Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hefty Asbestos Removal Costs Delay Demolitions

An Illinois investor laments that the only thing he acquired from a recent property acquisition is a big headache involving deadly asbestos.

Joey Chernis, partner in P. Mills, LLC, owns the former Pillsbury Mills plant in Springfield that’s been sitting vacant since 2001.

The company currently faces a $500 daily fine retroactive to Sept. 9 for failure to contain asbestos and secure the 18-acre site, according to State Journal Register. Asbestos is a carcinogen that causes mesothelioma.
The Illinois attorney general sued P. Mills and Midwest Demolition, owned by Chernis’ father, after the state’s Environmental Protection Agency inspectors discovered dozens of plastic bags filled with asbestos and asbestos-contaminated debris improperly disposed.
According to Chernis, the company already spent $15,000 to hire an environmental engineer, but it can’t afford to complete the entire cleanup.
“None of us have that kind of money. We’ve tried to borrow money, but we were turned down because of all the publicity,” Chernis said.

Costly Asbestos Removal Fees Stall Demolitions

Commercial eyesores remain standing across the country for the same reason: Hefty asbestos removal fines.
Asbestos removal costs can easily tally into the thousands of dollars, often halting the demolition of defunct factories and commercial facilities that blight neighborhoods and become havens for vagrants and drug dealers.
Detroit’s former Packard Automotive Plant sits as a ghostly reminder of Motor City’s automotive glory days. Discussions about its fate are mixed, from restoration and rebuilding to razing the 3.5-million-square-foot structure.
The automotive plant is laden with asbestos, and regardless of the final decision, asbestos removal will be the first step, and it will come with a price tag in the tens of thousands.
Activity on the project moves slowly as owner Fernando Palazuelo expects to begin removing debris from the 40-acre site as the first phase in a 10- to 15-year plan to revive the complex, a Detroit News report shows.
In the meantime, the decaying expanse of brick and mortar continues to invite unwelcome guests and add to the already crumbling skyline.

Heavy Price Tag for Asbestos Mishandling

When the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) discovered asbestos-tainted pipe insulation at Fitchburg Properties in Boston, they didn’t hesitate to levy a whopping fine.
The real estate business owes the state $15,000 in penalties and an additional $20,625 if they violate the law again within the year, according to a report in the Sentinel and Enterprise News
Workers improperly removed the insulation when replacing the facility’s heating system, leaving it scattered on the floor inside the building, around the loading dock and outside the building.
"Before starting demolition or renovation, property owners must identify asbestos-containing materials so they can be properly removed and handled in accordance with the regulation," said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester.
"Failure to do so will result in penalties, as well as escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs," she added.

Owner Pays the Bill

For Chernis and his partners at the Pillsbury factory, the nightmare continues.
In the end, the tally for the state lawsuit could result in as much as a $50,000 fine, plus a daily $10,000 fine for each day of violations and court costs.
Additionally, representatives from the Illinois EPA say the agency will eventually hire an asbestos removal firm to clean up the site — but not at a cost to the state.
Chernis and his co-owners can expect a bill.

Good news about restoring river ecosystems

It is a commonly held belief that most ecosystems take about a lifetime to recover after damage is introduced by humans. However, researchers at Ohio State University are finding that initial recovery can be dramatic if the right conditions are present. The discovery was made while monitoring how dam removal impacted local species. 
The studies focus on the reintroduction of birds and salmon to the habitat. What they found was that if just birds were introduced, they tended to have low weight and poor numbers of offspring. However, when dams came down and salmon and fish were put together, both species flourished and impacted the surrounding ecosystem positively.
The author of the initial study, Christopher Tonra said that, “It’s exciting to be able to show a real positive outcome in conservation. We don’t always get that…That these rivers can come back within our own generation is a really exciting thing.”
Although for many environmentally minded folks, it is likely not news that species work in tandem to create a healthier environment, what’s important about this study is that it’s showing just how quickly these different species can reinvigorate the natural ecosystem and environmental health in areas that were previously barren. 
That’s partly because the returning salmon populations, which carry nutrients from the open ocean, bring these birds exactly what they need to thrive. “They’re truly fertilizing the river and so that makes its way all the way up through the food chain,” Torna said.
This study could have a huge impact on how to fertilize or reinvigorate previously damaged ecosystems, especially those previously impacted by dam systems. Returning the basics of the wildlife population -such as fish- could mean we see change within years rather than decades.
Amazon river image via Shutterstock.

Read more at ENN Affiliate Care2. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

