Oct 26, 2020

The forklift truck drivers who never leave their desks

(BBC) During the pandemic, many of us have relied on having goods delivered to our homes more frequently than before.

But as Covid-19 spreads easily, the warehouses dotted along the world's supply chains have become potential hubs of disease transmission, says Elliot Katz, co-founder of Phantom Auto.

The solution, he suggests, is to reduce the number of people working in those environments. Take forklift operators, for instance - with remote-control technology they can now work off-site, controlling their machines from afar.

"We have customers today where we are fully remotely operating those forklifts from remote locations," says Mr Katz, whose firm has equipped a string of new clients with these systems in recent months.

Phantom Auto's technology is now installed in around a dozen warehouses in the US and Europe, he adds.

Read full from source:

Oct 20, 2020

EPA crews use color system to remove hazardous waste for Carmel Fire

Keeping track of what's safe and what's not during fire waste removal is getting clearer. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has a color system to mark dangerous items left behind at destroyed properties.

In phase one of waste removal, EPA crews are looking to remove all the hazards from sites, which includes cleaning supplies, paints, etc. The first step, Phase I, is needed before bulldozing of the damage.
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If the first phase is not completed before bulldozing over a burned out property, "that could be hazardous for the workers who come in to do that second phase of debris removal," said Jeremy Johnstone, an Environmental Protection Agency task force leader.

It's not about what a person sees on a burned out property, it's what most people visiting don't see, that needs professional eyes.

"The ash can be hazardous, there can be asbestos on site, you can get on skin and hair," Johnstone said.

Those are a few examples of hazardous materials on a site everyone who visits, should be aware of. The EPA has a color coded system to help.

Items they have marked with white spray paint are deemed safe and should be treated as debris. An orange mark means the item is hazardous such as unexploded ammunition.

A pink mark is the assumption of asbestos, to be actually tested in phase two.

This consist of a lot of work for crews who are averaging about an hour a property under new COVID-19 protocols. The new rules include keeping smaller, similar work crews together. For example crews working on Trampa Canyon Road near Cachagua Rd. in Carmel Valley, will stick with their same groups as they move to different properties

Johnstone said, "we are maintaining social spacing. In the after hours we are not hanging out having drinks or dinner together." "We're also getting regualry tested. Each individual is getting tested twice a week."

Once phase one is completed for the Carmel fire, EPA crews will move to do phase one for the River and then Dolan Fire. Once phase one is completed on a property, phase two can begin.

Read full from source:
https://www.ksbw.com/article/epa-crews-use-color-system-to-remove-hazardous-waste-for-carmel-fire/34350381#

More Than 200 Million Americans Could Have Toxic PFAS in Their Drinking Water

The study, published today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, analyzed publicly accessible drinking water testing results from the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Survey, as well as state testing by Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina and Rhode Island.

"We know drinking water is a major source of exposure of these toxic chemicals," said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., vice president for science investigations at EWG and a co-author of the new study. "This new paper shows that PFAS pollution is affecting even more Americans than we previously estimated. PFAS are likely detectable in all major water supplies in the U.S., almost certainly in all that use surface water."

The analysis also included laboratory tests commissioned by EWG that found PFAS chemicals in the drinking water of dozens of U.S. cities. Some of the highest PFAS levels detected were in samples from major metropolitan areas, including Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans and the northern New Jersey suburbs of New York City.

There is no national requirement for ongoing testing and no national drinking water standard for any PFAS in drinking water. The EPA has issued an inadequate lifetime health advisory level of 70 ppt for the two most notorious fluorinated chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, and efforts to set an enforceable standard could take many years.

In the absence of a federal standard, states have started to pass their own legal limits for some PFAS. New Jersey was the first to issue a maximum contaminant limit for the compound PFNA, at 13 ppt, and has set standards of 13 ppt for PFOS and 14 ppt for PFOA. Many states have either set or proposed limits for PFOA and PFOS, including California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.

"The first step in fighting any contamination crisis is to turn off the tap," said Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs. "The second step is to set a drinking water standard, and the third is to clean up legacy pollution. The PFAS Action Act passed by the House would address all three steps by setting deadlines for limiting industrial PFAS releases, setting a two-year deadline for a drinking water standard, and designating PFAS as 'hazardous substances' under the Superfund law. But Mitch McConnell's Senate has refused to act to protect our communities from 'forever chemicals.'"

