For our compendium of headlines from the world of nature and its most dangerous predator [us], we begin with the latest on California’s epochal drought, via CNBC:
California drought: ‘May have to migrate people’
It’s going from worse to worst each week in California.
Suffering in its third year of drought, more than 58 percent of the state is currently in “exceptional drought” stage, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map. That marks a huge jump from just seven days ago, when about 36 percent of the state was categorized that way.
Exceptional drought, the most extreme category, indicates widespread crop and pasture losses and shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells. If the state continues on this path, there may have to be thoughts about moving people out, said Lynn Wilson, academic chair at Kaplan University and who serves on the climate change delegation in the United Nations.
“Civilizations in the past have had to migrate out of areas of drought,” Wilson said. “We may have to migrate people out of California.”
Meanwhile back at the tap, with the Los Angeles Times:
Water-use restrictions take effect in California; daily fines possible
Tough new statewide regulations restricting outdoor water use took effect Tuesday, the same day millions of gallons of water gushed from a ruptured water main near the UCLA campus.
Under the emergency conservation restrictions, which were approved July 15 and were prompted by the statewide drought, hosing down driveways and sidewalks is prohibited, as is watering outdoor landscapes if it causes excess runoff.
In addition, water can’t be added to a decorative water feature unless it uses a recirculating system. Californians can use a hose to wash their cars only if the hose has a shut-off nozzle.
Offenders can be subject to a daily fine of $500.
And then there’s EbolaWatch, first with this from BBC News:
Ebola crisis: WHO to announce $100m emergency response
The head of the World Health Organization and leaders of West African nations affected by the Ebola outbreak are to announce a joint $100m (£59m; 75m euro) response plan.
They will meet in Guinea on Friday to launch the initiative aimed at tackling a virus which has claimed 729 lives.
Sierra Leone’s president has declared a public health emergency over the outbreak after 233 people died there.
CBS News imports:
White House Looking Into Medevac Options To Bring 2 American Aid Workers Diagnosed With Ebola Back To US
U.S. health officials on Thursday warned Americans not to travel to the three African countries hit by an outbreak of Ebola.
The travel advisory applies to non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The outbreak in those West Africa countries has killed more than 700 people this year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the risk of the deadly disease coming to the United States remains small. The last time the federal agency issued such a travel warning was in 2003 because of a SARS outbreak in Asia.
At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. is looking into Medevac options to bring two American aid workers diagnosed with Ebola back to the U.S. While the U.S. government would facilitate the response, private companies would be used.
And from Reuters, contagion explained:
Taxis, planes and viruses: How deadly Ebola can spread
For scientists tracking the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa, it is not about complex virology and genotyping, but about how contagious microbes – like humans – use planes, bikes and taxis to spread.
So far, authorities have taken no action to limit international travel in the region. The airlines association IATA said on Thursday that the World Health Organisation is not recommending any such restrictions or frontier closures.
The risk of the virus moving to other continents is low, disease specialists say. But tracing every person who may have had contact with an infected case is vital to getting on top of the outbreak within West Africa, and doing so often means teasing out seemingly routine information about victims’ lives.
From the Guardian, an environmental alarm:
Wading birds declining in the UK
- Conservationists say climate change could be partly to blame for big drop in numbers in eight of the main species over 10 years
Results from the Wetland Bird Survey reveals that ringed plovers, oystercatchers, redshank and dunlin are among the eight most abundant species overwintering on UK estuaries to suffer significant and consistent population drops over 10 years.
Conservationists believe several factors are responsible, including climate change forcing the birds to areas outside the UK, and say collaborative international research is imperative. Examinations of the traditional sites, the largest of which include the Wash, Morecambe Bay and Thames Estuary, are also required to determine if there are site-specific issues.
Ringed plovers have suffered a decline of 39% in 10 years in over-wintering birds and those breeding in the UK. Redshank have fallen by 26% and Dunlin by 23%.
While the Guardian reminds us of one of yesterday’s toxic blessings:
BHP ordered to make record $2.2m asbestos compensation payment
- The latest Dust Diseases Tribunal decision marks the largest payout in its 25-year history
Mining giant BHP Billiton will pay a record $2.2m to a man who was exposed to asbestos at a New South Wales steelworks.
The compensation was ordered on Thursday by the state’s Dust Diseases Tribunal, and is understood to be the largest payment in the tribunal’s 25-year history.
