Posts

No, that is not my shopping list for a home renovation, believe it or not, this is a partial list of the junk we found during the White River cleanup last Saturday! The list also includes over 20 car tires (some still on the rims), a couple of truck tires, ½ of a boat, a chair, part of a dock, and mounds of trash! All in, our crew of 14 hauled an estimated ¾ of a ton of trash and debris out of a 2 mile section of the White River.

For our Fall Cleanup we joined forces with groups across four counties that worked to remove over TWENTY TONS of trash, two and half tons of recyclable metals and several hundred tires. What is absolutely mind boggling, is that this was the 15th annual clean up…you’d think we would run out of crap to pick up…but no…people keep tossing in more junk. Some of this stuff is thrown off of bridges or down embankments, purposely tossed into the river. Other stuff comes from parking lots, roads, and fields where people throw out their trash and it washes into the rivers. What really scares me is that this 20 tons of trash is only the stuff we can SEE. What about all of the crap that is either buried in the river bottom or in water too deep to spot it…or what about the stuff we can’t see because it is chemical in nature?

A Network of Support - Partnering to Protect the White RiverI could go on and on…but what I really wanted to do was to thank the 14 people that gave up 5 or 6 hours of a gorgeous September Saturday morning to provide the muscle needed to accomplish this daunting task! Our 11 canoeists were ably supported by a land crew of three that helped shuttle us along the route and made sure lunch was ready when we were finished. The 11 members of the water crew weere in six canoes (thanks Alan for volunteering to go solo!) and had a fantastic barge provided by the City of Noblesville. Within the first quarter mile we had amassed so much stuff, we had to offload the barge and a couple of canoes at the 206th bridge, where a group of boy scouts helped to move it to the dumpsters.

Before we had gone much further, the barge was again loaded down with enough junk that it could not be towed behind a canoe. So Skipper Scott Martin hopped aboard, sat on an over turned barrel and PADDLED the barge downstream. It looked like the Beverly Hillbillies on their way to Hollywood! After piling on the dock, an erosion tarp, and a half dozen more tires, even Skipper Martin couldn’t steer the load. Yours truly grabbed a rope and pulled the barge downstream towards the finish, aided by some pushing from the team of Brown and Brown. After a mile or so, 51 year old legs and lungs gave out, and Skipper Martin grabbed the rope and finished the journey. Skipper Martin Barge Pilot Extraordinaire

About a half dozen of the tires we collected had to be hauled out of the river more than once. Within sight of the take out, a stack of tires shifted in one of the canoes…sending them, other trash, and the pilot of the vessel into the water.

After a little over three hours, we arrived at the take out, unloaded the canoes and barge and hauled our collection up the banks where employees of the City of Noblesville loaded the refuse into trucks for its trip the main collection site.

Many, many thanks to the canoe crew of: Scott Martin, Carrie Tarver, Don Weiser, Jamal Handy, Alan Francoeur, Rick Brown, Cody Brown, Brad Ton, JT Ton, and Carmen Ton. Thanks also to our land crew: Andrea Osman, Mary Ellen Ton, and Gene Ton. In addition to the donations of time and muscle, we were supported by a group of sponsors who helped by providing much needed financial support. The sponsors helped to provide lunch, t-shirts and prizes for the event. Many thanks to Elements Engineering, Ron West, Nishida Services, Arete Software, Cisco Systems, Brad Real, and ROI-LLC!

This was in the River??

I am a resident of the great state of Indiana. Honestly, I do love the state, but it can be an extremely frustrating place to live for someone that loves the environment. Our state legislature had over a dozen or so bills authored during this session that were related in some way to the environment. Personally, I was tracking 14 different bills, for the record, I was in favor of 10 of them. Know how many actually passed and were signed into law? One, that’s right one. Ok, to be fair, there was one more that was passed, but has not been signed into law yet, so call it two.

The bill that passed? SB 423 – Substitute Natural Gas (SNG). Yes, the one bill that was passed and signed was for COAL! We are addicted to that stuff. In layman’s terms, substitute natural gas is made by processing coal and turning it into “natural gas” that can be used to generate power. My understanding is that it is cleaner because the CO2 is removed, as are the metals such as mercury. However, as is the case in non-sustainable processes the CO2 is buried (carbon sequestration) and the metals are disposed of with the coal slag. Now, both of those seem like problems to me. Let’s bury it. If we can’t see it, there must not be a problem. Does anyone remember Tennessee?

But, this is not about the merits (or lack thereof) of SNG. This is about dissecting the history of a bill that raises a lot of questions about our legislative process. Even if you aren’t from Indiana, my guess is that games like this are played throughout this country of ours.

