Archive for October, 2009

The Air I Breath {Regional Rats}: U.S. Steel Exceedances

October 31st, 2009

via [ Post-Tribune ] “Cancer-causing levels of pollution exceeded by U.S. Steel landfill” by Gitte Laasby

GARY — Over the last two months, U.S. Steel has exceeded levels of possible cancer-causing air pollution near its hazardous waste landfill several times.

Its benzene and naphthalene repeatedly exceeded notification levels since mid-August at the landfill, which is also known as the Corrective Action Management Unit or CAMU.

“There may be eight exceedances or so in the past two months,” acknowledged Rick Menozzi, director of environmental remediation at U.S. Steel Gary Works at a citizens meeting this week.

“We did have an exceedance in residential monitoring along Ellsworth Street. All the others were what the recordings were at the CAMU.”

The CAMU is located east of Bridge Street and north of Interstate 90, across the Grand Calumet River from a residential neighborhood.

Monitoring stations are set up near the CAMU and in the neighborhood. The CAMU contains dredged sediment from the river.

In mid-October, the company measured high levels of benzene.

At one point, naphthalene levels were nearly double the notification level, but pollution remained well below action levels.

Company officials did not have an explanation for the exceedances, but said a possible cause could be that standing water makes materials in the CAMU settle and collapse.

“When a collapse occurs, there is a release of (volatile organic compounds) in particular. The naphthalene is being released as this material collapses. The monitoring station is right there where the collapsing is occurring,” Menozzi said.

At times, the company has applied powder-activated carbon to reduce emissions.

U.S. Steel recently asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for permission to landfill another 90,000 to 135,000 cubic yards of polluted sludge from a cleanup of two lagoons at the mill.

To do so, the company has submitted documents to prove to the EPA that the material is similar and compatible with the waste already in the landfill and that the landfill could handle it.

Company officials said a contractor visited the site this week to possibly bid on seeding the top of the CAMU to reduce emissions and water in the CAMU.

But cooling weather may not allow seeding right now, Menozzi said.

Thomas East Chicago, The Air I Breath

The Air I Breath {Regional Rats}: U.S. Steel’s Environmental Antics

October 31st, 2009

This story shocks and appalls me. It is insanity and unacceptable. Can you imagine the kinds of environmental practices that would be employed by U.S. Steel in a non-regulatory environment? And this was approved by IDEM without the public knowing. How much does the public not know and what other practices have been approved in the past?

via [ Post-Tribune ] “Polluted spray big surprise” by Gitte Laasby

GARY — For the past week, U.S. Steel has been spraying contaminated wastewater collected from the bottom of its hazardous waste landfill into the air over the landfill.

The landfill holds sediment dredged from the Grand Calumet River contaminated with mercury and possible cancer-causing pollutants, such as benzene, naphthalene and polychlorinated biphenyls. The 20-foot tall landfill is located within a quarter of a mile of residential neighborhoods.

The announcement was a shock to several attendants at U.S. Steel’s quarterly citizens meeting in Gary Thursday, who didn’t know about the project.

“This is what I would call a big surprise. And not a good one,” Save the Dunes member Charlotte Read said. “It sounds like it’s more air pollution for the neighborhood… It’s a zero discharge for water. It’s not a zero discharge for air. You’re recycling contaminated water one way or the other.”

U.S. Steel officials say the project is a pilot program that will continue until Nov. 30, with sprinklers running eight hours a day three days a week. The 16 spray heads sprinkle 250 gallons per minute or 112,000 gallons in a day.

Dorreen Carey, director of the Gary Department of Environmental Affairs, questioned why the citizens haven’t been told about the project before.

“Since it’s been on the drawing board, why not?” she said. “No one reviewed the potential impact of it. It’s not our expectation of how that part of the production is handled.”

U.S. Steel suggested the sprinkler system to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management because the company had periodical problems complying with ammonia levels in its wastewater permit when treating the water. IDEM approved.

“IDEM got back to us and said they didn’t have an issue, we’d be in compliance,” said Doug Boyea, manager of corrective action with U.S. Steel. “The actual retention time it (the water) has in the slag, the iron layer, takes out all the metals.”

Chuck Rice, a spokesman for U.S. Steel, said the company has not reported to IDEM what’s in the water.

