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IPCC Special Report: “The Next Few Years Are Probably The Most Important In Our History.”


Special To Topanga Journal

In 2015, the Paris Agreement set a target of no more than 2°C global warming above pre-industrial temperature levels. A secondary target of no more than 1.5°C global warming was also set as an aspirational goal. Human-induced warming reached approximately 1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2017, increasing at 0.2°C per decade, according to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report released October 8, 2018. This means we’re half way to the catastrophic number of 2°C warming we as a human race have been warned about. The most significant part of the report is we’ve already as a global community reached a dangerous point with just the 1°C warming. We’re already seeing the effects on our global climate from a single degree of global warming pre-industrial levels. 

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I, in the IPCC statement on the Special Report.

“You have an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, and you pout behind your privileged existence by using a $39 jacket to voice your displeasure. What a coward…” Lance Simmens

The authors of the landmark report said, warming greater than the global average has already been experienced in many regions and seasons, with average warming over land higher than over the ocean. Most land regions are experiencing greater warming than the global average, while most ocean regions are warming at a slower rate, say the writers of the IPCC Special Report. Depending on the temperature dataset considered by the Report’s authors, 20-40 percent of the global human population live in regions that, by the decade 2006-2015, had already experienced warming of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial in at least one season. 

“Temperature rise to date has already resulted in profound alterations to human and natural systems, bringing increases in some types of extreme weather, droughts, floods, sea level rise and biodiversity loss, and causing unprecedented risks to vulnerable persons and populations,” warns the writers of the IPCC report. “The most affected people live in low and middle income countries, some of which have already experienced a decline in food security, linked in turn to rising migration and poverty. Small islands, megacities, coastal regions and high mountain ranges are likewise among the most affected. Worldwide, numerous ecosystems are at risk of severe impacts, particularly warm-water tropical reefs and Arctic ecosystems.”

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Global Climate Change Vital Signs of the Planet, encapsulated in tree rings, ice cores and coral reefs are the global average temperatures over long periods of time. Those tree rings, ice cores and reefs show our temperatures have been very stable over our planet’s life, reports NASA. 

“They also show even the smallest change in temperature showed enormous changes in the environment,” reports NASA. “One such change was at the end of the last Ice Age when the Northeast United States was covered in more than 3,000 feet of ice, average temperatures were only five to nine degrees cooler than today.”

The second dire warning in the report is we have just 12 years left to keep 1.5°C warming from happening and avoiding environmental breakdown. Like dominoes, some things fall in an environmentally interdependent relationship, as in the jellyfish example. When the jellyfish’s predator disappeared due to warming oceans caused by climate change, jellyfish blooms started in those certain areas of the world. Science in the Special Report shows global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing the CO2 from the air, the Special Report warns. 

“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, in the widely released statement from the IPCC on the Special Report.

The kind of changes the report speaks to are sci-fi in nature right now. Some the human community is already working on. Others are blueprint concepts that if these new technologies were brought out of the prototype stage and into working reality they’d be able to put unemployed people to work. Most Star Trek fans remember when the communicators looked like flip phones. They were just a prop and thought to be far-fetched futuristic ideas. Today we have flat touch screen phones far beyond the idea of a flip phone, technology arriving just a few years after the flip phone. It’s not such a huge step to bring some of these CO2 reducing concepts out of the blueprint stage and put them into practice. 

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of Working Group I, in the widely released statement from the IPCC on the Special Report.

Scrubbing carbon out of the atmosphere is one solution among many possible solutions. It works on the principal of a sink, as in carbon sinks and pumps. It absorbs CO2 from the  atmosphere in a process called carbon capture, which is a method capable of removing more than 90 percent of CO2 from the atmosphere around power plants and industrial facilities like cement factories, according to the Center For Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). 

“The report makes clear we need to use all the tools at hand,” said Bob Perciasepe President of C2ES. “Even as we continue pushing as hard as we can on renewables and efficiency, we’ll need to rely heavily on other available and developing technologies, including nuclear and carbon capture, to achieve carbon neutrality. It’s not a competition – we need them all. Only through rapid innovation and deployment can we replicate in transportation and industry the encouraging progress achieved in the power sector.”

According to C2ES, there are almost two dozens commercial scale carbon capture projects operating in the world with 22 more in development. 

Pathways to keep warming below 1.5°C require net annual CO2 emissions to peak and decline to near zero or below, several sections of the IPCC Special Report state. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero would mean keeping cumulative CO2 emissions stable or making concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere fall. Merely stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations would result in continued warming beyond the stated limit. A dire warning in the report states, if starting emission reductions is delayed until temperatures are close to the proposed lower 1.5°C warming limit, pathways to keep warming below 1.5°C necessarily involve much faster rates of net CO2 emission reductions combined with rapid reductions in non-CO2 forcing, which also means the planet reaches the 1.5°C limit much sooner. 

