Environment

On Sunday, the city of Flint, Mich., will no longer be under a federal state of emergency. A new report suggests that lead levels in the city's water are dropping, though researchers still recommend caution because of the health dangers posed by even small amounts of lead. Filters have been distributed to many residents, but they don't work for everyone, and some still depend on bottled water to meet their basic needs. The problems started in April 2014, when the city's water supply was...

Lead problems with the water in Flint, Mich., have prompted people across the country to ask whether they or their families have been exposed to the toxic metal in their drinking water, too. When it comes to assessing the risk, it's important to look in the right places. Even when municipal water systems' lead levels are considered perfectly fine by federal standards, the metal can leach into tap water from lead plumbing. Kate Gilles moved to Washington, D.C., from Rhode Island for a job in...

Just 12 years ago, researchers feared that the California Island fox, a species about the size of a cat inhabiting a group of islands off the Southern California coast, was toast. Non-native predators and pesticides had dramatically reduced their ranks. The few that remained were placed on the endangered species list. Now, thanks to an aggressive recovery effort, U.S. wildlife officials have removed three subspecies on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands from the endangered list. A...

A federal jury found Pacific Gas and Electric Company guilty on five felony counts of failing to adequately inspect its gas pipelines before the blast that incinerated a neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., in September 2010. The utility was also found guilty of one count of misleading federal investigators about the standard it used to identify high-risk pipelines. PG&E was acquitted on six other charges of violating pipeline safety laws. The blast came without warning in the early evening. It...

Worm isn't a scientific term. According to one of the Smithsonian's worm experts, Anna Phillips, a worm is just "an organism that is long and thin ... without legs ... that's not a snake." Worms span several phyla and inhabit nearly every ecosystem. Long, thin, legless creatures tunnel under the ground, swim under the sea and even crawl under our skin. Some of them stay long, thin and legless throughout their entire lives. And then there are the worm-like larvae of insects that eventually...

It's dusk at a park in Dallas, and white sheets are pinned up next to tall trees, fluttering like ghosts in the wind. They've been lit up with ultraviolet lights to attract moths. A handful of people are holding up their smartphones, zooming in on the small dark specks that fly to the cloth. "Bugs have become my obsession," says Annika Lindqvist. "And the more you look, the more you have to look at the tiny things, and when you blow them up you see that they are gorgeous."

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Severe Drought Hits Majority Of Massachussetts

Aug 6, 2016

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On a game ranch on the plains outside Johannesburg, where a few shrubs are the only things that break the view across the vast, flat landscape, a handful of workers drop feeding bins from a flat-bed truck. They're watched by about a dozen rhino waiting for feeding time. There's something odd about the animals, though: They don't have horns. John Hume, who owns the ranch, is a rhino farmer. He made his fortune in taxis and hotels in Zimbabwe and South Africa, and retired to breed animals 25...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ujx_pND9wg Buried below the ice sheet that covers most of Greenland, there's an abandoned U.S. Army base. Camp Century had trucks, tunnels, even a nuclear reactor. Advertised as a research station, it was also a test site for deploying nuclear missiles. The camp was abandoned almost 50 years ago, completely buried below the surface. But serious pollutants were left behind. Now a team of scientists says that as climate warming melts the ice sheet, those...

One year ago — on Aug. 5, 2015 — an EPA crew at the Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado accidentally unleashed 3 million gallons of orange water filled with mercury and arsenic. The toxic spill flowed into the Animas River, eventually running into New Mexico's San Juan River and into Lake Powell. So far, disaster response and water quality monitoring have cost the EPA about $29 million — and the problem isn't over yet. Water laced with heavy metals continues to gush out of the mine, says...

Each day, 520 trucks with more than 7,000 tons of garbage trundle through the potholed streets of Dunmore and Throop, Pa. The two small towns, just outside Scranton, are home to the Keystone Sanitary Landfill. The trash, however, comes from all over — just about half arrives from out of state. Keystone Sanitary recently requested a 40-plus-year extension of its permit, which is slated for another eight years, but local activists are pushing back. According to Pat Clark, co-founder of Friends...

There's a voracious little bug destroying forests across the eastern U.S. Scientists say emerald ash borers, exotic beetles imported accidentally from Asia, have killed as many as 50 million trees. They're now threatening groves in New York's Adirondack Mountains that are used to make an iconic kind of baseball bat. On a sweltering day, at the Rawlings plant in Dolgeville, a humble little sawmill about an hour's drive west of Albany, workers sort chunks of pale white wood veined with brown....

McDonald's is no longer serving chicken raised on antibiotics that are important to human medicine. The company made the pledge last year, and now reports that it has completed its transition to the new antibiotic policy ahead of schedule. As we've reported , many scientists are concerned that the more an antibiotic is given to food animals, the more quickly bacteria could adapt and become resistant to it. And the FDA has urged farmers and ranchers who raise livestock to reduce antibiotic use...

