All posts by SustainableRossmoor

Over-Pumping Groundwater and Arsenic

By Judith Schumacher-Jennings

Over-pumping groundwater in California increases arsenic levels in well water. Groundwater is increasingly used to supplement finite surface water supplies.  Aquifer levels are decreasing due to increased demand and decreased precipitation. Groundwater is one of the world’s most important resources.  Groundwater provides about half of all drinking water globally, including the United States.

The central valley of California accounts for roughly 20 percent of groundwater withdrawals in the United States. The central valley is an arid region that supports a $17 billion agricultural industry. In the region of the valley known as the San Joaquin Valley, groundwater is the main source of drinking water for about one million people.  High water demands stress aquifers, especially during extended droughts.

Arsenic occurs naturally

Arsenic is a ubiquitous, naturally occurring contaminant.  It is present in drinking water of many aquifers. When present in significant amounts, arsenic increases the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  Arsenic is transported to the San Joaquin Valley from the Sierra Nevada and coastal mountain ranges for millions of years by rivers cutting through arsenic-bearing formations. Clays at or near the surface are the primary host of transported arsenic. Arsenic absorbs onto clay surfaces in significant amounts in the San Joaquin Valley.

As the clays are buried over time, their increasingly restricted oxygen supply reduces arsenic in the clay at depths greater than 200 feet.  The arsenic dissolves into the water in the pores of the clay. Higher levels of arsenic in the aquifer result from anaerobic conditions where oxygen is lacking and arsenic becomes more soluble. These anaerobic conditions occur naturally in thick clay, in manganese and at lower elevations.

California aquifers

In the aquifers of the San Joaquin Valley, the greatest depth typically drilled for groundwater pumping is 1,640 feet. An aquifer consists of alternating layers of sand, gravel and clay. In California, the aquifer system consists of an upper aquifer, a thick clay confining unit known as the Corcoran clay and a lower aquifer. The upper and lower aquifers contain sands and gravels, as well as numerous thin clay layers.

When undisturbed, groundwater within the aquifer primarily flows horizontally through the sediments with highest permeability, typically sands and gravels. Initially, pumped groundwater comes mostly from sands and gravels, which have lower arsenic concentrations.

Arsenic within pumped groundwater of the San Joaquin Valley has been noted for decades. Approximately 10 percent of the wells tested within the last 10 years have shown arsenic. Maintaining water quality is vitally important as groundwater pumping increases to meet agricultural and domestic needs.

Worker adjusting pump gauge
Droughts stress aquifer use

Two long droughts, from 1986 to 1993 and 2007-2015, recently hit the San Joaquin Valley.  During both, over-pumping stressed the aquifer system. The over-pumping sucked larger volumes of water into the aquifer from less-permeable anaerobic clays, inducing the release of pore water with high arsenic concentrations. Groundwater pumping in the San Joaquin Valley has caused declines of about 200 feet in groundwater levels over the past century, leading to subsidence, or sinking of the land, as much as 30 feet from 1925 to 1970 or about eight inches per year.

In addition to groundwater depletion, over-pumping results in land subsidence and increased extraction of pore water from clay layers. Clay drainage causes most aquifer compaction and subsidence of the overlying ground surface. There is thus a link between land subsidence and groundwater arsenic concentrations. Historic subsidence highly impacted historic arsenic concentrations, but has virtually no impact on recent arsenic concentrations.  Arsenic levels slowly return to their original levels after the groundwater pumping decreases. This implies arsenic stops leaking from the aquifer over time. Thus, avoiding over-pumping of aquifers should gradually improve water quality for the San Joaquin Valley.

Reducing groundwater pumping to sustainable levels should decrease both the rate of subsidence and arsenic concentrations.  The aquifers will eventually recover to normal levels of arsenic. With a global trend toward increased use of groundwater, effectively managing water quality along with water quantity is essential to preserve the continued use of this critical resource.

Courtesy of Rossmoor News, August 8, 2018 edition.  Email Judith Schumacher-Jennings at sjmadrone@sonic.net.

