Environment

KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

At the end of 2013, snowy owls started showing up far south of their usual winter range. The big white birds were reported in South Carolina, Georgia, even Florida.

Dave Brinker, an ecologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, had never seen anything like it.

South Africa will allow domestic trade of rhino horns again, after a seven-year ban. International trade of the horns is still barred.

The Supreme Court of Appeal rejected the government's bid to keep the domestic moratorium in place, National Geographic reports.

South Africa is "home to the world's largest rhino population, and nearly all of the world's 20,000 white rhinos," National Geographic adds.

Oregon’s House Interim Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use and Water held a hearing Monday on potential conservation measures for a remote high desert and canyon land area known as the Owyhee in Southeast Oregon.

Clean Air Advocates Converge On Oregon Senate Hearing

May 23, 2016

Hundreds of people, worried about clean air, converged on Oregon’s Legislature Monday, to speak at a senate hearing.

Last week Gov. Kate Brown issued a cease and desist order to Bullseye Glass, after air monitors identified it as a source of lead emissions.

Mary Peveto with "Neighbors For Clean Air" called it a sea-change event — for the state to use health as the basis for air emission standards.

A Beaverton middle school is the latest place to confront exposure to a toxic metal. Beaverton School District officials announced Monday they found lead in two drinking water fountains at Highland Park Middle School.

District staff have shut off the water fountains at Highland Park and provided water dispensers in classrooms. The district is not providing lead testing for students at the school, but they recommend concerned parents consult their children's physician.

Bullseye Glass is cutting back hours in response to a state order to limit its production. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said the company may not make glass using a list of nine metals. Bullseye said this effectively eliminates 80 percent of its product lines.

Jim Jones, Bullseye’s director of sales, said for the next three weeks, about 15 employees will be idle.

Jones said people are not being dismissed outright, but the company expects some attrition.

We often associate climate change with too much water — the melting ice caps triggering a rise in sea levels. Now a new World Bank report says we also need to think about too little water — the potable sort.

Marijuana plants growing at Seattle's first legal pot farm, Sea of Green.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board is taking steps to address high levels of pesticides found in some legal marijuana samples. But the agency does not currently require testing for pesticides. Growers say for now, it’s up to consumers to seek that information.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has cited a Portland chrome plating company for three violations of air pollution rules.

The announcement of the violations comes as officials search for the source of hexavalent chromium detected in air monitors near the Bullseye Glass facility in Southeast Portland. At elevated levels, hexavalent chromium can cause cancer. Officials are investigating a rail yard, a trucking facility and two chrome-plating facilities.

Air testing found elevated levels of nickel, hexavalent chromium and arsenic near the Southeast Portland manufacturing company Precision Castparts between March 30 and May 4.

The levels were above the state's health-based goals for air quality but below what would cause acute health risks for people nearby. Officials say there is no immediate public health threat from exposure to heavy metal air pollution in the area.

Marijuana cultivation is estimated to use one percent of America’s electricity output. That’s enough juice to power 1.7 million average homes.

And as more states make the drug legal in some form, that power consumption is expected to soar. Northwest energy officials project cannabis grows will suck up three percent of the region’s power by 2035.

Now, efforts are underway to get growers to reduce their energy use.

John Kagia cuts right to the chase.

“Indoor cannabis cultivation is extraordinarily energy intensive," he flatly states.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a cease and desist order Thursday against Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland.

The move comes after the Department of Environmental Quality found toxic levels of lead in air monitors near a daycare facility.

DEQ officials recorded lead levels at three times the 24-hour benchmark. Exposure to lead has been shown to decrease IQ levels in children.

Officials say thousands of cormorants abandoned their nests last weekend on an island in the Columbia River and they don’t know why. Reports indicate as many as 16,000 adult birds in the colony left their eggs behind to be eaten by predators including eagles, seagulls and crows.

The birds' mysterious departure comes after the latest wave of government-sanctioned cormorant shooting. It's part of a campaign to reduce the population of birds that are eating imperiled Columbia River salmon.

NW E-Cycle Programs Tested By Electronic Waste Exports

May 19, 2016

When Washington state inspectors visited the Seattle recycling operation Total Reclaim in March, they found several problems with its handling of hazardous waste. They missed the biggest one.

They discovered an improperly labeled trash can full of shop towels. They noted Total Reclaim’s failure to check a box on a form identifying itself as a recycler of dangerous waste. They found open buckets full of oil.

Increased carbon emissions are putting Puget Sound Dungeness crabs at risk, according to new research from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

When fossil fuels burn, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere and much of it is eventually absorbed by the ocean.

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