More Money to Clean Brownfields

For many cities in the Midwest, one of the greatest challenges is how to re-develop old, abandoned industrial land. Known as ‘brownfields’ – these areas often host signs of days gone by – shells of old factories; rusting railroad tracks; or grain elevators that are falling apart. They are also often contaminated. And now a bill that was recently signed into law by President Bush will give more money to cities to clean up their brownfields. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush reports:

Transcript

For many cities in the Midwest, one of the greatest challenges is how to re-develop old, abandoned industrial land. Known as ‘brownfields’- these areas often host signs of days gone by – shells of old factories, rusting railroad tracks, or grain elevators that are falling apart. They are also often contaminated. And now a bill that was recently signed into law by President Bush will give more money to cities to clean up their brownfields. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has details:

The law will double the amount of funding available for fiscal year 2003. The money will help cover the costs of assessing and cleaning up brownfields. Officials are pleased with the increased funding, but they say environmental clean up is just one hurdle in re-selling, and ultimately re-using, the land. Donna Duscharme is the co-director of the Delta Institute in Chicago:

“Well, it takes an enormous amount of work and knowledge to get through a lot of the barriers that are facing the re-development of these sites. The EPA really focuses very heavily on the environmental barriers, but there are also often other barriers.”

Duscharme says these barriers include things like demolition of old buildings, debris removal, legal work to clear the land of outstanding liens, and the legwork necessary to find potential buyers for the land. These costs often can’t be re-couped in the sale of the property. So other sources of funding need to be found before the land can be re-used. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.

Sleep Research Uncovers Surprising Finding

Sleeping too much might cut your life short. A new study in the journal Nature conflicts with the idea that you need to sleep eight hours every night. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has more:

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Sleeping too much might cut your life short. A new study in the journal Nature conflicts with the idea that you need to sleep eight hours every night. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has more:

A study of one million people by the American Cancer Society turned up some interesting new findings on sleep. Psychiatrists at the University of California, San Diego found that people with the longest lives get only seven hours of sleep each night. Excessive sleeping might increase your risk of an early death by up to 15-percent according to the research. It also found the average American gets about six-and-a-half hours of sleep. According to the Nature article, critics point out that there are trade-offs to consider, such as lack of sleep making it easier to get sick, and people who don’t get enough sleep are sometimes cranky. However, scientists familiar with the study say more needs to be explored about excessive sleep and shortened lives.

Parental Common Sense

Two recent medical studies have shed some light on the cause and possible prevention of childhood asthma. The first, a Canadian study, examines the relationship between breastfeeding and the risk of developing childhood asthma. The second study out of southern California indicates a connection between smog and childhood asthma rates. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston says that the reports confirm what the parents of many asthmatic children have understood all along:

Transcript

Two recent medical studies have shed some light on the cause and possible prevention of childhood asthma. The first, a Canadian study, examines the relationship between breastfeeding and the risk of developing childhood asthma. The second study out of southern California indicates a connection between smog and childhood asthma rates. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston says that the reports confirm what the parents of many asthmatic children have understood all along:

I’ll never forget the day that the pediatrician marched into our infant daughter’s hospital room and demanded that I stop breastfeeding her. Sarah had been in intensive care for several weeks in an attempt to control her asthma – without success. Her doctor turned to the only remaining variable he could identify – breast milk. My husband and I were convinced that the immunological benefits of breastfeeding offered Sarah the best chance for survival. We put up such a stink that within 24 hours Sarah was allowed to resume breastfeeding. Months later, a specialist at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children not only commended our decision – he felt that breastfeeding had probably saved Sarah’s life.

Eight years later a new study out of the same Toronto hospital confirms our parental intuition. According to the report, breastfeeding actually protects children against asthma. The longer they breastfeed, the more protection they’re offered. The study found that when infants were breastfed for nine months or longer, the risk of asthma and wheezing was reduced by 50%.

The results of the study are no surprise to me. It has been eight years since Sarah first left the oxygen tent that was her home as an infant. Today, her once life-threatening condition has been replaced by a mild asthma. It’s only triggered when she has a bad cold or if she’s exposed to high levels of air pollution.

Which leads me to a second study out of Southern California. Researchers there have spent eight years studying the effects of ground level ozone on childhood asthma. They’ve concluded that ozone not only triggers asthmatic attacks, it can actually cause it.

What both these studies confirm is that environmental factors – both positive and negative – can have a dramatic effect on the incidence and severity of asthma. As the parents of a severely asthmatic child, these are common sense lessons that we learned by carefully observing our daughter. For us, they simply confirm what we already knew.

The big lesson here is that parental observation and intuition provide us with valuable tools for protecting our children’s health – often years before the scientific community reaches the same conclusions. Unfortunately, this anecdotal evidence is too often dismissed as being unscientific -as if that were the watermark that everything should be measured by. In light of these recent studies, maybe its time we considered the importance of good ol’ common sense.