Source information for this article appeared in the June edition of peer reviewed journal Nature Communications by Ryan Smith, Rosemary Knight and Scott Fendorf.

Coral Bleaching from Sunscreen Pollution

Coral Bright, Wear White – by Melanie Quan

At the October general meeting of Sustainable Rossmoor, guest speaker Melanie Quan spoke about the harmful effects of sunscreen on coral reefs. White tips on coral pictured above are a reflection of “bleaching” and declining coral health (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University). Melanie’s presentation is below.

Coral bleaching resulting from sunscreen pollution has recently been a significant topic highlighted by the news media. While it is true that sunscreens are a cause of coral bleaching, the problem is multifaceted. As guest speaker Melanie Quan, a sophomore at Las Lomas High School, explained last month, the true impacts of sunscreen pollution are still unknown by a majority of the public. Last summer, she attended a science program called California State Summer School for Mathematics & Science (COSMOS) at UC Santa Cruz and worked to analyze the effects of common active sunscreen ingredients.

Based on the accumulation of studies, results show that common organic chemicals in sunscreen such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisilate or butylparaben can exacerbate coral bleaching at concentrations as low as 62 parts per trillion (equivalent to a drop of sunscreen in an Olympic-sized pool!).  Additionally, common inorganic physical barriers in many ‘reef safe’ sunscreens show potential to cause harm by inducing stress through oxidation, making them a less than perfect solution.

Many consumers of ‘reef safe’ sunscreens prefer brands using nano-sized particles or aerosol sprays because they reduce the chalky white look after application. However, these nano-sized particles can be ingested by coral because of their small size, expediting the effects of oxidation and stress on marine life. Thus, while many sunscreen companies have worked to avoid chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate that can rapidly cause coral bleaching, the common alternatives can still cause stress on coral over time.

As conscientious consumers, help us reduce harm to coral ecosystems! By taking note of active ingredients in sunscreens, you can help promote the health and sustainability of coral and marine life. Based on her research, Melanie recommends having titanium dioxide as the only active ingredient in the sunscreens you use. She recommends using non-aerosol, non nano-particle titanium dioxide sunscreens.

This Blog Post written by Melanie Quan.

For more information on coral bleaching, check these web sites from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

What is coral bleaching? When corals are stress by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white. (https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.html)

Coral Bleaching — Background (https://www.coral.noaa.gov/education/bleaching-background.html)

November Film: DIVIDE IN CONCORD

November Film: DIVIDE IN CONCORD
When: November 14 at 7 pm   Where:  Peacock Theater

In this documentary, Patriot Jean Hill (84) took her battle to ban plastic bottles in Concord, Mass, and teaches us what the combination of science along with the charm, courage, and determination of a concerned grandmother can accomplish.

In 1775, Concord patriots fired the ‘shot heard round the world’ that began the Revolution.

Jean Hill

Over 200 years later, Jean Hill is ready to fire the next shot, and it’s directly at the bottled water industry. 84 year old Jean has spent three years trying to get her town to ban single serve bottled water, and this is looking like her last attempt. With strong opposition from local merchants, and a town that has already voted against her three years in a row, will it ever be possible for Jean to win?

“A fascinating, entertaining look at how persistence and citizen action still mean something in a corporate-controlled society.” Michael Moore

Inspired by learning about the amount of garbage that these single serving bottles create, Jean actually tries to do something about it, which is something that we could all learn a lesson from. Divide In Concord follows her efforts to finally ban bottled water in her town, even after her previous attempts have failed.

She’s feisty, and doesn’t let her age slow her down, standing up to anybody who would go against her. Many of us wouldn’t even think of banning bottled water, but the effects of those empty plastic containers are drastic, and Jean won’t stand for it any longer.

The real highlight of the film, besides Jean and her frequently foul mouth, are the arguments against her bottle ban. Complete ignorance of the damage these bottles cause, and the kind of extreme reasons her opponents come up with, are hilarious to listen to, mainly because of how ridiculous they are.

Trailer: https://youtu.be/TCve9xVj_yg

82 minutes. SDH captions.

