Author Archives: Suzi

About Suzi

No more wandering in the Hudson Valley. I have achieved my dream, it was a long time working toward it, but now I am here, living in NYC. My dream, my goal, my purpose in life.

Wait…What?


Arturo Santiago • September 25, 2018

Throw away your plastic bags. They say it’s okay. There’s no need to choose which bin is the appropriate one for them. There’s no need to stockpile them for future use. They say this is now the “new normal.”

“They” is the County of Santa Barbara on California’s Central Coast. This is from an article I read online in the Santa Barbara Independent. A fellow editor had sent me the link. After reading the first few lines I said, “Wait…what?”

The reasoning behind the change of heart comes from the China Waste Ban and the new contamination rates being enforced. It seems that plastic bags are getting in the way of attempts to meet those cleaner rates so Santa Barbara County is instituting new recycling rules.

The article says, “The entrails from MarBorg and E.J. Harrison’s blue recycle bins go to Gold Coast Recycling in Ventura, where magnets and screens do initial sorting. The rest is done by hand. Workers pull off the line plastic bags and plastic wrap—because their recycle market has vanished and they must be thrown into the landfill—and the bags ‘snag and pull things off the line that should be recycled, like cans and cardboard. It takes time and energy to sort it out,’ explained Carlyle Johnston with county Public Works. That’s why Santa Barbarans are now being asked to put plastic wrap (like food coverings) and plastic bags into the brown trash bins.”

We dealt with a ban on plastic bags. Recently, Californians have been social media fodder for a ban on plastic straws. Now it feels like we’re going back to the days of the Wild West by simply throwing away our plastic bags, knowing they’ll end up in the landfill.

The Independent says, “‘There’s those who recycle,’ summarized Johnston, ‘those who hope that what they’ve put in the bin is recyclable, and those who just figure they now have two trash bins, one brown and one blue. For errant plastics, the problem by weight is not great,’ Johnston said. ‘But by volume, it’s significant. It’s what appears most in the contaminated bales.’ As much as 18.8 percent of Santa Barbara’s blue bin content is hauled back up to the landfill at Tajiguas as trash. Of the genuinely recyclable stuff, plastics #1 and #2 are melted at a facility in California and remade into items like plastic clam-shell berry boxes or playground equipment, respectively; glass of all colors is crushed in Los Angeles as road amendment; paper goes to Vietnam; and metals’ destination varies with supply and demand.”

The County seems to be making sense. It just doesn’t feel right. And if it doesn’t feel right to residents, will they be able to actually throw away their used plastic bags?

Full disclosure…the offices of MSW Management are located in Santa Barbara, CA.

What do you think about the Santa Barbara Public Works Department declaring that people should now throw away their plastic bags because there’s not a market for them in recycling and they get in the way of recycling material that does have market value?

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What is Dragon Boat Racing?


A dragon boat team consists of 20 paddlers sitting two abreast, a Cox who steers the dragon boat from the rear, and a drummer who sits at the front.

The team of paddlers work in unison to propel the boat forward from a standing start, the aim being to reach the finish line in the fastest time. Generally a race consists of between 4 and 6 boats.

Teams can be all men, all women, or a mixed crew with equal numbers of both men and women. Timing, strength and endurance are 3 key elements of a successful team; the fourth and most critical is teamwork. It is for this reason that the sport has achieved such a high profile around the world.

Spectacular for both participants and spectators alike, dragon boating is the fastest growing aquatic sport in the world. Adrenaline pumping and fiercely competitive, the teams range in experience from years to just a few weeks in some cases. Everyone is encouraged to “have a go” in this exciting sport that epitomizes a team spirit.

Link to full article

New York CDH Dragon Boat Club


Flushing Bay advocates worry LaGuardia AirTrain will threaten waterway


FULL TEXT:

Flushing Bay, once derided for its unseemly smell and murky waters, has started to make a comeback in recent years.

Thousands of people use it to practice and race dragon boats. Families stroll along the promenade, no longer repelled by the powerful rotten-egg smell known to permeate cars driving by on the Grand Central Parkway.

But advocates worry the slow but steady progress will be wiped out by a controversial proposal to build an AirTrain that links LaGuardia Airport with the subway and the Long Island Rail Road.

The first steps in the environmental review process are slated to start later this week, and advocates for the bay are hoping they will get an opportunity to be heard.

“I think it would really take away so much of the work we have been advocating for — clean water, increasing community access,” said Hillary Exter, an avid dragon boat racer and board member of Guardians of Flushing Bay, a watchdog group. “Building the AirTrain either in the water or along the promenade really destroys what is a tremendous resource for the city.”

In June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that paves the way for construction over the bay or the promenade. Property owned by the city or the MTA could be acquired by the state Department of Transportation by the use of eminent domain.

