Category Archives: Environment & Health

Thursday To-Do: Lignite Meeting in Benton

Germany mines lignite, as is shown in this photo of lignite strip mining. Photo courtesy of About.com.Geology.

State Representative Garry Smith (D-Camden), and the Natural Resources Research Center at Southern Arkansas University have scheduled a series of meetings discuss the potential for lignite mining in southern Arkansas.

The Arkansas Geological Survey has estimated that southern Arkansas sits atop most of the state’s 9 billion tons of lignite, a lowest-grade coal variety that can be used as a fuel source for power plants. Controversies surround lignite due to much higher carbon dioxide emissions from lignite-burning power plants than those that burn higher-grade coal. The resource has not been commercially developed on a large scale in Arkansas. Environmentalists are concerned because of strip mining involved with the extraction of lignite.

Tonight’s meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Center (607 North Market Street) in Benton.

More information may be obtained by calling Jerry Langley, assistant to the president for special projects at Southern Arkansas University, at (870) 235-5090.

Save the Date! Lignite Meeting in Benton

Germany mines lignite, as is shown in this photo of lignite strip mining. Photo courtesy of About.com.Geology.

State Representative Garry Smith (D-Camden), and the Natural Resources Research Center at Southern Arkansas University (SAU) have been hosting a series of meetings to discuss the potential for lignite mining in southern Arkansas. The final meeting is scheduled for this Thursday, January 6 in Benton.

The Arkansas Geological Survey has estimated that southern Arkansas sits atop most of the state’s 9 billion tons of lignite, a lowest-grade coal variety that can be used as a fuel source for power plants. Controversies surround lignite due to much higher carbon dioxide emissions from lignite-burning power plants than those that burn higher-grade coal. The resource has not been commercially developed on a large scale in Arkansas. Environmentalists are concerned because of strip mining involved with the extraction of lignite.

In December 2010, SAU hosted meetings in Hope, Magnolia, and Hampton. Thursday’s meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Benton Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Center in Benton.

More information may be obtained by calling Jerry Langley, assistant to the president for special projects at Southern Arkansas University, at (870) 235-5090.

Circuit Court Reverses Self, Orders SWEPCO to Halt Work on Wetlands

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis reversed itself Monday and ordered Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) to stop working on 8 acres of wetlands near the company’s $2.1 billion coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County.

In October, U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson issued an injunction halting work on the 8 acres where SWEPCO received a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to discharge fill material into a wetland area. The Corps of Engineers issued a permit after it found that the work would have no significant impact on the environment in the area (called FONSI, or Finding of No Significant Impact).

The Sierra Club, Audubon Arkansas, National Audubon Society, and several nearby residents sued the Corps in February, claiming that the Corps did not conduct an environmental impact study (EIS) before issuing the permit. The Hempstead County Hunting Club, which owns land near the plant, also sued the electric utility, citing violations of federal Endangered Species Act.

On November 24, a day before Thanksgiving, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Wilson’s injnction in a one-sentence order, allowing SWEPCO to continue its work in the area. The order contained no explanation for the reversal and was signed by a clerk with the Circuit Court but not by any judge.

Frustrated, Wilson recused from the case on December 8, stating “my time would be better spent working on other cases.”

Yesterday, three Circuit Court judges reversed the November 24 order, reinstating Wilson’s injunction and halting SWEPCO’s work in the 8-acre area. Work continues on other sections of the plant. The plant, known as the John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant, is about 45 percent completed.

No judge has been appointed yet to replace Wilson in the case.

Tuesday To-Do: Lignite Meeting in Hampton

Germany mines lignite, as is shown in this photo of lignite strip mining. Photo courtesy of About.com.Geology.

State Representative Garry Smith (D-Camden), and the Natural Resources Research Center at Southern Arkansas University have scheduled a series of meetings discuss the potential for lignite mining in southern Arkansas.

The Arkansas Geological Survey has estimated that southern Arkansas sits atop most of the state’s 9 billion tons of lignite, a lowest-grade coal variety that can be used as a fuel source for power plants. Controversies surround lignite due to much higher carbon dioxide emissions from lignite-burning power plants than those that burn higher-grade coal. The resource has not been commercially developed on a large scale in Arkansas. Environmentalists are concerned because of strip mining involved with the extraction of lignite.

Tonight’s meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Calhoun County Courthouse in Hampton.

More information may be obtained by calling Jerry Langley, assistant to the president for special projects at Southern Arkansas University, at (870) 235-5090.

Monday To-Do: Lignite Meeting in Magnolia

Germany mines lignite, as is shown in this photo of lignite strip mining. Photo courtesy of About.com.Geology.

State Representative Garry Smith (D-Camden), and the Natural Resources Research Center at Southern Arkansas University have scheduled a series of meetings discuss the potential for lignite mining in southern Arkansas.

The Arkansas Geological Survey has estimated that southern Arkansas sits atop most of the state’s 9 billion tons of lignite, a lowest-grade coal variety that can be used as a fuel source for power plants. Controversies surround lignite due to much higher carbon dioxide emissions from lignite-burning power plants than those that burn higher-grade coal. The resource has not been commercially developed on a large scale in Arkansas. Environmentalists are concerned because of strip mining involved with the extraction of lignite.

