On The Radio- 2,500 chemicals sites at risk for floods


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Sites at risk for high and moderate flooding 

Kasey Dresser | April 16, 2018

This weeks segment looks at chemical sites across the U.S. that are located in flood risk areas.

 

Transcript:

Twenty five hundred toxic chemical sites in the U.S. are located in areas with high risk for flooding. 

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus. 

Last year the Climate Science Special report predicted a higher flood risk going into 2018. The heightened risk is from heavy rainfall and rising sea levels that lead to coastal floods and potential hurricanes. As of now, fourteen hundred toxic chemical sites are at high risk and eleven hundred are at moderate risk of flooding. 

Last year, Hurricane Harvey released hazardous pollutants at more than 40 sites. In 2012 Tropical Storm Debby destroyed a chemical plant in White Springs, Florida that produced phosphates to be used in fertilizer. Flooding from the tropical storm overflowed the Suwanee River destroying the algae and duckweed growth and caused the oxygen levels in the lakes and rivers to plummet. Record-breaking rains in May of last year overflowed storage ponds of sodium hydroxide sending the contaminant into the Alabama River.

Currently federal law and most state governments do not require a flood risk plan for toxic chemical sites. More needs to be done to protect our waterways from natural disasters.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

On The Radio- A decade since the 2008 flood


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Cedar Rapids

Kasey Dresser | April 9, 2018

This week’s segment looks at statistics from 10 years ago when Iowa experienced the 6th largest FEMA disaster in the U.S. 

Transcript:

This year marks a decade since the historic Iowa Floods of 2008.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus. 

Most of the flooding started in early June, finally receding in July. Thousands of Iowans were left displaced and jobless from the rising waters. The banks of the Mississippi, the Cedar, the Iowa, and the Wapsipinicon Rivers all overflowed. Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and the University of Iowa were among the worst affected in Eastern Iowa. Recovery has taken nearly a decade. 

At its peak, the Cedar River was around 20 feet above flood stage. In Cedar Rapids alone, around 10,000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes. The estimated financial assistance received by Iowans as a result of the 2008 floods totaled $848 million. This was the  6th largest FEMA disaster declaration in the U.S.. 

The Iowa Flood Center, established as a result of the 2008 floods, has been working diligently with many communities to make them more resilient to the impact of future flooding. The Flood Center is the only facility of its kind in the nation, dedicated to helping Iowans better prepare for more flooding.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus dot org. 

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone. 

On The Radio- Eco-friendly sunscreen


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(aninini/flickr)

Kasey Dresser | March 26, 2018

This week’s segment looks at a new company working to create environmentally safe sunscreen. 

Transcript: 

An eco-friendly sunscreen is currently being developed in an attempt to help the environment.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Sunscreen is an absolute must for defending against ultraviolet radiation, or UV rays. UV rays are very damaging to the skin and repeated sun exposure can contribute to a higher probability of getting skin cancer. But many sunscreens use oxybenzone and octinoxate (oc-tin-ox-ate), two chemicals that can accumulate in the ocean and are toxic to marine life.

As people swim and enjoy the ocean waves, the sunscreen on their bodies is slowly washed away into the ocean water. An estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen pollutes coral reef areas of the ocean every year.

Scientists at the University of Florida have recently discovered a more natural, less harmful key ingredient to sunscreen—shinorine (shin-oh-rine), a UV-absorbing amino acid. Shinorine is produced from algea. Extracting a usable amount takes a long time, as algae grows very slowly.

Researcher, Yousong Ding, discovered that he could increase the production of shinorine by genetically altering algae. He hopes that his findings will persuade cosmetic companies to integrate the natural material into eco-friendly sunscreens.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

On The Radio- Harnessing the ocean for renewable energy


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Ocean tides are the rising and falling of ocean levels caused by the sun and moon’s gravitational pull and the earth’s rotation. (Rita Jo/flickr)

Kasey Dresser | March 19, 2018

This week’s segment looks at a Canadian company that is trying to use ocean tides to create renewable energy. 

