Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | February 12, 2016

Environmental pollution, Washington state, Flint river & what it means to be an Activist

It is my belief that people must be taught how to think, not what to think… and that flies in the face of the constant fast food type of news analysis and ready made thinking screaming down at people from the TV sets everywhere.

You are insulted with an always fresh supply of stupidity from all corners of the broadcast world, without the opportunity to engage in thoughtful and measured discourse amongst your peers — simply because life is so hectic and all of us, we are running at full tilt, and we are so engaged in all things, and on all fronts, that we accept unquestioningly the ready made solutions to our problems. Except that these are no solutions at all…

This ready made thinking is poison for the soul. And it accumulates within our mind rendering us weak, powerless, and feeling rather stupid.

Yet sometimes we find the time to help ourselves discern muck from gold.

We find the strength to make our own choices that are clearly intelligent, and then we gather others around us, to help us define and create our own reality.  And in short — that is the genius of the human spirit. That is the genius of the human being.

So when we are faced with a barrage of negativity in our lives, we can either roll over and accept it or we can revolt and look to find a ray of sunlight, and gather a bit of hope, that will motivate us to throw off the shackles of doubt, and let go of the handcuffs of fear and the bondage of uncertainty — and start moving forward again.

It is exactly that moment that we can realize that we are powerful enough to move mountains…

But first we have to decide which mountains we need to move. And for that we have the activists who are the early pioneers and the leaders that can point us in the right direction in order to create a movement.

Activists are people who see the need for change and devote their time to doing something about it.

They are usually driven by passion and a vision for a better future. Activism comes naturally to some, while for others, it’s thrust upon them when they experience situations that hurt them or those they love.

And in many cases it is the many injustices performed in society that fire up the activist inside each one of us to take up a stone and throw it at the Status Quo shattering the illusions that keep us bound up in an unjust system. It is the simple act of civil disobedience that causes us all to revolt. It is the very human experience of equity distributed badly. Or healthcare offered unjustly and unequally. Or maybe people get upset when some of us are more entitled than others because of the color of our skin or of the place where we were born or because of religion and ideological upbringing.

In the face of things and against the all powerful status quo — it often seems that one person cannot do much. Yet in the face of these intractable odds the activists find their way to fight for their cause that always amounts to more Social, Human, and Environmental Justice.

So as I was working with some young people on a Democratic campaign yesterday — we thought of all the reasons and the whys and the hows of becoming an activist.

In a nutshell: Whatever your reason for wanting to become an activist, you have the ability to do so – no matter your age, your means, or your socio-economic background. It doesn’t matter who you are — you just have to admit that you don’t want to go quietly into the night, because it’s people like you, people who believe they have the power to make a difference, who end up changing the world for the better.

And all you need is to unleash your fire from within to want to Do the Right Thing. This passion will guide you forth because it often comes from a simple sudden realization that changes your life forever. And once that realization hits you, it is what will stoke the embers of your activism, even at the lowest points – when your your energy is running low and when sometimes you might feel like giving up.

Once you’re aware of something in the world that you believe needs fixing, changing, or overhauling – that awareness will dog you constantly and cause you to see the need everywhere, bringing a sense of responsibility with it.

Corruption is everywhere and all it takes is for some of us to start cleaning it up. And if all of us just start cleaning up in front of our own door – surely the world will become a very different place rather fast…

For example, you might find out that a company in your town is polluting your local river, and decide you’re going to do something to help stop this pollution… Think of the Flint river in Michigan that is so terribly polluted that we cannot even use the water for bathing let alone drinking, anymore. The whole city of Flint has gone sick from the lead, the arsenic, the PCBs, and the mercury, that is in their tap water coming from the Flint river.

Well, let’s think about it. Why is the Flint river so polluted?  Somebody at some pint put this industrial pollution in the river Flint, and they continue pouring it in. And am certain we know who did it. And the EPA knows it too. And perhaps we also know how to make them stop pouring it in. After all we have the EPA and the clean water act of 1973.