“We are collecting analytical data. Emissions from sprinklers is — using worst-case scenario — ‘insignificant activity’” under on state law, he said.

Rice said leached water is sprayed within the berms of the landfill, which is known as a corrective action management unit (CAMU).

Rice said U.S. Steel is still monitoring air pollution around the landfill.

Polluted spray ‘big surprise’ :: Local News :: Post-Tribune.

Thomas The Air I Breath

Info Graphics: Fortune Mag

October 30th, 2009

via Fortune Archives [ Diagrams | Map ]

Thomas Information Graphics

Economy: Frontline Documentary

October 30th, 2009

[ Frontline ] The Warning

What’s the hidden history of the derivatives market? Who might have tried to stop the meltdown? What were the forces at play that created this rarified and for some highly lucrative financial space? After nearly 40-years of experimenting with this unregulated financial space what conclusions are free-market libertarian’s taking from this body of evidence? It appears to me that free-market economist were provided enough time to demonstrate their theory that markets correct themselves and that financial interests act in there own best interest.

The story of the President’s working group: Fed Chairman Allan Greenspan, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Assistant Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and then there was Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner Brooksley Born.

With a $500 trillion black market in free fall and consequently the world’s economy what option does a new President have but the keep up front the major players to calm those within the black market and a world economy which is dependent on them. I wonder if Obama has some advisors watching over people like Summers. My concern moving forward is not that we won’t regulate these markets, but that these markets will move on and diversify, essentially creating black markets in all sorts of places.

I find it difficult to accept Allan Greenspan’s mia culpa. It wasn’t an ideology he was operating and protecting, it was a $500 trillion black market with hidden players and hidden rules he was operating and protecting.

Thomas Economics

What I am Looking At: Cell Biology

October 28th, 2009

I am not a fan of many 3-D renderings especially those aimed at representing the “REAL” world. This is one reason why I haven’t like many Hollywood films laden with special effects. In this piece music effectively aids in focusing the space. Enjoy.

Thomas What I am Looking at

Technology: Freebase | Parallax

October 25th, 2009

[ Freebase Parallax ]

Displaying information as arrays.

Anyone who has done any sort of programing or data management is familiar with working with data sets and filters to produce a result. This is what occurs behind the screen, but what if you allow the data-sets and filters to hang out on the screen?  And what if are not looking for a single fact or a single person result or a date, but rather want to know about influences or patterns?

Freebase Parallax: A new way to browse and explore data from David Huynh on Vimeo.

Thomas Information Graphics, Misc

Economics: The Recession’s Real Winner

October 25th, 2009

via [ Newsweek ] by Fareed Zakaria

The great surprise of 2009 has been the resilience of the big emerging markets—India, China, Indonesia—whose economies have stayed vibrant. But one country has not just survived but thrived: China. The Chinese economy will grow at 8.5 percent this year, exports have rebounded to where they were in early 2008, foreign-exchange reserves have hit an all-time high of $2.3 trillion, and Beijing’s stimulus package has launched the next great phase of infrastructure building in the country. Much of this has been driven by remarkably effective government policies. Charles Kaye, CEO of the global private-equity firm Warburg Pincus, lived in Hong Kong for years. After his last trip to China a few months ago he said to me, “All other governments have responded to this crisis defensively, protecting their weak spots. China has used it to move aggressively forward.” It is fair to say that the winner of the global economic crisis is Beijing.

Almost every country in the Western world entered the crisis ill prepared. Governments were spending too much money and running high deficits, so when they had to spend massively to stabilize the economy, deficits zoomed into the stratosphere. Three years ago, European countries were required to have a budget deficit of less than 3 percent of GDP to qualify for EU membership. Next year, many will have deficits of about 8 percent of GDP. The U.S. deficit will be higher, in percentage terms, than at any point since World War II.

China entered the crisis in an entirely different position. It was running a budget surplus and had been raising interest rates to tamp down excessive growth.