Suzanne Elston is a syndicated columnist living in Courtice, Ontario. She comes to us by way of the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

WEBSITE INFO:

“Breastfeeding and Asthma is Young Children – Findings from a Population -Based Study”, Sharon Dell, MD, Teresa To, PhD., (November 2001) can be found at the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine website at www.archpediatrics.com

Information about the Children’s Health Study can be found at the National Institute of Health Studies at www.niehs.nih.gov/oc/news/ozasth.htm and the California EPA site at arbis.arb.ca.gov/newsrel/nr013102.htm

Tightening Security on the Great Lakes

Since September 11th, the U.S. government has been closing security gaps in aviation. But maritime officials warn that security on our Great Lakes is even less certain. Recently the U.S. Coast Guard held an international conference in Cleveland on Great Lakes security. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Schaefer reports:

Transcript

Since September 11, the U.S. government has been closing security gaps in aviation. But maritime officials warn that security on our Great Lakes is even less certain. Recently the U.S. Coast Guard held an international conference in Cleveland on Great Lakes security. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Schaefer reports:

On September 11, about 55 commercial U.S. and foreign freighters were cruising the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Even as the nation’s airports were being closed, U.S. Coast Guard officials were ordered to stop and search those vessels. It took two days for the search to be completed. Commander James Hull heads the Coast Guard’s 9th District, which oversees shipping in the Great Lakes region. He says that action alerted the Guard to a serious problem.

“Didn’t know exactly where all those ships were. AIS system solves that.”

AIS is a new communications protocol now being developed by the International Maritime Organization. Using a global positioning system, ships equipped with AIS will be able to transmit their exact location – and identity – to other vessels and maritime authorities. But so far, the system hasn’t been widely adopted. And that’s just the first security risk the Coast Guard discovered.

“We had people asking how you drive the ships and how you get training?”

As the weeks went by, the list of vulnerable areas grew. Nuclear power plants located along the lakeshore, ports and harbors, bridges, tunnels, and locks. Ships carrying hazardous cargo and those from countries with known terrorist links. And then there are the thousands of cargo containers shipped daily from ports around the world.

“Ambi here?”

27-hundred reservists were called up to assist the Coast Guard in patrolling and monitoring sensitive areas. The federal government allocated more than 220-million dollars in additional funds. But four months after the terrorist attacks, more than 50-percent of the Coast Guard’s efforts are still being spent on security. The Guard’s original mission – to guide maritime operations, assist in search and rescue, and help clean up environmental problems – has been largely overshadowed. Nonetheless oversight of commercial shipping is part of the Coast Guard’s job. Goods shipped on the Great Lakes are worth more than 742-billion dollars a year to the U.S. economy. Most of those goods and raw materials enter or leave the Great Lakes in bulk shipments and in containers that are off-loaded directly from ships. Dr. Steven Flynn is a former Coast Guard Commander and a Senior Fellow with the National Security Studies Program at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. He says a disruption to Great Lakes shipping could have wide-reaching consequences for the entire U.S.

“And so if we have another incident…we’re still extremely vulnerable, we’re still not out of the woods on this here – that if it happens in those sectors, my fear is not just the consequence of seeing another sight like I saw on September 16 after the attack, but also is the disruption that would come from happening within those sectors.”

Those disruptions could also severely hamper the Canadian economy, which ships much of its grain and steel through the Great Lakes. As the U.S.’s largest trading partner and nearest neighbor, Canada already shares jurisdiction over Great Lakes resources through the International Joint Commission. Now government officials on both sides of the border say it’s more important than ever to work together.

(1B 258 Streeter Integrated border enforcement)

John Adams is the Canadian Coast Guard Commissioner. He says the U.S. and Canada have recently signed a 30-point plan to jointly improve security on the Great Lakes, while allowing trade to flourish. Both governments have already instituted new 96-hour arrival notification requirements for vessels coming into North American ports. And they’ve extended the international maritime borders from 3-miles to twelve. But there are plenty of other new security plans yet to be adopted, ranging from identity cards and background checks to a point-of-origin system for clearing container cargo. And both countries will be sending representatives to the International Maritime Organization conference in London, where organizers hope to move ahead with new standardized strategies to keep global trade secure. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Schaefer.

DAMS MAKE MAJOR FLOODS WORSE? (Short)

  • The Army Corps of Engineers installed these wing dams to force the current to the middle. The rushing water scours the bottom of the channel to keep navigation open. A new study alleges the wing dams slow the current during major floods and cause flood waters to be higher. Photo by Lester Graham.

