Hinterland Green

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Research Project Finds Everyday Grass Could Provide Green Energy

ScienceDaily (Feb. 18, 2010) — A five-year research project has come up with a way of generating green energy from a humble everyday grass. Researchers at Teesside University's Contaminated Land and Water Center began the project in 2004 to see which plants could best be grown on brownfield sites as a way of improving unsightly blots on the landscape.

Now, the research by the BioReGen (Biomass, Remediation, re-Generation) project team has revealed that reed canary grass can be turned into an excellent fuel for biomass power stations and, on a smaller scale, boilers in buildings like schools. The native British grass is turned into bricks and pellets. These not only burn well but also don't add to greenhouse gases or contribute to global warming.

The team experimented with four types of plant, willow trees, the current favorite for biomass power stations, and the miscanthus, reed canary and switch grasses. Tests were carried out on sites around the region with work supported by a 1.2m Euros grant from the European Union's LIFE-Environment research program.

Click here to read entire article.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

China's Water Pollution Worse Than First Thought (REUTERS)

BEIJING (Reuters) - A new Chinese government survey of the country's environmental problems has shown water pollution levels in 2007 were more than twice the government's official estimate, largely because agricultural waste was ignored.

The data, presented by Vice Environment Protection Minister Zhang Lijun, revives persistent questions about the quality of Chinese official statistics and the effectiveness of a government push for cleaner growth after decades of unbridled expansion.

The first national census on pollution sources found that discharge of "chemical oxygen demand" (COD) -- a measure of water pollution -- in wastewater was 30.3 million metric tons, Zhang said.

The government had said in an official paper published two years ago that 2007 was the first year it managed to reduce water pollution, with COD falling 3 percent to 13.8 million metric tons.

Article continues: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6180U320100209

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Study: Discarded Drugs Can Still End up in Water Supply Even if You are Careful

A study by Maine Department of Environmental Protection shows that unused or expired medications that are thrown into the trash are showing up in landfill water, potentially putting aquatic life at risk.

The MDEP found tiny amounts of discarded drugs in water at three landfills in the state, confirming suspicions that pharmaceuticals thrown into household trash are ending up in landfills. Officials said the drugs aren't a threat to drinking water supplies, but could pose a risk to aquatic life because the landfill water ends up in rivers after being treated at wastewater treatment plants.

State lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would require drug manufacturers to develop and pay for a program to collect unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs from residents and dispose of them.

Texas' Trinity River Fish Contaminated by PCBs, Won't be Safe for Consumption for Years

Officials said the fish in the Trinity River, located in Texas, won't be safe to eat for many more years because of the continued presence of a toxic compound in the water. Some of the highest poisonous readings of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, were found at sample sites in Tarrant County.

"I think we've done irreparable damage," Brian Smith, who owns about 700 acres of preserved ranchland along the river in Navarro County south of Dallas, said during a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality meeting Wednesday in Arlington. The meeting was held to update the public on the state's effort to clean up the water in a 150-mile stretch of the river in Fort Worth, Arlington, Dallas and south toward Corsicana.

Read the full story at Star-Telegram.com.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Consumer Reports Study: Bagged Salads Aren't as Safe as You Think

Consumer Reports' releases results of study, find bagged salads aren't as "clean" as they claim to be. High levels of fecal bacteria found.

SHOCK: Consumer Reports, via its Consumers Union, has recently released the findings of tests on packaged leafy greens and the results are shocking. The study found high levels of bacteria, which are common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal matter. The study appears in the March 2010 issue of Consumer Reports and is also available online. Consumers Union has also issued a report urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set safety standards for greens. There is a sense of urgency to move this legislation through Congress because so many people, including children, eat green leafy vegetables on a daily basis. The legislation, pending in the Senate, passed last summer in the House of Representatives and would require the FDA to create safety standards for such vegetables.

The tests were conducted with financial support from the Pew Health Group and assessed several types of bacteria, including total coliforms and enterococcus which are "indicator organisms" found in the human digestive tract and in the surrounding environment that can indicate inadequate sanitation and a high risk of the presence of disease-causing organisms. What's equally disturbing is that there are no existing federal standards for indicator bacteria in salad greens, while there are standards for these forms of bacteria in milk, drinking water and beef. This is unacceptable and we should all work tirelessly to effect change in this arena. Several industry consultants have reportedly suggested that an unacceptable level in leafy greens would be 10,000 or more colony forming units per gram (CFU/g).

In our tests, 39 percent of samples exceeded that level for total coliforms and 23 percent for enterococcus. Results varied widely among samples, even within the same brand, from undetectable levels of those bacteria to more than 1 million CFU/g. Packages with higher bacteria levels had similarities. Many contained spinach and were one to five days from their use-by date. Packages six to eight days from their use-by date fared better. Whether the greens came in a clamshell or bag, included "baby" greens, or were organic made no difference.

Brands for which we had more than four samples, including national brands Dole, Earthbound Farm Organic, and Fresh Express, plus regional and store brands, had at least one package with relatively high levels of total coliforms or enterococcus. Our tests were conducted at an outside lab over two weeks in August and September with financial support from the Pew Health Group, which is working to improve food safety.

Consumers Union supports Senate Bill 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, that would, among other things, require the Food and Drug Administration to set stronger produce safety standards. Those should include performance standards for indicators of fecal contamination, such as generic E. coli and enterococcus. Source: Consumer Reports
What can you do to prevent ingesting harmful bacteria? The first thing is to wash the vegetables thoroughly, even if they "claim" to be pre-washed. It will help get rid of any residual soil matter. Visit Consumers Union for more tips: www.ConsumersUnion.org/safefood. In the meantime, please contact your elected officials in the Congress to get a move on passing this legislation.

Photo credit: Consumer Reports

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sir Richard Branson Unveils the Necker Nymph, An Underwater Plane

Billionaire Sir Richard Branson has unveiled his latest toy -- an underwater plane called Necker Nymph. It can dive to depths of up to 130 feet. Sir Richard reportedly plans to lend the Nymph out to visitors of his luxury Necker Island hideaway. The Necker Nymph can carry a pilot and two visitors on a two-hour trip. Of course, this is for those with deep pockets. A trip on this fascinating addition to his collection will set you back $25,000 a week, after you have forked over a minimum of $88,000 for a seven-night stay on the luxury catamaran, the Necker Belle. This comes on the heels of the Virgin Galactic space ship.

According to the Daily Mail, the luxury sub has a fighter jet technology and is piloted with a joystick. Most subs use ballast for propulsion under the water, the Nymph used downward "lift" on wings to fly down. The Necker Nymph, which is the first of its kind, was designed and built by Graham Hawkes, chief of Hawkes Ocean Technologies.

You have to give Sir Richard Branson credit for being a visionary and seeing past the status quo. Here's a man who built his organization under to Virgin name from a mail order record retailer in 1970 to a corporate powerhouse today that includes 200 branded companies worldwide, employs about 50,000 people in 29 countries.