Daily Archives: February 16, 2014

High perchlorate levels found in atacama desert (Chile)

I wonder why these perchlorate concentrations were detected so high. Was there a problem with sampling or analysis? Is there an obvious source of perchlorate?

R Calderon, P. Palma, D Parker, M Molina, FA Godoy, M Escudey. Perchlorate levels in soil and waters from the atacama desert. Archives Of Environmental Contamination And Toxicology, 2014 Feb; Vol. 66 (2), 155-61.

Perchlorate is an anion that originates as a contaminant in ground and surface waters. The presence of perchlorate in soil and water samples from northern Chile (Atacama Desert) was investigated by ion chromatography-electrospray mass spectrometry. Results indicated that perchlorate was found in five of seven soils (cultivated and uncultivated) ranging from 290 ± 1 to 2,565 ± 2 μg/kg. The greatest concentration of perchlorate was detected in Humberstone soil (2,565 ± 2 μg/kg) associated with nitrate deposits. Perchlorate levels in Chilean soils are greater than those reported for uncultivated soils in the United States. Perchlorate was also found in superficial running water ranging from 744 ± 0.01 to 1,480 ± 0.02 μg/L. Perchlorate water concentration is 30-60 times greater than levels established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (24.5 μg/L) for drinking.

Perpetual water problems in the San Joaquin Valley; The fruit of an unsustainable drinking water regulatory system

The APHA is an advocacy organization from what is called a “liberal” perspective. So it was only a matter of time that articles would appear in this particular magazine published by APHA presenting water problems in the San Joaquin Valley as simply a matter of environmental injustice. Having been the first to write on the topic of environmental justice and drinking water over 15 years ago, I am curious why it has emerged again in the form of the “right to water”. This is unfortunate but not surprising. It is unfortunate because it confuses the matter even further and will not lead to a sustainable solution. 

The article below reads well and one cannot help but feel compelled to help the people of the valley who do not have a reliable source of clean drinking water. Having made an attempt last year to help communities in that area, it became clear to me that help to actually solve a particular water problem is not desired there. There are 2 major forces at work that undermine a permanent solution. First is the vested interest in the organizations, agencies, and consultants who are now getting government funding to “help” these people. As I have pointed out in the past, this has only resulted in further government dependency. Second, but hidden within this analysis is a failure (or unwillingness) to recognize the major role the California and Federal EPA regulatory system itself plays in perpetuating problems in rural as well as metropolitan areas. 

Further, the analysis chops up the concept of justice on several levels by redefining the term and presenting the analysis as if only their particular concept is correct or right. The disparities framework looks good on paper and these types of analyses have been presented before. But does the vision presented by the authors lead us to a solution for the San Joaquin Valley? Like “global warming”, will papers that present alternative views and analyses be excluded from APHA publications?

Carolina L. Balazs and Isha Ray. The Drinking Water Disparities Framework: On the Origins and Persistence of Inequities in Exposure. Am J Public Health. 2014: e1–e9. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301664

With this article, we develop the Drinking Water Disparities Framework to explain environmental injustice in the context of drinking water in the United States. The framework builds on the social epidemiology and environmental justice literatures, and is populated with 5 years of field data (2005–2010) from California’s San Joaquin Valley. We trace the mechanisms through which natural, built, and sociopolitical factors work through state, county, community, and household actors to constrain access to safe water and to financial resources for communities. These constraints and regulatory failures produce social disparities in exposure to drinking water contaminants. Water system and household coping capacities lead, at best, to partial protection against exposure. This composite burden explains the origins and persistence of social disparities in exposure to drinking water contaminants.

click here for the full paper.

Solar energy plant killing birds by the dozen


“It’s a conundrum for environmentalists: a solar power plant that is the largest of its type in the world and can supply power for 140,000 homes is also killing dozens of birds. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which uses hundreds of thousands of mirrors near the California-Nevada border, is capable of producing nearly 400 megawatts, but its roughly 350,000 solar-thermal, computer-controlled mirrors which reflect sunlight to boilers on the top of 459-foot towers, has apparently already killed dozens of birds. The intense 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit around the towers is burning birds flying through its path.” click here

Caboxylic acids in two drinking water treatment plants

Jurado-Sánchez, Beatriz, Ballesteros, Gallego, Mercedes. Occurrence of carboxylic acids in different steps of two drinking-water treatment plants using different disinfectants. Water Research. Mar2014, Vol. 51, p186-197.

The occurrence of 35 aliphatic and aromatic carboxylic acids within two full scale drinking-water treatment plants was evaluated for the first time in this research. At the intake of each plant (raw water), the occurrence of carboxylic acids varied according to the quality of the water source although in both cases 13 acids were detected at average concentrations of 6.9 and 4.7 μg/L (in winter). In the following steps in each treatment plant, the concentration patterns of these compounds differed depending on the type of disinfectant applied. Thus, after disinfection by chloramination, the levels of the acids remained almost constant (average concentration, 6.3 μg/L) and four new acids were formed (butyric, 2-methylbutyric, 3-hydroxybenzoic and 2-nitrobenzoic) at low levels (1.1–5 μg/L). When ozonation/chlorination was used, the total concentration of the carboxylic acids in the raw water sample (4.7 μg/L) increased up to 6 times (average concentration, 26.3 μg/L) after disinfection and 6 new acids (mainly aromatic) were produced at high levels (3.5–100 μg/L). Seasonal variations of the carboxylic acids under study showed that in both plants, maximum levels of all the analytes were reached in the coldest months (autumn and winter), aromatic acids only being found in those seasons.