West Texas nuclear waste plan prompts fears of radioactive trains in Fort Worth

A plan to transport 5,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste from across the country to sites on the Texas-New Mexico border poses a particular danger to Fort Worth, a group of environmental activists opposed to the plan said Thursday.

The destination for much of the nuclear waste is Andrews County, where Waste Control Specialists already operates a toxic waste site. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering a similar plan from nuclear company Holtec for a high-level waste storage facility in southeastern New Mexico. While the nuclear waste is concerning for residents of West Texas and eastern New Mexico, Fort Worth residents should also be worried, said Lon Burnam, a former state representative and the chair of the Tarrant Coalition for Environmental Awareness.

With today's rail traffic, Burnam said trains hauling the nuclear waste may have to stop overnight in Metroplex rail yards like the massive Union Pacific Davidson Yard south of the Cultural District.

"These canisters can sit here and leak radiation without anyone knowing," Burnam said.


Read full from source

Oct 19, 2020

Energy Department Announces Round One Winners of Geothermal Manufacturing Prize

DOE- U.S. Department of Energy announced the winners of the Ready! contest of the American-Made Geothermal Manufacturing Prize. Launched in April 2020, the prize is designed to spur innovation using additive manufacturing to address challenges fundamental to operating in harsh geothermal environments.

The winners of the Ready! contest – the first in a series of four progressive competitions – were announced at the Geothermal Resources Council's Virtual 2020 Annual Meeting and Expo by Daniel R Simmons, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

"Geothermal has the potential to play an important role in our energy future," said Simmons. "These projects will help unlock that potential through innovative approaches to additive manufacturing."

Read more

https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/energy-department-announces-round-one-winners-geothermal-manufacturing-prize

DNR Launches Waste Characterization Study At Wisconsin Landfills Study To Provide Insight Into Waste Reduction And Diversion Efforts

DNR, Wis. – This past September, SCS Engineers began collecting and sorting samples of municipal solid waste at landfills across the state as part of a study aimed at better understanding what Wisconsinites are throwing in the trash.

Results of the study will provide a powerful planning tool for waste reduction and minimization efforts across the state, and when compared to prior studies conducted in 2003 and 2009, will help officials identify trends in waste and recycling.  

"Millions of pounds of materials are diverted through recycling, e-cycling or composting every year, which keeps hazardous materials out of the environment, saves valuable landfill space and supports Wisconsin's economy," said Kate Strom Hiorns, DNR recycling and solid waste section chief. "But more can be done. This study will help determine the communication, infrastructure and resources still needed."

Crews will visit 12 landfills across the state to sort 400 municipal solid waste samples and visually characterize 640 construction and demolition waste loads. Crews are trained to identify 85 material types, representing eight waste categories including plastics, organics and hazardous materials. Region, hauler type and the source of the waste will also be recorded.

"The DNR is looking for opportunities to minimize and divert waste statewide, but also at the source or regional level," said Casey Lamensky, DNR solid waste coordinator. "The DNR will continue to work with local governments, businesses and organizations to ensure they have the resources they need to divert materials from the landfill."

Waste characterization data from 2003 and 2009 provided crucial information for waste management decisions still affecting residents today. Dane County used the 2009 study
which identified construction and demolition materials as one of the top contributing material groups, to properly size a construction and demolition recycling facility at the Rodefeld Landfill.

"We hope the 2020 data will be similarly used," Lamensky said. "Dane County is a great example of why this information is important."

The final report will be published this spring. From mid-October through mid-December, crews will be sampling at landfills located in Appleton, Wisconsin Rapids, Weyerhaeuser, Watertown, Muskego, Franklin, Menomonee Falls and Eau Claire.

To learn more about recycling in Wisconsin, visit the DNR's what to recycle page.
https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Recycling/banned.html



Oct 16, 2020

Water Subcabinet Members Highlight Enhanced Aquatic Resource Mapping with Western States

EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)  — Yesterday, as part of the Western States Water Council (WSWC) virtual Fall 2020 meeting, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross highlighted ongoing cross-agency efforts to enhance the nation's aquatic resource maps. The federally-led mapping effort illustrates the enhanced interagency coordination established by the Trump Administration that will accelerate progress in developing better data, tools, and strategies for managing our nation's vital water resources, including developing maps of "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) that can more accurately depict the scope of federal Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction.