October Film: Oil and Water

When:  October 10, 7:00 pm    Where:  Peacock Hall

Oil and Water, a multiple award-winning documentary film, is an intimate portrait of two young people finding their voices and trying to beat incredible odds as they confront one of the world’s worst toxic pollution disasters in Ecuador and the Amazon Rainforest.

For decades U.S. oil companies colluded with a corrupt Ecuadorian government to recklessly pollute the land and waters of the Amazon Rainforest.  Native tribes were displaced, much of the local culture destroyed, and cancer and other disease rates increased.

But two teenage heroes emerge among the many that have been fighting throughout the destruction and since.  As the title implies, oil and water do not mix well.  Eight years in the making, this documentary follows Hugo and David on a journey that leads them to explore a more just future for people around the world born with oil beneath their feet.

The film is 72 min. long with captions.

Oil and Water reveals the social and ecological trauma of our global fossil fuel culture and how it shapes the lives of an indigenous population in Ecuador. The film also demonstrates the collaborative, visionary creativity that can also emerge from that space of pain, urgency, and love for humanity and our life support systems. I have followed the struggle of the Cofan people for decades and just when I thought all hope was lost, this film gives me reason for renewing my conviction in the power of struggle, the power of the people hit hardest by environmental injustice – and their allies – to imagine and forge new possibilities.” David Naguib Pellow, Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota, Author, Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice.

“Great film…arresting…Oil and Water is the most complete portrait of how societies might move beyond ‘the oil curse’ to use resources from crude development to benefit the local communities from which it is found. Or, possibly, as a launching point to standardize and regulate best practices in the entire industry…It is a story of recovery but also of the need for aggressive assistance and understanding. Oil and Water puts a very human face on the ground-level of the extraction that is fueled by distant consumers.” Dr. Brian Black, Professor, History and Environmental Studies, Penn State Altoona, Author, Crude Reality: Petroleum in World History.

“An important film–it puts a human face on the very real and severe consequences of our thirst for oil. Yet it also gives viewers hope in the way it shows how two young adults can make meaningful changes to the world around them.” Dr. Benjamin Sovacool, Director of Danish Center for Energy Technology, AU-Herning, Associate Professor of Law, Founding Director of the Energy Security and Justice Program, Vermont Law School, Author, Energy and Ethics: Justice and the Global Energy Challenge.

Official Website and trailer: To see a trailer, go to http://www.oilandwaterdocumentary.com/ and click on the documentary’s lead photo.

September Meeting – Recycling: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

Sustainable Rossmoor’s guest at the September meeting on was Jim Nejedly. Jim is the President of the Board of the Central Contra Costa Sanitation District. He is the General Manager of the Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery (Recycling) Center. He described the recycling processes we often take for granted. He explained challenges we face now that China does not accept many recycle materials.

Jim described the Mt. Diablo Recycling Center. The center moves 400 tons of recycling materials daily. Paper represents almost 40% of what the Center recycles. A big problem for recycling is plastic bags. Plastic bags “gum up” machinery. Jim urged the audience to place bags in one plastic bag. He gave several ways we can help the recycling process.

  1. recycle plastics marked with 1, 2, and 3
  2. recycle glass, aluminum, tin, newspaper, and cardboard
  3. rinse and scrape jars and cans
  4. don’t put items like car seats and carpeting into the recycling bins
  5. reuse items.

Jim talked about Recycle Smart. Recycle Smart is developing a system for Rossmoorians to recycle usable items such as clothing. The Recycle Smart web site describes how it is delivering high quality, cost effective solid waste reduction, recycling, and refuse programs. These provide and promote sustainability in our communities. The site has tips and tools for homes, schools, and businesses.

Check the Center’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MtDiabloResourceRecovery.

Rossmoor Participation in San Francisco Climate March

On Thursday, September 6, Sustainable Rossmoor (SR) members were joined by members of the Democrats of Rossmoor and others at a sign making party for the San Francisco area “Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice” Climate March held on Saturday, September 8, 2018.