Tonight’s meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Donald W. Reynolds Campus and Community Center Grand Hall at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.

More information may be obtained by calling Jerry Langley, assistant to the president for special projects at Southern Arkansas University, at (870) 235-5090.

SAU Schedules Lignite Meetings around the State

Germany mines lignite, as is shown in this photo of lignite strip mining. Photo courtesy of About.com.Geology.

State Representative Garry Smith (D-Camden), and the Natural Resources Research Center at Southern Arkansas University have scheduled a series of meetings discuss the potential for lignite mining in southern Arkansas.

The Arkansas Geological Survey has estimated that southern Arkansas sits atop most of the state’s 9 billion tons of lignite, a lowest-grade coal variety that can be used as a fuel source for power plants. Controversies surround lignite due to much higher carbon dioxide emissions from lignite-burning power plants than those that burn higher-grade coal. The resource has not been commercially developed on a large scale in Arkansas. Environmentalists are concerned because of strip mining involved with the extraction of lignite.

The first meeting was held last night at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope Student Center. Additional meetings will be held Monday at the Donald W. Reynolds Campus and Community Center Grand Hall at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia; Tuesday at the Calhoun County Courthouse in Hampton; and Jan. 6 at the Benton Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Center in Benton. All meetings will begin at 6 p.m.

More information may be obtained by calling Jerry Langley, assistant to the president for special projects at Southern Arkansas University, at (870) 235-5090.

Guest Post: J. Jacobs – The Health Implications of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Photo Courtesy of Mary Smith and Mountain Pine High School EAST Lab students.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been taking Arkansas Earth Institute’s A World of Health discussion course. It explores the connections between human health and the environment, and how we can sustain both. I’ve been reading all about chemicals in our environment, so when Tara with An Apple a Day approached me about a possible guest post, I asked her for one on the health implications of the Gulf oil disaster.

I know many of my readers have been concerned about the Gulf oil spill and its impact on the environment and health. I have been, too, especially since I work for an organization that protects birds, widlife, and their habitats. I hope you find this post as insightful as I did.

The Health Implications of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The oil spilled that occurred on April 20, 2010, produced disastrous consequences for the marine environment, but we have only begun to realize what adverse effects that spill will have on human health. When a bubble of methane gas escaped from the well of the rig and ignited, many dangerous toxicants were released into our environment. These include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and organic solvents. Although we can speculate, we have yet to find out the exact implications these compounds have for human health. Of course, oil spill workers will experience the most severe health effects associated with these toxicants because they have the greatest exposure, however it is important to know that much larger population is also at risk for health damage.

Volatile Organic Compunds (VOCs) – Benzene

Benzene can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled, ingested, or may come into contact with the eyes. It is so dangerous because in addition to being toxic, it is also known as a carcinogen that can lead to leukemia. Benzene has been reported to cause oxidative DNA damage in factory workers exposed to medium concentrations (40-200mg/m3). Some oil spill workers are exposed to even greater concentrations than this, so it is scary to think what health consequences these workers may face.

Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

PAHs have also been identified by the EPA as carcinogenic to humans. Humans can become exposed to PAHs by inhaling them directly or eating PAH-infected marine life. Oysters are of a particular concern with many oyster reefs having been polluted in the Louisiana and Mississippi regions. There is no telling how long it will take before seafood of this region, such as oysters, is safe again to consume. Both oil spill workers and the residents of the area where the oil spill occurred are at risk for PAH inhalation.

Organic Solvent – Toluene

When spilled, this colorless liquid can easily seep into the soil and nearby surface or groundwater. Humans then ingest toluene when they drink this contaminated water, inhale the evaporated liquid, or absorb the liquid through their skin. Humans react similarly to toluene as they do to alcohol. Low levels of exposure affect the central nervous system, causing weakness, confusion, tiredness, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, hearing loss, and color vision loss. At higher exposures to toluene, people experience severe nervousness, lack of emotional control, muscular fatigue, loss of consciousness, and even death. Depending on the route of exposure, the severity of reactions to toluene will vary. Moreover, chronic exposure to toluene has been associated with anemia, decreased blood cell count, bone marrow hypoplasia, liver and kidney damage, and dermatitis. Toluene has even been found to damage unborn fetuses. When an expecting mother is exposed to toluene, her child may experience birth defects, mental retardation, and/or stunted growth.

Future Implications

The Gulf Oil Spill is an unfortunate reminder of how human carelessness can essentially ruin a piece of our environment. Not only did the contaminants released into the environment have adverse implications for the health of humans, but they damaged and killed much of the surrounding marine life as well. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is not the first of its kind, and sadly will not be the last, but as a human race we must learn from this event to possibly prevent a spill of such magnitude from happening again.

For more information concerning our common Mother Earth, please visit Environmental Education Resources.

J. Jacobs is a guest blogger for An Apple a Day and a writer on earning your nursing degree online for the Guide to Health Education.