Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , ,

More benzene found in Santa Rosa water tests after Sonoma County fires

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Benzene, the cancer-causing chemical that city officials believe was sucked into its water system in a heavily burned area of Fountaingrove, is continuing to be discovered outside the advisory area, including one place in Coffey Park, city officials acknowledged for the first time this week.

But officials insist the new findings are not an indication the problems in Fountaingrove are migrating to other parts of the city.

However, they have now found 20 locations outside the Fountaingrove advisory zone with elevated levels of benzene. Fourteen of the locations were identified in the last month after the city aggressively expanded its testing program.

All but one — a burned lot on Waring Court in Coffey Park — were located near the advisory zone in Fountaingrove.

City officials said the new problems have been easy to resolve, confirming their conclusion that the 184-acre advisory area in Fountaingrove has a unique and pervasive problem far different than any other area of the city.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8140783-181/more-benzene-found-in-santa?ref=most

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , ,

Fountaingrove water system needs $43 million replacement due to contamination after Sonoma County fires

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The entire water-delivery system in a 184-acre section of the devastated Fountaingrove neighborhood will likely need replacement after becoming contaminated with benzene, and it appears the city will initially be on the hook for a project whose estimated costs have soared to $43 million.

The intensive investigation into the exact cause of the contamination continues, but officials say they now understand how the cancer-causing hydrocarbon found in gasoline and plastics made it into the water mains in the area.

The city’s team of water engineers, consultants and regulators is “converging on the recommended approach” that would require the “full replacement of the distribution system, from the water mains to the meters on the properties” and related equipment like fire hydrants within the advisory area, Ben Horenstein, director of Santa Rosa Water, said Thursday.

The cost of that solution, which Horenstein had previously estimated at up to $20 million, has now more than doubled, and completion may take significantly longer than the year he initially hoped.

The development raises a host of questions about how quickly the devastated Fountaingrove neighborhood, which lost 1,420 homes in the Tubbs fire, may be able to recover, how the city can fund the needed repairs, and what it means for residents who still live there.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8144221-181/city-fountaingrove-water-system-needs

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , ,

Warning about sport-caught bivalves extended to Sonoma Coast

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

State health officials have extended to the Sonoma Coast recent warnings about the risks of consuming sport-caught mussels, clams, oysters, whole scallops and other bivalves in the wake of testing that has turned up evidence of naturally occurring paralytic shellfish poisoning in recent weeks.

The expanded notice comes as Marin County Public Health announced its first confirmed case of human illness, which occurred in a patient who ate mussels harvested Sunday at Dillon Beach, officials said Wednesday.

The unidentified patient had been hospitalized for neurological symptoms and is “getting better,” Marin County Public Health Director Matthew Willis said in a news release. “Fortunately, the clinician was aware of the elevated PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) levels in locally sport-harvested shellfish and made a timely diagnosis,” he said.

State health officials last week issued notices about the dangers of eating recreationally caught shellfish off the coast of San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin counties because of unhealthy levels of harmful toxins produced in phytoplankton blooms that tend to thrive in springtime conditions off the Northern California coast.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8114493-181/warning-about-sport-caught-bivalves-extended

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Who grows your pot? Petaluma startup seeks cannabis labels

Hannah Beausang, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

It’s been more than two decades since Michael Straus helped his family forever change the landscape of local agriculture with the concept of organic dairy products. Now, he’s hoping to play the same role in Sonoma County’s burgeoning cannabis sector.

The Straus Family Creamery, a Petaluma icon founded in 1994, became the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi and the first 100 percent organic creamery in the U.S. Michael Straus handled marketing, preaching the gospel of organics in a time when that concept was largely foreign to most consumers.

About two years ago, the epiphany for his newest venture, Hugo Straus, came to him as he was smoking a joint on the family farm in Marshall. As he inhaled the pungent smoke, he realized he didn’t know a whole lot about the cannabis carefully arranged in the rolling paper.

