Category Archives: Environment

U.S. military dumped millions of pounds of mustard gas, explosives into the Gulf of Mexico

 

Natural News | Oct 23, 2012

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) It’s not something that has been sanctioned by the Defense Department for more than 40 years, but once upon a time, it appeared to be a routine practice: The disposal of U.S. arms at sea.

Now, years later, the effects of this irresponsible practice are returning to haunt us.

“Lurking (and leaking) beneath the world’s oceans are an estimated 200 million pounds of unexploded and potentially dangerous explosives – from bombs to missiles to mustard gas,” Fox News reported recently.

That is the conclusion of William Bryant and Niall Slowey, oceanographers from Texas A&M University, who have documented a pair of these dump sites in the Gulf of Mexico. The two researchers put out a conservative estimate that at least 31 million pounds of ordnance can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as off the coastlines of at least 16 states, from New Jersey to Hawaii.

That includes thousands of containers of mustard gas, which lie strewn about the ocean floor off the coast of New Jersey. And, they said, there are seven dump sites on the seafloor of the Gulf, each one measuring approximately 81 square miles

One is located at the mouth of the Mississippi River Delta.

“The amount that has been dumped was unbelievable,” Bryant said. “No one seems to have reported seeing explosives in the Gulf. We felt it was our responsibility to report it.”

After a half a century on the sea floor…

Now, the two oceanographers admit that the existence of UXO (unexploded ordnance) at sea is no secret. Until relatively recently, it was an acceptable international practice.

“Dumping conventional and chemical munitions captured from enemies – Nazi German, for example – was also an accepted practice,” Fox News reported.

For the U.S. anyway, that all changed in 1970 after the Pentagon prohibited the practice. Congress followed up with the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, which generally banned sea disposal altogether.

But after some 50 years or more on the sea floor, the condition of these dangerous munitions is not known.

“Is there an environmental risk? We don’t know, and that in itself is reason to worry,” Bryant said. “We just don”t know much at all about these bombs, and it’s been 40 to 60 years that they’ve been down there.”

The report noted that analysts have suspected for some time that tones of undocumented munitions were “short-dumped,” as in, disposed of long before ships reached designated dumping sites, leaving them much too close to shore for comfort.

While conducting their sea floor research, Bryant and his team found two dump sites where they vividly captured decaying canisters of what they believe to be chemical weapons. At one point, they also found themselves floating above a field of munitions that were as large as 500 pounds.

How much is out there, and where is all of it?

In a statement published by Texas A&M, an explosion from a UXO could produce a number of calamities: It could threaten ship traffic, commercial fishing and cruise lines, among other activities. And, of course, the munitions pose a threat to some 30,000 people who work in the oil and gas industry aboard ocean rigs.

Bryant’s team said Texas shores are the closest to munitions, some of which lie as little as 50 miles offshore. Louisiana was the second closest, and in particular, the Mississippi River Delta.

Officials at the Defense Department want to know just how lethal these devices still are, so the Pentagon began conducting a massive search effort in 2004 to locate all of the ordnance. Thousands of hours of labor have been spent looking over millions of pages worth of documentation to determine where dump sites are, what type of ordnance was dumped and how much at each site.

The team has presented their findings at the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions in Puerto Rico recently.

Monsanto Profit Forecast Tops Estimates as Seed Sales Climb

businessweek.com | May 30, 2012

By Jack Kaskey

Monsanto Co. (MON) (MON), the world’s largest seed company, projected third-quarter profit that exceeded analysts’ estimates after sales rose in the U.S., Brazil and Eastern Europe. The company also boosted its full-year forecast.

Profit will be $1.57 to $1.62 a share in the three months through May, excluding costs from a legacy tax matter, St. Louis-based Monsanto said today in a statement. The forecast topped the $1.29 average of 16 estimates (MON) compiled by Bloomberg.

Monsanto said earnings in the year through August will be $3.65 to $3.70 a share, excluding the tax issue, settlement of pollution claims and discontinued operations. The company in April forecast (MON) $3.49 to $3.54, while the average of 17 estimates was $3.56. Earnings were $2.96 a share in fiscal 2011.

Insects Find Crack In Biotech Corn’s Armor

Unusually warm weather in the northern hemisphere during the fiscal second quarter turned out to be only partly responsible for rising sales this year, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant said today on a webcast. Demand for the newest insect-fighting corn seeds exceeded projections, while new herbicide-tolerant soybeans are at the top of the expected range as farmers realized the value of those technologies, he said.

