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.

The luminous glow of light pollution prevents nearly 80 percent of people in North America from seeing the Milky Way in the night sky.

That's according to a new atlas of artificial night sky brightness that found our home galaxy is now hidden from more than one-third of humanity.

The number of people in Portland testing their water for lead has spiked dramatically this month.

In a typical year, the Portland Water Bureau sends out about 3,000 kits to customers who want to test their drinking water for lead. But in the first nine days of June alone, the water bureau has received 1,500 requests for test kits. And that’s on top of roughly 2,900 kits the water agency sent between January and May.

“It’s been quiet a significant increase for us this year," said Scott Bradway, who manages lead hazard reduction efforts at the Portland Water Bureau.

This year's extra-large El Nino weather pattern is over, according to federal meteorologists.

"We're sticking a fork in this El Niño and calling it done," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists wrote on a blog tracking the 15-month-long weather event.

A 1,900 acre fire near Lake Billy Chinook continues to threaten more than 900 homes. Officials said the fire is 30 percent contained.

The Akawana fire is within a few miles of a subdivision northeast of Sisters in Jefferson County, and it's triggered a preliminary evacuation notice for residents. Residents in the area have been asked to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

The lighting-caused blaze is currently burning in heavy brush and ponderosa pine on state forestland.

The U.S. Forest Service has released the data that kicked off concerns about Oregon’s system of monitoring air quality and air toxics in Portland. Hundreds of readings gathered all around the city are expressed on an interactive map that shows readings taken in 2013.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will take 30 years and around $746 million to clean up a 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River known as the Portland Harbor Superfund Site.

The area from the Broadway Bridge to the Columbia Slough is highly contaminated from more than a century of industrial use. After 16 years of study, the EPA finally has a plan for how to clean it all up.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants oil trains to slow down and safety improvements to speed up. Inslee said Wednesday that he personally delivered that message to the CEO of Union Pacific and the executive chairman of BNSF over the last 48 hours.

The Bend Parks and Recreation Board has passed a memorandum of understanding about the future of Mirror Pond under new, potential private ownership of the Mirror Pond dam.

The non-binding MOU outlines future collaboration between the district and Mirror Pond Solutions, a corporation owned by local developer Bill Smith and construction company owner Todd Taylor.

Mirror Pond Solutions wants to lead negotiations with Pacific Power, owner and operator of Mirror Pond dam, and explore purchasing the structure.

Railroad industry experts are questioning the early explanation from Union Pacific for why its oil train crashed in Mosier, Ore.

Union Pacific said the preliminary indications from its investigation are “the failure of a fastener that connects the rail to the railroad tie,” according Justin Jacobs, a railroad spokesman.

A scene from a simulation by the Washington State Department of Transportation of what could happen if a massive earthquake hits the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
YouTube/WSDOT

Emily Fox talks with Lt. Col. Clayton Braun about Cascadia Rising, a four-day exercise to test the emergency response to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Braun is a member of the Washington State National Guard.

For weeks, DEQ and Bullseye Glass have been negotiating over whether the company should be allowed to resume using heavy metals while DEQ crafts rules for the art glass industry. Late Monday, the two sides announced a deal. OPB's April Baer sat down with DEQ's Keith Johnson to find out more about the major points.

Jim Appleton, the fire chief in Mosier, Ore., said in the past, he’s tried to reassure his town that the Union Pacific Railroad has a great safety record and that rail accidents are rare.

He's changed his mind.

After a long night working with hazardous material teams and firefighters from across the Northwest to extinguish a fire that started when a train carrying Bakken crude derailed in his town, Appleton no longer believes shipping oil by rail is safe.

A train carrying Bakken crude derailed Friday afternoon near Hood River Friday afternoon, sparking a large fire and forcing a nearby school to evacuate.

The 96-car Union Pacific train was carrying Bakken crude oil headed for Tacoma, Washington, when it is believed to have experienced a braking issue and derailed near Mosier, Oregon, about 70 miles east of Portland.

The latest information from officials indicates 16 train cars derailed, four caught fire and some exploded. It sent black smoke into the sky, closed nearby highways and caused evacuations.

Black smoke billowed high into the sky above Interstate 84 Friday afternoon after 11 oil train cars derailed near Mosier, Oregon. At least one of the derailed cars spilled oil and caught fire.

The oil train fire in the Columbia Gorge is the first one since Oregon lawmakers approved funding for a hazardous materials incidents plan last year.

A photograph posted to Twitter of the oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon.
Twitter

A train towing cars full of oil derailed Friday in Oregon's scenic Columbia River Gorge, sparking a fire that sent a plume of black smoke high into the sky.

The accident happened just after noon near the town of Mosier, about 70 miles east of Portland. It involved eight cars filled with oil, and one was burning, said Ken Armstrong, state Forestry Department spokesman.

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