According to the IPCC Special Report authors, “There is no definitive way to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This Special Report identifies two main conceptual pathways to illustrate different interpretations. One stabilizes global temperature at, or just below, 1.5°C. Another sees global temperature temporarily exceed 1.5°C before coming back down. Countries’ pledges to reduce their emissions are currently not in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.” 

The Special Report pointed out past emissions stating they alone are unlikely to raise global-mean temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, but past emissions do commit to other changes, such as further sea level rise.

The Special Report’s authors warn, “If all anthropogenic emissions, including aerosol-related, were reduced to zero immediately, any further warming beyond the 1°C already experienced would likely be less than 0.5°C over the next two to three decades, and likely less than 0.5°C on a century timescale, due to the opposing effects of different climate processes and drivers. A warming greater than 1.5°C is therefore not geophysically unavoidable: whether it will occur depends on future rates of emission reductions.” 

The authors of the report tell the world “climate adaptation” refers to the actions taken to manage impacts of climate change by reducing vulnerability and exposure to its harmful effects and exploiting any potential benefits. 

A survey released in September by the United States Conference of Mayors and C2ES in San Francisco points to mayors as a key force behind U.S. action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the growing effects of climate change, said Alec Gerlach, C2ES Media contact, in a statement. The survey found 57 percent of cities responding are planning for new climate actions in the coming year. 

“The effects on their cities, public health concerns, and cost savings are making low-carbon transitions an increasingly attractive option for cities – a bright spot for climate leadership despite the U.S. announcement of its intended withdrawal from the Paris Agreement,” said Gerlach.

The Special Report defines adaptation as taking place at international, national and local levels. 

“Subnational jurisdictions and entities, including urban and rural municipalities, are key to developing and reinforcing measures for reducing weather- and climate-related risks. Adaptation implementation faces several barriers including unavailability of up-to-date and locally-relevant information, lack of finance and technology, social values and attitudes, and institutional constraints. Adaptation is more likely to contribute to sustainable development when polices align with mitigation and poverty eradication goals,” according to the Report’s authors.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II, in the IPCC’s statement on the Special Report.

ON THE WEB:

UN SR15 Report Take Action Page


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IPCC Report: “We’re Almost Out of Time” by RL Miller


Special To Topanga Journal

“We’re almost out of time.” A few weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report warning people about climate change. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) would require “rapid, dramatic changes in how governments, industries and societies function.” 

By RL Miller

Doesn’t global warming mostly affect the polar bears? Well, no. Global warming affects people. Sea level rise is the most clear cut consequence of climate change, but many more impacts — some of which are better understood than others — will begin to make themselves felt. To bring this home, scientists have “high confidence” that 1.5°C of warming would result in a greater number of severe heat waves on land. In addition, climate change is making California’s droughts worse. Southern California’s wildfire season used to be limited to the Santa Ana wind season of October until the first rains of November; now wildfire season seems to start October 1 and end September 30. Climate activists talk about people on the frontlines of impact — those who are affected most. While you might think that “frontline communities” refers only to the people in coastal communities such as Florida and the Arctic — and, yes, Malibu — the term also refers to everyone in California living in or near a wildfire corridor. That’s Topanga, among many other places.

“The costs of doing nothing are incalculable. The tiny city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County, populated mostly by Latino renters, is weighing the estimated cost of $150 million to retreat from the ocean against its $19 million annual budget. Beach cities, such as Malibu, will need to determine what, if any, City services should be provided to protect private property — or leave the property to be abandoned to the rising seas.” RL Miller

And whether or not the hills burn this year or the next year, the actuaries who write insurance policies are calculating the increased risk of wildfires. Premiums will go up, policies will be non-renewed or dropped, and homeowners will have to resort to the FAIR plan. It’s already happening in Northern California neighborhoods damaged by the October 2017 fires.

The costs of doing nothing are incalculable. The tiny city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County, populated mostly by Latino renters, is weighing the estimated cost of $150 million to retreat from the ocean against its $19 million annual budget. Beach cities, such as Malibu, will need to determine what, if any, City services should be provided to protect private property — or leave the property to be abandoned to the rising seas.

In short: yes, global warming does affect people. Every week or two it seems there’s a new report on a different aspect of life climate change will mess up. Barley shortages mean less beer and higher beer prices. Fewer insects limit agriculture. Shorter winters mean tick-infested deer and trees killed by bark beetles.

