Beautiful Image: Pamukkale, Turkey

Pamukkale, meaning "cotton castle" in Turkish, is a natural site and attraction in south-western Turkey in the Denizli Province. Pamukkale is located in Turkey’s Inner Aegean region, in the River Menderes valley, which enjoys a temperate climate over the greater part of the year. (Wikipedia)

Pamukkale, Turkey

Photo by blue foot  on Flickr

Travertine is a kind of rock which is formed as calcium bicarbonate precipitates out of hot spring water. It may be formed in many ways under different atmospheric conditions. Geological activity of the past affected a large area in which the Pamukkale thermal springs are found. There are 17 thermal sources in this special area with temperatures ranging between 35-100°C. The source of Pamukkale is only one unit of that whole area. The thermal water flows to the top of the cascades by a 320-meter-long channel and then flows on the cascades about 240-300 m. CaCO3 begins to precipitate on the cascades as the carbon dioxide evaporates, but in the beginning the precipitate is soft like gel. It needs time to completely dry and harden. In order to protect the cascades from destruction and to preserve their natural beauty, entrance to the travertine area has been prohibited.

Beautiful Image: Waterfall

Waterfall

Link: Earth Shots » Uninterupted by Tad Bowman.

Uninterupted by Tad Bowman

This photograph was taken in Cherokee National Forest in North Carolina. I decided to zoom in on a portion of the waterfall because I was intrigued by the converging lines of water. Equipment: Canon EOS 1dsMII, 70-200mm Lens, Tripod

Tad Bowman
www.tadbowman.com

“Clean Coal” Poisons Water and Land Instead of Air

The Coastal Post Online describes the many dangers of using coal for energy. Excerpts below.

Building more coal fired plants for electricity will sacrifice the future health of our country. But there are powerful forces who profit now and they are investing in political influence.

Link: Coastal Post Online Article January, 2008.

Big Coal and its cohorts envision a "clean coal technology" future fueled by liquifying and gasifying coal, capturing the carbon emissions and injecting them underground.

But scientists and environmentalists say "clean coal" does not exist; it is a misnomer and an oxymoron. The National Resources Defense Council says that using the term "clean coal" makes about as much sense as saying "safe cigarettes." The extraction and cleaning of coal inevitably decimate ecosystems and communities.

Nationwide there are grandiose plans for more than 100 new coal-fired power plants, but they all hinge on being able to sell the public and legislators on outfitting and funding these new plants with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. This process siphons off or "captures" carbon dioxide before it can escape into the atmosphere, contributing to acid rain, smog and warming the planet. The sequestered carbon would then be pumped and stored underground.

But is it really possible to bury our daily CO2 emission? Australia’s renown physicist, Karl Kruszelnicki, who is running for public office on the Climate Change Coalition ticket, told the Sydney Morning Herald on Nov. 1, "One cubic kilometer of CO2 to get rid of every day? It’s not possible! But they don’t tell you that that’s what they’ve got to get rid of. They make reassuring noises that they’re spending millions looking for underground caverns. But I’m here to tell you that they’re not going to find it … The point is that they can only store 1,000th of 1 percent, not all their daily output."

Not only do we not have the capacity to store all the CO2 we produce, but the technology isn’t there yet. The coal industry acknowledges that CCS is 15 years away, but continues to promulgate the myth of "clean coal technology" and guide generous government subsidies to themselves and to West Virginia universities, assigning valuable research money to dirty technology. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 2007 report "The Future of Coal" stated that "there is no standard for measurement, monitoring, and verification of CO2 distribution. Duration of post-injection monitoring is an unresolved issue."

In other words, Big Coal is betting on a pipe dream with an entire ecosystem at stake. Adding CCS to plans for the more than 100 proposed coal-fired power plants on the drawing board would increase operating budgets by 50 percent to 80 percent. And the gasifying and liquifying of coal into syn-gas and diesel would create potential emissions twice as carbon-rich as petroleum-based gasoline or natural gas. If Big Coal gets its way, the U.S. Air Force will cruise the skies on liquid coal fuel — spewing dangerously concentrated CO2 into our fragile atmosphere, and we’ll be building more polluting plants based on false promises from an outlaw industry.

Exacerbating the water crisis

To many observers, the next natural resource wars will be waged over water, not oil or coal. People in the United States are waking up to the reality of a looming water crisis, but the coal industry is still advocating for a technology that is part of the problem, not the solution.

The U.S. Department of Energy stated in December 2006 that the demand for water to produce coal conversion fuels "threaten our limited water supply." Coal conversion — gasification or liquefaction — requires an absurd amount of fresh water. Each new integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) or coal to liquid (CTL) plant will require millions of gallons of fresh water every day. And these new plants will require even more coal.

