God, Country, Notre Dame: Environmental Edition

Notre Dame students are smart—no doubt about that—but there’s a difference between being intelligent and being informed. You may excel in the classroom, but education needs worldly context beyond your ND bubble. This weekly column exists to keep you up to date with the latest happenings around the nation in 500 words or less. We do the research, you do the reading. HCNDXO

This week, HCND is looking at recent enviornmental news stories across the country.

Colorado Toxic River Spill

On August 5th, an EPA crew visited the Gold King Mine in Southwestern Colorado in order to investigate a leak and measure polution levels.

However, the crew accidentally (and ironically) broke through the barrier of the tunnel to the Animas River, sending a rush of chemicals into the river, including iron, lead, manganese, zinc, and arsenic. These chemicals turned the water a sickly yellow-orange color, understandably worrying the residents around the river and other environmental groups.

Officials closed the river off, and the EPA is currently working on solving the problem, although they estimate that the river will not be open for the public until August 17th. While the EPA is working to treat the water, there are still long-term effects to worry about, such as certain species or ecosystems being poisoned, or contaminants being brought back up out of the river bed by rainstorms, and so we may not see the entire impact of the spill for many years. 

Indiana Chemical Leak

On Saturday, August 15th, around 200 people felt the effects of a chemical leak at Hydrite Chemical Co. when they were evactuated from a small speedway in Terre Haute, Indiana.

It was confirmed that sulfer dioxide was leaked, althought the causes are not yet confirmed. Families at the speedway were watching an event when some reported to have experienced different respiratory issues and other ailments. Fifteen people were hospitalized following the leak. 

California Drought

Yes, it's still happening. In fact, it's in its fourth year, and according to the New York Times, it is the worst drought "since the state began keeping records of temperature and precipitation in the 1800's."

Other than the obvious effects of higher water costs and issues for agriculture, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says that the fires that they have responded to have burned more than 138,000 acres of land and forest.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California would need to accumulate 18 to 21 inches of rain over the next six months in order to recover from the drought, which doesn't seem likely to happen according to various authorities. However, the good news is that water usage across the state in June went down 27% since 2013. 

New Environmental Plan

On August 2nd, the Obama Administration announced the "Clean Power Plan," which is a set of regulations by the EPA to attempt to reduce carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants and incentivize the states' usage of more efficient and renewable energy sources.

According to the U.S. Energy Administration, in 2012, 37% of the country's electricity came from coal, while only 5% came from renewable sources. However, critics of the program believe that these regulations will cause energy costs to be unreasonably high.

The administrator of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, counters this by saying that while the program will cost around 8.4 billion dollars, the benefits of the program are estimated to be valued between 34 billion and 54 billion dollars. 

 

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Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8