What can one person do? Global warming is such a, well, global problem. Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth suggested personal choices to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Plant a tree. Go vegan, or at least eat less meat. Fly less. Change a lightbulb, change the world. Yet carbon emissions continue to rise.

Science-oriented people look at the climate problem and imagine scientific solutions that generally fall into two categories: storing carbon and altering the planet’s chemistry. The technology for the first, commonly known as CCS (carbon capture and storage) is in its infancy; it’s expensive. The second involves the stuff of science fiction: giant mirrors in space reflecting the sun’s rays away from the atmosphere, equally giant hoses sucking the carbon and vacuuming it into space, vast deposits of iron filings into the ocean to changing the chemical composition of seawater.

Although climate change begins as a scientific problem, it becomes obvious to most people the solution is mired in politics. Solar and wind energy poll like Mom and Apple Pie, but their progress is being blocked for political reasons. Specifically, the Republican Party in the United States generally denies the scientific reality, while politicians of all stripes are not sufficiently visionary to make the drastic changes demanded by the science. One solution to climate change is to get political: vote deniers out. I’ve founded Climate Hawks Vote, an organization building grassroots political power for the climate movement, that aims to do just that.

This global problem requires more than voting every two years, and it requires a sudden drastic change. So it needs everyone to speak out with the talent they have. Artists: make art about climate change. Musicians: write and sing songs that will move the feet and the heart. Architects and contractors: design and build more dense housing closer to public transit. Actuaries: calculate the risks of an ever warming world. Run for office. Tell people who are running for office to do more — and ask them to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, declining campaign contribution money from the fossil fuel industry. To change everything, we need everyone.

Most of all, the climate problem requires hope to solve it. Although it’s easy to ridicule the mindset of Denial on the Right, those on the Left are just as prone to despair. There’s plenty of reason to find despair in the IPCC report, but also reasons to hope.

Here are the top three things to do to fight global warming locally:

  1. Drive an electric vehicle or otherwise reduce the carbon footprint of your commute to zero. 
  2. Get politically involved with an organization such as Climate Hawks Vote; vote on November 6, but stay involved after the election.
  3. Every morning, find a reason to hope.

ON THE WEB:

http://climatehawksvote.com


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Climate Change A sonnet By: Miranda Robin


Special To Topanga Journal

hues of green and blue, colors of land, of sea, and sky

fragile structure filled with knowledge of educated hope 

storms brewing, sea levels rising and we know why 

climate is changing and denied by a small orange dope

Miranda Robin

By Miranda Robin

the conversation is here, the dialogue is now 

heat waves and health risks, irreversible sadness 

extinction real, saving lives essential, help presents how 

working together to better the worlds immediate madness 

“temperatures escalating water ranging from drought to flood…” Miranda Robin

temperatures escalating water ranging from drought to flood

this is a reality, a fact, watching coastal populations before us die 

water dwindles, some ignore, concerned humans out for blood 

the discussion is clear, forward momentum, no longer a silent sigh  

ice is melting matching the beat of the heart, we know the planets worth 

she opened her arms to our dreams, protect our magical mother earth 

ON THE WEB:

https://climate.nasa.gov


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Trump Blames California When Woolsey Fire Started On Federally Owned and Operated Toxic Property


Special To Topanga Journal

The origin of the Woolsey fire is still under official investigation, according to Cal Fire.

“At this time the fire’s origin has not been located and is still under investigation,” said Ralph Swain, Cal Fire Fire Media Information Officer. “We do not have confirmation of how the fire started. That again is still under investigation.”

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

Currently Cal Fire has the location of the Woolsey Fire listed at longitude and latitude of -118.70128  34.235, which is at about E street and Alfa Road in Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), or what is commonly known as the Rocketdyne property, a former nuclear and rocket engine testing site. 

The DTSC documents library shows, “the more recalcitrant compounds (either original compounds or degradation products) [are] in the soil at present.”

DTSC Documents Library

 

According to a Southern California Edison (SCE) Incident Report filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on November 8 at 2:22pm, the Chatsworth Substation located on the SSFL property was tripped two minutes before the Woolsey fire was reported.  A few hundred yards on one side of the Chatsworth Substation is the E Street and Alfa Road location of the fire, and on the other side of the Chatsworth Substation a few hundred yards the other direction is the site of the 1959 partial nuclear meltdown from the Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE) – see map below. That means the E Street and Alfa Road fire was on the SSFL property about 1,500 yards from the site of a 1959 partial nuclear meltdown. The Chatsworth Substation was originally built to provide electricity from the SRE.