Right?

Not so right… because with the Republican Congress’s help we gutted all of the environmental legislation and made both the EPA and the Clean Water Act toothless. And now we can’t use them against the polluters to make them stop. But if you’ve seen the Erin Brockovich film – you know that you, Yourself, can do something about it…

So let’s get to it.

How to Help Stop Pollution from destroying your city?

First thing to remember is that when you are in the hole – you must stop digging further down. In the case of the Flint river — you must stop putting more pollution into the river before you start making plans to clean it up.

So, how do you clean up a river?

The answer, is twofold: 1) Treatment and 2) Dilution.

Take as an example the Yellow waters river in Colorado…

The approximate site of the Aug. 5 Gold King Mine breach near Silverton, Colorado.
Photo of Cement Creek in Silverton, Colorado, after the Gold King Mine contaminated it with toxic water.

A plume of orange-yellow water gushed into Cement Creek and the Animas River after EPA workers accidentally breached a debris wall holding back the acid mine drainage at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, on Aug. 5, 2015. This photograph was taken Aug. 9 at Cement Creek in Silverton.
Credit: EPA

On Aug. 5, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) workers inadvertently breached a wall of loose debris that was holding back a pool of mustard-hued wastewater from the abandoned Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado.

With a sudden gush, some 3 million gallons (about 11 million liters) of acidic, heavy-metal-laden water flooded into Cement Creek, a tributary of the nearby Animas River. From there, the plume headed downstream into the San Juan River (a major tributary of the Colorado River), headed for New Mexico and, eventually, Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border.

On the way, the plume traveled through Durango and Navajo Nation land in New Mexico, forcing warnings against touching the water, drinking it or using it for irrigation. The EPA is now scrambling to clean up the mess. [See Images of the Gold King Mine Spill]

The Gold King Mine is one of an estimated 23,000 abandoned mines dotting the state of Colorado. Prospectors and mining companies dug gold-bearing ore and other precious metals out of the ground in the state for decades, but they had little responsibility for cleaning up after the mines closed. It wasn’t until the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act passed in 1977 that mining operators had to create a plan for cleaning up defunct mines.

That act established funding for states to clean up long-abandoned mines, like the Gold King (which closed in the 1920s). But funds, drawn from taxes on coal-mining companies, are limited. The Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining & Safety gets about $2 million a year, and that amount has allowed the closing of 6,127 abandoned mine shafts in the state since 1980. But that state agency has almost no money for environmental remediation beyond simply closing entrances and preventing mine collapse. There have been previous efforts to turn the area around the Gold King Mine into a Superfund site, which would fast-track funds for the containment of any toxic waste. But local opposition sunk those plans.

Meanwhile, abandoned mines leak out toxic wastewater all over the state. The EPA was working at the Gold King Mine as part of an effort to slow acidic mine water that was leaking into Cement Creek from the Red and Bonita Mine farther down the mountain. The plan was to build a cement bulkhead to plug the leak, with pipes that would allow the slow release and treatment of water. Instead, the crew’s machinery breached a debris wall that was holding back the nasty brew lurking in the Gold King Mine.

The mine water is toxic because it contains dissolved pyrite, or iron sulfide, better known as fool’s gold. The combination of iron sulfide, water and oxygen results in the formation of sulfuric acid.

“All you need is air and water” to create acid mine drainage, said Ron Cohen, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Colorado school of Mines who has been involved in mine remediation internationally.

This acidic water then leaches heavy metals — such as zinc, lead and cadmium — from the ground. Arsenic levels also spiked after the mine blowout to more than 25 times the state limit for water safety. The mustard-yellow color of the water is caused by oxidized iron, Cohen said — similar to the rust on an old nail.

“The old-timers used to call it ‘yellow boy,'” he said.