Big Coal’s proposed plans will require a large increase in coal extraction — at least 15 percent more, though some reports quote as high as a 45 percent increase in coal production would be necessary to fuel "clean coal technology." The surge in demand for coal would be met with a surge in mountaintop-removal coal mining, which means more water pollution. Mountaintop-removal mining and the chemical cleaning of coal also threatens Appalachian headwater streams, which are the drinking water source for the southeastern United States — an area that has endured frightening water shortages this year in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

The coal-to-liquid plants that coal state politicians like Gov. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Gov. Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky are scrambling to site in their states would have one consequence that many observers underestimate or ignore: the increase in production of coal sludge — one of the least known and least regulated toxic wastes in the United States — a direct threat to water supplies.

Coal sludge, laden with heavy metals found in coal and released during extraction, like arsenic, chromium, cadmium and mercury, has been pumped underground in West Virginia for decades, with scant regulatory oversight. The sludge has intercepted underground water tables, from which mountain communities draw their drinking water. Coal sludge also contains carcinogenic chemicals like floculants, which are used to process coal.

In West Virginia, the second-largest coal-producing state in the nation, more than 470 mountaintops have been blown apart, 800 square miles of the most diverse temperate hardwood forest razed and replaced with more than 4,000 valley fills and 675 toxic coal sludge ponds. By 2012, the U.S. government estimates that we will have destroyed 2,500 square miles of pristine Appalachia. Currently there are over 107 trillion gallons of coal slurry stored or permitted to be stored in active West Virginia "impoundments."

The total mechanization of coal extraction epitomized by mountaintop removal/valley fill coal mining has buried thousands of miles of vital headwater streams and pumped previously mined lands full of sludge. The coal industry says that it has "elevated" some streams — after they’ve buried them upstream — relocating them and "repurposing" them into chemical spillways called National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) streams.

Coal sludge, the waste by-product of the chemical cleaning of coal in preparation for shipping to market, is initially put into surface ponds, but eventually this chemically concentrated, puddinglike waste leaches into the groundwater. In southern West Virginia, where the largest seams of coal lie, whole communities have been poisoned over years by mining waste that has contaminated their drinking water.

Coal sludge is a disaster waiting to happen, like the 2.8 billion gallons of toxic sludge that stand behind a 325-foot, leaking, unsound dam of slate, 400 yards from the Marsh Fork Elementary School in Sundial, W.Va. Or Brushy Fork in Boone County, W.Va., one of the largest coal sludge dumps in the world, holding back 9 billion gallons of coal waste.

Sludge is also injected underground into the sprawling abandoned mine works of decades past. Coal sludge is turning up in the water in Mingo County, W.Va., where documentation of this practice stretches back for more than 30 years. Residents of Mingo County have suffered catastrophic illness after the toxic sludge breached the local aquifers that feed home wells. More than 650 of these residents have signed on to a massive class-action lawsuit against the offending coal company, Massey Energy.

Pursuing "clean coal technology" will cause an increase in the production of coal and toxic coal waste, which contains dangerous levels of arsenic, barium, cadmium, coper, iron, lead, manganese and zinc. In some cases, there are no standards by which to measure contaminants because some have never before been found in drinking water.

While scrubbers on smoke stacks have cleaned coal-fired power plant emissions considerably, the cleaning on the combustion end causes the processing of coal for market to be exponentially dirtier. The coal going to market is cleaner-burning today, with lower sulfur and mercury content, but these dangerous elements are left behind in the coal sludge and in drinking water.

The dirty truth about "clean coal"

The environmental destruction caused by mountaintop-removal coal extraction is just one of many reasons to immediately transition out of coal. A plethora of substantial hurdles for the alternative coal industry include technological uncertainties, billion-dollar budgets, lack of project partners willing to invest in coal, growing concern about carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, uncertainty about future environmental regulations, rising constructions costs and an array of water contamination issues.

But, we’ve been here before. In response to the energy crisis of the 1970s, the U.S. government invested $15 billion in a failed attempt to jump-start the coal-based synthetic fuel industry, including the infamous 1.5 billion syn-fuel plant in Beulah, N.D. In the end, the ’80s era attempt at coal gasification and liquefaction failed miserably because of volatile oil prices bankrupting the nascent industry, leaving taxpayers with a $330 million loss.

The newborn West Virginia Division of Energy — formed to put a better face on coal — would like to institutionalize all possible manifestations of coal production. The state agency says it would like to surround coal extraction sites and the coal-fired power plants with "additional advance coal opportunities" like the "production of ammonia nitrate from coal, as well as nitrates for fertilizer."

