Fracking, Fish Hunger Games, and Toxic Algae

New Nooze for your Thursday reading pleasure! Jeremy RunnalsFirst, from Jeremy Runnalls with Corporate Knights magazine, a look at fracking regulation in the U.S.. This story is a result of our 2013 Mining Country Institute!

 

Illustration by Paul Blow

Testing the waters

IRON MOUNTAIN, Michigan – Wherever Jim Peters goes, a contingent from the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan follows. The operations manager at NorthStar Energy LLC and representative for the Michigan Oil and Gas Producers Education Foundation admires their perseverance, but says they’re not there to have a discussion. “They just poison the atmosphere for everyone else,” he complains to a group of journalists gathered on the shores of Lake Antoine. The fracking wars have touched down in “the Wolverine State.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process wherein rock is fractured by a pressurized liquid. Popularized by the discovery of horizontal drilling in the late 1990s, it has led to the natural gas and tight oil boom currently powering the ongoing energy revolution in North America. Thirty-one states now contain potentially viable shale gas plays, including Michigan... Read more. 

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adam hintFrom our very own Adam Hinterthuer, writing for the UW-Madison Center for Limnology, a story about how climate change is altering habitat for fish - and not in the way you might think:

Fish forced into "Hunger Games" when lakes lose trees

Before and after: in a decade, Little Rock Lake’s water levels dropped more than 1.5 meters. Courtesy: Jereme Gaeta

In attempts to predict what climate change will mean for life in lakes, scientists have mainly focused on two things: the temperature of the water and the amount of oxygen dissolved in it. But a new study from University of Wisconsinresearchers is speaking for the trees – specifically, the dead ones that have toppled into a lake’s near-shore waters.

 For fish in northern Wisconsin lakes, at least, these trees can be the difference between pastures of plenty and the Hunger Games.Under ‘normal’ water-level situations, says Jereme Gaeta, a post-doctoral researcher at the UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology and lead author of the study, trees in the water provide “coarse woody habitat.” Not only do they offer a refuge for fishes that would otherwise be lunch, they also provide food for those fishes – serving as structure for algae to grow on and aquatic insects to live... Read more. 

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codi yeager kozacekAnd from Codi Yeager-Kozacek with Circle of Blue, a fantastic multimedia investigation of toxic algae in the Great Lakes:

Great Lakes drinking water fouled by toxic algae

OAK HARBOR, OH — On September 4, 2013, Henry Biggert, the superintendent of the Carroll Water and Sewer District, near Toledo, Ohio, got the first clue that he could have a public health crisis on his hands. An analysis of water samples taken from Lake Erie, the district’s only water source, showed that levels of a toxin released by algal blooms had spiked.

In five years of voluntarily testing for the toxin, Biggert and his staff had never seen anything like it. So they followed protocol and retested the water early the next morning. Unable to process the sample at their own facility, they sent it to another plant nearby and waited.

At 3 p.m. Biggert received the second set of results. They were alarming. Toxin levels in Lake Erie were greater than 50 parts per billion. Levels of the toxin in Carroll Township’s treated drinking water were 3.8 parts per billion—nearly four times the safety limit recommended by the World Health Organization... Read and see more.

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