“The Woolsey Fire likely released and spread radiological and chemical contamination that was in SSFL’s soil and vegetation via smoke and ash,” said Dr. Bob Dodge, President of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, a group that has seen many cancers as a result of the contamination from the SSFL site, some previous employees of Atomics International and others residents from the surrounding area, in a statement to the media. “All wildfire smoke can be hazardous to health, but if SSFL had been cleaned up long ago as DTSC promised, we’d at least not have to worry about exposure to dangerous radionuclides and chemicals as well.”

The DTSC is the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC). It is the agency responsible for testing the soil, vegetation and air for toxic substances and restoring them to a safe state. 

The DTSC confirmed the Woolsey Fire burned through portions of the SSFL property, multiple times through a series of news releases still available on their site. They assessed “the site that previously handled radioactive and hazardous materials was not affected by the fire.” Here they are referring to the SRE site itrself, which in fact did not burn, but they are not admitting to the major burn to the majority of the rest of the site. Radiation levels were taken and nothing beyond “background levels” were found, and “no elevated levels of hazardous compounds other than those normally present after a wildfire” were found. Even in an abundance of caution it is difficult to accept such conclusions given the amount of evidence in the DTSC documents library detailing the severe contamination to the SSFL site.

According to documents found in the DTSC documents library regarding the SSFL, the site was established in 1947 by North American Aviation for testing liquid-propulsion rocket engines. SSFL was divided into four different areas, and the DOE performed research in a section of Area IV named the ETEC. During the ETEC’s operation, the soil was contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorinated dioxins/furans, and heavy metals. 

According to documents found in the DTSC library, a 90 acre portion of Area IV of the SSFL site was leased to the Department of Energy (DOE) for nuclear energy and other research. It was called the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC). After closure of the ETEC, the DOE was responsible for cleanup of the soil. Most soil clean up concentrates on a single contaminant. This site had and has multiple contaminants. It therefore required a study to determine if phytoremediation would work. 

“Phytoremediation is the use of plants to contain or remove pollutants from the environment, or render them harmless through one or more biological mechanisms (Cunningham and Berti 1993; Salt, Smith, and Raskin 1998; Pilon-Smits 2005).”

The DTSC documents library shows, “the more recalcitrant compounds (either original compounds or degradation products) [are] in the soil at present.”

Some further site history within the DTSC documents library details Area IV of the SSFL was used for energy and liquid metals research from the mid-1950s until approximately the year 2000. The ETEC also served as the DOE’s Liquid Metals Center of Excellence where ten small nuclear reactors were tested during ETEC operations—so that’s 50 years of nuclear reactor testing on the soil and vegetation. Area IV had a variety of chemicals used during the operation of research including PCBs used in electrical components, hydraulic fluids, fuels that ran auxiliary generators, heated water for steam, metals such as silver for photograph development and mercury for cooling the nuclear reactors. Onsite waste burning and a 2005 wildfire produced dioxins/furans, and releases of PCBs, metals, fuels and lubricants contaminated the Area IV soil. Solvents from transformers, storage tanks, drums and leach fields also contributed to contamination. 

DTSC documents show the contaminants in the soil in Area IV vary depending on the sub-areas. The sub-areas of Area IV that contain most of the contamination are primarily loamy soils, either Saugus sandy loam with 5 to 30 percent slopes, or Zamora loam with 2 to 15 percent slopes (HydroGeoLogic Inc. 2012). The contaminants of interest (COIs) at SSFL Area IV fall into five general categories: “Petroleum hydrocarbons, Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Chlorinated dioxins/furans and Heavy metals.” At the bottom of this article is a definition of each of these contaminants.

Further research in the DTSC documents library showed many of the native California species growing in contaminated soil at Area IV were found to uptake through their roots and / or foliage the contaminants PAHs, chlorinated dioxin/furans, silver, cadmium and lead. IN the same manner of phytoremediation works, native plants too can uptake contaminants into their roots and foliage. The Woolsey Fire burn had toxins in it by virtue of the fact it burned through toxic soil and vegetation. We do have to wait for the official results to find out how much toxin and what types, but it is clear the Woolsey Fire burned through toxic soil and vegetation just by open source information viewing of the Ariel maps of the fire damage. It may or may not be the feared radiation ash, but it was a burn on what has already been documented as contaminated soil and vegetation by the DTSC. That information too is open source on the DTSC site in the documents library for previous studies. 

