been polluted is not only Shanghai’s river water but also the spirit of our country people.”
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/number-dead-pigs-floating-shanghai-river-rises-6-000-article-1.1286389#ixzz2NPNSv000

Note: The real elephant in the room: What killed all these pigs? I saw mention of a suspected swine virus, which doesn’t make any sense unless it’s an airborne plague that has 9000 pigs dropping dead within day’s of each other.  From what I’ve learned thru researching Earth changes, it sounds like farmers are having problems with massive hydrogen sulfide releases into the environment. See jumpingjackhypothesis.blogspot.comfor more information and preventative measures.

Red tide killing record number of manatees in Florida


Brett Smith
RedOrbit
Mon, 11 Mar 2013
Manatee

© Photos.com

A red algae bloom, also known as Red Tide, is currently killing a record number of manatees living off the coast of Florida.

Last week, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) found an average of 10 dead manatees a day and some observers said the phenomenon doesn’t appear to be receding. A toxin produced by the red algae affects the nervous system of the manatees causing them to drown.

“This is probably going to be the worst die-off in history,” said Martine DeWit, veterinarian with the FWC.

DeWit noted that a confluence of factors has caused the animals to swim into a precarious situation.

“It’s a very large bloom that persisted through the winter and there are lots of manatees in the same area,” she said. “They all aggregated to the warm-water side, and that put them in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

As of Friday, state officials had this year’s number of manatee casualties pegged at 149, just two animals short of the record high mark of 151 set by a Red Tide in 1996.

The FWC and conservation groups have been racing to locate and save the slow moving marine mammals. So far, 11 manatees have been rescued and taken to Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa for treatment and resuscitation. To revive manatees that have been afflicted by the red algae toxins, zookeepers have been standing in the manatees’ tank and holding the animals’ heads out of the water so they can breathe.

“They’re basically paralyzed and they’re comatose,” said Virginia Edmonds, the zoo’s animal care manager for Florida mammals. “They could drown in 2 inches of water.”

The zookeepers have also been using flotation devices to keep the manatees from drowning. However, because the manatees often suffer from seizures in these conditions – the zoo staff made the decision to schedule three-hour shifts dedicated to holding the manatees’ heads up.

Zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times that one particular manatee that was brought in Thursday took a long time to recover, meaning that “for 29 hours our keepers held a manatee’s head out of the water.”

Although manatees in the zoo are safe for now, officials are trying to decide what to do once they make a full recovery from the algae toxin.

“We’re making arrangements to move them to other places and stabilize them and keep them there until the Red Tide goes away,” Pat Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, told the Tampa Bay Times.

Every few years, the red algae population off the coast of Florida mysteriously explodes and the resulting bloom floods the immediate area with deadly toxins – killing off manatees and fish that live in the area.

The current Red Tide, which has been floating on the water since last fall, affects about 70 miles of the southwest Florida coast. Widespread manatee deaths were not seen until last month, according to DeWit.

“We’ll just keep taking them in,” Edmonds said. “We want to save as many as we can.”

Note: There may be a time when zoo’s become more like hospitals to care for sick and dying species, also saving for DNA of species going extinct in hopes of reviving the populations after the shift, or reset point.The dedication and commitment of Lowry Park zookeepers to save these manatees should be commended and recognized for their loving service and contribution to Natures children.

 

Dead birds litter Pioneer Parkway


DJ Zitko
Arlington Voice
Thu, 28 Feb 2013
Dead Birds

© WFAA

Arlington Animal Services responded to reports from drivers Tuesday morning of about 150 birds lying dead on Pioneer Parkway.

The birds were found directly under an electrical transmission line starting at the utility pole just east of Walgreens at 2200 E. Pioneer Parkway and running north across Pioneer to the next pole.

The City of Arlington’s contract veterinarian, Dr. Jani Hodges, performed an examination of one of the birds to determine the cause of death. The results, however, were inconclusive.

Winds gusts of 40 mph were reported Monday night and lasted through the early hours of Tuesday morning. Winds, coupled with the fact that the birds were found directly under an electrical transmission line, resulted in one theory for the bird deaths.

According to an e-mail from Arlington Office of Communication Director, Rebecca Rodriguez, “The transmission lines touched briefly, causing an arc which could have electrocuted the birds.”