The decision is also the first time BHP Billiton has been ordered to pay financial compensation to a former employee of the Newcastle steelworks who has contracted mesothelioma, an incurable cancer.
Off to Japan and the latest edition of Fukushimapocalypse Now! With the Mainichi:
3 ex-TEPCO execs recommended for indictment by citizens’ committee
A committee for the inquest of prosecution announced on July 31 that it had recommended three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), including its former chairman, be indicted for their criminal responsibility over the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster.
The citizen-composed Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution said that while it was impossible to predict specifically that a tsunami like the one that struck on March 11, 2011, would hit the plant, the TEPCO executives should have been better prepared for the coming of a tsunami. It said that research done before the Great East Japan Earthquake was scientifically-based, but TEPCO, while knowing that it shouldn’t ignore this research, avoided taking disaster-prevention measures due to reasons including their cost.
The recommendation was adopted on July 23. It overrides a former decision by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office not to indict the three former executives on charges that included causing death and injury through professional negligence, and requires them to re-examine the former executives’ cases and make a new decision on their indictment. If they again decide not to indict and the committee again decides in favor, indictment will proceed forcibly.
Kyodo News covers a long-delayed start date:
Water treatment to get into full swing at Fukushima facility in Dec.
The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said Thursday it will begin full-scale operation of its trouble-plagued radioactive water treatment facility in December after taking steps to improve its performance.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., which began a test-run of the facility in March last year, initially planned to start its full-scale operation in April to accelerate efforts at tackling the toxic water buildup at the complex. But it was forced to delay the plan as the facility was hit by a series of problems.
The water treatment performance of the facility, which is said to be capable of removing 62 types of radioactive substances from toxic water generated in the process of cooling the reactors that suffered meltdowns in the 2011 nuclear crisis, has also not been as good as expected because some of the substances remain untreated.
From the Asahi Shimbun, yet another debacle:
Radioactive dust released during Fukushima cleanup reaches as far as Miyagi Prefecture
Airborne radioactive materials released during debris-clearing work at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were found in a town 60 kilometers away on seven occasions since December 2011.
Led by Teruyuki Nakajima, a professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Tokyo’s Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, the team noted a surge in concentration of airborne radioactive cesium during clean-up activities that reached the town of Marumori in neighboring Miyagi Prefecture.
The researchers said the findings show that radioactive materials were repeatedly released into the environment and reached extensive areas during debris-clearing operations.
And on the health side of things, this from the Japan Times:
Experts question Fukushima thyroid screening
The iodine-131 released into the air by the meltdowns accumulates in the thyroid gland, increasing the risk of thyroid cancer. The gland is responsible for regulating hormone levels in the body.
Children are considered especially vulnerable. After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, more than 6,000 children were diagnosed with thyroid cancer by 2005, according to the U.N. Scientific Committee of the Effects of Atomic Radiation.
Given the local anxiety, the Fukushima Prefectural Government in October 2011 started offering free thyroid screenings for everyone who was 18 or younger at the time of the disaster. The prefecture has 370,000 residents in that age group, and 300,000 had received voluntary checkups by the end of March.
The program may look good on paper, but it has drawn flak from medical experts who say it is far from adequate in determining a link between the cancers found and radiation exposure.
The Mainichi unsettles:
Shioya residents angry over proposed radioactive waste disposal site
Residents here gathered in front of the Shioya Town Hall on July 30 to protest the Environment Ministry’s announcement the same day that the government was looking to make the town a final disposal site for radioactive waste.
The ministry has been searching for a location to construct a facility to store “designated waste” including radioactive materials from the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. On July 30, Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue visited the Shioya town office and asked Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata to agree to a detailed inspection of the area.
The ministry is apparently eyeing 3 hectares of state-owned land in Shioya to construct the storage site. The ministry says it picked the site because it had the highest score on a 5-point suitability scale in four categories — including a lack of local active faults and distance from settlements and water sources.
And our final item, via the Asahi Shimbun, importing the hot stuff:
India seeks Japan’s approval to reprocess spent nuclear fuel
Japan has been asked to approve reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel in India as part of negotiations to conclude a nuclear power agreement between the two nations.
But though the Abe administration is eager to export nuclear power generation infrastructure as a pillar of its economic growth strategy, some Japanese government officials are cautious about approving the request from India.
The reprocessing produces plutonium that can be used as raw materials for nuclear weapons, which India already possesses.