As readers can see in the associated before/after maps, most of Area IV burned during the Woolsey Fire. The only part that didn’t burn is where the SRE buildings were located and the oblong section along the left side of the map in Area IV. Otherwise almost the entirety of Area IV did burn in the Woolsey Fire, along with much of the SSFL site.

“Though we must wait for the fire authorities to conclude their investigation, it is ironic an electrical substation built for a reactor that melted down six decades ago may now be associated with a catastrophic fire that began on the SSFL site that is still badly contaminated from that accident and numerous other spills and releases,” said Denise Duffield, Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles.

The SSFL property has been in the news and the subject of controversy more than once. The first time in 1959 it was the subject of a major nuclear catastrophe, and nobody knew it happened. The employees were told at that time they were forbidden to tell anyone what happened. In the 1970s major news reports exposed the corruption behind the secrecy, and the fact the SSFL site suffered a partial nuclear meltdown from its SRE. In 1989, press reports revealed an internal DOE study showing widespread radioactive and chemical contamination at the SSFL site. The news reports alarmed neighboring communities who were experiencing elevated levels of bladder cancer.

LA’s Secret Meltdown: Nuclear Cowboys

According to the documentary film L.A.’s Secret Meltdown: Nuclear Cowboys, the 1959 partial meltdown resulted in an estimated 300-1800 deaths and is the suspected source of elevated cancer rates in adjacent suburban neighborhoods. One of the most shocking statistics reported in the documentary, and other sources, is the estimated amount of contaminants released is over 400 times that of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. The documentary exposes how highly radioactive gasses were sent over parts Los Angeles for at least two weeks. The film documents accounts of former employees and their resulting cancers from working for Atomics International, and the company’s crackdown on keeping employees silent over the partial reactor meltdown.

A UCLA researchers’ radiation study released in June 1997 found exposure of SSFL workers to external radiation was associated with an elevated rate of dying from cancers of the blood and lymph systems and from lung cancer. The study found radiation risks about 6-8 times higher than those of from A-bomb survivors, and they found cancer rates were impacted more by radiation workers received at older than at younger ages.  The study was titled Epidemiological Study to Determine Possible Adverse Effects to Rocketdyne/Atomics International Workers from Exposure to Ionizing Radiation. A Second UCLA study was released in 1999 which had been conducted on the rocket test workers. It found a correlation between exposures to chemicals used at the rocket test stands, particularly hydrazine, and the rates of dying from cancers of the lung, blood and lymph system, and bladder and kidney. 

Those concerned with trying to limit exposure to generations now and to come cite migrating contaminants from the SSFL property as the reason to ensure the site is cleaned up. ICYMI, migrating contaminants means contaminants that make their way off site by means of rain, wind or other avenues, like the shoes and clothing of employees who worked or work there. One man in the Nuclear Cowboys documentary cited how his wife and only son both died of different types of cancer likely caused by him tracking contaminants from the site to his home, he being unaware of the fact he was doing so at the time in the 1960s never having been warned by his employer of the contaminants. 

The SSFL property is now owned by both the Federal Government GSA Real Estate Services and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) operates and is responsible for the cleanup for a portion of the property. Before the 1970s it was run by the United States Air Force.  Boeing operated the property in the 1950s under the Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power Division of Boeing. At the time of the 1959 partial meltdown, it was operated by Rocketdyne, and according to Boeing, other various Boeing Heritage companies such as North American Aviation, Rockwell International, Atomics International and beginning in 1973, NASA began to hold operations on site when it acquired land from the US Air Force. Beginning in 1996, Boeing states it purchased Rockwell’s aerospace and defense units which allowed it to officially acquire the Santa Susana property. Here we are again in 2018 at the doorstep of the SSFL with questions: Were toxins and hazardous chemicals released when the property was burned during the Woolsey fire? Was the SSFL property the origin of the Woolsey fire? Why is there electricity still flowing to a Substation originally built for a 1959 SRE that had a partial nuclear meltdown? This article attempts to answers these questions with the appropriate authorities. 

Southern California Edison (SCE)

The Chatsworth Substation is currently part of the electrical grid and that is why there is power to it, said the On Call Media Information Officer in a brief statement. She was not able to say how power was still running through it when asked why the Chatsworth Substation built for the 1959 SRE was still being used for the modern grid. 

SCE made a commitment to get back to Topanga Journal with a subject matter expert to answer more in depth some of the questions raised in our interview. As far as the origin of the fire and cause, the Media Information Officer said it was premature to have answers on that subject at the moment. SCE never returned the phone call in the time frame promised and before we went to print.