"After nearly 50 years of implementing the Clean Water Act, it is disappointing that the federal government lacks the ability to point to a map and tell our stakeholders which waters are subject to federal jurisdiction, and which are exclusively reserved to the capable management of our state and tribal partners," said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross. "Because there are currently no maps showing the universe of waters regulated under the Clean Water Act, we are leveraging the collective expertise, tools, and resources of the Water Subcabinet to solve this problem."

Representatives from EPA, Department of the Interior (DOI), and Department of the Army (Army) along with Western State water managers and expert scientists from the EPA, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) discussed the benefits of enhanced geospatial tools and novel approaches to improve the accuracy of maps depicting surface waters nationwide. When fully developed, maps of CWA jurisdiction will promote greater regulatory certainty, relieve some of the regulatory burden associated with determining the need for a CWA permit, and play an important part in helping to implement the goals and policies of the CWA.

Under the newly formed Water Subcabinet, established by the President's Executive Order "Modernizing America's Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure," EPA and the Army are aligning their WOTUS mapping interests with DOI's established and ever-improving aquatic resource mapping efforts, including the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD), National Wetlands Inventory (NWI), and other datasets. At yesterday's WSWC Fall Meeting, technical experts from EPA, USGS, and USFWS described the ongoing cross-agency efforts to enhance the existing NHD and NWI frameworks, coupled with on-the-ground field research, streamflow monitoring, and geospatial modeling approaches to improve the accuracy of the nation's stream and wetland maps.

"In developing the new WOTUS definition under the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule, we heard from stakeholders that maps of jurisdictional waters could increase certainty and transparency regarding which waters are jurisdictional and which waters are not," said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Ryan Fisher. "This interagency mapping effort will increase certainty and efficiency within the Corps' regulatory programs while enhancing predictability for landowners and businesses to support the economy and accelerate critical infrastructure projects."

To help inform this effort, the Water Subcabinet is engaging with stakeholders like WSWC to make progress on these mapping goals, while being advised by a work group of participants from federal agencies with interest and expertise in geospatial mapping. EPA and the Army believe the most efficient way to address their CWA mapping needs is to better align their efforts with DOI's existing processes and national mapping capabilities.

"Department of the Interior's USGS, FWS, and other bureaus have a long history of working together to map the nation's waters," said DOI Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Timothy Petty. "Now, by focusing our assets and capabilities to the needs of USACE and EPA, our aim is to accelerate enhancements to our existing national frameworks and the maps they will support for a wide variety of federal, state, tribal, and private sector water programs. This is a prime example of the cross-agency work that the Water Subcabinet can tackle to better manage our nation's aquatic resources and leverage taxpayer dollars."

For more information on mapping jurisdictional waters under the CWA, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-01/documents/nwpr_fact_sheet_-_mapping.pdf


Background
There are currently no comprehensive datasets through which EPA and the Army can map the universe of jurisdictional waters under the CWA. While the USGS National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and the USFWS National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) are the most comprehensive hydrogeographic datasets mapping waters and wetlands in the United States and are useful resources for a wide variety of water management applications, they currently have technical limitations that present significant challenges for use as standalone tools to determine the full scope of CWA jurisdiction, regardless of the regulatory definition of WOTUS. In fact, prior to finalizing the now-rescinded 2015 rule defining WOTUS, an EPA blog post published under the previous administration entitled "Mapping the Truth" stated, "While these [USGS and USFWS] maps are useful tools for water resource managers, they cannot be used to determine Clean Water Act jurisdiction – now or ever." Due to limitations of the existing datasets, the Trump Administration agrees with Obama Administration officials that the data cannot currently be used to determine the scope of CWA jurisdiction, but rejects the premise that the tools we have today cannot be improved upon in the future to map WOTUS. The Water Subcabinet, leveraging the collective expertise, tools, and resources across the federal family, is working together with our state and tribal partners to do so.

President Trump Signs Executive Order on Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure

WASHINGTON ( EPA Press Office ) — Today, President Trump signed an Executive Order on "Modernizing America's Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure." This historic action ensures Federal coordination on water policy is standard practice now and into the future by formally establishing a Water Subcabinet of senior Federal agency officials to facilitate efficient and effective management and modernization of our water supplies and systems while also eliminating duplication between agencies. With this Executive Order, President Trump is demonstrating his bold vision for improving our Federal water infrastructure and prioritizing access to essential water supplies for all Americans.