“My career was knowing about sustainable agriculture and local food and organic, small-scale farms and all that stuff. I knew where all my food came from,” said Straus, 50, who also founded Straus Communications, a public relations agency focused on organics and sustainability. “One day I’m smoking a joint and I look at myself like … Oh my god, I have no idea who grew this pot.”

His research into cannabis exposed what he described as a gap in the industry — some products were grown with pesticides, and “no one seemed to be paying attention,” he said. This year, California introduced more stringent testing regulations, and additional hurdles are set to kick in this July. But, some studies, including a 2016 study by Berkeley-based cannabis testing and analytics business Steep Hill, have shown that contamination has been found in cannabis products.

For Straus, it’s an issue for both the consumer and the environment.

Read more at http://www.petaluma360.com/news/8019515-181/who-grows-your-pot-petaluma

Posted on Categories Air, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , ,

Want cleaner air? Try using less deodorant

Kendra Pierre-Louis and Hiroko Tabuchi, NEW YORK TIMES

The deodorants, perfumes and soaps that keep us smelling good are fouling the air with a harmful type of pollution — at levels as high as emissions from today’s cars and trucks.

That’s the surprising finding of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. Researchers found that petroleum-based chemicals used in perfumes, paints and other consumer products can, taken together, emit as much air pollution in the form of volatile organic compounds, or V.O.C.s, as motor vehicles do.

The V.O.C.s interact with other particles in the air to create the building blocks of smog, namely ozone, which can trigger asthma and permanently scar the lungs, and another type of pollution known as PM2.5, fine particles that are linked to heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.

Smog is generally associated with cars, but since the 1970s regulators have pushed automakers to invest in technologies that have substantially reduced V.O.C. emissions from automobiles. So the rising share of air pollution caused by things like pesticides and hair products is partly an effect of cars getting cleaner. But that breathing room has helped scientists see the invisible pollutants that arise from a spray of deodorant or a dollop of body lotion.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/climate/perfume-pollution-smog.html

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Post-fire health survey now open to North Bay residents

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

For more about the UC Davis study, click here

Researchers at UC Davis hope to enlist thousands of Northern California residents in an online survey designed to gather the personal experiences, household circumstances and health effects from devastating wildfires that burned over 245,000 acres in six counties and killed 44 people.

About 140 people signed up in advance to take the survey, which went live Thursday (February 1).

But the push to get the word out is just beginning, with particular focus in hard-hit Sonoma and Napa counties, said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiologist and director of the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center.

“If you’re living there, you’re living it,” said Hertz-Picciotto, the research leader.

Residents of other affected counties, including Mendocino, which suffered significant losses, are urged to take part, as is anyone else affected by the fire and smoke that plagued the region for weeks beginning Oct. 8.

Researchers said the survey should take about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

Posted on Categories Air, WaterTags , , , ,

UC Davis study to focus on post-Sonoma County fire pollution

Mary Callahan, NAPA VALLEY REGISTER

Anyone who endured the October firestorms remembers the choking smoke followed by weeks of air that was acrid and irritating, while the surrounding world felt toxic after wildfires laid waste to 137 square miles of Sonoma County.

A research team from UC Davis now hopes to find out what, if any, potential health hazards may have resulted from the incineration of more than 5,100 homes and all they contained: cleaning products, paints, pesticides, electronics packed with rare earth elements, synthetic building materials, fuels.

The two-year investigation will focus on components in the smoke as the fires burned, as well as those left in the air and ash once the flames had roared through.

Researchers also plan to test the post-fire environment for any new chemicals that may have resulted from the transformation of existing materials under extremely high-temperature, low-oxygen conditions.

Read more at http://napavalleyregister.com/news/state-and-regional/uc-davis-study-to-focus-on-post-sonoma-county-fire/article_e45b2afc-df92-5280-84ae-b24382c5f1f6.html

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

New Sonoma County government office will focus on wildfire recovery, resiliency

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday created a new government office to help the region bounce back from this year’s devastating wildfires and assist with charting a formal vision for the long-term recovery of the local housing supply, the economy and other key areas.