Cleaning up the spill: 

The EPA’s emergency cleanup is a quick version of typical mine treatment. According to news releases, the agency has excavated four holding ponds below the mine breach. Crews are treating the water in these ponds with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) and lime (calcium oxide), which are very basic in pH. The goal is to reduce the acidity of the water.

“When the water is rather basic in nature, considerably above pH 7 [neutral], most of your metals will come out of the] solution,” Cohen told Live Science.

This process is often visible, Cohen said. Seemingly clear water will turn cloudy as the dissolved metals settle out.

The sludge left behind can be stripped of water and disposed of, Cohen said. Once they’re not in their dissolved form, the metals are far less toxic to the environment.

On Aug. 10, the EPA reported that the water released from its treatment ponds was cleaner and less acidic than the water in Cement Creek had been even before the spill. The agency did not respond to requests for comment.

It takes time and dilution:

The EPA and other agencies are monitoring wildlife and testing water quality downstream from the mine, all the way into New Mexico. The good news, Cohen said, is that dilution and time will likely go a long way toward mitigating the long-term consequences of the spill.

Three million gallons of water (which spilled out of the mine) equals approximately 400,000 cubic feet. That’s no small amount, but about 8 million cubic feet of water flows through Cement Creek each day, Cohen said. As the contaminated water flows into larger and larger bodies of water, it will become increasingly diluted. Lake Powell currently holds about 560 billion cubic feet of water.

However, that dilution doesn’t negate the ongoing challenges caused by Colorado’s abandoned mines, which tend to wreak environmental havoc on their own. Many leak constantly at low levels, or release toxic waste during the spring melt each year. Others occasionally put out large pulses of contamination. In 2009, thousands of gallons of bright-orange mine waste poured into Clear Creek, west of Denver. Similar spills have happened at the California Gulch Superfund site near Leadville, Colorado, and at the Summitville Mine near Del Norte, Colorado. One of the Most Polluted Places on Earth.

“We’ve had many of these spills without the EPA’s help.” Many of the mines closed nearly a century ago, leaving no one to hold responsible for the mess.

“There is a real limitation due to resources — both human resources and money resources — to be able to go after all of these sites aggressively.”

“But we can start doing it and see where we get to.”

So in our general Life same as in the natural world – there are always ways to take care of things, and effect the cleanup of whatever corruption and pollution faces us.

Here are the top Seven methods of making the Environment a priority:  1) Making Sustainable Transportation Choices. 2) Making Sustainable Food Choices. 3) Making Sustainable Energy Choices. 4) Recycling, Reusing, and Reducing Your Waste. 5) Keeping Chemicals Out of the Water Supply. 6) Getting Involved and Educating Others. 7) Become an Activist and inspire others to activate.

In more detail: Stopping CO2 pollution in the atmosphere is clearly the most important thing for the survival of our people, for all the other species, and for the  maintenance of the atmospheric Goldilocks balance that has allowed us to thrive on this Earth.

The basic health and the well-being of the people absolutely depend on it. Climate Change can only be arrested if we limit global warming and the only way to do this is via the reduction of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

In many cities of this earth the air is absolutely unfit to breathe. And although the air we breathe, in most of our cities is laden with hazardous contaminants, we think that we are unable to do anything about it. And it’s not just the cloudy air we breathe in the cities of China that am speaking of, because air unfit for human beings is found in most metropolitan areas of the globe.

Our lands are heavily polluted with pesticides, acids, and toxic substances and with increased radiation fallout all over on the Northern hemisphere from all the radioactivity we’ve unleashed since our experiments with testing and deploying nuclear weapons, and through all of the nuclear energy factory accidents, that up to day number over 700.

Same with our atmosphere where the radiation mostly rests in subatomic particles moving around with the winds and the seasons and dropping down with the rains like a terrible “manna” from the skies. The more than 700 serious nuclear accidents I am referring to are just the most serious cases of industrial nuclear accidents that happen with a ferocious regularity in all the nuclear energy plans like Fukushima in Japan, the Three Mile island in Pennsylvania, the Chernobyl in Ukraine, the Windscale in the UK, and all the rest:

Chernobyl disaster

The Hanford Nuclear Disaster in Washington State:

Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Plutonium Weapons Enrichment Plant, & Nuclear Waste Site — in Washington State.

Nuclear reactors line the riverbank at the Hanford Site along the Columbia River in January 1960. The N Reactor is in the foreground, with the twin KE and KW Reactors in the immediate background. The historic B Reactor, the world’s firstplutonium production reactor, is visible in the distance.

The Hanford Site is a nuclear production complex operated by the United States federal government on the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington. The site has been known by many names, including: Hanford Project, Hanford Works, Hanford Engineer Works or HEW and Hanford Nuclear Reservationor HNR. Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project in the town of Hanford in south-central Washington, the site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in the Fat Man, the bomb type detonated over Hiroshima & Nagasaki, Japan.

During the Cold War, the project expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the more than 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Nuclear technology developed rapidly during this period, and Hanford scientists produced notable technological achievements. Many early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were inadequate in hindsight, and government documents have confirmed that Hanford’s operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the air and the Columbia River.

The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, and decades of manufacturing left behind 53 million US gallons (200,000 m3) of high-level radioactive waste stored within 177 storage tanks, an additional 25 million cubic feet (710,000 m3) of solid radioactive waste, and 200 square miles (520 km2) of contaminated groundwater beneath the site. In 2011, DOE emptied 149 single-shell tanks by pumping nearly all of the liquid waste out into 28 newer double-shell tanks. DOE later found water intruding into at least 14 single-shell tanks and that one of them had been leaking about 640 US gallons (2,400 l; 530 imp gal) per year into the ground since about 2010. In 2012, DOE discovered a leak also from a double-shell tank caused by construction flaws and corrosion in the bottom, and that 12 double-shell tanks have similar construction flaws. Since then, DOE changed to monitoring single-shell tanks monthly and double-shell tanks every 3 years, and also changed monitoring methods. In March 2014, DOE announced further delays in the construction of the Waste Treatment Plant, which will affect the schedule for removing waste from the tanks. Intermittent discoveries of undocumented contamination have slowed the pace and raised the cost of cleanup.

In 2007, the Hanford site represented two-thirds of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste by volume. Hanford is currently the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States, and perhaps the world, and is the focus of the US’s largest environmental cleanup effort ever. Besides the cleanup effort project though, Hanford still hosts a fully operational commercial nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station, and various centers for Nuclear Energy scientific research and development, such as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the LIGO Hanford Observatory.

Hanford is clearly the most contaminated nuclear site in the world. And so Hanford’s radioactive and toxic wastes pose serious health and environmental threats especially as they leach into the Columbia river. These problems are a legacy of international tension and nuclear weapons production over the last century. The major challenge of Hanford Nuclear Disaster site today, is a tapestry woven from this complex history of this vast NUCLEAR RESERVATION. The tapestry of Hanford Nuclear Reservation is colored by four principal threads that still interfere with cleanup efforts:

1) The first thread is the extreme secrecy and isolation of this government project starting in 1943 in the midst of World War II. In most cases the Hanford workers did not know that their job was making the plutonium for atomic bombs until the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Security remained very tight during the decades of the Cold War. The government did not reveal a number of significant health-related events until forced to do so in the late 1980s by citizen exercise of the Freedom of Information Act. Although highly sophisticated radiation monitoring was performed throughout the history of Hanford, the government did not tell the public the details, repeatedly assuring them that everything was safe.

2) A second thread is the Hanford workers’ pride in their work and a strong sense of community that tolerated no criticism from insiders who knew of dangers or safety violations. Rejection, isolation and denial still meet whistleblowers’ efforts, and local pride still clamors for “production” jobs at Hanford.

3) The third thread is the slowly evolving understanding of radiobiology and its acceptance by political figures. For example, initial hopes that the soil would hold wastes from leaching into the groundwater were eventually proven wrong. The Chernobyl disaster alerted the public that serious accidents could occur at Hanford. The resulting contamination of the Columbia and its basin would affect the population of the entire Northwest. Increasing understanding of the effects of relatively low level radiation on DNA and the long lag time before such radiation effects are apparent in humans and animals has further focused public desire to safely contain the highly toxic nuclear wastes at Hanford.

4) The fourth thread is the tangled, often incestuous relationship between the US Government as represented by its local agency, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the large corporations doing most of the contracted work at Hanford. Often the government awarded contracts on bids involving lowest cost estimates that have led to disappointing progress, unsafe procedures and contractor turnover. General Electric followed Dupont, then Atlantic Richfield (ARCO), then Rockwell, then Westinghouse, and currently Fluor Daniel and Bechtel. Large bonuses for reaching or exceeding projected volumes of production of plutonium for our warheads lured corporations into giving a very low priority to safety measures and control of radioactive waste. The termination in 2000 of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. for mammoth estimated cost increases for glassification (vitrification) of high level wastes is but the latest example of Hanford’s contractor problems.

Many more highly dangerous nuclear accident sites dot this earth of ours and are going to be polluted enough to not allow human beings to trespass there for many Thousands of years to come…

Further, all of our oceans and waterways have been poisoned with the runoff of the chemicals we use on our lands, with the raw sewage we produce, with the plastics we use and discard wantonly, and also with all of the other garbage our throwaway consumer culture constantly creates.

If left unabated, this runaway pollution could leave us with a planet uninhabitable by humans. But for now it already has left many places of this Earth sapped of its beauty, vitality, and diversity of Life already.

We are going through a period of Great Despeciation similar to the previous mass extinctions of species our planet has already experienced due to climate change and anthropogenic influences.

That is why we call this geological season, the Anthropocene Era…

Yours,

Dr Kroko

PS:

So…

Methinks we should do something about it.

We must keep working to activate others and our societies, in order to engage in some practical ways that we can help stop pollution from our atmosphere, from our air, from our waters, and from our land…

Activists are passionate enough to believe they can make change happen if they work hard enough to find a solution.

Many people might become stalled when faced with the simple and unavoidable question: How much good can one individual do?

Well the truth is that myself as almost all activists believe that a single dedicated and persistent person can make a huge difference. Indeed it always has…

And indeed as Margaret Mead the American cultural anthropologist has always told us:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
Now if you want to join me in fixing some of these things and taking care of Corruption and Pollution in Washington State and beyond — please join me and stand with me because in these upcoming elections we are supporting a Great Candidate for President, Senator Bernie Sanders, and we have plenty of work to do.
And also myself as am considering a candidacy in support of this Grassroots Movement to boost our Progressive Democratic Politics in the United States Senate and Congress during this round of elections in order to get our 21st century Democratic and Environmental Policies across this great land.
And for that we want to seriously ask for your help, for your vote, and for your participation.
So come around and be counted, because the greatest kinship and love are found in the shared lives of people immersed in a collective effort to change their society.
This is simple and true activism. And as we all embark in this common search for meaning, and in our search of a more tolerable and ultimately more human society, and culture we need to build better social relations, because we need to come together. And that is why I support Bernie Sanders for President of these United States, because he gets that…
And because he is also the kind of person that is simple and very much like us, in that he recognizes intimately, that human relationships are at the heart of life, and that changing society includes changing the culture, the status quo, and people’s daily lives.
We get it. We get that economic and materialistic greed is sterile. We get that friendship and community don’t just happen on their own but must be consciously created. We get all of this, because this is what we feel in our hearts. And because we feel it, we must declare our allegiance to each other to be this simple and self-evident truth, and then we got to go and commit ourselves to making Change real.
Make Change Real.
Let’s get on with it, because what we are talking about is a spiritual and physical rebirth that is the result of human activism, interactions, and sharing.
Come along in this great journey and be counted.

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