The Water Subcabinet will be co-chaired by U.S. Department of the Interior (Interior) Secretary David Bernhardt and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and will include senior officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Commerce (DOC), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of the Army (Civil Works). The Water Subcabinet will work in close coordination with senior officials from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and other federal agencies as appropriate.

"Clean, reliable, and safe water supplies are essential for our communities, our economy, and our environment," said CEQ Chairman Mary Neumayr. "By establishing the Water Subcabinet, President Trump is bringing key policymakers together who will coordinate actions to streamline needs of our Nation. Once again, the Trump Administration is taking action to deliver practical results for the American people."

"The Trump Administration has made it a priority to ensure communities across the nation receive safe, reliable water," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt. "Today's action by President Trump furthers our incredible efforts over the past three and a half years to cut bureaucratic red tape and improve water infrastructure."

"The Federal Government has the responsibility to ensure all Americans, regardless of their zip code, have access to reliable sources of clean and safe water," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "By creating the Water Subcabinet, President Trump is supporting 21st century water infrastructure that will provide all Americans with safe drinking water and surface water protection."

"From the very early days of the Administration, President Trump has recognized the importance of the energy-water nexus to U.S. economic competitiveness," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. "Through the President's Water Security Grand Challenge, DOE has advanced transformational technology and innovation to help meet the domestic and global need for safe, secure and affordable water through collaboration between industry and our 17 National Labs. DOE looks forward to continuing this work in coordination with the newly established Water Subcabinet."

"The Water Subcabinet will enhance collaboration among the Federal agencies responsible for our nation's water management, allowing for a more effective and efficient environmental and economic balance of our nation's water resources for all users," said R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. "This Administration's focus on streamlining and reducing duplication between Federal agencies will benefit the American people by the coordinated modernization of our Nation's water infrastructure and water resource management."

"It is essential that Americans have access to clean, safe, and reliable water resources. Streamlining and modernizing water management will foster innovation in water forecasting and research, bolster the resilience of our water infrastructure, promote efficiency across the Federal Government, enhance public health, and create jobs. I commend President Trump's strong leadership as well as the collective efforts across the Administration on this important issue," said OSTP Director Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier

"President Trump is committed to making it easier for farmers be successful and to ensure they are the most innovative in the world. Today's Executive Order is evidence of that commitment," said USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey. "Water is critical to farming and the success of Rural America. USDA has already taken the lead to invest in America's wetlands through projects that inspire creative problem-solving that boosts production on farms, ranches, and private forests – ultimately improving water quality, soil health, and wildlife habitat."

Under the Executive Order, the Water Subcabinet will:

·• Promote effective and efficient water resources management by reducing duplication between Federal agencies developing water policy;

·• Develop a national water strategy to ensure the reliability of our water supplies, water quality, water systems, and water forecasting;

·• Protect taxpayer investments and improve water infrastructure planning by promoting integrated planning and coordination for drinking water, wastewater, water reuse, water storage and delivery, and water resource management; and

·• Support and enhance workforce development to recruit, train, and retain water sector professionals.

Under the Trump Administration, Federal agencies that have primary authority for water policy have coordinated like never before, to help ensure that all Americans have access to safe drinking water, reliable rural and farm water supplies, and clean water for recreation and enjoyment. Coordination by the Water Subcabinet will streamline decision-making processes across these Federal agencies, promoting effective and efficient planning to modernize our Nation's water infrastructure.

To view the Executive Order: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-modernizing-americas-water-resource-management-water-infrastructure/

To view a fact sheet: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/201013-Final-Water-EO-Fact-Sheet-.pdf

MIT Book on Repairing Infrastructures: The Maintenance of Materiality and Power

Repairing Infrastructures: The Maintenance of Materiality and Power.

The book provides an overview of infrastructure studies and maintenance and repair studies, illustrated with case studies from our own research and the work of other researchers.

You can buy the book as a paperback and/or download the chapters directly from MIT's website for free.

We're grateful to the press for offering an open access version of the book.

Oct 13, 2020

The Human Cost of Disasters - An overview of the last 20 years 2000-2019

UNDRR report published to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on October 13, 2020, confirms how extreme weather events have come to dominate the disaster landscape in the 21st century. The statistics in this report are from the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) which records disasters which have killed ten or more people; affected 100 or more people; resulted in a declared state of emergency; or a call for international assistance.

In the period 2000 to 2019, there were 7,348 major recorded disaster events claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people (many on more than one occasion) resulting in approximately US$2.97 trillion in global economic losses.