“This is the second year in a row with earnings growth north of 20 percent, which is very positive,” Jason Dahl, a New York-based fund manager at Victory Capital Management, said today in a phone interview. “They are still spinning off cash, not cutting costs to get those results.”
2013 Prediction

Monsanto rose 2.2 percent to $76.41 at the close in New York. The shares (MON) have gained 9 percent this year.

Monsanto saw higher third-quarter sales of genetically modified corn in Brazil, soybeans and corn in the U.S., and recorded better-than-expected gains in Eastern Europe, it said. Grant said he expects the company will increase earnings by a percentage in the “mid-teens” in fiscal 2013.

“The performance we saw in the early part of the year has proven to be a powerful signal of even better results from some key businesses,” Grant said. “This year has been important confirmation of the momentum in our business.”

Monsanto said free cash flow in the current fiscal year will be $1.7 billion to $1.8 billion, narrowing an earlier range that dipped as low as $1.6 billion.

Monsanto is in talks with officials in China about boosting seed production, particularly corn and vegetables, as part of the company’s international expansion, Grant said on the webcast. Monsanto can’t own more than 49 percent of a biotech seed business in China, the world’s second-biggest corn grower, because of the industry’s strategic importance, he said.

Monsanto said March 1 it plans to expand a venture with China National Seed Corp., a unit of Sinochem Corp. (SICHCZ)

Japanese farmers pray for radiation-free rice


Photo credit: AP | Toraaki Ogata drives a tractor to plant rice saplings in a paddy field in northeastern Japan. Last year’s crop sits in storage, deemed unsafe to eat, but Ogata is back at his rice paddies, 35 miles from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, driving his tractor trailing neat rows of saplings. (May 21, 2012)

Associated Press | May 28, 2012

By YURI KAGEYAMA

FUKUSHIMA, Japan – Last year’s crop sits in storage, deemed unsafe to eat, but Toraaki Ogata is back at his rice paddies, driving his tractor, trailing neat rows of seedlings.

He’s living up to his family’s proud, six-generation history of rice farming, and praying that this time his harvest will not have too much radiation to sell.

That conflict is shared by several thousand farmers in more than 17,000 acres of Fukushima, where some of last year’s harvest exceeded government safety standards because of radiation released when the March 2011 tsunami set off the world’s second-worst nuclear accident.

For their rice to be sold, it will have to be tested — every grain of it.

“All I can do is pray there will be no radiation,” Ogata, 58, said last week, wiping his sweat during a break in his 3.7-acre paddy 35 miles from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. “It’s not our fault at all, but the land of our ancestors has been defiled.”

Rice farming is almost sacred in rural Japan, and the government protects farmers with tight restrictions on imports. Many farmers are too close to the nuclear disaster to return to the fields, but others have gotten the go-ahead, even with the risk their harvests may end up being too radiated to ship.

Hopes are high in this major agricultural northeastern state that farmers will meet the unprecedented challenge of producing safe-to-eat rice in contaminated soil.

Following orders from the government, they have sprinkled zeolite, a pebble-like material that traps radioactive cesium, and added fertilizer with potassium to help block radiation absorption. That work is part of the $1.3 billion Tokyo has allocated for decontamination efforts this year.

There had been no time for that last year. Tens of thousands of bags of rice from that harvest were too radiated to be sold. The government bought those crops, which sit in giant mounds in storage.

Rice planting has been banned in the most contaminated areas, but the government allowed it at some farms in areas that produced contaminated rice last year, including Ogata’s. After the October harvest, their rice will be run through special machines that can detect the tiniest speck of radiation.

Ogata is filled with uncertainty. Though the government recently set up a system to buy and destroy his crop from last year, he has no assurances that it will do so again if this year’s rice can’t be eaten.

Radiation is expected to decline year by year. But Ogata and other farmers acknowledge they are in for a long haul.

Radioactive Tuna migrate from Fukushima Japan quake zone across Pacific to California

Levels of radioactive cesium considered safe to eat

MSNBC | May 28, 2012

By ALICIA CHANG

LOS ANGELES — Across the vast Pacific, the mighty bluefin tuna carried radioactive contamination that leaked from Japan’s crippled nuclear plant to the shores of the United States 6,000 miles away — the first time a huge migrating fish has been shown to carry radioactivity such a distance.

“We were frankly kind of startled,” said Nicholas Fisher, one of the researchers reporting the findings online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Radioactive tuna travels from Japan to US faster than wind

The levels of radioactive cesium were 10 times higher than the amount measured in tuna off the California coast in previous years. But even so, that’s still far below safe-to-eat limits set by the U.S. and Japanese governments.

Previously, smaller fish and plankton were found with elevated levels of radiation in Japanese waters after a magnitude-9 earthquake in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that badly damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors.

But scientists did not expect the nuclear fallout to linger in huge fish that sail the world because such fish can metabolize and shed radioactive substances.

One of the largest and speediest fish, Pacific bluefin tuna can grow to 10 feet and weigh more than 1,000 pounds. They spawn off the Japan coast and swim east at breakneck speed to school in waters off California and the tip of Baja California, Mexico.
Japan: Fukushima nuclear pool not unstable

Five months after the Fukushima disaster, Fisher of Stony Brook University in New York and a team decided to test Pacific bluefin that were caught off the coast of San Diego. To their surprise, tissue samples from all 15 tuna captured contained levels of two radioactive substances — ceisum-134 and cesium-137 — that were higher than in previous catches.

To rule out the possibility that the radiation was carried by ocean currents or deposited in the sea through the atmosphere, the team also analyzed yellowfin tuna, found in the eastern Pacific, and bluefin that migrated to Southern California before the nuclear crisis. They found no trace of cesium-134 and only background levels of cesium-137 left over from nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s.

The results “are unequivocal. Fukushima was the source,” said Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who had no role in the research.

Bluefin tuna absorbed radioactive cesium from swimming in contaminated waters and feeding on contaminated prey such as krill and squid, the scientists said. As the predators made the journey east, they shed some of the radiation through metabolism and as they grew larger. Even so, they weren’t able to completely flush out all the contamination from their system.

“That’s a big ocean. To swim across it and still retain these radionuclides is pretty amazing,” Fisher said.

Pacific bluefin tuna are prized in Japan where a thin slice of the tender red meat prepared as sushi can fetch $24 per piece at top Tokyo restaurants. Japanese consume 80 percent of the world’s Pacific and Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The real test of how radioactivity affects tuna populations comes this summer when researchers planned to repeat the study with a larger number of samples. Bluefin tuna that journeyed last year were exposed to radiation for about a month. The upcoming travelers have been swimming in radioactive waters for a longer period. How this will affect concentrations of contamination remains to be seen.

Now that scientists know that bluefin tuna can transport radiation, they also want to track the movements of other migratory species including sea turtles, sharks and seabirds.

BP oil spill toxins from Gulf of Mexico found in eggs of pelicans nesting in Minnesota

Nearly 80 percent of collected samples contained Corexit, a chemical dispersant used to break up oil spills. Both the petroleum compounds and Corexit are dangerous in small doses, capable of causing cancer, endocrine disruption, and birth defects.

thisdishisvegetarian.com | May 23, 2012

by Jonathan Reynolds

Researchers for the Department of Natural Resources have found evidence of petroleum compounds and the chemical used to clean up the 2010 BP oil spill in eggs of pelicans nesting in Minnesota.

Petroleum compounds were present in 90 percent of the first batch of eggs tested. Nearly 80 percent of collected samples contained Corexit, a chemical dispersant used to break up oil spills. Both the petroleum compounds and Corexit are dangerous in small doses, capable of causing cancer, endocrine disruption, and birth defects.

Pelicans generally spend winters in the Gulf of Mexico, Texas, and Cuba, before returning a full year later to begin breeding.

Mark Clark, an ecologist and faculty member of North Dakota State University, explained on Minnesota Public Radio that any contaminant in the bird is bad, especially when the egg is tampered with, “because that’s where the developing embryo and chick starts, and when things go wrong at that stage, there’s usually no recovery.”

The BP spill, similar to an atomic detonation, took its toll on the unfortunate victims in the immediate area, choking them to death on crude oil. Two years later, and for many more years to come, the chemical fallout is taking its toll, negatively impacting millions of innocent lives in drastic ways for generations to come.

Eyeless shrimp and mutant fish raise concerns over BP use of Corexit


Eyeless shrimp and fish with lesions are becoming common, with BP oil pollution believed to be the likely cause. (Al Jazeera / YouTube)

‘Eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills….’

– Darla Rooks, Louisiana fisher

Fox News | Apr 18, 2012

NEW ORLEANS –  Eyeless shrimp, fish with oozing sores and other mutant creatures found in the Gulf of Mexico are raising concerns over lingering effects of the BP oil spill.

On April 20, 2010, an explosion aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 people and spewed an estimated 4.9 million barrels into the Gulf, in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Two years later, scientists and commercial fishers alike are finding shrimp, crab and fish that they believe have been deformed by the chemicals unleashed in the spill, according to an extensive report by Al Jazeera English.

“At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these,” Tracy Kuhns, a commercial fisher from Barataria, La., told Al Jazeera, showing a sample of the eyeless shrimp.

Darla Rooks, another lifelong fisher from Port Sulfur, La., told the broadcaster she was seeing “eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills and others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills.”

Rooks added that she had never seen such deformities in Gulf waters in her life — a refrain common to most fishers featured in the report — and said her seafood catch last year was “ten percent what it normally is.”

A survey led by the University of South Florida after the spill found that between two and five percent of fish in the Gulf now have skin lesions or sores, compared to data from before the spill, when just one-tenth of one percent of fish had any growths or sores.

Scientists blamed the mutations on the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) released from the spill’s submerged oil as well as the two million gallons of the dispersant Corexit that BP used in an attempt to clean up the spill.

“The dispersants used in BP’s draconian experiment contain solvents, such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber,” Riki Ott, a toxicologist and marine biologist explained to Al Jazeera. “It should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known.”

BP has maintained that Gulf seafood is safe, saying in a statement, “Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident.”

On Wednesday BP sealed an out-of-court, $7.8 billion settlement with lawyers acting on behalf of thousands of individuals and businesses affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Under the deal, the Gulf seafood industry is slated to receive over $2 billion for economic loss.

BP’s Corexit Oil Tar Sponged Up by Human Skin


Corexit® dispersed oil residue accelerates the absorption of toxins into the skin. The results aren’t visible under normal light (top), but the contamination into the skin appear as fluorescent spots under UV light (bottom). Credit: James H “Rip” Kirby III, Surfrider Foundation

motherjones.com | Apr 17, 2012

By Julia Whitty

The Surfrider Foundation has released its preliminary “State of the Beach” study for the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s ongoing Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Sadly, things aren’t getting cleaner faster, according to their results. The Corexit that BP used to “disperse” the oil now appears to be making it tougher for microbes to digest the oil. I wrote about this problem in depth in “The BP Cover-Up.”

Gulf seafood deformities alarm scientists

The persistence of Corexit mixed with crude oil has now weathered to tar, yet is traceable to BP’s Deepwater Horizon brew through its chemical fingerprint. The mix creates a fluorescent signature visible under UV light. From the report:

The program uses newly developed UV light equipment to detect tar product and reveal where it is buried in many beach areas and also where it still remains on the surface in the shoreline plunge step area. The tar product samples are then analyzed…to determine which toxins may be present and at what concentrations. By returning to locations several times over the past year and analyzing samples, we’ve been able to determine that PAH concentrations in most locations are not degrading as hoped for and expected.

Worse, the toxins in this unholy mix of Corexit and crude actually penetrate wet skin faster than dry skin (photos above)—the author describes it as the equivalent of a built-in accelerant—though you’d never know it unless you happened to look under fluorescent light in the 370nm spectrum. The stuff can’t be wiped off. It’s absorbed into the skin.

And it isn’t going away. Other findings from monitoring sites between Waveland, Mississippi, and Cape San Blas, Florida over the past two years:

The use of Corexit is inhibiting the microbial degradation of hydrocarbons in the crude oil and has enabled concentrations of the organic pollutants known as PAH to stay above levels considered carcinogenic by the NIH and OSHA.

  •     26 of 32 sampling sites in Florida and Alabama had PAH concentrations exceeding safe limits.
  •     Only three locations were found free of PAH contamination.
  •     Carcinogenic PAH compounds from the toxic tar are concentrating in surface layers of the beach and from there leaching into lower layers of beach sediment. This could potentially lead to contamination of groundwater sources.

The full Surfrider Foundation report by James H. “Rip” Kirby III, of the University of South Florida is open-access online here.