The new Office of Recovery and Resiliency will have its own budget and seven staff members, three of whom will come from the ranks of current county employees. Housed within the County Administrator’s Office, the body will for at least the next five years support the production and implementation of a plan to guide the community’s recovery and improve its ability to withstand future disasters.

Staffing costs this fiscal year will total an estimated $400,000. While the county hopes to get federal reimbursement, local officials must find their own way to pay for it — at least for now — so the Board of Supervisors is expected to consider funding options early next month.

“We have to be bold,” said Supervisor James Gore of the recovery office. “I look forward to this being the start of a really kind of good, deep discussion as we go into next year.”

The plan will focus on five broad areas where the post-fire recovery will play out: the housing market, the economy, the environment, safety net services and local infrastructure. Similar collaborations among county departments have been in place since the fires’ immediate aftermath.

“In the wake of the disaster, our communities must have the right tools to make smart, fast and agile transitions so that we can emerge from this tragedy economically, environmentally and socially stronger than ever,” County Administrator Sheryl Bratton wrote in a document this month outlining her reasoning behind the recovery office proposal. “It can be done but doing it requires a shared vision for the building of a more resilient future — a return to the status quo is not sufficient.”

Read more at: New Sonoma County government office will focus on wildfire recovery, resiliency

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags ,

California health officials advise caution against cellphone radiation

Dominique Mosbergen, HUFFPOST

The state recommends these steps to reduce exposure to cellphone radiation:

  • Keeping the phone away from the body
  • Reducing cell phone use when the signal is weak
  • Reducing the use of cell phones to stream audio or video, or to download or upload large files
  • Keeping the phone away from the bed at night
  • Removing headsets when not on a call
  • Avoiding products that claim to block radio frequency energy. These products may actually increase your exposure.

Read the California Department of Public Health guidance in full here.

The California Department of Public Health has issued its first guidelines for cellphone usage, advising people to reduce exposure to their phones’ radio frequency energy. The department cited preliminary research suggesting a link between human health and the “long-term, high use” of cellphones, but stressed that studies haven’t definitively concluded whether cellphone radiation is harmful.

“Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cellphones,” said Dr. Karen Smith, director of the department. “We know that simple steps, such as not keeping your phone in your pocket and moving it away from your bed at night, can help reduce exposure for both children and adults.”

Cellphones have become ubiquitous in America, where 95 percent of the population owns one. The devices emit radio frequency energy when they send and receive signals. Though research hasn’t concluded for certain whether exposure to this energy is detrimental to health, some studies have suggested a link between frequent exposure to cellphone radiation and health problems, including low sperm count, impaired memory and hearing, and an increased risk of cancer.

Read more at: California Health Officials Advise Caution Against Cellphone Radiation | HuffPost

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Why has the E.P.A. shifted on toxic chemicals? An industry insider helps call the shots

Eric Lipton, THE NEW YORK TIMES

The E.P.A.’s abrupt new direction on legacy chemicals is part of a broad initiative by the Trump administration to change the way the federal government evaluates health and environmental risks associated with hazardous chemicals, making it more aligned with the industry’s wishes.

For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

The chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, has been linked to kidney cancer, birth defects, immune system disorders and other serious health problems.

So scientists and administrators in the E.P.A.’s Office of Water were alarmed in late May when a top Trump administration appointee insisted upon the rewriting of a rule to make it harder to track the health consequences of the chemical, and therefore regulate it.

The revision was among more than a dozen demanded by the appointee, Nancy B. Beck, after she joined the E.P.A.’s toxic chemical unit in May as a top deputy. For the previous five years, she had been an executive at the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s main trade association.

Read more at: Why Has the E.P.A. Shifted on Toxic Chemicals? An Industry Insider Helps Call the Shots – The New York Times