CLE4R project continues to educate Iowans, improve air quality


AirBeamDiagram
In an effort to educate Iowans about particulate air pollution, CLE4R has made Air Beam air quality monitors available for check out at the Dubuque Public Library, Dubuque Community School Districts and at the University of Iowa. (Taking Space)
Jenna Ladd | March 28, 2017

Clean Air in the River Valley, also known as CLE4R, is a collaborative effort to improve air quality in the city of Dubuque and nearby communities.

The project is a partnership between University of Iowa IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering the city of Dubuque, and surrounding Upper Mississippi River Valley communities. Founded in October of 2015, CLE4R’s four pillars are environmental education, technology, partnerships, and planning.

Most parts of eastern Iowa and western Illinois experience air pollution that makes the air unhealthy for residents during at least some part of the year. CLE4R aims to reduce particulate matter in the air that is smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5). This type of air pollution is particularly common in Iowa’s Upper Mississippi River Valley communities.

Dr. Charles Stanier, University of Iowa associate professor of chemical and biochemical engineering, is director of the program. He said, “We have reached over 1,000 Iowans with high quality information about air quality and the health benefits of clean air. We have done this through our in person events, our website, media coverage, and social media.”

CLE4R has also worked to offer Iowans the practical experience of measuring air pollution in their communities independently. Stanier explained, “CLE4R has introduced all the stakeholders in the project: city staff, teachers, environmental groups, and local businesses, to the AirBeam hand held particulate [matter] monitors that are available for checkout from the City of Dubuque, the University of Iowa, and the Dubuque School District. ”

The project is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Education Program and is set to end this July. Representatives from CLE4R will be present at the Dubuque’s Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) festival on April 22nd and at Iowa City’s Science Technology Engineering Art and Math (STEAM) festival on April 23rd.

Report: Air quality some factory farms worse than in most polluted U.S. cities


 

Credit: Compassion in World Farming, Flickr

It’s not just city-dwellers who battle air pollution each day.

Those living near some factory farms in places like Iowa breath in levels of pollutants far above occupational safety guidelines and worse than what many city industrial workers face, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonpartisan research group comprised of former EPA attorneys.

The data comes from a two-year Purdue University study, which was verified by the EPA.

“No other major industry in the U.S. would be permitted to pollute at these levels without EPA oversight,” said Tarah Heinzen, attorney and author of the report, in a release.  Continue reading

IEF Exclusive: Despite high emotions, tar sands refinery near Iowa border far from realized


Pristine Elk Point, SD is the site of a cross-state dispute over an oil refinery that may not be built for years, if at all. (Photo: The City of Elk Point, SD.)

By Jim Malewitz

Elk Point was never in the spotlight before. But for three years, this quiet South Dakota town of just 750 families and a handful of restaurants has become the focal point in a dispute over a proposed 400,000 barrel-a-day tar sands oil refinery.

It would be the first tar sands plant built the United States since 1976.

Proposed by Dallas-based Hyperion LLC, the refinery has spurred an ideological clash between those hoping to add jobs to a still stagnant economy and those concerned about the health of the near pristine environment of this town, just 15 miles Southwest of Sioux City, and its nearby national parks and recreation areas.

Tar sands is an extra dark, heavy oil that researchers like Scott Spak, at the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, call “absolutely filthy.” Hyperion has said the refinery will use new technology that will limit emissions.

Disagreements over the proposal haven’t been confined to Elk Point or surrounding Union County, where 58 percent of voters approved a zoning ordinance that set aside 3,292 acres of land for the Hyperion refinery. Bickering over the refinery has crept across the border into Iowa and into the rhetoric of lawmakers, and was heightened by the recent midterm elections.

But a review of documents on Hyperion’s permitting process show that the refinery likely won’t be built for years, if at all. Since announcing Elk Point as a finalist for the refinery in June 2007, Hyperion has received just one of seven major permits required for its operation, and even that permit is tenuous. Continue reading

On the Radio: Growing Trees, Cleaning Iowa


A view of a section of poplar trees that grow on Licht's land in North Liberty.

Listen to this week’s radio spot on Lou Licht, who uses trees to clean up the land, water and air. For more information on Licht, check out the Iowa Independent, or read this interview with him: The Accidental Capitalist.

Planting trees: A proven way to clean up Iowa’s land and water – and save money.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Iowa-native Lou Licht is the founder of Ecolotree, an engineering firm that uses trees to clean up toxic sites.

He’s the first person in the world to do so.

Ecolotree has cleaned up landfills, brown fields, and hazardous waste sites around the world.  The idea can also help curb farm runoff that pollutes Iowa’s rivers and streams.

Licht’s low-cost, quick-growing poplar trees could be a solution for many Iowa towns that need to upgrade their out-dated sewer systems.

It goes to show that sometimes you can save a little green by going green.

For more information, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

I’m Jerry Schnoor with the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Thank you.

Proposed Hyperion tar sands oil refinery sparks cross-border controversy


 

An oil refinery, Shell at Martinez, California. (photo: Wikipedia commons)

 

A proposed $10 billion tar sands oil refinery near the South Dakota-Iowa border is causing a stir among political and environmental groups in both states. If all goes as Hyperion plans, it will be the first tar sands refinery built in the U.S. since the 1970s.

Environmental groups argue that the crude tar sands oil is the dirtiest around, and the refinery would pose a huge threat to the land, air, and water supply in both states. Hyperion says it will use the greenest of technology – a notion loudly disputed by those who have critically examined the proposal

And politicians in both states in support of the plant argue that it will bring much-need jobs into the area.

From the Iowa Independent:

The $10 billion refinery will be built in Elk Point, S.D., just 30 miles north of Sioux City. With the area’s wind patterns and flow of the nearby Missouri River, environmental activists are calling the proposed refinery potentially “devastating” to Iowans’ safety. Although the Texas-based Hyperion Refining LLC says the facility will create 10,000 jobs — many of which will go to Iowans, the company assures — the negative environmental impacts of the oil extraction from the tar sands is well-document, critics say.

Continue reading