This is a sharp increase over the previous twenty years. Between 1980 and 1999, 4,212 disasters were linked to natural hazards worldwide claiming approximately 1.19 million lives and affecting 3.25 billion people resulting in approximately US$1.63 trillion in economic losses.

Much of the difference is explained by a rise in climate-related disasters including extreme weather events: from 3,656 climate-related events (1980-1999) to 6,681 climate-related disasters in the period 2000-2019.

The last twenty years has seen the number of major floods more than double, from 1,389 to 3,254, while the incidence of storms grew from 1,457 to 2,034. Floods and storms were the most prevalent events.

The report "The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019" also records major increases in other categories including drought, wildfires and extreme temperature events. There has also been a rise in geo-physical events including earthquakes and tsunamis which have killed more people than any of the other natural hazards under review in this report.

Download report here:

https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Human%20Cost%20of%20Disasters%202000-2019%20Report%20-%20UN%20Office%20for%20Disaster%20Risk%20Reduction.pdf


Source:

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/human-cost-disasters-overview-last-20-years-2000-2019

Oct 9, 2020

NEJM Editorial about COVID and leadership

NEJM  - Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.

The magnitude of this failure is astonishing. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the United States leads the world in Covid-19 cases and in deaths due to the disease, far exceeding the numbers in much larger countries, such as China. The death rate in this country is more than double that of Canada, exceeds that of Japan, a country with a vulnerable and elderly population, by a factor of almost 50, and even dwarfs the rates in lower-middle-income countries, such as Vietnam, by a factor of almost 2000. Covid-19 is an overwhelming challenge, and many factors contribute to its severity. But the one we can control is how we behave. And in the United States we have consistently behaved poorly.

....Let's be clear about the cost of not taking even simple measures. An outbreak that has disproportionately affected communities of color has exacerbated the tensions associated with inequality. Many of our children are missing school at critical times in their social and intellectual development. The hard work of health care professionals, who have put their lives on the line, has not been used wisely. Our current leadership takes pride in the economy, but while most of the world has opened up to some extent, the United States still suffers from disease rates that have prevented many businesses from reopening, with a resultant loss of hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of jobs. And more than 200,000 Americans have died. Some deaths from Covid-19 were unavoidable. But, although it is impossible to project the precise number of additional American lives lost because of weak and inappropriate government policies, it is at least in the tens of thousands in a pandemic that has already killed more Americans than any conflict since World War II.

Read more at:

Oct 7, 2020

U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA Announces $484,069 In Coronavirus Violations

OSHA – Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited 37 establishments for violations, resulting in proposed penalties totaling $484,069.

OSHA inspections have resulted in the agency citing employers for violations, including failures to:

OSHA has already issued press releases relating to nine establishments, which can be found at dol.gov/newsroom. In addition to those establishments, who have received coronavirus-related citations from OSHA relating to one or more of the above violations. OSHA provides more information about individual citations at its Establishment Search website, which it updates periodically.


See full list here in OSHA Press Release

https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/national/10022020-0

Oct 1, 2020

Energy Department's Better Plants Partners Save $8.2 Billion

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that Better Buildings, Better Plants partners have cumulatively saved more than $8 billion in energy costs and 1.7 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs).

More than 235 organizations now partner with DOE through Better Plants. This year, DOE welcomed 20 new partners to the program and challenge, representing 3,200 facilities and roughly 12% of the U.S. manufacturing energy footprint. These partners come from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and include Fortune 100 companies, family-owned small businesses, and water treatment organizations.

"Better Plants Partners exemplify the innovative spirit of American manufacturing," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Alex Fitzsimmons. "These partners are developing, implementing, and sharing innovative, energy-efficient practices that help their organizations save energy and money, which in turn helps the U.S. economy stay competitive."

Through the Better Buildings, Better Plants program, DOE works with partners who have set ambitious energy, water and/or waste reduction goals. As of 2020, partners have successfully met 67 energy and water goals. DOE supports these partners by providing technical expertise, managing peer-exchange opportunities, highlighting successful solutions, and expanding access to innovation.

In addition to setting energy-efficiency goals, Better Plants Challenge partners also share their solutions and best practices.  There are now 49 Better Plants Challenge partners sharing a combined 83 showcase projects, implementation models, and "solutions-at-a-glance" on the Better Buildings Solution Center.

Read full announcement at: