Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Unit 4 Lab Project

Patrick Callaway
Lab Project Unit 4


The purpose of this lab project is to educate myself and others further on what superfund sites are and how progress is made within them. 

Part 1:

1. What does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do? 

The EPA’s mission and obligation is to create laws and regulations that protect our environmental health, and ultimately protect our individual health as a nation here in the United States of America. 

2. Why was the EPA established?  

The EPA was established in the 1970s due to a growing concern with environmental pollution. Standards needed to be set to monitor and maintain a healthy environment for U.S. citizens. 

3. What is a superfund site? 

The United States EPA has a national priority list. When a hazardous waste site is scored and deemed as a possible health hazard it is added to this list and then considered a superfund site. It is then the EPA’s priority to make sure the site is cleaned to standards which will no longer deem it as having a negative affect on us and our environment. These sites began in 1980 as a way to clean up abandoned waste sites. 

Part 2:
Superfund Sites

A. Navajo Nation Uranium Contamination accessed 5/9/12

The Navajo Nation is located over three states in the four corners areas. The unique geologic traits of these lands make them high in Uranium, which was used for weaponry and with atomic power in the 1940s. Mines were used in extracting this resource beginning in the 1940s. This uranium is high in radioactivity and has since infected the land and deemed it hazardous; with radiation even seeping into drinking water of the area. The Indian Health Service with the Navajo Nation were given a 5 year plan to clean up the sites beginning in October of 2007. Major progress has been made since the beginning of the EPA enforced clean-up date. No phytostabilization was used. Below is a photo displaying the clean up process and tearing down of a home on the Navajo land. accessed 5/9/12

B. 914th Airlift Wing accessed 5/9/12

The 914th Airlift Wing is located just 15 miles north of Buffalo, New York; and east of Niagara Falls. Since the 1940s it has been used as a combat base to train soldiers. Due to spills, waste disposal practices, etc. there is a variety of soil contaminants in the area. Benzene, trichloroethene and vinyl chloride have been noted as the hazardous components created by and surrounding the base. As of 2001, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is obligated to clean the hazardous material. Great progress has been made. No phytostabilization was used. 

C. Ashton Texaco Oil Release accessed 5/9/12

A Texaco gas station in Ashton Idaho has been tagged as the source of vast gasoline leaking. It was believed that a 12,000 gallon tank was leaking, along with pumps. As it turns out, the tank is not leaking, however, traces of gasoline have been found surrounding the site in large quantities. The texaco has since been shut down and EPA emergency response units have been called to assess the situation. No phytostabilization was used. accessed 5/9/12

Part 3
Iron King Mine Tailings: accessed 5/9/12

5. How were the specific plant species chosen for phytostabilization of IKMHSSS? 

The plant species that were chosen for phytostabilization of IKMHSSS were specifically chosen because they accumulate metals in the root zone. This keeps them from entering the food chain by preventing extraction into above ground bio mass. They were also chosen based on USDA plant habitats and visual examination of the Dewey/Humbolt area. 

6. Why would composting increase the pH of the soil? 

Composting increases the pH of soil because it involves new material into the soil, which in turn raises the acidity level. 

7. Interpret the tables in the O’Sullivan Field Study Paper. 

a. Refer to figure 1 and observe the shaded bars. Give the grams dry weight for each species with 
10% compost applied. Which species grew more with less compost? 

Buffalo Grass: 3.9
Mesquite: 0.9
Quailbush: 1.1
Catclaw Acacia: 0.3
Mountain Mahogony: 0.4
Arizona Fescue: 0.2

Based on the above grams dry weight, the Buffalo Grass clearly grew the most with less compost. 

b. Refer to figure 3. What was the bacterial count for the planted control at time zero (at the 

The bacterial count for the planted control at time zero was just under 10^3 (CFU G^1 Dry tailings)

c. Also figure 3. What was the average bacterial count for the planted treatment area on Day 60 
with 15% compost? 

The average bacterial count for the planted treatment area on day 60 with 15% compost was roughly 10^8.


Superfund sites are incredibly important in keeping our environment safe. There are far more than I had realized, and it is imperative the these sites make great progress in keeping ourselves and our environment healthy. I personally realized the importance of environmental health and it's link to hazardous waste through this project.

Works Cited: accessed 5/9/12

Cunningham, William P. (2011). Environmental Science: Inquiry and Applications. New York, NY.   Mcgraw: Hill. 

Unit 4 Compilation

Unit 4 Compilation
Patrick Callaway

Chapter 12/Energy (sections 12.1,12.2,12.4)

Table of Contents:
Exxon Valdez (textbook website case study)
Energy Resources and Their Uses
Fossil Fuels
Energy Conservation

Exxon Valdez (textbook website case study) accessed 5/6/12

Exxon Valdez was an enormous tanker which, in 1989, was traveling through Alaska seas with an amazing amount of oil on board. When it crashed, over 11 million gallons of oil spilled into the ocean. Only 10 percent of this oil was recovered and this spill inevitably had a severe affect on the wildlife surrounding the area. In sea birds alone, between 100,000 and 300,000 were killed. Amazingly, this only accounted for 5 percent of oil spills that year. If our dependance on oil isn’t shifted soon, we will greatly damage our world. accessed 5/7/12

Energy Resources and Their Uses:

Energy from resources such as fire, wood, etc., has been a part of man kind since the dawn of our civilized species. More recently we have turned to fossil fuels for the large majority of our energy production. Unfortunately, these fossil fuels (oil, coal, etc.) are highly detrimental to our environment to extract and to produce energy with. More progressive and environmentally friendly methods have been put into effect by countries such as China. accessed 5/7/12

The richest countries in the world have grown completely dependent on such fossil fuels as oil, coal, and natural gases, in-order-to maintain their convenient lifestyles. Less wealthy countries use exponentially less fossil fuels to fuel their daily lives. The United States itself accounts for one-quarter of fossil fuels used yearly. 
Most of this energy use in the U.S. is consumed by various industries (e.g. mining, milling, smelting, etc.). Residential energy needs only account for 41 percent of energy consumed. 

Fossil Fuels:

Fossil fuels are described as organic compounds derived from decomposed plants, algae, and other organisms buried in rock layers for hundreds of millions of years. accessed 5/7/12

Among these fossil fuels are vast foal deposits. These deposits greatly outweigh the amount of oil and gas resources. If we were able to extract all-of-the worlds coal supply, it would be enough for us to use as a natural resource for thousands and thousands of years. Unfortunately, the extraction and use of this coal is highly detrimental to our environment. Coal burning also accounts for major releases of C02 emissions into our atmosphere, which is directly linked to global warming. There are ways in which we can make our coal plants cleaner through use of the integrated gasification combined cycle. This would create zero emission electricity from coal. Many areas high in coal resources are beginning to focus on renewable energy resources as a more environmentally friendly energy production method. 

Many believe that our dependance on oil will cause us to pass peak oil globally within the next few years. This happened in the United States alone in the 1970s, and our global reliance on oil has only grown as our populations have grown. This means that the amount of oil that we can globally produce may soon come to a halt; seeing as how this natural resource is not unlimited. 

Due to the environmental risk that oil and coal present, natural gas is becoming a more popular source for energy. Natural gas releases half the C02 emissions that coal produces. There are still risks involved in the use of natural gas, however, the potential for lessening the onset of global warming is making it a more popular option.

Energy Conservation: accessed 5/7/12

One of the absolute best ways to limit the amount to which we rely and use up our fossil fuels is to conserve our energy. There are many new innovative methods in which are being handed methods to limit our energy consumption. Gas/hybrid cars are now available; these vehicles use far less gas than a regular vehicle and also release far less pollution into the air. Also, new methods of “green” building are being brought forth to drastically lessen pollution and energy consumption. Certain options include solar paneling on houses, solar water heating, etc. These methods are not only limited to new housing, but can also be added to older homes. 

Chapter 8/Environmental Health (sections 8.1, 8.2, 8.3)

Table of Contents:

Are Shrimp Safe? (textbook website case study)
Environmental Health
Fate of Toxins, Movement, and Distribution

Are Shrimp Safe? (textbook website case study)

While shrimp were long considered a delicacy among food lovers, they have in recent years become much cheaper and harvested in much higher quantities. All over the world, various ecosystems are being rebuilt to fit the needs of shrimp harvesting. Often, on top of destroying important natural ecosystems, harvesters add chemicals such as formalin into these shrimp ponds to kill off pathogens that may infect the shrimp. Unfortunately, these chemicals can leak into nearby aquifers and greatly danger local organisms. While shrimp may be healthy for us to consume, it is proving to be very unhealthy for the surrounding environments it affects. 

Environmental Health:

As with our physical health, our environmental health is of high concern in the longevity of our species. In-fact, our physical health is highly dictated by our environmental health. If we do not have a disease free, healthy living environment, we are running the risk of acquiring infectious diseases ourselves. The World Health Organization (WHO) spends vast research time determining what a healthy environment is, not only for us, but all-of-the organisms of the world. accessed 5/7/12

Much of the leading causes of global disease are changing with time. For example, heart disease, which was fifth in a list of causes of global disease only 10 years ago, is expected to be the number one cause by the year 2020. Certain such changes can likely be attributed to our obesity epidemic. Poor diet and overall unhealthy living is the leading cause of obesity, which is soon becoming the leading factor in global disease; being directly linked to various heart problems, diabetes, etc. 

Many pathogens in still developing areas are still leading causes of disease and death among populations. Many of these areas would have a major turn around if they had cleaner water and cleaner overall living conditions. Various pathogens can lead to diarrhea, acute respiratory illnesses, malaria, etc. in our developing areas of the world. 

Humans aren’t the only ones affected by such global diseases. Many animals are equally affected and experiencing death in high numbers. Ebola fever, for example, killed many humans, as well as, gorillas along the Gabon-Congo border. accessed 5/7/12

Many of the world’s growing population is in developing countries where poverty can truly be lethal. Health care benefits coupled with cleaner living situations could save hundreds of thousands of lives. 


Toxicology is the study of various toxins and how they are capable of negatively affecting us, as well as, our environment and all organisms within it. In the most extreme cases, toxins have the potential to fatally harm an organism. Various allergens, antigens, neurotoxins, mutagens, are examples of toxins which can greatly harm us as individuals and other organisms we share our environment with. One of the most extreme and harmful toxins is known as a carcinogen, which can cause cancer. Cancer is currently the second leading cause of death in the United States; about half a million people die of cancer annually. 

Fate of Toxins, Movement, and Distribution

There are various sources related to all toxic chemicals and all of them react differently within our body, as well as, within the body of other organisms. How a toxin will affect us is largely determined by the factors surrounding the toxin itself (e.g. chemical composition and reactivity, presence of impurities or contaminants, physical characteristics such as the solubility, etc.). Among these factors, solubility and mobility are very important in determining how a toxin will move through the environment and our bodies. Toxins which dissolve in water can easily move throughout the environment, and also, easily enter our bodies. accessed 5/7/12

How we respond to toxins is determined by exposure and susceptibility; dictated directly by the environment around us. In developing areas of the world, people may be exposed to harmful toxins on a large degree strictly by consuming dirty water. In Europe, 32 million people are exposed to harmful carcinogens in the work place alone. Various reactions within toxins can even increase toxicity. 

Chapter 15/Environmental Policies (sections 15.1 -15.5)

Table of Contents:

Fighting for Environmentalism in Woburn (textbook website case study)
Environmental Policy
Major Environmental Laws
How Policies are Made
International Policies 
What We Can Do?

Fighting for Environmentalism in Woburn (textbook website case study):

Woburn is located in Massachusetts and for periods of time in the 1800s and into the 1900s it was known as a big leather manufacturing area. The factories manufacturing this leather created many toxins which contaminated local wells that the local citizens used as their drinking waters supply. In the 1970s, many children were diagnosed with varying diseases (some fatal) with speculation that the contaminated wells was the main factor involved. After the death of a child, and bring the situation to court, the largest superfund project (a 68 million dollar clean up) was put into effect. It’s important for us as citizens to take action against such environmental issues, and unfortunately, it sometimes takes death for people to realize the importance of the issue at hand. 

Environmental Policy:

Environmental Policy is incredibly important in protecting our overall health and the health of our land. It is made up of various rules and regulations which protect us and the organisms living within our environment. While we often take for granted such things as clean water, due to the United States environmental policy, we are able to live and survive in a mostly clean and livable atmosphere. accessed 5/7/12

While large and financially powerful groups often dictate the environmental policies surrounding us, we as citizens can make a change as well. Power in numbers with citizen movements for environmental quality have been thriving throughout the globe. In China, a large protest led by students and artists ended up canceling plans to build various dams on the Nu River. 
Many of our policy are dictated through more economic standards of cost-benefit analysis. This allows us to essentially weigh the pros and cons and come to an intelligent conclusion which handles the matter properly. 

Major Environmental Laws:

Various major environmental laws protect the world around us and allow us to drink clean water, breath clean air, eat clean food, etc. The following are our most important and major environmental laws:

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (1969); establishes public oversight

The Clean Air Act (1970); regulates air emissions

The Clean Water Act (1972); protects surface water

The Endangered Species Act (1973); protects wildlife

The Superfund Act (1980); lists hazardous sites

How Policies are Made:

There are important governmental steps made in-order-to create and enforce such laws as the ones mentioned above. Environmental laws can exist on a local level, national level, and international level. In the United States environmental laws (at the federal level) can be modified and placed into effect through the three branches of government; legislative, judicial, and executive. 

The legislative brand of government establishes the federal laws. Thousands of laws and bill are proposed every year, which must be enacted by Congress and signed by the President to come into effect. It’s important to be involved in our governmental elections and aware of the power an individual can have. accessed 5/7/12

The judicial branch resolves legal disputes through recognizing exactly what the law means, if laws have been broken, and whether it violates our constitution. Interpretation and dissection of each law is important in establishing all components and affects of a law. 

The executive brand directs administrative law. The executive branch includes the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), who are in charge of enforcing their public laws and have direct contact with the President in doing so. 

International Policies: accessed 5/7/12

Throughout the past 25 years over 170 international policies have been brought into effect to protect our world. Major international meetings are held to determine these policies, which gather representatives of 113 countries to speak and negotiate on what will be placed into effect. One of the first meetings which sprung many more was in 1972 concerning the Human Environment in Stockholm. Other notable international agreements include: 

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES, 1973)

The Montreal Protocol (1987)

The Basel Convention (1992)

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1994)

Often, international agreements are based around an idea that care about their reputation internationally. 

What Can We Do?:

As citizens, the most important thing we can do is become aware, make others aware, and greatly reduce our consumption of resources. There are many who have devoted their lives and careers to educating others on such topics, and we need as much as we can get. There are various undergraduate and internship opportunities to individuals who find passion in making change. We need to make it a priority to educate ourselves and others in any way we can to help support the longevity of ourselves, our planet, and all of the organisms that share it with us. accessed 5/7/12