There were no reports of power outages or power surges in the area. There was also no evidence of electrical burns on the birds.

http://www.sott.net/article/259550-Dead-birds-litter-Pioneer-Parkway

Note: Considering the fact the atmosphere has become highly charged with plasma and other possible unidentified energy’s or even gaseous substances, wildlife authorities may be dealing with energy’s and chemical reactions happening in the atmosphere they’ve never seen or dealt with before and are unfamiliar with…

 

China: 900 dead pigs in Shanghai river


March 10, 2013

Via The IndependentMystery surrounds discovery of more than 900 dead pigs found floating in Chinese river.

More than 900 dead pigs have been retrieved from a Shanghai river that is a water source for city residents.

According to the city’s water supplies bureau the dead pigs were spotted in a section used as a drinking water source for Shanghai residents.

Officials say the water quality has not been affected and they are investigating where the pigs came from.

The China Daily news website reports that environmental protection and water supplies authorities have increased quality checks at water intakes and across the water disinfection process.

A statement posted Saturday on the city’s Agriculture Committee’s website says they haven’t found any evidence that the pigs were dumped into the river or of any animal epidemic.

The statement says the city and Songjiang district governments started retrieving the pigs on Friday night. By late Saturday afternoon they had recovered and disposed of more than 900.

 

UPDATE

March 10, 2013

China: Patrols boosted as dead pigs in creek hit 1,200

Via Shanghai DailyPatrols boosted as dead pigs in creek hit 1,200.

Another 300 or so dead pigs were retrieved from a creek in Songjiang District yesterday morning, making the total number of dead pigs removed from the creek more than 1,200 since last Friday.

The Songjiang District government said it has strengthened patrols on Hengliaojing Creek upstream in Zhejiang Province and found many floating carcasses. The district doubled the number of boats removing carcasses.

Ear tags on the dead pigs could not be made out but the Songjiang agricultural authorities said the dead pigs were likely from Pinghu in Zhejiang Province’s Jiaxing City and some places in Jiangsu Province.

Shanghai collects dead pigs from farmers for biological treatment and farmers can receive some compensation for the loss. There is no such mechanism in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces. The pig farmers there simply discard dead pigs in rivers, according to Jiaxing Daily.

Zhulin Village, which has the largest pig breeding program in Zhejiang Province, experienced many swine deaths this year. More than 10,000 pigs died in January, over 8,000 in February and more than 300 every day this month. It was not known if the dead pigs came from the village, the newspaper said.

The Songjiang Environmental Protection Bureau has started frequent checks on water quality since Friday. No water pollution has been detected.

http://news.feedzilla.com/en_us/stories/health/bird-flu/290395175?client_source=feed&format=rss&sb=1

Note: As per Jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com, there’s a good chance these mass pig deaths are related to the methane / hydrogen sulfide expulsion event.

Radiant Wildlands: The forests near Fukushima and Chernobyl likely have been changed forever.


By Winifred Bird and Jane Braxton Little

artwork depicting a sunrise over a forest

illustration Doug Chayka

Late in the spring of 2011, the pale grass blue butterflies seemed no different. Flitting about the meadows of Fukushima Prefecture, their satin wings shimmered as they moved among the notched leaves of wood sorrel and feathery pampas grass. When Joji Otaki began looking closely at the delicate insects the size of a silver dollar, however, he was struck by abnormal patterns in the dark dots on their wings. Then he noticed dents in their eyes and strangely shaped wings and legs.

It was two months after the March 11, 2011 tsunami led to the meltdown of three reactors at Japan’s Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The cesium, plutonium, and other radioactive emissions had already forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 residents caught in the cloud of contamination from one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Otaki, a professor at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, was in the Abukuma Mountains west of the disaster site collecting butterflies to study their response to the accident. The explosion at the power plant had rained radioactive particles onto fields and forests the butterflies share with warblers and flycatchers, deer and bear in the rugged region north of Tokyo.