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Joshua trees are weird. They've got shaggy bark, twisted branches and needle-like leaves. "It's something that you don't even imagine could live on Earth and here it is," says Cameron Barrows, standing right beneath one. "It's something very alien." They stretch across the dusty valley of Joshua Tree National Park. "It's like a Dr. Seuss book," Barrows says. If these are Dr. Seuss trees, then Barrows is the Lorax — speaking for the trees. Barrows, an ecologist at the University of California...

A five-hour drive southwest of Madrid, I pull into a tiny town square filled with songbirds and an outsized Catholic church — where Eduardo Sousa and Diego Labourdette are waiting. They're an odd couple. Sousa is a jovial fifth-generation Spanish farmer. Labourdette is a soft-spoken academic — an ecologist and migratory bird expert — who teaches at a university in Madrid. But they're in business together — in the foie gras business . In 2013, Sousa and Labourdette teamed up to market an...

When agricultural extension agent Tom Barber drives the country roads of eastern Arkansas this summer, his trained eye can spot the damage: soybean leaves contorted into cup-like shapes. He's seeing it in field after field. Similar damage is turning up in Tennessee and in the "boot-heel" region of Missouri. Tens of thousands of acres are affected. This is no natural phenomenon of weather or disease. It's almost certainly the result of a crime. The disfigured leaves are evidence that a...

A wildfire on the central California coast has burned more than 38,000 acres and could continue throughout August. Already, the Soberanes fire has destroyed at least 60 homes, and one man died when a bulldozer he was driving near the fire line rolled over on steep terrain. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and seven other state parks and outdoor attractions nearby are closed until further notice because of smoke, fire danger and closed roads. The summer months are usually the high season for...

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Critics have long argued that the royalties coal companies pay for mining on US public lands are well below fair market values. Now, the Department of the Interior has moved to close a major loophole to address this criticism. Leasing public land for coal extraction is a three-step process — and two of those steps are problematic for the public, says Michael Greenstone, a former chief economist for the Obama White House who now teaches at the University of Chicago. In step one, the federal...

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Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has announced criminal charges against six more people — including the state's former water quality chief — in connection with lead-contaminated water in the city of Flint. All six people are current or former state employees in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services or the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. A total of nine people are facing charges, accused of causing or covering up the crisis. The state has also filed a civil...

It's a balmy Sunday night in late June in San Francisco, post-Pride parade, and I'm about to eat dinner in a pristine blue dumpster in a dead-end SOMA (South of Market) street. The event, Salvage Supperclub, seeks to draw attention to food waste and encourage home cooks to not throw out less than ideal, yet still edible stuff. A glance at the menu and the evening looks promising. The hosts are gracious, the guests friendly and the organizers earnest. The dumpster is simply but tastefully...

Times are tough for Chesapeake oysters. For one thing, they used to be bigger. "If you look at what people were saying back in the 1600s and 1700s about oysters, people had to cut them in half before they could even eat them," says Denise Breitburg , an ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. What's more, these oyster behemoths were so plentiful that they formed tall towers stretching up to the water's surface. But today, after decades of overfishing, oyster populations...

You Think It's Hot Where You Are?

Jul 28, 2016

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The Mendenhall Glacier is visible from the visitor center parking lot. But it's still pretty far and if you traveled all the way to Juneau, Alaska, you probably want to get up close to the blue tinted ice. Touching the face of the glacier can be tricky. You're separated by cold, silty water, and a hike over the ridge could take hours. Visitor center staff know that. And inside, they use it to prove a point. John Neary, director of the glacier's visitor center, wants the more than 500,000...

Winter storms have been eroding coastal bluffs at California's Redwood National Park, and as the cliffs disappear, the buried remains of Native American archaeological sites are at risk for falling into the ocean. One such site is called Summer Place, says Suntayea Steinruck, a member of the Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation and a tribal heritage preservation officer. Her ancestors hunted and fished around what used to be a small village there. "Knowing that our ancestors derived from this place. I mean,...

The trip had mechanical setbacks, and the plane's average speed would be legal on many American streets. But when the Solar Impulse aircraft touched down in Abu Dhabi in the early morning darkness Tuesday, it successfully completed a round-the-world voyage using only solar power. Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg took turns flying the single-seat aircraft that began its trip on March 9 of 2015, flying more than 26,700 miles in a total of 17 stages (23 days) as they soared...

Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado is known for its iconic cliff dwellings , but archaeological artifacts left by the Ancestral Pueblo are all over. Rocky remnants of homes and farming sites are scattered throughout the dense pinyon juniper forest. Wood attracts fire though. And if you take a walk inside a forest ravaged by wildfire, you get a sense of the daunting challenge facing Scott Travis, chief research and resource manager for Mesa Verde National Park. It's his job to...

The water supply for communities in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan is threatened by an oil spill that dumped an estimated 66,000 gallons of heavy oil, along with natural gas used to dilute it, into a major river. The pipeline that broke is owned by Husky Energy Inc. The site of last Thursday's leak is within 1,000 feet of the North Saskatchewan River. The central Saskatchewan town of North Battleford, which gets its water from the river, shut off its river intake last week and switched...

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