Happy Three Day Weekend! First, let’s take a moment to thank this guy for our free Monday. I hope all of you wonderful people have fun plans.
It’s been a busy week for Team Spinach, but we couldn’t let it pass without mentioning some of the strange environmental news that’s happened this week.
First of all, METEOROIDS: While the Northeast is recovering from their search for Nemo (see El Nino’s post on that if you’re curious), the folks in Chelyabinsk, Russia got whalloped by a shower of stuff from out of space. Technically speaking they were meteoroids – and were responsible for damage to nearly 4,000 buildings and injuring more than 1,000 people (most injuries were minor, thankfully). Lesson of this fall and winter, between Sandy, Nemo, and now this – sometimes, there’s nothing we can do to stop Mother Nature except get out of her way.
In case you’re worried about using the correct terms, here’s a clarification (fun fact: I was an astrophysics major for a few semesters in college before I switched to geology.) A meteoroid is the technical term for any particle of debris, ranging from the side of a single grain to about the size of a boulder. (A meteor is just the streak of light from burning debris and particles that is created behind the object when it enters Earth’s atmosphere, creating the familiar “shooting star” effect if you’ve ever seen a meteor shower.) Asteroids, meanwhile, are small Solar System bodies or dwarf planets. The asteroid belt – where most of them come from – is the ring of material that separates the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) from the Outer Planets (Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus, and Neptune – also known as the gas giants). The asteroid belt is in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. What about comets? Those are icy bodies; many come from the Kuiper Belt, which is found just outside the orbit of Neptune. (Some may also come from the Oort Cloud, which is the material that defines the boundary of the solar system past the orbit of ex-planet Pluto.)
Meanwhile, on a completely different note, an issue that has been known to environmentalists for a long time is finally making national news. When I talk to most of my friends about water, they tend to think that we’re removing most (if not all) of the bad stuff from our drinking water. While current treatment standards do cover most of the truly icky stuff (large particles, discoloration, and oh yeah, bacteria), one thing that’s NOT removed right now are prescription drugs and medications. When you take medicine – whether it’s birth control, antibiotics for a cold, or treatments for a chronic condition – you’re going to secrete some of it out. And guess what? We don’t remove that from our treated water before it’s discharged. The result? Read about it in this TIME magazine article. I’ll be following up this week with a crunchy (or maybe two) on water quality issues.
AND NUCLEAR WASTE?
Meanwhile, in Washington (the one on the left coast, not us Beltway insiders), concerns have been raised over leaking nuclear waste at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear waste site in Olympia, Washington. Evidently, the tanks containing the waste are past their 20-year life span and major concerns have been raised about waste leaking from tanks containing a total of over 445,000 gallons of radioactive sludge. The waste is largely from WWII vintage military operations and is weapons-grade nuclear waste (which is different from the stuff from nuclear power plants). The reason why the tanks haven’t been dealt with? You guessed it: budget fights in Congress. Huffington Post is reporting on this here.
In case I ruined your morning with all this great news, here are some sleeping pugs to make it all better.
There, isn’t that nice?