China is beset with some of the worst air pollution ever. Residents are turning to facemasks, but, as reported by Planet Ark, some of them are not up to snuff:

Face masks have become the norm for many city residents, although only nine out of 37 types tested recently by the China Consumers Association met required standards in terms of filtering particulate matter and enabling easy breathing.

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This one is making the rounds: the Bose Noise Cancelling Toilet.

Noise Cancelling Toilet

Noise Cancelling Toilet

Enough said, except to add that the comment on reddit on using rearbuds is apropos.

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North Carolina’s environmental reputation took a big hit with Duke Energy’s coal ash spill in February into the Dan River. Among other worries, large Duke Energy investors are now asking for a report by May 1 on what’s up, as discussed by the AP here. And the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has had some explaining to do regarding regulating Duke Energy’s coal ash storage facilities, such as failure to seek required stormwater permits at some Duke Energy Facilities.

Not as widely known, however, is North Carolina’s foray into dubious methods of treating the waters of Jordan Lake, a large lake near Raleigh subject to some nasty algae blooms. The upshot is that the state legislature put on hold rules for controlling discharges of nitrogen and phosporus to the lake, the chief culprit nutrients resulting in these blooms, and okayed “aeration,” or, rather, a mixing method to inhibit stratification as a treatment approach in small areas of the lake. Problems with this approach were discussed in a letter from local, highly qualified experts  to the Raleigh News and Observer, with the following bottom line: Read the rest of this post »


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There’s a disturbing problem here, the main point being that we only learn about spills, leaks, etc. when they are very large, large enough to really smell and taste bad, and often are not pretty, either. But what about the other leaks and spills that are not so large, but which nevertheless can cause health problems? Those occur, but those drinking the coolaid made from that water won’t know.

What is to be done about those whose drinking water comes from rivers and streams that are subject to such discharges? There are types of monitoring systems that could help. Also, I’m a firm believer in taking samples and storing them over time. One big composite sample, say for a year, even, could be mixed up and analyzed for very low concentrations of things. The results could help point the way to culprits such as the West Virginia spiller.

UNESCO is releasing a 600 page report, which, as they say is to

highlight the need to draw on the social sciences to bring about the economic and behavioural changes required to achieve sustainability.

These concepts clearly are important. For example, there’s the need for changing the way we develop and expand our population centers in a way that promotes public transportation. That’s social, not technical.

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There’s been a fair amount of media buzz lately about activist/journalist Naomi Klein. This led me to check out her views and methods. Here’s an interview with Klein by Bill Moyers (actually, it’s the first half of the one-hour show), which helps understand where she and her compatriots are coming from.

One of the things she’s involved with is the “Do the Math” project out of 350.org, part of which is helping organize a movement targeting divesting from fossil fuel companies.

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There’s a recent article in the NYTimes reviewing some aspects of the upcoming battle over the administration’s new proposed power plant emissions rules and its optimistic take on carbon (dioxide) capture and storage (CCS):

E.P.A. rules sometimes demand technological advancements, but the goals that the agency establishes have to be met by techniques that existing law describes as “adequately demonstrated.”

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Wow, in Pennsylvania, doctors can access information about fracking chemicals their patients might have been exposed to, but as reported in the Atlantic, a

new bill requires those health professionals to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that they will not disclose that information to anyone else — not even the person they’re trying to treat.

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There’s big news that today the administration will announce new carbon dioxide limits for coal-fired electric plants. First, note that the Supreme Court already has said that carbon dioxide can be regulated as a pollutant.  (I don’t know why the president doesn’t keep pressing this fact, but that’s just me.)

The only way really under consideration for getting out the CO2 is CCS, carbon capture and sequestration. There’s a good rundown of the pros and cons of this approach here.

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