These processes require the same copious amounts of water as CTL and IGCC plants. WVDoE’s outline for an energy future goes hand in hand with what mountain people call the declaration of a "National Sacrifice Zone" fueled by a plan to depopulate the coal-rich region of the southern mountains. A similar strategy was publicly declared when the federal government found uranium under Native American lands in the Four Corners area in the 1970s. In the end, the uranium was deemed more important than the land and the people; vast regions of Native American lands were declared "National Sacrifice Zones," and people were forced from their homelands.

Massey Energy’s CEO, Don Blankenship, recently suggested the idea of a far-reaching coal industrial complex upon releasing a statement regarding the purchase of vast parcels of coal lands, increasing Massey’s reserve holding to 100 million tons in northern Appalachia. "This region is becoming increasingly important to the coal and energy industry, and this transaction will enable us to take advantage of the growth in demand for northern Appalachian coal," he said. Massey’s newly acquired coal lands are in West Virginia, across the Ohio River from Meigs County, Ohio, where a notorious cluster of coal-fired power plants are concentrated.

And momentum is building in the region. At a coal-to-liquids conference in Beckley, W.Va., in August this year, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller sent word to the crowd saying, "We need the equivalent of the Apollo and Manhattan Projects that would provide billions in federal funding for research and development so that the best and brightest engineers and scientific minds can tackle carbon capture sequestration and CTL development."

It is time to stop the momentum and break our coal habit. Instead we need an Apollo and Manhattan project to replace coal with solar, wind and geothermal, or our kids will be stuck cleaning up after the dirtiest energy industry. Coal companies are notorious for leaving their mess behind.

via Fred First

Pervious Concrete – Sustainable Construction

Pervious concrete allows rain to soak into the ground instead of running off. This helps break the flood and drought cycles that plague so many areas these days. Water that seeps into the ground slowly runs out into streams and springs slowly, which provides much more consistent moisture for plants and animals.

Link: Pervious, Porous Concrete Pavement Environmental & Green Benefits.

Pervious concrete pavement systems provide a valuable stormwater management tool under the requirements of the EPA Storm Water Phase II Final Rule. Phase II regulations provide programs and practices to help control the amount of contaminants in our waterways. Impervious pavements– particularly parking lots– collect oil, anti-freeze, and other automobile fluids that can be washed into streams, lakes, and oceans when it rains.

By capturing the first flush of rainfall and allowing it to percolate into the ground, soil chemistry and biology can then “treat” the polluted water naturally. Thus, stormwater retention areas may be reduced or eliminated, allowing increased land use. Furthermore, by collecting rainfall and allowing it to infiltrate, groundwater and aquifer recharge is increased, peak water flow through drainage channels is reduced, and flooding is minimized. In fact, the EPA named pervious pavements as a BMP for stormwater pollution prevention because they allow fluids to percolate into the soil.

Another important factor leading to renewed interest in pervious concrete is an increasing emphasis on sustainable construction. Because of its benefits in controlling stormwater runoff and pollution prevention, pervious concrete has the potential to help earn a credit point in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System (Sustainable Sites Credit 6.1), increasing the chance to obtain LEED project certification.

The light color of concrete pavements absorbs less heat from solar radiation than darker pavements, and the relatively open pore structure of pervious concrete stores less heat, helping to lower heat island effects in urban areas.

Trees planted in parking lots and city sidewalks offer shade and produce a cooling effect in the area, further reducing heat island effects. Pervious concrete pavement is ideal for protecting trees in a paved environment (many plants have difficulty growing in areas covered by impervious pavements, sidewalks and landscaping, because air and water have difficulty getting to the roots). Pervious concrete pavements or sidewalks allow adjacent trees to receive more air and water and still permit full use of the pavement (see Figure 2b). Pervious concrete provides a solution for landscapers and architects who wish to use greenery in parking lots and paved urban areas.

Although high-traffic pavements are not a typical use for pervious concrete, concrete surfaces can also improve safety during rainstorms by eliminating ponding (and glare at night), spraying, and the risk of hydroplaning.

The Carrying Capacity of the Land

We live in the Atlanta area, where August’s intense heat, with no rain, has turned into beautiful blue skies and low humidity in September through November, with almost no rain. The governor has blamed environmentalists for Atlanta’s main water source drying up and has started leading prayer groups to bring rain. It’s heresy to point out that the rapid residential and commercial development throughout the area has created an insatiable thirst for water that cannot be satisfied by the current water resources.

