Search for Missing Flight’s Wreckage Is Hampered by a Sea of Detritus


In recent days, the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner has focused on blurry satellite images and other sightings of objects floating in the desolate reaches of the southern Indian Ocean.

So far, none of the objects have been retrieved or identified. They could be aircraft wreckage, but even the officials leading the search for Flight 370 acknowledge that the objects could be something else. And that something else, people who study marine debris say, could be just about anything.

“Any search and rescue attempt will be hampered by untold quantities of debris,” said Charles Moore, a sailor who studies marine debris at the Algalita Marine Research Institute in Long Beach, Calif. Even with relatively high-resolution satellite imaging, he said, “you are going to be confounded by the detritus of civilization.”

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EPA Proposes New Safety Measures to Protect Farm Workers from Pesticide Exposure

Release Date: 02/20/2014
Contact Information: Cathy Milbourn,, 202-564-7849, 202-564-4355; CONTACTO EN ESPAÑOL: Lina Younes,, 202-564-9924, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON —Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced proposed revisions to the Worker Protection Standard in order to protect the nation’s two million farm workers and their families from pesticide exposure.

“Today marks an important milestone for the farm workers who plant, tend, and harvest the food that we put on our tables each day,” said Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator. “EPA’s revised Worker Protection Standard will afford farm workers similar health protections to those already enjoyed by workers in other jobs. Protecting our nation’s farm workers from pesticide exposure is at the core of EPA’s work to ensure environmental justice.”

EPA is proposing significant improvements to worker training regarding the safe usage of pesticides, including how to prevent and effectively treat pesticide exposure. Increased training and signage will inform farm workers about the protections they are afforded under the law and will help them protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure.

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SOLID WASTE: Cities set up recycling malls to repurpose trash

Whitney Blair Wyckoff, E&E reporter  |  Published: Friday, February 14, 2014
The future of garbage disposal looks a bit like a shopping mall to California-based environmental engineer Gary Liss.He’s an advocate for so-called resource recovery parks: single locations where residents can drop off food scraps, bottles, tin cans and other materials for processing. The parks bring together recyclers and remanufacturers, creating opportunities for companies to use rubbish as a resource.

Similar to a shopping center that has anchor stores, the parks often play host to major recycling facilities, like a curbside recycling center, that are flanked by other recycling or repurposing businesses. “It’s a public-private partnership enabling the development of facilities that are needed to get to zero waste,” Liss said. “Those facilities are often difficult to site by themselves, so it’s providing a location for those types of activities to occur.”

The parks have cropped up in a few communities across the United States and Canada, like Chester, Va. And other municipalities have plans to put them in place. “People are tired of landfilling and tired of garbage incineration — and those are the other two competing technologies,” said Dan Knapp, the founder of a waste recovery business called Urban Ore who has consulted on recovery park projects around the world. “Either you bury it or you burn it or you … turn them into commodities and you dispose of them that way.”

Liss said the idea isn’t new, but it’s gained some traction in recent years as municipalities look to reduce the environmental footprint of their trash. It’s often a long, arduous journey from the recycling bin to a processing plant. The United States exported 39 million metric tons of scrap commodities last year through November, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

Recent technological advances also have offered more opportunities to recycle refuse, which could account for the growing interest in the idea, said Julie Rhodes, Austin, Texas’ recycling economic development liaison. “We’re seeing these new technologies driving the viability [of the parks] in a way that probably wasn’t possible 15 years ago, 10 years ago,” she said.

As part of Austin’s effort to divert 90 percent of its trash from landfills by 2040, city officials are building a resource recovery park to help pull materials out of the waste stream. The Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub, built on a decommissioned landfill, is expected to start hosting tenants by 2015.

Officials in Alachua County, Fla., which includes Gainesville and the University of Florida, have a similar project underway on a 40-acre lot. Like in Austin, part of Alachua County’s goal is to cut back on how much trash it sends to landfills. “The community is very environmentally conscious,” said Edgar Campa-Palafox, economic development coordinator for Alachua County. “It’s part of the culture.”

But there are other benefits, Campa-Palafox said: The county doesn’t have a landfill within its borders, so it could reduce the expense of shipping and landfilling the trash elsewhere. The park also has the potential to create manufacturing jobs for locals. “From our perspective, for the job creation side, manufacturing is considered the gold standard of jobs in economic development,” he said. In Virginia, a private company established its own resource recovery park in the shell of an old Brown and Williamson tobacco factory in 2006.