In Pollution Fight, the Sailing World Has Just Scratched the Surface

Phil Harmer of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing checked the keel for debris in the Bay of Plenty near New Zealand during the Volvo Ocean Race. CreditGetty Images AsiaPac, via Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race 
Ten thousand miles from his current location in Sydney, Australia, Ken Read, the skipper of the 100-foot super maxi Comanche, maintains a morning routine at his home in Newport, R.I. He walks on Gooseberry Beach with his dog Toby. The walk doubles as a morning cleanup mission.
“I get an armful of garbage off the same exact beach in the same exact place every morning, and frankly it’s just shocking,” Read said.
Ocean health is front and center in the sailing world amid concerns over pollution and debris at next year’s Olympic sailing venue in Rio de Janeiro.
It was also a point of contention during the most recent Volvo Ocean Race. And with another Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race set to start on Saturday, no sport seems better positioned to lead the way in illuminating the huge environmental challenges the ocean is bearing.
The question is whether sailors are using that bully pulpit frequently and effectively enough.
“I do think we’re the ideal messengers, but I don’t think we are doing enough,” said Lisa Blair, an Australian skipper and activist who will be taking part in the Sydney-Hobart race in a recently purchased boat she has named Climate Action Now. “There are certainly lots of individuals trying to do work with it and raise awareness, with beach cleanup days and harbor cleanup days. There is a lot going on, but a lot of smaller things. There needs to be a great change towards just the products we are using and the things that we do that have a direct relationship with our environment and the quality of our oceans.”
Waste floating in February in Guanabara Bay off Rio de Janeiro, the site of the 2016 Olympics.CreditLeo Correa/Associated Press 
Surfers also have a direct connection to the issue, but they are close to shore. Sailors, particularly ocean racers like those competing in the Sydney-Hobart, are perhaps the only sports figures whose playing field is far from land. What they observe sometimes brings them to tears.
“I raced around the world from 2011 to 2012,” Blair said. “And I was just gobsmacked that in the middle of nowhere, there were Styrofoam boxes floating around. There was just so much rubbish in the ocean in these untouched, pristine waters that were now no longer untouched. And there’s also the scientific data behind how much plastic is actually in the water and the microplastics and the damage it is doing to the fish life and to us indirectly from humans consuming those fish. We’re effectively poisoning one of our main food sources.”
Dee Caffari, the veteran British sailor who was the first woman to complete a solo circumnavigation of the planet against the prevailing winds and currents, has seen a big deterioration in the last 10 years, one well illustrated during the last Volvo Ocean Race when she and her crew were in the remote Southern Ocean.
“One of the things sailors love about sailing is being at one with nature, seeing whales, fish and birds,” she said. “And one of the girls who was up the mast shouted: ‘I can see a seal. I can see a seal.’ And as we got closer, it was a seal playing with a plastic bag.”
study published in February in the journal Science, based on research by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, estimated that between 4.8 million and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste entered the oceans annually from land. The midpoint of that range can cover an area 34 times the size of Manhattan with ankle-deep waste.
Experts estimate that 80 percent of the plastic in the ocean enters from land, and the other 20 percent from the sea through sources like direct dumping from boats, container spills and fishing gear.
Some of the plastic collects in oceanic gyres, vast aquatic garbage dumps created by currents. But much of it ends up on beaches and on the ocean floor, and as it breaks down, it can be ingested by micro-organisms like zooplankton, infiltrating the food chain at its base.
According to Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, a senior policy adviser at the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group in Washington, the current rate of pollution projects to nearly twice the current amount of plastics in the ocean by 2025.
“There could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fin fish in the ocean; that’s a pretty frightening thought,” she said.
Whitehouse advocates policy and education efforts focusing on the sources of the ocean plastic, which are primarily in South Asia.
“Fifty-seven percent of the plastics are coming from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka,” she said. “This is because these countries are developing rapidly and more plastic is getting into the waste stream than they are able to cope with at this point.”
That helps explain why the Strait of Malacca, the narrow stretch of water between Peninsular Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is such a garbage magnet.
“There were areas where you could probably walk on the debris; it’s so condensed,” said Mark Towill, the 27-year-old American sailor who passed through the strait during the last Volvo Ocean Race on Alvimedica.
Environmental groups linked closely with the sport of sailing are already focused on ocean health. Those include two based in Newport: Sailors for the Sea, founded by David Rockefeller Jr., and 11th Hour Racing, co-founded by the philanthropist Wendy Schmidt and her husband, Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, via the Schmidt Family Foundation.
Eleventh Hour Racing has signed up professional sailors as ambassadors, including Charlie Enright, Alvimedica’s skipper, who attended Brown University with Towill. The group has also signed on as a sustainability partner for Land Rover BAR, Ben Ainslie’s British America’s Cup syndicate, which will challenge for the Cup in 2017. Their projects include an oyster revival initiative near Land Rover BAR’s base in Portsmouth, England, and the use of spill kits on all support boats to avert pollution.
“You couldn’t get a better topic to have the sailing community involved with and care about and speak for,” Wendy Schmidt said in a recent interview. “We noticed that many sporting events, especially sailboat races, have sponsors, but they are usually clothing or watches or something like that. They are not ideas, and that’s how we got started, actually. We want to take that place and be able to sponsor ideas.”
Becoming a primary sponsor — rather than just the sustainability partner — for a Volvo Ocean Racing team or a sailing team involved in offshore races like the Sydney-Hobart could be a way to further raise visibility on ocean conservation issues.
But the Olympics in Rio, where there have been concerns about competitors’ health and safety because of the water pollution and debris, provide an even bigger potential teaching moment.
“It’s way worse than any of these people imagine,” said Ian Walker, the British skipper and former Olympic silver medalist who won the Volvo Ocean Race in June on Abu Dhabi. “People think the pollution in Rio’s in the harbor, and it’s fine out at Copacabana and on the open sea. But I remember sailing in from the ocean, and when you are about 50 miles out, you hit the stench and the changing color in the water. So even the people who go in the water swimming off Copacabana beach every day are basically swimming in filth, but they don’t realize it.”
The situation is not nearly so disquieting off Sydney and Hobart, but Blair still called for vigilance.
“When you’re out in the middle of the ocean, it’s deceiving because you can’t see things like microplastics,” she said. “You see the big stuff that floats past. You can still hook up on debris, especially long-line fishing nets and the like. They get wrapped around your keel and hold your boat up, so those sorts of things are certainly risks that are around.”
Read, saddened by what he sees floating offshore and by all that he picks up on his morning beach walks, said he wanted more sailors to become outspoken on the topic.
And if they bond to create a more powerful chorus, he said, that will be even better.

“We need a leader like Sailors for the Sea or other organizations to help get us all together,” he said as he prepared for his second Sydney-Hobart. “One voice ain’t going to cut it, but a lot of voices might. The plastic is just shocking and getting worse.”

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles