Weekly Environmental News, July 28-August 3: Plastic in the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, and more

Great Lakes plagued by plastic

Invasive zebra mussels, toxic algae, industrial pollution… the Great Lakes always seem to be fighting some sort of plague. Now scientists are discovering millions of plastic bits after trolling Lakes Huron, Superior and Erie. Microscopic examination has led to the discovery of tiny, perfectly round pellets which, scientists suspect, originated from personal care products that contain exfoliating or abrasive micro-beads.

Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico: not a record breaker, but still nearly double the size of last year

Each year the Gulf of Mexico experiences a dead zone as a result of run-off from the farm belt. This year was projected to be the highest ever dead zone given the amounts of rainfall and flooding. However, actual measurements show the dead zone to be 5800 square miles – about the size of the state of Connecticut. Dead zones are directly related to nitrogen fertilizer run-off that causes algae blooms. The algae eventually dies, and bacteria uses up the oxygen in the water as it decomposes the algae. Without oxygen, sea life cannot survive, and thus a dead zone is formed. Commercial fisheries are annually affected by dead zones.

Carbon Neutral Shipping Options from Vermont

Ceres, a carbon-neutral barge built by Vermont Sail Freight Project and farmer Erik Andrus will be taking its maiden voyage down the Hudson to New York. The barge will not have refrigeration but will be appropriate for grains, preserves, and other cargo that will last a 10-day trip down the river. Future goals include forming a producer owned shipping and marketing cooperative.

EPA Releases National Stormwater Calculator

The EPA has released software to help reduce water pollution. The calculator comes as part of Phase I of the President’s Climate Action Plan. The desktop application allows users to obtain estimates the annual amount of stormwater runoff from a specific site, based on local soil conditions, slope, land cover, and historical rainfall records.

featured image: Creative Commons Image “Gulf of Mexico” courtesy of eutrophication&hypoxia via Flickr


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