China: The Recession’s Real Winner | Newsweek Voices - Fareed Zakaria |

Thomas Economics

The Waters I Drink: Environmental report gives NWI {Regional Rats} another bad mark

October 23rd, 2009

Report [ Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clear Water Act ]

Indiana industries discharge 33% more toxins into its waterways than any other state. This is more than the following 26 states combined (Idaho, Delaware, West Virginia, Oregon, Tennessee, South Dakota, Minnesota, Maryland, Missouri, Washington, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Hawaii, Connecticut, Vermont, Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Alaska, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Dist. Of Columbia, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Rhode Island, Arizona, Nevada). Together these states have a population of 100.1 million people compared to Indiana’s 6.4 million people. That is 15-times the population of Indiana.

Indiana also discharges more toxins than Colorado, Maine, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, California, and Wisconsin Combined. Together these states have a population of 59.8 million people compared to Indiana’s 6.4 million people. That is 10-times the population of Indiana.

However we chunk-out this data (lbs./state GDP, lbs./medium income, lbs./capita) it does not bode well for the residents of Indiana.

via [ Gary Post-Tribune ] by Gitte Laasby

Northwest Indiana and the Hoosier state received more dubious environmental distinctions Wednesday in a new report about toxic water pollution.

Indiana industries led the nation in toxic chemical discharges in 2007 at 27.3 million pounds, according to the report.

Northwest Indiana is home to five of the 10 rivers in Indiana where polluters discharged the most toxic chemicals: the Grand Calumet River, Lake Michigan, Burns Ditch, Indiana Harbor Ship Canal and the Little Calumet River.

The report by Environment Illinois is based on 2007 data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory, to which industries self-report their discharges over a certain threshold.

“The Clean Water Act set a goal for making all the waters in the nation fishable and swimmable,” said Max Muller, a spokesman for Environment Illinois, adding only about half meet the goal. “Industrial pollution is one of the significant causes for that.”

Among the most severe effects of water pollution is death of wildlife, but toxic chemicals also have the potential to trigger cancer and reproductive and developmental problems in humans who eat contaminated fish, the report states.

Of the Northwest Indiana rivers, the Grand Calumet River received the most toxic pollution in 2007, more than 1.6 million pounds. Lake Michigan was second at more than 118,000 pounds.

The report also looked specifically at toxics linked to developmental disorders. The Indiana Harbor Ship Canal received the 19th-largest amount of those toxics in the nation — 4,010 pounds.

Northwest Indiana had four waterways on the list of the nation’s top 50 that received the most reproductive toxicant releases, Lake Michigan, the Little Calumet River, the Grand Calumet River and Burns Ditch.

The report indirectly blames Northwest Indiana’s steel mills for most of the pollution. ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago is listed as releasing the 12th most reproductive toxicants in the nation — 3,910 pounds into the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal. U.S. Steel Gary Works is 15th in the nation in the same category, having released 2,781 pounds of toxics into Lake Michigan and the Grand Calumet River.

The report recommends that the federal government phase out use of the worst chemicals and encourage development and use of safer alternatives. It also recommended improving enforcement and ratcheting down pollution levels in industrial permits.

The most polluted river in the nation, according to TRI, is the Ohio River, which flows through six states including Indiana. It received 31 million pounds of toxic chemicals in 2007.Source: “Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act” 2009, Environment Illinois

Environmental report gives NWI another bad mark :: Local News :: Post-Tribune.

Thomas BP / TAR SANDS, East Chicago, Environment

Case Study: The White City

October 21st, 2009

via [ The Urbanophile ]

I take a look at the cities which are often touted as progressive urban role models, places like Portland, Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Austin, and find that one thing that unites these cities is their lack of African Americans. This is in marked contrast to most cities of the Midwest and South. The following chart illustrates:

The Urbanophile: The White City.

Thomas Case Studies, Urbanism

Info Graphics: Missions to Mars

October 21st, 2009

The Air I Breath: EPA Orders IDEM’s {Regional Rats} to Rewrite BP Air Permit

October 20th, 2009

I wonder to what extent the EPA’s recent order that “IDEM rewrite BP’s air permit” can be said to challenge IDEM’s ability to properly discharge its responsibility and manage the state’s environmental resources?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is forcing the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to rewrite part of the air permit for BPs Whiting refinery. EPA said BP?and IDEM left out several sources of air pollution that need to be counted when determining what kind of air pollution control equipment is necessary

EPA: BP permit must be rewritten :: Post-Tribune.