The California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC):

In an interview, when asked about how previous employees stated from the 1959 partial meltdown during the SRE period that there was a 2 mile contaminated perimeter around the SRE building that was effected during the partial meltdown, including the area of E street and Alfa Road known as the origin of the Woolsey Fire, and if the DTSC would say what the test results were for this area for radiation and hazardous materials and any other dangers to the public, Abbott Dutton, Media Relations Manager from the DTSC Office of Communications said, “The fire did not extend to the former Radioactive Materials Handling Facility, Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility, and Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE) area, and other buildings in that area. The fire did not burn SSFL facilities that previously handled radioactive and hazardous materials.”

When asked what type of tests the DTSC ran on and around the SSFL property and when those results would be available to the public, Dutton said, “DTSC will provide a public report soon on these testing results when all analyses are completed.” 

As for the types of testing and what agencies performed those tests, Dutton said, “DTSC, in coordination with a multi-agency response team, took measurements and samples for radiation and hazardous compounds from November 11 to November 14 on the SSFL site and offsite. In addition, a team of DTSC scientists and investigators also took real-time measurements for radiation and hazardous compounds, and collected soil, ash, and air samples, from November 11 to November 14, both onsite and offsite. Monitoring is ongoing.”

Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles

According to Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Santa Susana Field Laboratory Panel, a watchdog group that consists of numerous experts, there has been more than the one nuclear reactor accident on the SSFL site other than the famous 1959 partial meltdown exposed in the 1970s. The Physicians group states there have been “tens of thousands of rocket engine tests,” and  “sloppy environmental practices that have left SSFL polluted with widespread radioactive and chemical contamination.” 

“Government-funded studies indicate increased cancers for offsite populations associated with proximity to the site, and that contamination migrates offsite over EPA levels of concern. In 2010, DTSC signed agreements with the Department of Energy and NASA that committed them to clean up all detectable contamination in their operational areas by 2017. DTSC also in 2010 committed to require Boeing, which owns most of the site, to cleanup to comparable standards. But the cleanup has not yet begun, and DTSC is currently considering proposals that will leave much, if not all, of SSFL’s contamination on site permanently,” states PSR in a media statement dated November 9, 2018.

As of the writing of this article the Woolsey Fire has burned 96,949 acres and is 98 percent contained. That is the size of the city of Denver in square miles. It has destroyed 1,500 structures and damaged 341. It has taken three lives and injured three firefighters. Total fire personnel dedicated to just the Woolsey fire is 1,811. The number of engines previously working on this fire are was 265. The number of fire crews was 23, helicopters were nine, dozers were eight and water tenders were six. The fire crews were from two counties, going across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.

Definition of Contaminants Per the DTSC Documents Library:

Petroleum Hydrocarbons: Petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs) is a term that describes a class of chemicals that originate from crude oil and is a mixture of hundreds of compounds that are primarily formed from carbon and hydrogen. Santa Susana Area IV was contaminated with PHCs through onsite use and disposal of petroleum based fuels (Department of Energy 2003). PHCs can cause nerve disorders, affect the blood and immune system, affect reproduction, and can cause cancer (ATSDR 2014). 

Polyaromatic hydrocarbons: Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a subset of PHCs that are of particular concern due to their stability and persistence in the environment. They are composed of two or more benzene rings fused together, hence the “polyaromatic” part of the name. Most PAHs have a high affinity for soil (not water) as indicated by high octanol-water partitioning coefficients (Kow). For example pyrene, a four ringed PAH, has a log Kow of 4.88 compared to a log Kow of 2.18 for benzene. PAH contamination was introduced to Area IV through open burning of wastes, burning of rocket and vehicle fuels, and incomplete combustion of vegetation during the 2005 wildfire (Boeing 2005). Many PAHs are reasonably expected to be carcinogenic and suspected to cause birth defects (ATSDR 2014). 

Polychlorinated biphenyls: PCBs are man-made chlorinated organic compounds. The structure of PCBs consists of two benzene rings attached by a single bond with a varied amount of chlorines attached to carbons in the benzene ring. Each PCB with a different arrangement and number of chlorines is referred to as a congener (Figure 2.2). PCBs are often known by their industrial trade names, the most common being Aroclor (EPA 2013b). PCBs are known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) because of their high thermal and chemical stability due to their highly chlorinated aromatic structure Campanella et al. (2002). A high log Kow (4.46 – 8.18) causes PCBs to accumulate in soils and sediments. In general, the more highly chlorinated the congener, the less water-soluble and volatile it is (Campanella, Bock, and Schröder 2002). Highly chlorinated PCBs are also harder to biodegrade. PCB congeners with 5 or more chlorine atoms must undergo 

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anaerobic reductive dechlorination to 3 or less chlorine atoms before they can be aerobically degraded (Aken, Correa, and Schnoor 2010). PCBs were used as coolants in transformers and electrical equipment in Area IV because of their insulating properties. Chronic exposure to PCBs can have serious neurological and immunological effects on children and they have been determined to be probably carcinogenic to humans by the EPA and International Agency for Research on Cancer (ATSDR 2014). 