Brenda Robinson, president and founder of the 143-acre Sustainability Park in Chester, Va., said the factory came with some perks that made it easier to attract manufacturers: The site itself already had a wastewater treatment plant, fire system and multiple loading docks in place — as well as existing stormwater and air permits.She said the park currently is home to companies that process construction demolition materials, recycling glass and reusing leftover wood products. Robinson said working with waste is inherently more difficult because it requires navigating through additional red tape.

“You have to really be really committed to work hard to make it happen,” she said. “You can’t be faint of heart and be in this business.”

DeJongh Nixes Fixed WAPA Rates, Line Items

Gov. John deJongh Jr. vetoed legislation mandating specific BTU heat rates for V.I. Water and Power Authority generators once they are converted to alternative fuels, along with several other line items in a wide-ranging omnibus bill the Legislature approved in November.

In 2012, the Legislature increased the territorial fuel tax by seven cents a gallon and devoted that increase to purchase new, more efficient power-generating units in both districts and help WAPA secure bond financing.

The bill, approved in November, amends that law to allow WAPA to also use the funding to help with its ongoing conversion to less costly liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas, but mandates that the newly modified generators operate at a heat rate of 10,000 BTU or better.

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Recycling Program in Crisis; Waste Management defaulting on Contracted Agreement

St. John Community Foundation, which has overseen the operations of the current St. John Aluminum Can Recycling program started by volunteers in 2007, has accumulated over $8000 of unreimbursed recyclable collection expenses. An amendment to the original contract was executed in January of this year, stating that Waste Management Authority extended the contract period thru July of 2013, and had allocated $12,000 of unexpended and unobligated funds to fulfill the contract. (see attached signed agreement)

“We acted in good faith and continued the collection process, even though Waste Management Authority had not released the funds. I believed them. I thought we were partners in this recycling effort, which is the longest running most successful recycling program in all of the Virgin Islands!.” said Celia Kalousek, Director of the St. John Community Foundation. “When asked about the release of funds, I was told they were in the process of moving their offices and in transition, but they would get to it as soon as possible.”

The goals listed in the Waste Management Community Enrichment Grant application of, “increasing awareness, beautification and resource recovery in the Virgin Islands, and establishing long term environmental protection projects that will have a sustained impact on the environment” were clearly spelled out.  St. John Community Foundation, members of the St. John Recyclers, and volunteers around St. John fully supported this movement towards a variety of reduce, reuse, recycling and environmental concentrations.

This program has been referred to as the model for island recycling efforts. When many felt, that these kinds of initiatives were impossible in the VI, St. John proved otherwise. “We changed minds. Residents, vacationers, all major St. John resorts, local businesses, the National Park and numerous other environmental organizations, are behind our Reduce, Reuse, and Recycling efforts”. The organization won the 2011 U.S. EPA Environmental Quality Award for “outstanding commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality and public health” and volunteer Barb Douma was invited to New York to accept the award.

  • Approximately 35-37% of all aluminum cans entering St. John are being diverted from the already bulging landfills by this program. As of the end of 2012, we reached the 22.9 ton collection mark. That is over 1 million cans (1,334,468).
  • As of the end of 2012, in-kind volunteer donations in time, equipment and materials have surpassed $500,000.
  • The thrust of the Contracted Agreement with Waste Management Authority was for trucking services that provides island-wide bin maintenance and reliable shipment to St. Thomas’ Sanitation Trash Services, where the cans are crushed and transported out of the Virgin Islands.

“We were so excited about the progress that this program has made. Residents and visitors alike are also showing that they are willing to separate glass and plastic, and although that has caused the additional work of sorting it out of the aluminum cans, it is exciting to think we are only steps away from being able to further reduce the volume transferred to the soon-to-be-closing dumps.”

Now, St. John Community Foundation may be forced to remove the aluminum can collection bins and hope that residents may be willing to hold onto their cans until a solution can be formulated. “I hate the idea of the cans being thrown into the trash, where Waste Management will still have to incur the expense of carrying the to the dump.

Public awareness and education about the importance of recycling has been the focus of the Waste Management Authority’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee, consisting of 5 representatives from St. John, 5 from St. Thomas and 5 from St. Croix. Sharon Caldron, Gary Ray, Doug White, Rick Barksdale, and Celia Kalousek have represented St. John at monthly meetings in St. Thomas to help Waste Management make plans for the future dump closures.  “This is certainly a huge setback in my opinion, ”said Kalousek, “Here on St. John, we have our residents and visitors separating recyclables. Now what? We just say never mind. Don’t worry about it. It is obviously not that high on Waste Management’s priority list? That would be a real shame, because we’ve all told them how important it is, but now it appears there is no back up to support that.”