“Our current plan is to release a set of documents related to the AirTrain by the end of next week,” Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said Thursday. “It will kick off the environmental process and I would say all of the issues in terms of a variety of alignments will be addressed in the course of the environmental process.”

Cuomo has argued the AirTrain is needed to reduce traffic and provide a reliable 30-minute trip into midtown Manhattan via Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal.

“AirTrain LGA will set an example of comprehensive transit infrastructure for the rest of the nation, and will pay dividends for decades by connecting riders to transit hubs across the Metropolitan area, boosting passenger growth across all airlines, and providing a more efficient means of travel for generations to come,” Cuomo said in a June statement announcing the bill signing.

It’s also a key part of the $8 billion reconstruction of the outdated LaGuardia Airport.

Randy Ng, head coach of the DCH Dragon Boat Club, said Guardians of Flushing Bay is opposed to construction of the AirTrain but also believes more research has to be done to explore transportation options.

“There is a community here,” said Ng, who lives in Flushing and has been paddling along Flushing Bay for almost 20 years. “The worst route they can take in our opinion is right down the bay. It’s going to cut off usage.”

Ng said the dragon boat community has been a driving force in pushing for better conditions in and around the waterway.

The city Department of Environmental Protection dredged more than 89,000 cubic yards of sediment as part of a $200 million project to restore wetlands to the area and upgrade the sewer system.

The city has embarked on projects in and around Flushing Bay to reduce the amount of combined-sewer overflow that goes into the waterway. Those CSOs happen when sewers, overwhelmed during rainstorms, sometimes discharge a mix of stormwater and wastewater.

Plastic bottles, children’s toys and other flotsam often spill into the bay, carried in by stormwater. Sometimes they are captured by booms set up along the shorelines but not often enough, Ng said.

“The floatables are probably 50 percent of the actual problem in the bay,” he said. “They end up being items that bacteria can grow on, which just increases the bacteria count.”

During a recent community awareness event at Flushing Bay, Dhruv Boruah, an engineer from London, rode his specially equipped bicycle on the water to pick up plastic.

Boruah has made similar trips around the world to bring attention to the problems of plastics and trash in waterways.

“Everything starts from here, canal to bay to river to ocean to the food chain and back on our dinner table,” said Boruah. “Plastic is everywhere. We have to try and find some solution.”

Ng said he worries construction of the AirTrain will add debris into the bay and the surrounding area. Cuomo’s office has said routes cannot be finalized until the environmental review is completed, possibly by the end of 2019.

Construction of the AirTrain could start as early as 2020.

Rebecca Pryor, program coordinator for Riverkeeper and Guardians of Flushing Bay, said the communities surrounding the bay have been cut off from the waterfront for too long.

“New York City’s trend of considering most of its industrial waterways as wasteland has been turning because that’s an inaccurate way to view water,” said Pryor. “People should be connected to their waterways.”


Queens state senator seeks a second chance at law protecting overfishing off Rockaways


Queens Chronicle, September 14th, 2018

FULL TEXT:

A change to the environmental conservation law that would prevent overfishing off the Rockaways is in the works for next year’s legislative session.

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo said that he continues to support a bill that was proposed this year about net fishing a species of fish called the Atlantic Menhaden. This new part of the environmental conservation law would limit the amount of commercial fishing boats that can take these fish.

State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle proposed this bill, but it was not voted on this year while the state Senate was in session.

Atlantic Menhaden are caught using a large net called a seine. Because they can be caught in large quantities under the current law, it is easy for overfishing to occur.

“Overfishing a certain species can have major unseen impacts on our areas’ wildlife, much as the overfishing, or catching, of the Atlantic Menhaden has had in the waters of the Rockaways,” Addabbo said.

Atlantic Menhaden are popular for seine fishing because they are used for fishmeal and fish oil. The species is also popular bait for fisherman as well as a source of food for whales and dolphins.

According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the Atlantic Menhaden population was critically low in 2012. The Commission worked to protect the fish, and now they are making a comeback off the Rockaways and Broad Channel.

Senator Addabbo said he is happy that the fish are coming back as it will positively affect local fishermen and tourism. However, this also means that more boats are looking to seine fish the newly replenished population.

“These ships are not local but rather all based out of Virginia and currently are allowed to enter the NY waters and take millions of Menhaden,” said Dan Mundy, vice president of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers.

The proposed law would prevent these ships from entering New York waters, said Mundy.

New York Senate sessions run from January through June. Addabbo plans to push this law forward during the next legislative session.


Developer announces plan to restore a waterfront habitat in Long Island City


Queens Chronicle, September 12th, 2018

FULL TEXT:

The waters of the East River around 44th Drive in Long Island City are deep and choppy, but steps are being made to allow residents more access to water in spots like Anable Basin.