Chlorinated Dioxins/Furans: The term “dioxin” is often used to refer to polychlorinated dibenzo- p-dioxins (PCDDs), which have similar physical and chemical properties as PCBs. The dioxin molecule is a central part of PCDDs which are the compounds of primary concern. Compounds that contain furan such as polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) are very closely related to PCDDs and are often grouped together in discussion because of their similar structure and chemical properties (EPA 2011). In this report the term “dioxins/furans” refers to both PCDDs and PCDFs. PCDD/Fs consist of a dioxin or furan center that links two benzene rings together that have 8 or less chlorine atoms bonded to the carbon atoms of the benzene rings (Figure 2.3). PCDD/Fs are even more hydrophobic than PCBs having log Kow values from 7-10 which cause them to bind tightly to soil (Campanella, Bock, and Schröder 2002). Like PCBs, the compounds with different number and positioning of chlorines are referred to as congeners. They also follow the same trend that the more highly chlorinated the congener, the less water-soluble and volatile it is (Campanella, Bock, and Schröder 2002). They differ from PCBs in that they are formed through both natural and industrial combustion processes (Lemieux, Lutes, and Santoianni 2004; ATSDR 2014). The most toxic congener is 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) and all other dioxin toxicity is evaluated relative to this congener (ATSDR 2014). In several animal studies exposure to TCDD has been shown to cause liver and immune system damage and the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that 2,3,7,8-TDD is a human carcinogen (ATSDR 2014). 

Metals: Metals are elements which are non-biodegradable and tend to accumulate in the environment and living organisms. Metals exist in either an elemental or oxidized state. For example, Hg can exist in the elemental form (Hg0), the oxidized form (Hg+), and the oxidized form (Hg2+). Thus metals can be transported through the environment by dissolving into water or forming inorganic/organic compounds. Most metals do not volatilize readily, but mercury is the one exception and is often released into the atmosphere when mercury-containing coal is burned (EPA 2013a). Some of the metals that have contaminated Area IV are silver, cadmium, copper, mercury, lead, zinc, nickel, and chromium. Mercury is known to disrupt the nervous system, damage the brain, kidneys and lungs, and cause changes in vision and loss of memory in humans (ATSDR 2014). Other metals have similar toxic effects on humans. Metals are also extremely toxic to microorganisms in the environment and can also cause mutations, sickness, and death to plants at high concentrations (Giller, Witter, and Mcgrath 1998; Patra et al. 2004). 

 

ON THE WEB:

https://www.dtsc.ca.gov

http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents/incidentdetails/Index/2282

http://ssflpanel.org

 


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Surfrider Foundation: Our Ocean and Coasts are at the Center of Climate Change


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  • Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, Coastal Preservation Manager, Surfrider Foundation

Special To Topanga Journal

Since the height of the industrial revolution, humans have been emitting pollution at unprecedented rates. Pollutants known as “greenhouse gases” (GHGs) are absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and act like a “heating blanket.” The amount of GHGs in the Earth’s atmosphere is directly linked to how much, and how fast, the earth warms—and thus, how much our climate changes.  

Stefanie Sekich-Quinn

By Stefanie Sekich-Quinn

The world is already witnessing climate change impacts such as record-setting temperatures, catastrophic hurricanes, melting ice sheets and glaciers, flooding, drought, increased forest fires and other extreme weather. Climate change is predicted to bring more intense storms and increased sea levels.1 Our local coastlines are being impacted in several ways: 

“The ocean is 30% more acidic than it was in 1750. Drastic changes in ocean chemistry are detrimental to marine life, including the impairment of crustaceans’ abilities to form protective shells.”                                Stefanie Sekich-Quinn