As Otaki and his research partners studied the Fukushima butterflies, the aberrations they found took them by surprise. Abnormalities in the first generation were within normal boundaries. But when Otaki bred these butterflies in his laboratory, mutations in the offspring increased to 18 percent. That suggested inherited genetic damage. Field samples collected in September 2011, representing the fourth or fifth generation of butterflies since the disaster, had even higher abnormality rates. The changes may not all have been caused by radiation; Otaki had previously found evidence that temperature can affect wing markings. But the deformities his team found in antennae, legs, and other body parts are truly unusual, says Hokkaido University entomologist Shin-ichi Akimoto, who is studying the impact of Fukushima fallout on aphids. The abnormalities are troubling not only because insects are commonly assumed to be more resistant to radiation than humans, but also because they suggest the Fukushima nuclear disaster may be changing individual species, even entire forests.

“There is no question that ecosystems as a whole are suffering,” Otaki says. “There has been a sudden, large change.”

How large and how long term are questions scientists are trying to answer as they study the effects of nuclear contamination on Fukushima’s forests. This is not the first landscape to provide such a grim opportunity. The worst nuclear accident in history occurred on April 26, 1986 when the Number 4 reactor at the VI Lenin Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded. More than two decades of research in this disaster-created outdoor laboratory, however, have failed to resolve many questions about radiation’s effects on wildlife.

Now, as scientists move about these evacuated, largely forested regions thousands of miles apart, some like Otaki are finding evidence that even low levels of radiation can cause genetic damage that is passed down to new generations. It’s a controversial conclusion with an even more hotly disputed interpretation: As plants and animals continue to live in these irradiated environments, forests themselves may be evolving into different ecosystems.

The prospect of a permanently altered ecosystem is even more disturbing because of the decades – perhaps centuries – these nuclear forests will remain dangerous. Still beautiful in spite of the contamination, they stare us in the face with the uncomfortable truth that when our human adventures in high technology go awry and crash through the natural world, we are utterly unable to control the consequences. Nuclear forests may be the ultimate Anthropocene environment.

Both the Chernobyl and Fukushima power plants were located in small cities surrounded by farms and woodlands. When the disasters struck, radioactive fallout hit trees, shrubs, and grasses. In Chernobyl as much as 70 percent of the radionuclides fell on forests. Over time rain and snow washed plutonium, radiocesium, and other radioactive particles onto the forest floor. Plants and fungi soon began taking up these particles and passing them on to the leaves, berries, and pollen that insects and other animals eat. Traveling the very same biological pathways that normally bring sustaining nutrients to forest life, the radionuclides permeated entire ecosystems.

In Fukushima, many plants and animals are already highly contaminated, according to government and independent tests. One wild boar captured in December 2012 had 11,000 becquerels of radiocesium per kilogram of flesh – more than 100 times the level permitted for human consumption. Last spring, researchers found herons nesting in an area where radioactive cesium in the soil measured more than 24,000 becquerels per kilogram. “We humans can do a lot to avoid exposure. Animals can’t. They don’t know it’s dangerous,” says Kiyomi Yokota, a naturalist who had devoted his life to exploring the forests of Fukushima.

Forever Is a Long Time

Even when nuclear power plants perform as designed, they present a problem: What to do with the radioactive wastes? Some types of spent fuel will be dangerous for 240,000 years, others for more than 2 million years. Taking responsibility for these contaminants stretches the proverbial seven generations of sustainability to 11,000 human generations – an inconceivable time span.

So far the nuclear industry has not come up with a safe solution. Engineers have considered a range of possibilities that verge on science fiction at one extreme and reckless abandon at the other. The industry has considered sending radioactive waste into outer space – an option it considers attractive because it removes it from our environment. The risks, however, are potentially catastrophic: If the vessel carrying the waste has an accident, it could spread radioactive material into the atmosphere. Then there’s the
Antarctica solution – placing radioactive wastes on ice sheets where their own heat would bury them. But international treaties ban such activity and the notion of violating the planet’s last pristine continent has put a damper on the scheme.

There have been discussions about burying nuclear waste in the sea floor. One option involves encasing spent fuel in concrete and dropping it in torpedoes designed to penetrate it into the ocean bed. Even more audacious is the proposal to deposit radioactive waste in a subduction zone, where plate tectonics would slowly carry it downward into Earth’s mantle. Violating international oceanic agreements is just one of the reasons these approaches are not being seriously considered. Another is the fear of leaks and the resultant widespread contamination.