A recent study concludes that some of the flood control projects along the Midwest’s largest rivers might be making the severity of some floods worse. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

A recent study concludes that some of the flood control projects along the Midwest’s largest rivers might be making the severity of some floods worse. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

The study, published in the journal Geology, looked at the history of flood stages and river flows along portions of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. It concludes that the dams, dikes, and levees constrict rivers so that when there are massive floods, such as on the Mississippi in 1993, they make the situation worse. Everett Shock is a professor at Washington University and one of the authors of the study.

“There needs to be some very clever thought on how to go about some differences in management practices so that we aren’t making large floods worse.”

The Army Corps of Engineers, which built and maintains the flood control projects along rivers, says the study is flawed because it doesn’t use updated data and it doesn’t consider the role that man-made reservoirs play in holding backwater during floods. The Corps also notes that before the flood projects, the rivers often damaged homes, businesses and property on a large scale, something that the Corps says rarely happens now.

Dams Make Major Floods Worse?

  • The Army Corps of Engineers installed these wing dams to force the current to the middle. The rushing water scours the bottom of the channel to keep navigation open. A new study alleges the wing dams slow the current during major floods and cause flood waters to be higher. Photo by Lester Graham.

A recent study concludes that some actions of the Army Corps of Engineers might be causing more, rather than less damage during major floods on rivers in the Midwest. The study by two Washington University professors found that wing dams, which jut out into the river, could cause big floods to rise even higher. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham takes a closer look at this study:

Transcript

A recent study concludes that some actions of the Army Corps of Engineers might be causing more, rather than less damage during major floods on rivers in the Midwest. The study by two Washington University professors found that wing dams which jut out into the river could cause big floods to rise even higher. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham takes a closer look at this study:

The Mississippi and the Missouri rivers are two of the major arteries for barge transportation in America. Millions of tons of grain, and raw materials are floated up and down the rivers each year. It’s the Army Corps of Engineers’ job to keep the rivers open to barge traffic. The Corps has been doing that job for the past 150 years. But since the 1930’s that effort has taken on immense proportions. Huge dams hold back the river, keeping the water high enough for the barges to travel up and down-stream. Big earthen dikes, called levees, wall in the rivers, keeping them from flooding farms and towns, but also keeping the water from reaching the natural flood plain. Robert Criss and Everett Shock studied flood levels and the effects of the Corps of Engineers projects. Criss says those dams and levees alone might be enough to disrupt the flow of the river and cause flood stages to be higher.

“But the other component is these structures called wing-dams which are jetties of rocks that project out perpendicularly into the channel. For high-flow conditions, these act something like scale in a pipe. They impede the flow, restricting the channel. That slows the velocity of the water down and that also makes the flood stages higher.”

The purpose of wing dams is to force the current to the middle of the river to scour out the navigation channel to keep it open for the barges. Researcher Everett Shock.

“So, they do the job they’re intended to do. It seems that there’s an unintended–perhaps unintended consequence of all these constructions along the river that shows up when we have a big flood and makes it to –on the basis of our study– makes these big floods worse.”

Criss and Shock say their study finds that since these flood control projects have been erected, there have been more big floods, such as the one in 1993 that flooded the Mississippi and some of its tributaries for most of the summer. Robert Criss.

“The fact is, before World War II, a flood stage of 38-feet is very rare and now it happens every five years.”

But not everyone agrees with the methodology used by the researchers. The
Corps of Engineers dismisses the researchers’ study, saying they used flawed data. Corps officials point to a study at the University of Missouri – Rolla. That study compared the 19th century method of measuring a river’s flow by timing how fast floats moved in the current to the methods used today. Dave Busse is a scientist with the Army Corps of Engineers. He says the original stream flow measurements –the ones Criss and Shock used— were inaccurate.

“The flows were over-estimated by 30-percent using this float measurements rather than the measurements than we use today.”

Criss and Shock are skeptical of new numbers that the Corps prefers. Saying it seems awfully convenient for the Corps because changing the numbers makes the historic floods look smaller and therefore makes the 1993 flood look unprecedented. Criss and Shock say based on the original records, there was as much water in past floods as in the 1993 flood but lower water levels. Criss and Shock say the difference between then and now is that the Corps’ big dams, levees, and wing dams constrict the river’s flow and make floods higher.

The Corps, however, has other criticisms of the Criss and Shock study. Dave Busse says the researchers ignored the role of the Corps’ reservoirs in the rivers’ watersheds. Busse says the reservoirs hold back water that would otherwise be part of a flood. And Busse says, another flaw is the researchers conclusions about wing dams. The Corps says the wing dams force water to deepen the channel and increases the flow of the river.

“So, what we have is the same –it’s a re-shaped river, but its carrying capacity is actually higher now. We can actually carry more water at the same stage. The river got deeper, therefore this conclusion that they’ve made is wrong.”

The Corps says there’s more to managing the river than the researchers have considered. Criss and Schock, meanwhile, say their study is not the first to be dismissed by the Corps of Engineers. They say other studies have found similar results, but the Corps dismissed them as well.