Real estate developer TF Cornerstone has announced plans to restore and enhance the natural waterfront habitat at the Long Island City Innovation Center.

“We really don’t spend that much time lingering in the cove area as it is not protected from the main current,” said David Matten, senior administrator at the Long Island City Community Boathouse, a nonprofit that is dedicated to kayaking and environmental education on the East River. Matten has worked at the community boathouse for nine years.

TF Cornerstone will remove an old platform and restore a half acre of waterfront for the benefit of the environment and people alike. The sloping shoreline will feature boulders and rocks, which will be interspersed with plants. It’s unclear when the project will be completed but once it’s done, visitors will be able to travel down to the water’s edge.

Matten attended a June 25 public meeting hosted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation where the agency asked community members for their thoughts about potential designs for the waterfront. According to Matten, he was in the minority by wanting a natural waterfront with a sloping hill and marshy vegetation. His advice to the DEC: “do less.” While controlling erosion was of the essence, Matten said he and others pushed the department to limit the environmental impact of the project on the marshland there.

“You can build this the same as the rest of the waterfront where you can’t touch the water or you cannot let me build up,” Matten said.

Bioswales — manmade sloped areas filled with vegetation designed to drain, concentrate and remove water — will be installed in the low-lying area to prevent flooding during severe storms. Piles that supported the old platform will be left in place to minimize the disruption to the river bottom and provide habitat for the river’s marine life and wave attenuation in order to calm the waters in the cove and reduce wave impact along the shoreline.

Preservation and restoration are in the works not only to create a welcoming and sustainable public space for Long Island City residents, but to also protect the community from rising sea levels and coastal storms which are becoming increasingly more severe due to climate change, according to a press release from TF Cornerstone, which has developed properties in the adjoining area.

In 2017, the real estate management and development company, TF Cornerstone, along with the nonprofits Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center and the Coalition for Queens, were chosen to create a new, mixed-use development in the hopes of bringing affordable industrial space, workforce training, offices, a school, affordable housing and public space to the Long Island City waterfront.

“It’s a forward-thinking approach that all waterfront developments in our coastal city must take in this era of climate change,” said Roland Lewis, president and CEO of Waterfront Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works to influence the development and use of the waterfront of New York City and northern New Jersey.


Lakes recovering from acid rain


By James M. Odato

The trend is clear, researchers say: Rain falling over the Adirondacks is getting cleaner every year and today is nearly ideal.

Water bodies ravaged by acidic precipitation for years are springing back to life, and fish and wildlife are returning.

“It’s a national success story,” said Jed Dukett, a chemist who runs the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation, which has done long-term monitoring of waters in the Adirondacks. The group has performed the bulk of the sampling of acid rain and Adirondack lakes since 1992.

Data current to August 8, for example, show that Bear Pond, which was hit hard by acid rain and lost its ability to sustain trout, is healthy again.

“I saw loons there,” Dukett said about a recent outing.

The pond’s pH level had been dangerously low—5—during the heavy years of acid rain. Anything below 5.5 is not good for aquatic life. With the pollution emission controls required under federal environmental policies and a movement away from coal power, sulfur and nitrogen content in the clouds pouring over the Northeast are at the lowest in decades, state data show.

Tracking of Bear Pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area, for one, is an indicator.

The pond’s water has been moving toward a pH of 6 in recent years.

When Dukett checked on a hot summer day recently, the sample came back at 6.3. “The rainwater pH level is almost reaching natural or background levels,” he said.

Although it may take a while for total recovery, lakes likely to spring back quickest are those with the right features, such as Bear Pond, which gets some natural groundwater. Other Adirondack water bodies that should be showing big gains include Brook Trout Lake and Indian Lake, because of their thin-till drainage, Dukett said.

“Thin-till lakes got hit the hardest so they will be the first to show significant recovery,” he said. These lakes have mostly shallow deposits of glacial till, a natural buffer of acidic deposition.

Near the summit of Whiteface Mountain, managers with the University at Albany Atmospheric Science Research Center noted an Olympian jump in pH levels from the cloud precipitation tested over time.

Richard Brandt, who leads a cloud-water sampling team at the mountain, said the numbers are the best seen in years. He has plotted cloud pH measurements from 1994 to 2017 and the improvement is many orders of magnitude better, 3.9 to 4.9. That one point increase is a major climb, he said. “”It means its decreased 90 percent (in) acidity, which is pretty remarkable,” Brandt said.

Paul Casson, a technician who has been sampling at Whiteface since 1994, said federal requirements on smokestack emissions have been effective and he hopes the Environmental Protect Agency doesn’t take a step back on the Clean Air Act.

In Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Barbara Underwood have publicly warned the Trump administration they will fight any rollbacks of the federal controls, although their concerns have focused on potential weakening of automobile emission standards.

