Dam Threatens To Release Toxic Sludge

by Vivian Diep in January 13th, 2023
person holding sand

Tue Jan 10

Should you want a reminder for why we need the EPA, South Carolina’s leaking Conestee Dam provides. Built in 1892 (way before the EPA existed) to power the Conestee Mill, the dam is now 75 years past its rated lifespan of 50 years and leaking. If the dam breaks, the worst part won’t be the flooding; it’ll be the 2.3M cubic yards of toxic waste and sewage in the sediment that the dam holds. For reference, an American football field filled to 10 feet high holds 21,333 cubic yards.

Every passing day risks ecological disaster and a total failure will cost billions in cleanup and property damage. It makes sense that lawmakers are rushing now to get it fixed, but that will still cost $47.5M. So who pays? Taxpayers are worried they’ll have to foot the bill for something they didn’t do, but most of the companies that dumped in the waters before EPA regulations are now out of business — except for Duke Energy. Boasting $3.9B profit for 2022 and status as one of the largest energy companies in the US, it’s unsurprising that local lawmakers want to hold Duke Energy entirely accountable.

The Conestee Dam is uniquely troubling even in a country where 1 in 6 dams are “high hazard”, but dams are presenting issues worldwide. Researchers at the UN estimate that 50,000 dams worldwide could lose up to 28% of capacity by 2050 purely due to sedimentation. That’s 1.6T cubic meters of water, enough water to supply more than China, India, and Canada for a year. This lost capacity is due to buildup of sendiment behind the dam that would otherise be carried away if the river was unblocked. The buildup would not just reduce the amount of water storage but could also get caught in active hydroelectric turbines and damage them.

As most of the world’s dams were constructed between 1930 and 1970 with life expectancies of 50 to 100 years, many are due for an upgrade soon. That may be too costly (the US alone requires $70 billion to repair and upgrade their aging dams). Instead, many may be decommissioned, but that process is also complex and requires decades of continuous expert involvement and review.


Cellphone Radiation Concerns

While stickers and USBs marketed as 5G blockers may be scams, it turns out that cellphone and cell tower radiation may not just be fearmongering. Many are becoming increasingly worried over the growing use of cellphones and ongoing deployment of hundreds of thousands of new transmitters as claims of harm grow. Some studies have shown that those living near cell towers complain of dizzines, nausea, headaches, tinnitus, and insomnia. Other studies are showing effects on fertility and fetal development at exposures below FCC limits (which some say are outdated). Cancer is also top of mind, but a definitive answer is elusive. It’s just not ethical to subject people to cellphone radiation to get results. Furthermore, it may take years to decades for effects to manifest. ProPublica, who investigated this issue, offers the simple advice of increasing physical distance from the device or opting for a landline for longer conversations.

>> Read More

“Clean” Beauty Isn't A Solution

“Clean” beauty products are now rampant but what counts as clean changes between companies as the term isn’t regulated. To clean up their image, brands are turning to more natural ingredients (as opposed to lab-grown) but this could be both less environmentally-friendly and less safe due to a lack of proven safety on skin. For example, ingredients such as argan, juniper, and shea are now overharvested. Other ingredients, such as sandalwood, can be made in a lab to preserve current trees. Lab-grown often results in less labor and less water as well. Some brands are conflicted because to use the label is to possibly be called a scam while omitting the label could lead consumers to think the product is actually “dirty.” To add to the complication of beauty’s greening, many brands are now offering refillable packaging which only works if the customer actually refills the product 50-100 times.

>> Read More

🎬 Action of the Week

Find out if you’re near a dam and whether your representatives are doing something to ensure your community isn’t at risk. For US readers, read more about dam safety and the national inventory of dams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).



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Gettin’ clean or dirty? 
 A bit of both? 
 Art Credit: ascii.co.uk

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