A few folks brought their own supplies and snacks to share. Many others used 14 foam boards on sticks supplied by SR. Markers were loaned by Katha Hartley, Democrats of Rossmoor club President. The overflow crowd from Mulligan went out to the patio. People were industrious and artsy. Nine folks created signs to be donated to marchers going empty handed.

Sustainable Rossmoor members were among 30,000 at the march on Saturday, September 8, 2018.

 

 

 

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The crowd went from Embarcadero Plaza to Civic Center, demanding racial and economic justice, an end to fossil fuel production, and a transition to 100% renewable energy.

These demands were given to Gov. Jerry Brown ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit on September 12 -14, 2018. The Summit is a meeting of public officials and corporate executives from around the world.

March organizers were from Rise for Climate, Justice and Jobs. Marchers urged support for community-led solutions, starting in places impacted the most by pollution and climate change. March contingents came from over 300 organizations representing environmental and climate justice organizations, communities of faith, immigrant justice organizations, Indigenous-led groups, labor organizations, youth, and many more.

According to the Mercury News, the Global Climate Action Summit “makes California a worldwide flag-bearer on the issue at a time when the federal government is in retreat. The event at Moscone Center, dubbed the “Global Climate Action Summit,”  is something of a swan song for outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown. He leaves office in January, having led California to major gains in renewable energy and cuts in greenhouse gas emissions — all amid a backdrop of record drought, floods and massive wildfires that brought the issue into stark focus.”

 

 

September Film: NO IMPACT MAN

September Film: NO IMPACT MAN

When:  September 12, 7:00 pm

Where:  Peacock Hall

This award-winning documentary tells the story of author Colin Beavan, who went completely “green” in NYC, giving up virtually all of the comforts of modern living — electricity, gas-powered transportation, non-local food and landfill waste disposal — in a drastic effort to curb his environmental impact. 
The camera captures many joyful moments, such as stomping on laundry in the bathtub and shopping at a dairy farm, as well as the toll this well-intentioned, year-long project takes on Beavan’s wife and 2-year old baby daughter. Ultimately, it saves them over $1,000/month and brings this family closer together. 

In November 2006 author Colin Beavan, started a research project for his next book ‘No Impact Project’. Intending to actualize some of his Zen Buddhist beliefs, this newly self-proclaimed environmentalist asked himself:
“Why do I have to wait for congress to do something? Why do I have to wait for big business to do something? Why don’t I do something?! “

He could no longer avoid pointing the finger at himself. He left behind his liberal complacency for a vow to make as little environmental impact as possible for one year.
No more automated transportation, no more electricity, no more non-local food, no more material consumption… no problem. That is, until his espresso-guzzling, retail-worshipping wife Michelle and their two year-old daughter are dragged into the fray.

The documentary shares the highs and lows of the families journey to sustainable living, including Michelle’s year off from consuming fashion. From ditching meat and shopping from bulk food bins and farmers markets.

Michelle called him a “1900’s house wife” as he cooked, composted, and cleaned for the family all without relying on most 21st century conveniences. Colin made all of their cleaning products with borax, baking soda (the box was compostable) and vinegar.

The film transitions to reality-tv territory at times when the couple have heartfelt discussions about the possibility of adding another member to their family, and Michelle’s ‘eco-slips’ in regards to coffee and ‘camping at home’ despite a hate of camping. While these hurdles can be dealt with from the family unit, some of the biggest challenges that the household faced was both positive and negative media coverage.

After the experiment was over, Colin and Michelle did bring back the the electricity and their fridge but still don’t use the freezer, a dishwasher, an AC, or have a TV. They also traveled by air to see family. They remain very conscious of their trash output. They continue to try and not buy anything new, preferring to source from secondhand places. They’ve lost weight, sleep better, have more energy, and save over $1,000/month.

Trailer: https://youtu.be/D58kZfqTrjY

 

 

Some Surprising Facts About the Importance of Recycling – Part 1

All of us are aware that the main reason recycling is so important is that products that can be recycled do not end up in landfills, thereby reserving landfills for material that has no redeemable value. All of us know about products we use that were created from recyclable materials. However, there might be some that you did not know about.

