Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

Fallout from Gulf Oil and Dispersant Fires Affects South Georgia

July 21, 2010

The BP oil spill became even more of a local story today.

Dr. Samantha Joye, Professor of Marine Science, University of Georgia (Photo by Jim Cathorne, Camera1)

Dr. Samantha Joye, Professor of Marine Science at the University of Georgia, told Columbus Rotarians that fallout from the catastrophic oil spill is causing potentially toxic materials to fall on South Georgia.  She has been working in the Gulf of Mexico doing research and personally witnessed the huge fires that have sent massive amounts of smoke into the air and air currents bring that smoke over South Georgia.  The fires are set to burn off oil and dispersants.  

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill laps at the mouth of the Mississippi River. NASA photo taken on May 24, 2010. Oil is silver, and vegetation is red. Image credit: Jesse Allen/NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

What is amazing is that these arguably toxic dispersants, she says, are as harmful as oil and are not getting rid of oil that is under the surface of the ocean, and most of it is under the surface.  She says BP is using the dispersant to get the oil off the surface of the gulf because being visible keeps the disaster on the publics mind. That, of course is her opinion. An AP story today said that  BP wanted to use dispersants to prevent oil from reaching Gulf coast beaches.  It said EPA put a freeze on using the dispersant until its effects could be tested, and that after the tests results were satisfactory allowed continued use of the dispersant.  However, it has stopped being used since the well has been contained.  Mairne sceintists and biologists are not convinced the chemicals are safe.

The reason the spill happened was, she said, a controversial decision to stop using a mud compound to control pressure while drilling, and use seawater instead, in order to save about $16 million, caused the eruption of natural gas that set the drilling platform on fire, causing it to sink, which caused the rupture of the well which released the oil.  She said there were those on the drilling platform that argued against the switch to seawater, but they were overruled.  “What would have cost them $20 million had they used the mud will now cost them $20 billion and more.”  She explained that using mud would have cost $20 million and using seawater would cost $4 million.

Commenting on the freeze on drilling other deep-sea wells in the Gulf, she said the freeze is in effect until safety contingency plans are formulated. She said those plans would greatly increase the cost of drilling, perhaps so much that drilling would not be cost-effective, and that the energy companies should use the money to develope alternative energy sources, which would be a way of providing a lot of jobs.

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Senatorial Candidate Josh McKoon’s Solutions to the State Budget Crisis

March 26, 2010
With attorney Ron Mullins out of the Georgia Senate District 29 race, Josh McKoon, former chair of the Muscogee County Republican Party, could be the replacement for Sen. Seth Harp, who is running for Georgia Insurance Commissioner, but who is still a state senator and has to deal with the budget crisis at the state capitol. Feeling that the crisis will continue if Josh takes Seth’s seat in the Senate, I decided to find out where he stands on the issue. The online interview follows:

1. How do you feel about cutting $300 million for Georgia’s universities and colleges?

Candidate Josh McKoon and the man he could replace in the Georgia Senate, Sen. Seth Harp (Photo was supplied by the McKoon campaign)

No one feels good about reducing funding for our institutions of higher education or K-12 education for that matter. It does appear that the additional reductions that were being discussed will be less than originally anticipated. It is going to be important as we go forward to continue to make education a top priority in building future budgets.

2. Are there other cuts that could be made instead of draconian cuts in the education budget?

Education needs to be at the top of our budget priority list. I’m not sitting around the table at the budget meetings, so it is difficult to second guess what additional cuts might be made at this time. I do believe that if we start with the proposition that we are going to focus funding on core functions of government instead of personal pork projects that we can identify more money for education.

3. How about the water and transportation problems? They are still very much with us.

We must improve our bargaining position in the water discussions. I plan on working with Republicans statewide to make sure our region has a seat at that table. We also can improve our bargaining position by moving aggressively on conservation measures, increasing our capacity through permitting of new state reservoirs and research of additional ways to bring new capacity online, such as desalination.

Transportation as an issue involves two primary problems, governance and funding. We are in a much better position on the governance side after the adoption of legislation last year to streamline operations at GDOT as well as the welcome move of bringing one of the most experienced legislators on transportation issues, Vance Smith, into the Department as the Commissioner. I have proposed increasing funding for GDOT by adopting legislation that would require revenue generated by the unit tax on motor fuel to be spent on DOT Project List items instead of being put into general appropriation where the revenues may be used for personal pork projects.