Transcript: 

A Canadian company is looking to harness the tidal pull of the ocean for energy.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Cape Sharp Tidal is a company located in Nova Scotia by Canada’s Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy is known to have some of the highest tides in the world. The differences in water levels between high and low tide are sometimes as large as 50 feet.

Christian Richard, the company director, was inspired by the way wind turbines collect energy by using air currents to turn the turbine blades. Using the tides for energy would work in much the same way, with the sensors being placed underwater and using the changes in the pull of the tide to generate energy.

The technology is still in the early stages of testing. The development team must work on everything from the design, to the efficiency, to proving that the invention won’t harm marine life.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

On The Radio- Phosphorus in fresh water


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Salanfe Lake Dam (Soma Biswas/flickr)

Kasey Dresser | March 12, 2018

This week’s segment looks at the high levels of phosphorus in the world’s fresh water.

 

Transcript:

The world’s freshwater is becoming overloaded with phosphorus.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Phosphorus is an essential element for plant life and is commonly found in agricultural fertilizers and sewage runoff. An excess of phosphorus in water, however, can create a process called eutrophication. This process depletes oxygen in the water which can be detrimental to aquatic life.

A recent study from Water Resources Research reported sewage and agricultural run off adding a little over one million tons of phosphorus to rivers and lakes each year. Agricultural fertilizer contributed to 38 percent of the contamination. Another large component is poorly treated sewage.

Despite international trends of increasing phosphorus levels, Iowa waterways have reported decreasing levels of phosphorus over the last few years.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

The Getting Ahead of the Watershed Expo in Davenport, IA


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Kasey Dresser | March 7, 2018

The Getting Ahead of the Watershed Expo will be held in the Davenport River Center’s Mississippi Hall on Saturday, March 10th from 10am to 3pm. 
This is a free event, presented by students of Davenport North High School and Davenport Public Works, that aims to raise awareness about the quality of our waterways and individual impact on water quality through engaging demonstrations and exhibits.
The event will feature several interactive student and vendor booths with topics ranging from environmentally positive ways to increase the curb appeal of your home to locks and dams and levees.  In addition to interactive displays, a play featuring Franny the Fish, is sure to bring a smile to all ages, while delivering important information about our watershed.
There will also be a 9ft+ root system of native grass Big Blue Stem. The root system is certain to amaze and highlight the ecosystem, soil and water quality benefits of native plants in our landscape.
Attendees will also enjoy theDavenport Community School student artwork on display at the Expo, and to vote for their favorite art piece and booth, as well as enter a drawing for a beautifully decorated rain barrel.
This event is one you won’t want to miss!

On The Radio- 793 gigagrams of mercury found in Alaska


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Glacier Bay National Park (pontla/flickr)

Kasey Dresser | March 5, 2018

This week’s segment looks at research published in last month’s Geophysical Research Letters about the amount of mercury found in Arctic permafrost in Alaska.

Transcript: 

New research states that Arctic permafrost in Alaska holds more mercury than expected.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Arctic permafrost is frozen soil, rock, and sediment that stays at or below freezing for at least two consecutive years. A quarter of the Northern Hemisphere’s landmass is covered by permafrost.

Recently a group of scientists drilled into 13 soil cores taken from different parts of Alaska. The findings reported that the permafrost held 793 gigagrams of mercury. This is equivalent to more than 15 million gallons or 23 Olympic size swimming pools. These numbers continue to increase if you add the current thawed layer of soil that sits above it.

By 2100 anywhere from 30 to 99 percent of the permafrost could have thawed leaving the question: Where will the mercury go?

Carl Lamborg, an assistant professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz discussed in an interview that it’s unclear what will happen to the mercury when the permafrost thaws but there is reason for concern. More research will be needed to understand the impact of mercury in the atmosphere.

These new findings were published last month in the Geophysical Research Letters.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.