Photos Copyright 2018 Jeff Herrera

  • Shrinking beaches: Scientists predict sea levels could rise up to six feet by 2100.  An increase this large will swallow beaches—impacting public access, recreation, healthy ecosystems, and community infrastructure. In addition to sea level rise, increased storms will also chip away at our beaches. 2
  • Pollution: More rain can result in sewage overflows and urban runoff cascading into the ocean. In addition, sea level rise and coastal inundation can overload and undermine wastewater infrastructure—causing malfunctions that result in more pollution. 
  • Ocean Acidification: Over 25% of carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels is absorbed by ocean water.3 As a result, high concentrations of carbon dioxide are causing the oceans to acidify at rapid rates. In fact, the ocean is 30% more acidic than it was in 1750.4 Drastic changes in ocean chemistry are detrimental to marine life, including the impairment of crustaceans’ abilities to form protective shells.
  • Surfing and other recreation: Rising seas will contribute to extreme tides that will impact how waves break. In areas where the seafloor is sandy and flat (a beach break), the wave may break further inshore, thus changing the size and shape of the wave. In areas where the seafloor is uneven and rocky (a point break), higher sea levels will inundate the break, leaving less area for the wave to form and increasing the possibility that the wave might not break at all.5  In addition, ocean temperatures and ocean acidification are killing corals around the world; and in places where surfing is formed by coral reefs those surf spots will go away. Of course, diving experiences will certainly be impacted as reefs die and biodiversity is compromised.  
  • Damaged infrastructure: Sea level rise and increased storm activity will damage community infrastructure (homes, roads, municipal buildings, etc.).  As communities become more aware of the impacts of climate change on their beaches, they may choose to employ reactionary response measures, such as building seawalls, which can greatly impact beaches, ecosystems and actually exacerbate erosion.  

Just last week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report concluding that drastic climate change impacts are now expected to occur much faster than previously predicted – as soon as 2040. Even if humans manage to keep the Earth’s temperature from increasing by 2 degrees C (the magic number assigned by scientists to avert dire consequences), major impacts will happen regardless. 6

While predictions about climate change are daunting, there are several actions we can all take to mitigate and adapt to climate change. For example, the Surfrider Foundation is encouraging local communities to support renewable energy efforts such as “Community Choice Energy” where citizens can dictate what type of energy they want to fuel their community—purposefully weaning off fossil fuels.  

Other mitigation efforts include installing “Ocean Friendly Gardens” to trap greenhouse gases in the soil. In addition, we encourage local communities to improve coastal resiliency by restoring dunes and wetland—building a stronger buffer against storms and rising seas. However, one of the most effective measures communities can take is to proactively plan for sea level rise and extreme weather events by improving local land use plans, zoning regulations, and rebuilding standards. We no longer have the luxury of continuing to rebuild in areas that have repetitive flood and storm damage at the expense of nature and taxpayers. 

Communities should also call upon their elected officials to implement meaningful climate change policies at the local and federal levels. For example, Surfrider has an action alert asking the Trump Administration to honor the Paris Agreement which aims to curb climate change. We also have an action alert urging elected officials to reform the National Flood Insurance Program so taxpayers are not spending money on rebuilding in harm’s way and communities are incentivized to rebuild in “climate-smart” ways.  

Finally, there are many actions people can do on a personal level to curb climate change, such as to carpooling, using mass transit, walking or biking to destinations and buying a low carbon vehicle. In addition, people should limit or stop purchasing plastic—plastics are made from petroleum products (i.e. fossil fuels) and take a tremendous amount of energy to create and dispose of. It is estimated 29 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the manufacturing and final disposal of plastic goods. Upgrade your light bulbs by replacing incandescent light bulbs with more efficient fluorescent or LED lights. Weatherproof your home to reduce drafts and air leaks by caulking, using insulation and weather stripping to save energy. 

Another fun way people can help bring awareness to climate change is to ride a Smartfin. The Smartfin is a surfboard fin with sensors that measure multiple ocean parameters including temperature, location, and wave characteristics (and in the future, it will read pH levels related to ocean acidification). Using the data collected with Smartfin will help scientists to better understand trends in ocean warming, acidification and mobilize our communities to act and combat problems caused by climate change. 

If we all work together and proactively plan ahead we can help avert climate change impacts and protect our wallets. According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, every dollar invested in preparedness and resiliency saves six dollars in costs down the road.7  We owe it to future generations to be proactive with climate change so they don’t suffer our consequences.  The time to act is now!

  1. Environmental Protection Agency http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/basics/facts.html 
  1. The Physical Science Basis. Final Draft Underlying Scientific-Technical Assessment. http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/

3       IPCC Climate Change Report https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf

4 Science Daily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170127112942.htm

5       Climate Change May Flatten Surf Spots https://phys.org/news/2015-02-climate-flatten-famed-surfing.html 

6 UNIPCC https://www.thenation.com/article/1-5-to-stay-alive-says-landmark-un-climate-report/ 

7 Pew Charitable Trust: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2018/01/11/every-$1-invested-in-disaster-mitigation-saves-$6 

ON THE WEB:

https://www.surfrider.org


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