Monday, June 28, 2010

Open the levees and let the Mississippi go....

An interesting post from Water Wired: 


Historian Douglas Brinkley, author of the excellent chronicle of Hurricane Katrina, The Great Deluge,  wrote an Op-Ed for the Financial Times last week (you may need to complete a free registration to read it) titled, To Save the Gulf, Free the Mississippi.



Brinkley wants BP to deposit $20B in an escrow account, along with an additional $8B letter of credit. Besides paying claims, this fund would also finance a scheme to remove oil from Louisiana's wetlands. He advocates literally opening the floodgates and allowing the Mississippi River to flush the wetlands of oil.
Here are the relevant paragraphs:
MS RiverBut BP’s escrow billions should not go merely to paying lost wage claims to the charter boat operators, fisherman, motel owners, and seaside restaurateurs whose livelihoods have suffered. The money will also be needed for the US Army Corps of Engineers to open up the floodgates at the mouth of the Mississippi River and flush the Louisiana wetlands with new sediment-rich waters. Nothing is more toxic to wetlands than oil. The BP spill is not a Hurricane Katrina, in which 1,836 people died. Nor is it on the scale of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which claimed 2,995 lives. But it is the worst environmental disaster in US history. It requires Mr Obama to take one major action: start the decade-long process of saving America’s wetlands
Back in 1932 the Army Corps mistakenly raised the Mississippi River levies and built concrete jetties for flood control. The net effect of these engineering boondoggles – built ostensibly to improve navigation and reduce the need for dredging – has been to destroy Louisiana’s incredible wetlands; already a landmass the size of Delaware has disappeared. The Corps flood control programme has deprived the wetlands of their annual replenishing sediment. Instead, hundreds of tonnes of sediment a year drift far out over the outer continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico for naught. Now, as the oil pours in, the wetlands have no natural means of replenishment. They are becoming a toxic dump.
Interesting idea. I'd like to see it vetted by someone qualified to assess its efficacy and speculate upon its unintended consequences.
Thanks to Steven Solomon for sending this my way. He mentioned that Brinkley told him that he had contacted the Department of the Interior about his idea and that they are considering it.
"And the river she rises
Just like she used to do.
She's so full of surprises
She reminds me of you."
-- 
Heart of the Night by Poco (written by Paul Cotton)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Imperial county exploratory water sampling trip and meeting with the Calexico New River Committee

On June 11 and 12, Diane, Kristen, and I made an exploratory trip to meet with Miguel Figueroa and to sample the water quality of Imperial county rivers and canals. 

Miguel of the Calexico New River Committee gave us a great tour of some interesting spots on the New River around Calexico. This river is reported to be heavily polluted as it flows across the international border in the heart of Mexicali/Calexico.   

There was a small amount of E.coli indicator in the Alamo river as it flowed across the international border. We found no other E.coli in rivers, irrigation canals, or irrigation drainage ditches except for one canal north of Brawley near Hwy 111 which also had 1 E.coli / ml.  Our sampling was by no means a representative sample of irrigation canals or the rivers of Imperial county. We were unable to obtain a sample of the new river. These data suggest that further study would be useful to discover if fecal pollution is indeed a problem in irrigation canals. 

If you are interested, email me for a KMZ file or the data. 





Contaminated reusable grocery bags

The media really picked up on this story. Only ~5% of everyone surveyed in Loma Linda wash their grocery bags. Dr. Germ really knows how to spark the public's interest in hygiene!