In this article, I will identify some of them and in a later article I will include some others. Here is a list of some products that come from recycled material: recycled paper shopping bags; compostable soup containers; eco-friendly takeout containers; disposable cups – hot/cold; sugarcane and bamboo plates; clear food containers; wastebasket; writing paper; two-ply bathroom tissue; paper towel rolls; and custom cup tops.

However, there are products you might be surprised to learn that are made using recycled material. Here are some of those products. It is possible some of the following will be new information to you.

Keen’s Harvest Wallet and Bags: Keen makes the bags, totes and wallets, which comprise its Harvest Collections, out of pre-consumer automobile side airbags. The leftover, excess or obsolete airbags are shipped from the manufacturers to a recycler in Salt Lake City, where they’re sorted before being shipped to a facility in Chico. There, the bags are cut into bag pattern pieces either by hand (using a rotary knife) or with a die-cut machine. Crafters sew the product together; when completed, each item is hand numbered and signed by the person who made it.

Looptworks Leather iPad Covers: Looptworks is no stranger to using recycled materials. The company previously crafted items from neoprene wetsuit fabric, cotton jersey, Italian wool, hemp, nylon, vinyl and recycled polyester—but these upcycled iPad cases are its first foray into leather. The cases are made from scraps of excess shoe leather eliminated because it had natural blemishes. This discarded material can amount to 4,500 pounds per day from just one factory.

Cardboard FM Radio: This radio, made mostly from recycled cardboard, can also be recycled at the end of its life. It’s powered by four AAA batteries and catches FM signals with its antenna, but you can plug your iPod in to listen to your own music, too.

Moving Comfort Active wear: The grounds used to create your daily jolt of caffeine have to end up somewhere—namely, a landfill. Many pieces in Moving Comfort’s active wear line incorporate a fabric called S. Cafe, which uses a patented process to remove the phenol, ester and oil from coffee grounds and turn them into yarn. That yarn is incorporated into a fabric that, thanks to the coffee, is naturally odor repellant, protects from UV rays and dries quickly.

Skateback iPhone back: Each week, skateboard factories create enough waste to fill a city bus—so Grove and Maple xo collaborated to make iPhone backs out of the discarded post-industrial skateboard material. The backs are each milled and finished by hand, so no two are alike; they attach to the back of the phone with a 3M adhesive.

Wonderful Wizard of Oz iPad Cover: Put the “book” back into ebooks with this awesome iPad cover, which looks just like the first edition of Frank L. Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” available in the mental floss store. They’ve also got “The Great Gatsby” and “Pride and Prejudice.” All of the covers are made of 30 percent recycled materials.

Courtesy of July 3, 2018 edition of the Rossmoor News. Author Dale Harrington can be emailed at dalejharrington@gmail.com

Fossil-Free California: Fabulous Nonprofit Organization

Last October I spent two weeks in London, and while I enjoyed my visit immensely, the air pollution was a nasty surprise. An inversion layer of low clouds kept diesel emissions near the ground making breathing most unpleasant. A metallic taste was always in my mouth. I had forgotten that most of Europe still relies on diesel fuel for cars and trucks.

What a relief it was to come back to California and breathe fresh air. I feel so grateful to live in a state that has done more than most states to clean up air pollution, from stringent requirements on controlling gas emissions to promoting clean energy sources – solar, wind and geothermal.

California benefits from the work of many volunteer citizens who are making our state a better place to live. During Earth Awareness Week in Rossmoor, I learned about a wonderful nonprofit organization called Fossil-Free California. This nonprofit was formed in 2015 and has three main goals: 1) to encourage investment entities – pension funds, banks, private equity firms – as well as individuals, to divest their funds from fossil fuel investments (coal, oil, and gas); 2) to promote legislation that encourages clean, renewable energy rather than fossil fuels; and 3) to use litigation to stop polluting practices of companies and governmental agencies.