The current focus is on burying radioactive wastes underground. Finland is in the process of constructing the first of these deep geological repositories – a 1,710-foot-deep facility called Onkalo, which means “cavity” in Finnish. Engineered to last 100,000 years, the facility is supposed to be large enough to accept boron steel canisters of spent fuel for up to 100 years, when the cavity will be backfilled and sealed. Canister burial will begin in 2020.

The United States has also been pursuing deep burial. In 2002 Congress designated Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as a repository for spent fuel and other radioactive wastes. By then planners had already constructed a five-mile-long tunnel and a series of cathedral-like chambers to experiment with various storage designs. The Obama administration quashed the controversial project in 2010, leaving the country without a long-term storage site. The 65,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from the 104 nuclear power plants in the US are currently stored onsite – 80 percent in water-filled pools, which are considered less safe than the steel casks that store the remaining 20 percent.

In addition to the technical challenges, nuclear power presents a political dilemma. No nation has lasted for 1,000 years, much less the 240,000 years plutonium will remain dangerous. Who will oversee radioactive waste when the governments of the 31 countries now producing it have crumbled? And how will these toxic repositories be identified when current languages are obsolete and the metal warning signs have rusted away?

The nuclear power industry faces an uncertain future unless it can successfully address waste management, says Allison Macfarlane, chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The post-Fukushima world demands redefining a successful nuclear power program to include not only the safe production of electricity but also the secure and sustainable lifecycle of nuclear power – from uranium mining to the disposal of spent fuel. If this cannot be achieved, Macfarlane says, “then the public in many countries will reject nuclear as an energy choice.”

—Jane Braxton Little

Even 27 years after Chernobyl’s No. 4 reactor explosion, much of the 1,000-square-mile “Zone of Alienation” around the power plant is considered far too hot to allow residents to return. As much as 96 percent of the radionuclides that did not blow sky high and spew across the Soviet Union and northern Europe are still right there – in the fungi, needles, branches, roots, and soil of the forests that now cover almost three-fourths of the evacuated area. Instead of releasing the radiation into the atmosphere and water systems, the Chernobyl forests are holding it, a landscape-scale model of phytoremediation. It may be decades more before it is safe for human habitation.

Ukrainian officials have enshrined this “barrier function” of the contaminated forest in law, mandating that these lands be managed to contain the radionuclides. Japan, meanwhile, is leaning toward very different policies that would attempt to remove some of the contaminants from forests by cutting down trees, scraping up forest litter, and burying or burning the debris. The enormity of that task, however, means that Fukushima’s forests will likely end up holding fallout for many years.

The upshot for plants and wildlife is prolonged exposure to nuclear contaminants, with impacts that begin in the microscopic world of individual cells. As radionuclides decay, they emit energy. That energy can damage any part of a cell. If it damages DNA, the result can be cancer. If the damaged DNA is in sperm or egg cells, the changes can be passed to offspring and cause inherited deformities or illnesses. More radiation means a higher chance that these changes will occur. Scientists agree that high levels of radiation can cause fatal damage to living organisms, including humans. The debate surrounding Chernobyl, and now Fukushima, is over the effects of extended exposure to low levels of radiation.

Some scientists have disputed the causal link between the mutations Otaki found in pale grass blue butterflies and the radiation they were exposed to, but the results do not surprise Timothy Mousseau, a research biologist at University of South Carolina. A decade of field work in Chernobyl, and more recently in Fukushima, have convinced him that protracted exposure to radiation can have severe genetic consequences for organisms living in these contaminated environments.

On an early October afternoon, Mousseau crouched on a crumbling sidewalk in the middle of the ghost city of Pripyat patiently extracting a marsh tit from a mist net, one tiny toe at a time. Above the scientist and his quarry, the cracked and peeling walls of apartment buildings rose to 10 stories, their deserted balconies sporting poplar saplings instead of deck chairs. The long-abandoned city was built by the Soviets to house the families of workers at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

Marsh tits are fairly tolerant of radiation, but other birds are not, Mousseau says. Since he and his colleagues began studying 14 different species of birds found in Chernobyl, they have documented reduced numbers and decreased longevity, smaller brains in some birds, and as many as 40 percent of male birds without sperm. They have also found that barn swallows living in areas surrounding Chernobyl have genetic damage that appears to be increasing with subsequent generations. Mutation rates in young swallows are between two to 10 times higher than their parents, according to one study. Chronic exposure to radioactive contaminants 27 years after the accident continues to cause tumors and mutations in breeding swallows, Mousseau says. He has found no evidence that species are evolving in ways that protect them from radiation.