4. Would you support a tax hike of some sort?

I am a fiscal conservative. I believe trying to tax your way out of problems causes more problems. We need to focus our spending only on core functions of government and if we prioritize in that fashion we will identify more tax dollars for education, transportation and infrastructure.

5.Is the legislature to blame for not being better prepared to handle this budget crisis? Surely they had to see this coming.

In hindsight, one can always identify other things that could have been done to prepare for a crisis. Unfortunately our legislators did not have the benefit of that hindsight prior to the budget crisis. This is the worst economic slide since the Great Depression. No one could have predicted the extent and nature of these economic conditions. I think it is far more valuable for one seeking to set public policy to focus on the future and how we get out of this mess. Focusing on the core functions of government reduces the need to impose tax liabilities to our citizens. This allows the introduction of tax incentives to stimulate economic activity and get things moving again in the right direction.

6. Are there any statesmen left in the Georgia legislature?

Senator Seth Harp for one. Seth has done a great job of serving our district and I am proud to have his support. Yes I believe there are many good men and women working hard to improve public policy in Georgia.

Cool Cruise – Part 7: Rocking and Rolling at Sea

December 13, 2009

As I woke on the morning of our last full day at sea,  I felt the ship rolling. Curious as to why, I pushed back the drapes of the cabin’s window and gasped an unprintable word – this is a G- rated blog – at what a I saw. 

   

Then it occurred to me that the noise I was hearing through the double-pained glass was the wind howling. I turned on the cabin TV to the ship’s channel where I learned that we were in a force 8 gale.  That means the wind was blowing from 39 to 46 miles per  hour.  

I have been in rough seas before.  I made two North Atlantic crossings back in the 50’s when I was in the Army. We had a pretty good storm on one of them.  The ride on the troop ship was more exciting because there is a big difference in a relatively small troop ship without stabilizers and a 105,500 ton, 12-deck tall cruise ship that has state of the art stabilizers.  

A lot of soldiers on that troop ship got demonstrably seasick.  Fortunately, I wasn’t one of  them. In fact,  I actually enjoyed going on deck for some fresh  air and feeling the sea spray on my face.    One sight I’ll never forget was when I went to the head on the fantail of the ship.  As the fantail went up and down like one end of a seesaw, the water in the toilets – there must have been at least 20 of them in a row – shot up like fountains. 

 On the Carnival Triumph we had expected the day at sea steaming from Halifax, Nova Scotia to New York City,  would be fun, with ballroom dance lessons,  delicious food, an afternoon tea,  the chance to lose some more money in the casino,  and the passenger talent show in the big lounge.  

 You should have seen the ballroom dance class  trying to do cha-cha steps with the ship rolling that way.  I tried it for a little while, but decided that at my age I wouldn’t want to fall on a hard dance floor.     

Carnival Triumph back in the calm waters at Pier 88 in Manhattan following the 7-day cruise. That barge on the side is refueling her for her trip to Norfolk, Virginia, then a cruise to Miami, and finally back to her home port of New Orleans.

 As the ship pulled into New York Harbor the next morning, all was calm again.  Getting off the ship was a lot easier than getting on with not as many security hoops to jump through which made lines to the customs stations short.   

Wending our way through downtown Manhattan via 42nd Street and Broadway on the way to La Guardia and the flight back to Atlanta.

  We got to enjoy the bus ride down Broadway and 42nd Street and Time Square back to La Guardia Airport.  I reflected that was a good way to experience downtown Manhattan.  You got the ambience without having to get involved with the throngs on the sidewalks or the pushing and shoving of what must have been a million people in Times Square.    

Greystone at Inverness Apartments, Columbus, GA.

Now that I am back home I am seeing more beautiful fall leaves than I saw anywhere in New England and Canada, and the main reason for going in mid-October was to see those leaves.  The rest of the adventure made up for it. 

 

Autumn leaves on the Riverwalk, on the overflowing Chattahoochee River, Columbus, GA

An Environmentally Friendly Georgia Sales Tax Holiday

September 30, 2009

 Georgia state Rep. Richard Smith sent this:

Once again, you will have the opportunity to buy energy-saving and water efficient products without sales taxes during the ‘2009 Energy Star and WaterSense Sales Tax Holiday’. The sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, October 1, and runs through midnight Sunday, October 4.

Rep. Richard Smith (Photo, courtesy: Georgia House of Reprsentatives)

Rep. Richard Smith, Georgia House District 131(Photo, courtesy: Georgia House of Representatives)

You will not pay state or local sales taxes on the purchase of Energy Star-qualified or WaterSense-labeled products that cost $1500 or less per item.

ENERGY STAR:  ENERGY STAR designated products meet strict energy efficiency criteria set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Qualified ENERGY STAR appliances and products eligible for the sales tax exemption include dishwashers, clothes washers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, fluorescent light bulbs, dehumidifiers, programmable thermostats, refrigerators, doors, windows and skylights.

WaterSense:  According to the EPA, if just one out of every four households in Georgia retrofits their bathrooms with WaterSense fixtures, it could save nearly 10 billion gallons of water per year. WATERSENSE –labeled products eligible for sales tax exemption include bathroom sink faucets or aerators and high-efficiency toilets.

Lowest Chattahoochee River Flow on Record this Summer

August 6, 2009

LOW RIVER FLOW ENDANGERS DOWNSTREAM ECOLOGY, SAYS BILLY TURNER 

It’s hard to believe, but, even though we are not in a drought and have had a lot of rainfall,  the flow of the Chattahoochee River downstream from the Atlanta area has been the lowest on record this summer.   That’s what former Columbus Water Works Director, and defender of downstream Chattahoochee River interests Billy Turner tells me. 

Billy Turner, former Columbus Water Works Director, Columbus, GA

Billy Turner, former Columbus Water Works Director, Columbus, GA

It has happened because the Corps of Engineers is holding back water at Lake Lanier and West Point in order to store more water in anticipation of a future drought, he says.

But, since the Corps is under court order to keep flows strong enough to satisfy Florida’s need for fresh water to flow into oyster beds in Apalachicola,  how can the Corps hold the water back?

“Because,” says Turner, “the Flint River is supplying enough flow for Appalachicola right now.”

What does this low flow mean for downstream communities?

“The main problem with the Corps reducing flows is that a certain amount of flowing water is needed to assimilate the waste-water discharges at each of these cities and plants,” he says, adding, “These flows were designated in wastewater discharge permits by the respective states and if the appropriate levels of flow are not provided the potential for poor water quality in the streams exist which could impact the ecology. The option to having the appropriate flow is higher levels of wastewater treatment which is very expensive.”

In a meeting in Columbus yesterday, Govenor Perdue, who is trying to unify all sections of the state in face of a federal court ruling that, in three years,  Atlanta can’t take any more water from Lake Lanier,  assured Turner and other business and political leaders that the state is not just concerned with Atlanta’s needs.  According to a Ledger-Enquirer story,  neither Represntative Debbie Buckner nor Turner were convinced.  “I don’t think we came together today,” Turner said. “There has got to be more discussion. What is the deal Georgia has in mind?” 

He had told me erlier, “Georgia will continue to fight for Atlanta’s water needs requardless of the concerns of Columbus and our neighbors. It would be a great step if Georgia would provided a balanced support for all Georgians which could keep us on the same side in the Court actions. To date State government has only shown concern for Atlanta.” 

Turner is a prime leader in a suit filed against the Corps of Engineers demanding that an adequate downstream flow be maintained.

 

Cooling Off Like the Rich Folks

July 5, 2009
Gotta get outta this heat and humidity.  What to do? Do what the rich folks do. Go to Highlands, North Carolina.
Viewing area on the way up the mountain to Highland's, NC

Just getting  there is fun.  Riding up those curvy mountain roads, the view is beautiful.      

  HIGHLAND WATERFALL 

HIGHLAND WATERFALL - CAR

Once there, the high is 76 degrees.  That’s 76 compared to Columbus’ 98. 

HIGHLAND DOWNTOWN

 Downtown is picturesque, with lots of quaint old stores that sell high price stuff.

 GSMRR 1

And there are plenty of fun side trips, things like a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.  You board the train at Bryson City, NC.

  GSMRR 2 

07 02_HIGHLANDS NC ETC._1069 

Not many train rides offer a view of  folks rafting, but this one does.

GSMRR 6 

GSMRR 10

Just miles and miles of beautiful views along the Tuckasegee River and Lake Fontana.

GSMRR 3

That ride brought back memories of when passenger trains were a common mode of transportation, and one of life’s highlights was eating in a nice dining car.

 07 02_HIGHLANDS NC ETC._1076

So I got to beat the heat the way rich folks do… for three days.