And several environmental groups are worried about weakening federal commitment to policing Midwest power plants responsible for much of the acid rain and smog entering the Northeast. The Adirondack Council is among several groups that joined Maryland in suing the Environmental Protection Agency in 2017. The plaintiffs urged a federal judge to make the agency do its duty and force power plants in five states to obey the “good neighbor” provisions of the Clean Air Act and use emission controls.

In January, Underwood’s office joined the Connecticut attorney general in a suit similar to the Maryland complaint, seeking to get the EPA to honor the Clean Air Act and combat “interstate transport of air pollution from emission sources.”

The Clean Air Act, created in 1979 and amended in 1990 to help protect the ozone layer and to combat acid rain, has achieved cleaner air, experts say. “But the job is far from complete,” the EPA says on its web site.

However, the federal government has scaled back monitoring money. The New York Energy Research Authority has been funding the Adirondack monitoring, granting $495,000 annually in recent years. It has restructured the program as federal funds have been reduced, said Claudette Thornton, of the authority.

It is providing a total of $493,000 for the next four years combined now, extending the long-term monitoring but sampling lake water every other month instead of monthly.

A grant obtained this year by state Senator Betty Little will make

$250,000 available over two years to help pay for some additional lake research and may help the state Department of Environmental Conservation more effectively target its trout stocking and liming programs, Dukett said.

The positive trends seen from the field research will be discussed broadly at a conference planned this fall by the Adirondack Council, said John Sheehan, a spokesman. He said before the federal acid rain reduction program started, pH in rainfall over the Adirondacks averaged 4.1 and was as low as 2.6 during the 1970s. With the data showing the levels approaching acid-free precipitation, the council plans to discuss strategies to continue the recovery at its conference November 29 at the Saratoga Hilton, he said.

“There’s been considerable progress, but untainted rainfall has a pH of 5.5, so we’re getting there,” he said.

Also, from November 5 to November 9, the National Atmospheric Deposition Program will hold its fortieth anniversary conference at the Albany Hilton. The group has been measuring air and precipitation since 1978. Its agenda involves discussing “historical legacy” and the “future.”

Margaret Valis, the DEC’s director of the Bureau of Air Quality Analysis & Research, will be attending. She said the favorable trend of cleaner emissions coming into New York is reflected in the waters of the Adirondacks, but it will take 100 to 200 years for the lakes to return to their pre-industrial state. “The chemistry in the lakes do lag behind what we see in the emissions,” she said, noting the limited buffering capabilities of the North Country lakes.

Yet fish are coming back, she said.

Continued monitoring programs are essential, she said, and may include aspects of climate change such as testing lake water temperatures at various depths.

“The Adirondacks are really New York’s jewel,” she said. “It is important to make sure any of these trends are not reversed.”


What’s behind Staten Island’s high cancer rates? Public meeting kicks off study


Staten Island Advance, July 5th, 2018

FULL TEXT:

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — After the Advance detailed the higher-than-average cancer rates on Staten Island, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a one-year study to determine the cause.

"Why does Staten Island have a higher rate of cancer than the other boroughs?" asked Cuomo. "We need to have those questions answered."

The study, to be conducted by the state Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Environmental Conservation, will include Staten Island and three other New York counties — Suffolk, Warren and Erie.

Before the research begins, the DOH will hold a public meeting to hear from borough health officials, oncology control groups, environmental groups and residents.

The meeting will take place Tuesday, July 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the College of Staten Island.

The DOH will use the study’s findings to enhance cancer screenings, prevention efforts and access to high-quality care in the affected communities.

"The Department of Health, working with DEC, are going to study what health factors, demographic factors, environmental factors could be at play to suggest a reason for those differences [in cancer rates]," said Cuomo.

CANCER MAPPING USED

Brad Hutton, deputy commissioner for public health at the DOH, said geographic mapping was used to identify the borough’s high cancer rates.

The mapping technology determines the amount of cancer predicted to be in a small geographic location as well as the actual occurring rates. The analysis then identifies areas that have a higher than normal percentage, Hutton explained.

Data from 2011 to 2015 was used for the mapping process.

While the borough’s high rate of thyroid cancer compared to the state as a whole will be a focus of the investigation, all cancer rates will be studied, he said.

CANCER RATES ON STATEN ISLAND

In the most recent available cancer data from 2014, Staten Island had 2,781 reported incidences of out of 38,838 total in the five boroughs.

Staten Island accounted for 7.16 percent of all New York City cancer cases in 2014 while it has 5.5 percent of the city’s total population.

Thyroid cancer is more prevalent on Staten Island, according to the data. Between 2007 and 2011, thyroid cancer rates were 69.36 percent higher than New York City as a whole.

Breast, bladder and pancreatic cancers on Staten Island were also higher than the rest of the city with 14.97 percent for breast, 50.28 percent for bladder and 10.37 for pancreatic cancer.