Ominous as these results are, Mousseau does not predict an eventual science fiction world of three-eyed rabbits and headless horses. Instead, he believes irradiated forests will simply become less vibrant versions of their former selves. “The net effect will be fewer offspring and smaller populations until some species just disappear,” he says.

Like Otaki, Mousseau was initially surprised by his findings. He assumed that natural selection would weed out abnormal individuals as time passed. “The irony is that because the radiation levels are low and nonlethal, organisms survive long enough to reproduce and thus transmit the mutations from one generation to the next,” Mousseau says.

Other scientists have documented genetic changes in the cells of Scots pines, the dominant Chernobyl forest tree. Higher levels of exposure stunted growth and led to oddly bushy trees. Vasyl Yoschenko, head of radioecological monitoring at the Ukraine Institute of Agricultural Radiology, says that could benefit more radiation-tolerant species with significant forest-wide impacts: “If the Scots pine disappears, this will be a different ecosystem,” he says. Even one generation of weakened Scots pines would have cascading consequences. When pines produce less pollen, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators suffer. Reduced pollination affects fruit trees, which in turn affects birds. Few studies have tracked these chain reactions. “It’s not something you see quickly, and for that reason the research is difficult,” Otaki says. Mousseau is more direct about the potential impacts: “It’s very likely that these Chernobyl and Fukushima areas will be permanently affected unless we come up with some magical way to remove and eliminate the radioactive material.”

Many scientists reject these conclusions. Numerous laboratory and field studies around Chernobyl have failed to document elevated rates of mutations or reduced survival rates among animals in higher radiation zones. As proof, some researchers tout the abundance of mammals – moose, roe deer, otters, and wild boar proliferating in the evacuation zone despite the radiation. Removing humans from the landscape is an ecological benefit of the accident, says Robert Baker, a biology professor at Texas Tech University.

Baker’s research, first published in 1996, found no tumors in any of the 400 bank voles he studied from the Chernobyl region, despite radiation exposure of many generations during all stages of their life cycles. In a 2009 project with several colleagues, Baker found voles in radioactive sites genetically similar to those elsewhere in Ukraine. He says the results suggest that genetic changes in radioactive regions of Ukraine are probably a function of natural geographic variation.

Although Baker and Mousseau disagree about the effect of radiation on forest species, both have called for more research. The largest body of evidence on inherited mutations comes from multigenerational studies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors. It is inconclusive: A higher incidence of inherited deformities and disease has been neither confirmed nor definitively disproven in the children of survivors. Field research in Chernobyl, which got a late start due to Soviet politics, remains much less systematic than the atom bomb studies. And so far only a handful of biologists have launched field studies in Fukushima. Otaki believes the reason for that is partly political. “People are trying to forget what happened,” he says. As a result, funding for research like his is hard to come by. Baker hopes that will change. “Perhaps the accident in Japan will serve to highlight again the undeniable fact that our scientific grasp of radiation risk to the environment is surprisingly limited,” he says.

Read more in our special issue exploring the consequences of a new geologic epoch: the Anthropocene.

Pale grass blue butterflies still flutter in the Fukushima countryside, unaware they may be flirting with danger. Barn swallows dart around the forests of Chernobyl oblivious of the contamination they are carrying. For the hundreds of thousands of people forced to leave their homes in Japan, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, the radiation cycling from soil to treetop is an unnerving omnipresence. The forests they knew and depended upon now threaten instead of soothe, hiding unknowns where they once nurtured a community.

Kiyomi Yokota, the Fukushima naturalist, rarely takes his daughters to play in the woods as he did before the accident. The stress of making sure his three-year-old never touches the dirt or licks her fingers is simply too exhausting. “Just like that, everything changed,” he says. Amid the stress is a sadness fueled by the knowledge that the changes are human caused, that they are irrevocable, and that they will last long after those responsible for the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima have passed away.

Winifred Bird writes about the environment from Nagano, Japan. Jane Braxton Little is a science writer based in California’s Sierra Nevada. A grant from the Society of Environmental Journalists covered the travel costs for this story

http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/radiant_wildlands

 

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