Fossil-Free California volunteers are currently lobbying for two bills in the state legislature. Senate bill 964 (sponsored by Senator Ben Allen of Santa Monica) would require CalPERS and CalSTRS to consider climate risk in their investment decisions and to stop making new investments in coal, oil and gas by 2020. These two public pension funds together control a huge amount of money – nearly $500 billion. If these two entities stopped investing in fossil fuels, the belief is that banks and private equity funds might follow. This bill has passed in the Senate and is currently under consideration in the Assembly.

The second bill that Fossil-Free California is supporting is SB100 sponsored by Senator Kevin de Leon (24th District of Los Angeles). This bill would set a 2045 target date for 100 percent clean electricity for California.

Whenever I get discouraged by climate change deniers, I take heart from thinking about the fabulous volunteers in California who are giving so much of their time and energy to improve life for all of us. To become a member of Fossil-Free California or to volunteer, visit the website fossilfreeca.org.

Courtesy of Rossmoor News, June 20, 2018 edition. Anne Foreman can be emailed at anneforeman60@gmail.com.

How to use the EV charging stations in Rossmoor

How to use the EV charging stations in Rossmoor at a glance*

The three groups of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are almost complete. Gateway has the first set of charging stations available for use. There are 10 parking spaces with charging connectors at each location: the Gateway parking lot across from the bus stop, the west side of the Fitness Center parking lot, and the Event Center parking lot. Each location includes two handicap-accessible-compliant stations.

The GRF Board has adopted some rules for use:

  1. Parking at all locations is NOT dedicated to electric vehicles.

Parking is first-come, first-served for all vehicle types from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

  1. Parking IS dedicated to EVs between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  2. There is a three-hour limit for charging between the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  3. EVs plugged in over three hours between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. will be charged a penalty rate of twice the normal rate.
  4. Rates do apply for charging. The rates include the cost of electricity plus a 20 percent mark-up for GRF and any fees charged by the service provider Greenlots (currently a 5% surcharge).
  5. Rates will be available on the Greenlots website (www.greenlots.com/ev-drivers/ and APP.
  6. Residents with electric vehicles will need to call or go on the Greenlots website to register and get the APP or a RFID key fob. See accompanying article from Greenlots on frequently asked questions.

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Charging at the Gateway EV charging station using the Greenlots App (notes by a SR member)

  1. activate the Greenlots App on your mobile phone (this is not the RFID key fob procedure)
  2. scan the station bar code or enter the station number by hand:  the Gateway Station ID number is:  112476U  (Note the Station ID 112476U is same for all 10 Chargers/Connectors at this location; it will be different for another location such as the Events Center.)
  3. select the “Connector” (See screen-shot with purple circle around the “8 SAEJ1772” connector entry. Touch the screen for a drop-down box showing all the connectors available at this location and select the one you intend to use.)
  4. touch “START Charge“  (touch “STOP Charge” when finished)

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Here are frequently asked questions on charging electric vehicles at the new EV charging stations in Rossmoor.

Q: How does a driver start a charge session?

Start a session with the free Greenlots APP, a Greenlots RFID card or call 855-7584. Sign up at www.charge.greenlots.com.

Q: Can my electric vehicle use the stations in Rossmoor?

Yes. Most electric vehicles are equipped with the standard J1772 level 2 charging port. For DC Fast Charging Stations, CHAdeMo or CCS are also standard on most electric vehicles.

Q: Can a driver pay with a credit card?

Yes, you can pay with a credit card using the mobile APP, or by calling 855-900-7584.

Q: How much does it cost to use?

Session fees vary and are determined by the site owner, but the Greenlots APP lists the pricing for each station.

Q: What if the driver needs help?

The customer care team is available to assist drivers 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be reached by calling 855-900-7584.

Q: How can a driver find the Greenlots APP?

It is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Q: How can a driver order a Greenlots RFID card?

After signing up, log in to your driver account to request an RFID card or call 855-900-7584.

Q: Can the stations be used in the rain?

Yes. The station is safe to use in all weather conditions, but charging may be slower in cold or hot conditions.

Download How to use the EV charging stations in Rossmoor at a glance

* EV Charging Station Information courtesy of the Rossmoor News, July 25, 2018; p. 8A.