Thomas BP / TAR SANDS, East Chicago, The Air I Breath

Info Graphics: Fifty Years of Exploration

October 15th, 2009

via [ National Geographics ]

National Geographics has a beautiful info graphic by Art Naughton and Samuel Velasco of 5W Infographics mapping 200 flight missions in the last 50 years. The piece reads wonderfully as a graphic and poster, but unfortunately, fails miserably online.

Thomas Information Graphics

Info Graphics: GOOD

October 15th, 2009

via [ GOOD Transparency Archives ]

Kevin Nguyen speaks to the folks responsible for GOOD Magazine’s infographics at the Bygone Bureau

We always found that there’s info lurking behind everything in the world,” says Morgan Clendaniel, deputy editor at GOOD Magazine. “You’ll read an article, but you won’t see the data behind it — nor would you want to. Nobody wants to read an Excel file.”

“The goal is to not just present the information, but do it in a way that also adds some editorial point of view,” Lubliner said. “With a standard chart or graph, the tools you need to communicate the information already exist. That also creates a challenge when it comes to your readers, who already understand how to read a bar graph or a pie chart, but not necessarily understand how to look a photograph of people on the beach and deduce some kind of information from it. It comes down to getting the viewer to look at social issues in a different light, and that begins with how we visualize the information.”

Thomas Information Graphics

What I’m Looking at: Carl Jordan

October 13th, 2009

Gary Matters: Michael Peunte

October 13th, 2009

via [ WBEZ - NPR Chicago ] by Michael Peunte

JONES: Once it’s torn down you’re looking at an empty lot and you say what is that empty lot contributing to this community? But if you look at a building and the building has a fence around it, it’s a historic structure and it’s targeted for revitalization, then investors begin to look at the area slightly differently, rather than looking at an empty lot.

City Room™ - Metro - Gary Hopes Stimulus Cash Transforms City

Thomas Adaptive Reuse, Northwest Indiana

What I’m Looking at: Trash | Track

October 13th, 2009

via [ Trash | Track ]

Researchers at the MIT, with funding and support from Waste Management and other organizations, have been using custom-made sensors planted on hundreds of pieces of trash in New York City, Seattle, and London to track the circuitous route that trash take…

The goals of the project are to make trash collection, recycling, and disposal more efficient, and to raise awareness of the resources and energy needed to manage the trash in our throwaway societies.

The project includes wonderful visualization and Information graphics as a way to bring clarity to the “removal-chain”. The project is part of the exhibit Toward the Sentient City

The information design is the work of a team of designers headed by E Roon Kang.

Imagine a future where immense amounts of trash didn’t pile up on the peripheries of our cities: a future where we understand the ‘removal-chain’ as we do the ‘supply-chain’, and where we can use this knowledge to not only build more efficient and sustainable infrastructures but to promote behavioral change. In this future city, the invisible infrastructures of trash removal will become visible and the final journey of our trash will no longer be “out of sight, out of mind”.

Elaborated by the SENSEable City Lab and inspired by the NYC Green Initiative, TrashTrack focuses on how pervasive technologies can expose the challenges of waste management and sustainability. Can these same pervasive technologies make 100% recycling a reality?

Team members include:

Carlo Ratti: Director, Assaf Biderman: Associate Director, Rex Britter: Advisor, Stephen Miles: Advisor, Kristian Kloeckl Project Leader, Musstanser Tinauli, E Roon Kang, Alan Anderson, Avid Boustani, Natalia Duque Ciceri, Lorenzo Davolli, Samantha Earl, Lewis Girod, Sarabjit Kaur, Armin Linke, Eugenio Morello, Sarah Neilson, Giovanni de Niederhausern, Jill Passano, Renato Rinaldi, Francisca Rojas, Louis Sirota, Malima Wolf

Thomas What I am Looking at

FRONTLINE’S “Obama’s War”

October 11th, 2009

From what I can gather from Frontline’s documentary is that the Afghanistan War is as much about managing agrarian market forces as it is about battling an insurgency. A problem I see is in this short piece is that America is once again relying solely on forces trained to deliver and manage overwhelming violence. Granted they are trying to put on their best face for the local farmers, but it is not ringing true.

This may sound ridiculous, but it appears to me that America would be more effective if it relied more on cultural agents that were similar to the small Afghan farmers and villagers - a kind of peace corp. I realize America has classified this region as a war zone, but for locals it is home, and to a certain extent life goes on normally, so it ought not to be crazy to suggest using a normalizing force that they can identify with and gain trust in more quickly.

