8 October 2014

Symphony of the Soil is a Beautiful Film Documentary

I can’t say enough about this film made by Deborah Garcia. Symphony of the Soil is available here through October 10 for free viewing. The film has wonderful macro and micro videography and a tremendous sound track. The passion these scientists providing narrative have for their subject comes through loud and clear. I try to stay away from superlatives, but can’t help it with this documentary. Watch the film. If …

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5 October 2014

FDA Fast Tracks Valley Fever Drug

FDA Fast Tracks Valley Fever Drug

Valley fever, a soil-borne disease Terra Central discussed here, is no longer an orphan disease, which means it is no longer too obscure to receive funding for a treatment or a cure. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted fast track status to Nikkomycin Z as a “qualifying infectious disease product (QIDP) under the GAIN Act. The GAIN Act was “approved by Congress in 2012 to help provide …

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23 August 2014

Dirt Bucket Challange is a Bad Idea

Apparently, in the interest of saving water in drought-stricken California and calling attention to the crisis there, two men dumped dirt over their heads. This is a bad idea, in support of a good cause, in my view. The video has gone viral and shows a dry-land adaptation of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Soil is not only where plants grow, but is also host to many kinds of bacteria …

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17 August 2014

Soil Connections: Drought, Dust and Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Soil Connections: Drought, Dust and Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

An unfortunate sequence of events involving drought, depleted water resources, wastewater management, antibiotic resistant bacteria (ABR) and dust storms may pose a real health risk in desert states – and, perhaps, beyond. Briefly, here’s the sequence of steps, beginning with drought and ending with a respiratory infection: 1. Arid states can’t grow everything they want with what little rainfall they get – so they irrigate. 2. Limited fresh water used …

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26 May 2014

Remembering the 1966 Riga Confined Space Tragedy

Remembering the 1966 Riga Confined Space Tragedy

On a Saturday afternoon in May 1966, five men lost their lives, wives lost their husbands, and twenty children lost their fathers. Consider it a cautionary tale about the lethal danger of hydrogen sulfide. The confined space was a cistern fed by a 300-foot deep water well and the gas apparently occurred naturally in the ground. The accident was reported as far away as Sidney, Australia via Associated Press wire …

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9 March 2014

Wetlands and Flood Mitigation: The 10 Percent Solution

Wetlands and Flood Mitigation: The 10 Percent Solution

Following the Great Flood of 1993, an official report called for more research to find ways to prevent flood devastation, apparently unaware the problem had been mostly solved over a decade earlier. But the implementation of a national wetland restoration program has faced intractable political and economic obstacles. The Problem Given the current extensive snow cover across the United States, communities are bracing for worse than average floods. According to the National Weather Service, …

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2 January 2014

Dams and Demand for Sand Threaten World Beaches

Dams and Demand for Sand Threaten World Beaches

Documentary filmmaker Denis Delestrac has recently completed the movie Sand Wars, which looks at the intense demand for what may seem like an abundant natural resource. In some cases worldwide, the sand business has taken on a dangerous criminal dimension. In a TedxBarcelona Talk called Let’s talk about sand, Delestrac introduces the complex subject of beach sand, including erosion and exploitation, with style and charisma. There are also some good …

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24 November 2013

On Site Wastewater Disposal Systems: Soil Considerations

On Site Wastewater Disposal Systems: Soil Considerations

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 1990 there were 24.67 million residences serviced by on-site waste disposal (OSWD) systems, representing 24.1 percent of the total number of households. The highest concentration of OSWD systems is found in the New England states where Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have about 50% of their households using them. That number has surely grown, but, unfortunately, 1990 data is the most up-to-date …

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3 October 2013

NRCS Web Soil Survey and Soil Data Mart Shut Down

The popular Natural Resources Conservation Service Web Soil Survey and Soil Data Mart are currently shut down, due to the federal government conflict over funding. As an environmental science consultant in the private sector, I frequently use these soil mapping and data resources when characterizing existing site conditions associated with major infrastructure projects. In years past, consultants typically kept a collection of hard-copy county soil survey books but got away …

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25 August 2013

Is Fukushima Out of Control?

Is Fukushima Out of Control?

Following up on a recent post, the news out of Fukushima just got worse last week in what appears to be shaping up as a major environmental crisis requiring a massive and coordinated international response. A spike in radioactivity led to the acknowledgement by Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) of a leaking tank used to store some of the more heavily contaminated water from the damaged reactor. Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory …

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