Our story begins in 2007, with Leucadia, a multi-national speculative venture corporation that was looking to finance a SNG plant. Indiana passed legislation that would pass on the majority of the costs for the construction and operations of the plant to the Indiana ratepayers. What a deal! Where can I find an investment that provides a great rate of return AND somebody else has to make the original investment? So what did Leucadia give us Hoosiers in exchange for our generosity? They promised to build the plant in Indiana, thereby potentially creating Indiana jobs, and they promised to use Indiana coal.

In 2008, Leucadia was having a hard time nailing down the necessary land contracts for the site. They also failed to locate any Indiana coal contracts. Never fear, our Legislature is here! Legislation was passed to allow the plant to be built outside of Indiana and to remove the Indiana coal requirement. Now this is the good part, the tax abatements were left in place and the Indiana ratepayers still get to pay for it all and assume all the risk.

But our story doesn’t stop there. As 2009 dawned, the three Indiana Natural Gas Utilities had all backed out of negotiations with Leucadia to buy any of their SNG. What’s a company to do? They are getting ready to make a product that NOBODY WANTS TO BUY! But wait…that’s right, there STILL is the Indiana General Assembly. Let’s see what THEY can do. Now get this, what do they do? They create a new entity, the Indiana Finance Authority. They give this entity the authority to enter in a THIRTY year agreement to buy SNG from Leucadia, they require the same natural gas companies that didn’t want the SNG to deliver it, and yes, the ratepayers get to pay for it all.

So here we sit, the only state in the Midwest without a renewable energy standard, and we are putting millions into SNG to promote a product that no one wanted to buy in the first place. Before you know it we will be redefining renewable energy to include “clean” coal…oh wait…

With apologies to the C+C Music Factory, I have to continue on the theme of articles from the paper that just make you scratch your head.

February 1, 2009 – The Indianapolis Star – Mercury found is found in corn sweetener – Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage where it is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient.

Hmmmm, mercury in corn syrup, wonder if it came from the CORN?

February 2, 2009 – The Indianapolis Star – TESTING THE WATERS – HOOSIER STREAMS STILL HAVE HIGH LEVELS OF MERCURY – Levels of mercury remain high in several Indiana streams and rivers, despite years of effort to reduce the contaminant, which can cause neurological damage.

Hmmmm, mercury in water, wonder if it came from the AIR?

Ok, so what’s the big deal? What’s a little mercury among friends? Hmmmm, mercury affects the human brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. It has affect on your ability to feel, to see, to taste and even to move. Your fingers and toes can tingle (and not in a good way), your mouth can become numb and you can experience tunnel vision. Continued exposure can cause symptoms to progressively worsen and can even change your personality, cause stupor and even comas. In women that are pregnant the mercury can pass along to the fetus where it affects development of the brain and nervous system. The risk of this in occurring is so great the federal government recommends that women you are pregnant or who may become pregnant not eat mercury-contaminated fish.

48 states have issued warnings not to consume certain species of fish caught in some or all of their rivers and streams. That’s more than 14,000,000 acres of lakes. More than 80 percent of the samples tested in Indiana contained detectable levels of mercury. Good luck on Fridays during lent women!

So what’s the big deal about “detectable levels” of mercury? It only takes 1/70th of one teaspoon to contaminate a 25-acre lake to the point that the fish are unsafe to consume.

So, where is this mercury coming from you ask? Thermometers? Uh, hardly! Coal! Coal-fired plants are the single largest source of airborne mercury in the United States. These plants spew over 50 TONS of this poison into the air and water. Mercury can stay airborne for over a year and travel thousands of miles before it falls into our lakes and rivers, or ON TO OUR CORN (if it is falling on to our corn, what other foods are being contaminated?) In fact, coal-fired heat and power production is the single largest contributor of mercury emissions into the air we breathe.

The brings us to clean coal (whatever THAT is), clean coal gets rid of all this right? Nope, current clean technologies do nothing, zero, zilch, zippo, nada, non to remove mercury either from the emissions or from the sludge created by either scrubbing the coal prior to burning it or by the burn process itself. In fact, since the sludge from scrubbing is used for landfill material it probably hits our water and food supply FASTER. Experimental processes to remove mercury costs about $761,000/kg of mercury removed and is only 90% effective (remember that 1/70th of one teaspoon?).

With all that information, I was stunned to learn of a bill in the Indiana House this year that included COAL as a renewable energy source. Yes, coal! Exactly how a resource that takes a couple million years to form is considered renewable I don’t know. But, you have to remember, Indiana has the largest concentration of coal-fired plants in the country. Believe it or not, this bill actually passed committee, while several other environmental bills were not even heard in committee.

I urge you, dear readers, (sound like Ann Landers, don’t I?), take notice of power plant permits being issued or considered in your state. Urge your legislators and government official to not allow one more single coal-fired plant to be built or expanded anywhere in this country. Once we accomplish that, then we can go talk to China about their coal-fired plants!

From cough Indiana cough thanks for cough listening.