America is a complex culture. It has many people and farmers with similar lifestyles as these people. I suggest sending in a peaceful force of agrarian faiths including Muslims. The Mennonite Central Committee immediately comes to mind, and there are many more organizations doing similar work. Many of these groups have been doing this kind of work for decades throughout the world. I am thinking of the Mennonites because central to their faith is the doctrine of pacifism. In areas of conflict this makes them honest agents of good faith. They are also known to build relationships through concrete hands-on work to address basic human needs such as water and food supply.

Thomas International, National

“Unclenched Fist” & “Ruffled Feathers”

October 9th, 2009

Steve Clemen’s article is about the best articulated piece I’ve read today on Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Obama’s ‘unclenched fist’ won the prize

Cynics will say that Oslo was jealous that Copenhagen, Denmark, scored a visit from President Obama, and giving him a Nobel was the only way to get him to Norway.

But the Nobel Committee’s decision to make Obama the only sitting U.S. president since Woodrow Wilson to receive the Nobel Peace Prize shows the committee’s clear-headed assessment that Obama’s “unclenched fist” approach to dealing with the world’s most thuggish leaders has had a constructive, systemic impact on the world’s expectations of itself.

Obama has helped citizens all around the world — including in the United States — to want a world beyond the mess we have today in the Middle East and South Asia. They want a world where America is benign and positive, and where other leaders help in supporting the struggles of their people for better lives rather than securing themselves through crude power.

Commentary: Obama’s ‘unclenched fist’ won the prize -

Ruffled Feathers
I went looking for a media clip that treated Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize as news and not something to spin suspicion, or asked if he deserved it. I had to resort to a foreign news outlet - ITN news out of the UK.

Thomas International

How do we Celebrate?

October 9th, 2009

Via [ Bitch Ph.D. ] by Taddyporter:

Remember a year ago, when capitalism was in full panicy retreat? Remember how we were told we had to give up our savings and our pensions and our 401K’s and our wages and our jobs and our homes and our health insurance and our kids’ college funds and we had to pledge our taxes to redeem all the bullshit schemes of the buccaneer bankers and brokers and hedge fund fools.

Remember how we were told how if we didn’t pay this ransom, things would get really, really bad and our whole vast and elegant free market economy would be lost to some unspecified enemy?

So we paid up.

I kind of expected there would be investigations, though. You know, since we own their asses, I thought we might have a look the books of the enterprises we paid for and see just what they’d been up to. Find out just what the fuck went wrong. And who was responsible.

And I expected there would be arrests. Mass arrests. And confiscations of property and bank accounts.

Not just ours. Theirs, too.

And clawbacks of bonuses and inflated salaries. And seizures of yachts and Bentleys and beach houses and Falcon jets. I expected they would be put up for sale at public auction. You know, like they do to our houses when we have a problem with our payments.

I expected a nice surtax slapped on upper incomes. I expected a tax on stock sales to pay back the working class for bailing them out.

I expected to see all the evidence for the rout of the capitalist order we were told was in progress.
By now, I expected to see a steady stream of bankers in handcuffs, pulling their burberrys across their face as they were marched up and down the steps of the US Attorney’s Office for Southern New York.
Prisoners. Thats what I expected to see
Where are the prisoners?

Thomas Economics

Urban Affairs

October 7th, 2009

via [ Washington Post ]

President Obama is putting a new emphasis on revitalizing U.S. cities with a coordinated effort that involves stimulus funding and getting multiple agencies to work together to improve schools, housing and neighborhoods…

“This is way more than an ocean liner trying to change direction,” said Angela Glover Blackwell, founder of PolicyLink, an advocacy organization that has consulted with the administration. “This is glacial.”

To coordinate his initiatives, Obama in March named Adolfo Carrion Jr., a former Bronx borough president, to direct his new White House Office of Urban Affairs.

“This is not your father’s White House,” Carrion said in an interview. “This is a new way of looking at the new city-metro reality.”

Over the past two months, Carrion and other administration officials — from agencies as diverse as the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency– have visited cities to observe innovative development plans.

Obama Sets Sights on Urban Renewal -

Thomas Urbanism