Most foodborne illnesses are believed to originate in the home. Reuse of bags creates an opportunity for cross contamination of foods. The purpose of this study was to assess the potential for cross contamination of food products from reusable bags used to carry groceries. Reusable bags were collected at random from consumers as they entered grocery stores in California and Arizona. In interviews it was found that reusable bags are seldom if ever washed and often used for multiple purposes. Large numbers of bacteria were found in almost all bags and coliform bacteria in half. Escherichia coli were identified in 12% of the bags and a wide range of enteric bacteria, including several opportunistic pathogens. When meat juices were added to bags and stored in the trunks of cars for two hours the number of bacteria increased 10-fold indicating the potential for bacterial growth in the bags. Hand or machine washing was found to reduce the bacteria in bags by >99.9%. These results indicate that reusable bags can play a significant role in the cross contamination of foods if not properly washed on a regular basis. It is recommended that the public needs to be educated about the proper care of reusable bags by printed instructions on the bags or through public service announcements.


http://www.llu.edu/public-health/news/news-grocery-bags-bacteria.page



Contaminated reusable grocery bags

The media really picked up on this story. Only ~5% of everyone surveyed in Loma Linda wash their grocery bags. Dr. Germ really knows how to spark the public's interest in hygiene!


Most foodborne illnesses are believed to originate in the home. Reuse of bags creates an opportunity for cross contamination of foods. The purpose of this study was to assess the potential for cross contamination of food products from reusable bags used to carry groceries. Reusable bags were collected at random from consumers as they entered grocery stores in California and Arizona. In interviews it was found that reusable bags are seldom if ever washed and often used for multiple purposes. Large numbers of bacteria were found in almost all bags and coliform bacteria in half. Escherichia coli were identified in 12% of the bags and a wide range of enteric bacteria, including several opportunistic pathogens. When meat juices were added to bags and stored in the trunks of cars for two hours the number of bacteria increased 10-fold indicating the potential for bacterial growth in the bags. Hand or machine washing was found to reduce the bacteria in bags by >99.9%. These results indicate that reusable bags can play a significant role in the cross contamination of foods if not properly washed on a regular basis. It is recommended that the public needs to be educated about the proper care of reusable bags by printed instructions on the bags or through public service announcements.


http://www.llu.edu/public-health/news/news-grocery-bags-bacteria.page

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Solar Water Disinfection and the BPA Plastic Panic


A May 31 article in the New Yorker is titled "The Plastic Panic".  It discusses the dangers of Bisphenol A (BPA) and our government's response to plastics. 

Although BPA commonly found in nalgene bottles is a health hazard when heated, I have not seen evidence against consuming water heated in polyethylene terphalate (i.e. PET or coke bottle plastic type 1). For this reason I still promote Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS) in used PET or glass bottles. The method was featured in the February National Geographic on Water and is described on by the EAWAG group in Switzerland.

This first study listed in the PET bottle research section of the SODIS website is a recent investigation of SODIS and plasticizers. The study shows that plasticizers in solar disinfected bottles are never more than the amount in newly purchased bottled water.

Is there a health effect? The EAWAG group in Switzerland is still searching. One problem the recent New Yorker article mentions is that there are fewer funded plastic research projects than there are types of plastic that we use on a daily basis. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lunch: Solar Box Cooked Eggs

As a gift, Sophea built a solar box cooker for work. This is an ideal lunch cooker. Its small, cute, and can handle one pan of lunch. Instead of using a microwave for that pasta you bring for lunch, why not use a solar cooker? Put the pasta in the solar cooker when you get to work, and by lunch, your food will be sizzling and hot. 
The solar cooker can boil water and will keep things warm for a long time.  Also, you never have to worry about things burning in the solar cooker. 


I built this one from a styrofoam box, an old scanner's glass (from LLU SPH), aluminum foil, blue masking tape, and some Arizona license plates spray painted black.  


Two hour cooked eggs for Lunch on June 1st, 2010
I use it as an alternative to microwave ovens.  I use microwaves for lunch at work, but my soup usually spatters and I have to clean  up the microwave. With a personal solar box cooker you don't have to worry about that. You also never have to wait in line to microwave your food.  There are plenty of environmental/carbon footprint reasons to use a solar cooker, but I use it for the convenience aspect. 
There is plenty of sun in Loma Linda, so bon appetit!
Build a solar cooker
Recipes for solar cookers
Wikipedia
I prefer Sophea's design over many of the solar cookers you see in these websites. It is portable and cute.