I’ve included some excerpts on the use of resources below from writer and thinker John Michael Greer. Ignore his message if you don’t use energy or water, or, if you believe that your favored political party will save us. One of the targets of his sharp writing tool is the drought in the Southeast and Atlanta. Click on the link below to enjoy the full flavor of his commentary of the current state of our culture.

Link: The Archdruid Report: Lifeboat Time

As depletion of existing oil fields accelerates, the struggle to prop up the current production plateau promises to become a losing battle against geological reality.

Meanwhile the carbon dioxide generated by the 84 million barrels a day we’re currently pumping and burning, along with equally unimaginable volumes of coal and natural gas, drives changes in climate that only a handful of oil company flacks and free-market fundamentalists still insist aren’t happening. Worried scientists report from Greenland and West Antarctica that for the first time since measurements began, liquid water is pooling under both these huge continental glaciers – the likely precursor to an ice sheet collapse that could put sea levels up 50 to 60 feet worldwide within our lifetimes.

In related news, Atlanta may just be on the verge of edging out New Orleans as the poster child for climate catastrophe. Unless the crippling years-long drought over the southeast United States gives way to heavy rains very soon, Atlanta will run completely out of drinking water sometime in the new year. The city government has had to explain to worried citizens that they are out of options, and there aren’t enough tanker trucks in all of Dixie to meet the daily water needs of a big city. Nobody is willing to talk about what will happen once the last muddy dregs in the Georgia reservoirs are pumped dry, and the drinking fountains, toilet tanks, and fire hydrants of greater metropolitan Atlanta have nothing to fill them but dust.

As Macchiavelli commented in a different context, though, people care more about their finances than their lives, and even the Atlanta papers have seen the drought shoved off the front page now and then by the latest round of implosions in the world of high finance. For those of my readers who haven’t been keeping score, banks and financial firms around the world spent most of the last decade handing out mortgages to anybody with a pulse, packaging up the right to profit from those mortgages into what may just be the most misnamed “securities” in the history of financial markets, and selling them to investors around the world.

On this noticeably unsteady foundation rose the biggest speculative bubble in recorded history, as would-be real estate moguls borrowed dizzying sums to buy up property they were convinced could only go up in value, while investors whose passion for profit blinded them to the risk of loss snapped up a torrent of exotic financial products whose connection to any significant source of value can be safely described as imaginary. All this hallucinated wealth, though, depended on the theory that people with no income, job, or assets could and would pay their mortgage bills on time, and when this didn’t happen, the whole tower of cards began coming apart. Some of the world’s largest banks have already taken billions of dollars in losses, and nobody is even pretending that the economic carnage is over yet.

Has Florida Mis-managed its water resources?

Unfettered real estate development has a price beyond the initial investment. Florida residents may be hit with very expensive water — soon.

Link: The Associated Press: Much of U.S. Could See a Water Shortage

Florida represents perhaps the nation’s greatest water irony. A hundred years ago, the state’s biggest problem was it had too much water. But decades of dikes, dams and water diversions have turned swamps into cities.

Little land is left to store water during wet seasons, and so much of the landscape has been paved over that water can no longer penetrate the ground in some places to recharge aquifers. As a result, the state is forced to flush millions of gallons of excess into the ocean to prevent flooding.

Also, the state dumps hundreds of billions of gallons a year of treated wastewater into the Atlantic through pipes — water that could otherwise be used for irrigation.

Florida’s environmental chief, Michael Sole, is seeking legislative action to get municipalities to reuse the wastewater.

"As these communities grow, instead of developing new water with new treatment systems, why not better manage the commodity they already have and produce an environmental benefit at the same time?" Sole said.

Florida leads the nation in water reuse by reclaiming some 240 billion gallons annually, but it is not nearly enough, Sole said.

"We just passed a crossroads. The chief water sources are basically gone," said John Mulliken, director of water supply for the South Florida Water Management District. "We really are at a critical moment in Florida history."

UnBeautiful Image: Citarum River

This picture speaks volumes.

Link: Is this the world’s most polluted river? | the Daily Mail

…the Citarum is a river in crisis, choked by the domestic waste of nine million people and thick with the cast-off from hundreds of factories. So dense is the carpet of refuse that the tiny wooden fishing craft which float through it are the only clue to the presence of water.

Its demise began with rapid industrialisation during the late 1980s. The mighty Citarum soon became a garbage bin for the factories.

And the doomsday effect will spread. It is one of two major rivers that feed Lake Saguling, where the French have built the largest power generator in West Java.

Experts predict that as the river chokes, its volume will decrease and the generator will not function properly.

The area will be plunged into darkness.

But at least the factories will be stilled and their waste will stop flowing.

And perhaps the river will begin to breathe again.

via Jason Kottke at kottke.org