Environmentalists have been arguing for decades that levees and dams keep floodwaters from spreading out on their natural flood plains and cause higher flood levels. The Criss and Shock study adds to their arsenal of arguments to change the way the rivers are managed. But most environmentalists concede that we’ve become somewhat dependent on the Corps flood control projects. Chad Smith is with the environmental group,
American Rivers.

“In most ways both of these camps are right. The Corps is right that putting some of the structure in has helped to reduce the kind of annual flood events that always happen on a big river like this, but what they unfortunately have done is to exacerbate what happens when you have bigger floods and the wing dams and the levees and the dams themselves all are part of that.”

The Army Corps of Engineers says it’s reviewing its way of managing rivers in light of the 1993 flood. But they also note that while flood stages might be higher more often than they were in the 19th century, most of the time those floodwaters remain behind the floodwalls and levees, protecting the communities from high water, and the Corps says in the end, that’s the only fact that really matters.

Proposed Pipeline Divides Community

A Findlay, Ohio-based oil company says it needs a new petroleum pipeline to help get gasoline and jet fuel products to market in the Great Lakes states. But Marathon-Ashland’s proposal has sparked opposition from environmentalists and some small business owners in Southeast Ohio who fear possible contamination of waterways and disruption of some pristine areas. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Borgerding has the story:

Transcript

A Findlay, Ohio based Oil Company says it needs a new petroleum pipeline to help get gasoline and jet fuel products to market in the Great Lakes states. But, Marathon-Ashland’s proposal has sparked opposition from environmentalists and some small business owners in Southeast Ohio who fear possible contamination of waterways and disruption of some pristine areas. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Borgerding reports.


The proposed 149-mile long pipeline will cross the Ohio River from Kenova, West Virginia and snake through parts of the Wayne National Forest and scenic Hocking Hills in Southeastern Ohio and South Central Ohio. Company spokesman Tim Aydt says the project will help stabilize gasoline prices in a region stretching from eastern Illinois to western New York.


“The existing pipeline infrastructure that serves us today is decades old and it was designed when there was only one grade of gasoline and one grade of diesel fuel. And it was designed to serve a population about half the size it is today. Over time, with the growth we’ve had in the Midwest we’ve outgrown that pipeline capacity and as a result we’ve witnessed the last two summers where we’ve had constrained supply that’s resulted in price spikes.”


The pipeline might help stabilize gasoline prices in the region by adding a second source of supply for refined petroleum products. Currently, The Great Lakes region is dependent solely on pipelines running out of refineries in the Gulf Coast states such as Louisiana and Texas. But, Marathon-Ashland’s proposal also presents a potential environmental risk. The pipeline will cross 363 streams, 55 wetlands, and parts of three watersheds. For some, the prospect of a pipeline carrying gasoline and jet fuel through environmentally sensitive areas has sparked fears. Jane Ann Ellis is a founder and trustee of Crane Hollow…. a privately owned, dedicated state nature preserve in the path of the pipeline.


“If this pipeline would be built and if there was any kind of leak this would decimate the clean water that we have. It is easier to keep your drinking water clean than it is to clean it up afterwards. And it’s cheaper in the long run for the general public.”


Michael Daniels also opposes Marathon-Ashland’s project. He owns a country inn that attracts tourists from Ohio and surrounding states. He says many of his customers come to the region to hear chirping birds, babbling brooks, and to see the fall foliage. Daniels says both construction and operation of the pipeline will have a negative effect on his business.


“Certainly! Who would want to come as a tourist and be exposed to that kind of noise and intrusion into their experience? So, there’s no question that it will impact my business.”


But company spokesman Tim Aydt says the pipeline route through parts of a national forest and other environmentally sensitive areas is the best possible route.


“We wanted to avoid population centers. We wanted to avoid residential or commercial developments and we wanted to avoid flood plains where we could. So, when all of that was put into the mix we came up with the best route overall. Obviously it’s not the cheapest route because it’s not a straight line between two points. But, about 80 percent of the route follows existing utility corridors or those areas that are less prone to development.”


Marathon-Ashland says without the pipeline the Great Lakes could soon face shortages of gasoline, lines at the pump and greater fluctuations in gas prices. The tension between the company and pipeline opponents turns on the question of whether Marathon-Ashland will be required to submit an “environmental impact statement.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to make that decision early this year following a recommendation from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Corps spokesman Steve Wright says there’s no question such a requirement will delay the project.


“That will take longer. You know they take varying lengths of time but certainly they can’t be done very quickly.”


Marathon-Ashland contends an environmental impact statement (EIS) is unnecessary. But, opponents of the plan say the EIS is critical since the pipeline puts so many streams and wetlands at risk for potential pollution.


For the Great Lakes radio Consortium I’m Tom Borgerding