air pollution, blackwater, blackwater xe in Iraq and Afghanistan, climate change, Cricket House Studios, cricketdiane, ecological damage, Ecology, fish, Global Warming, industrial pollution, mercury poisoning, USGS, water pollution
Mercury contamination was detected in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country. About a quarter of these fish were found to contain mercury at levels exceeding the criterion for the protection of people who consume average amounts of fish, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
We talked to Lia Chasar, lead ecologist on the USGS study.
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Released: Wed, 19 Aug 2009 14:16:54 UTC
Mercury-tainted fish found widely in U.S. streams
“This study shows just how widespread mercury pollution has become in our air, watersheds, and many of our fish in freshwater streams,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. The USGS is part of the Interior Department.
The neurotoxin enters the environment chiefly as an air pollutant spewed into the atmosphere by industrial emissions, then falls back to the surface in precipitation and particulate matter carried over long distances.
The main source of atmospheric mercury, according to the EPA, is coal-fired power plants.
Conducted from 1998 through 2005, the USGS study is the first comprehensive survey of mercury contamination in the water, sediments and fish of rivers and creeks throughout the United States.
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Some of the highest levels of mercury in the latest study were found in the coastal “blackwater” streams of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana — relatively undeveloped areas marked by abundant pine forests and wooded wetlands.
USGS hydrologist Barbara Scudder said those characteristics somehow enhance the conversion of mercury from its inorganic form in the atmosphere to a more toxic organic form, methylmercury, which accounts for at least 95 percent of the mercury found in fish.
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US extends Iraq contract for Blackwater firm
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]]> WASHINGTON—The State Department said Wednesday it has extended a contract for protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq with a subsidiary of the security firm once known as Blackwater USA even though the company doesn’t have a license to operate in the country.
The incident prompted a wide-ranging review of the State Department’s security practices in Iraq and its dependence on contractors like Blackwater, which was most recently in the news last month when it was revealed that the CIA had turned to the firm when it revived a now-defunct plan to kill or capture terrorists in 2004.
Once the extended Presidential Airways contract expires, the company will no longer be used in Iraq by the department, which has turned to DynCorp and another private security firm, Triple Canopy, to handle diplomatic protective services in the country.
But Xe continues to provide security for diplomats in other nations, most notably in Afghanistan.
Xe Services LLC (pronounced /ˈzi/) is a private military company founded as Blackwater USA in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark. In October 2007, the company was renamed Blackwater Worldwide and was colloquially referred to as “Blackwater”. Blackwater has a wide array of business divisions, subsidiaries, and spin-off corporations but the organization as a whole has courted much controversy.
Based in the U.S. state of North Carolina, Xe operates a tactical training facility ( ) which the company claims is the world’s largest, and at which the company trains more than 40,000 people a year, mostly from U.S. or foreign military and police services. The training consists of military offensive and defensive operations, as well as smaller scale personal security.
Xe is currently the largest of the U.S. State Department‘s three private security contractors. Of the 987 contractors Xe provides, 744 are U.S. citizens. At least 90 percent of the company’s revenue comes from government contracts, of which two-thirds are no-bid contracts. Xe provided security services in Iraq to the United States federal government, particularly the Department of State on a contractual basis. They no longer have a license to operate in Iraq: the new Iraqi government made multiple attempts to expel them from their country, and denied their application for an operating license in January 2009. However, the company is still under contract with the State Department and some Xe personnel will likely remain in Iraq at least until September 2009.
In the late 1990s, Erik Prince spent part of his inherited wealth to purchase about 6,000 acres (24 km2) of the Great Dismal Swamp, a vast swamp on the North Carolina/Virginia border, now mostly a National Wildlife Refuge. Here he created his state-of-the-art private training facility, and his contracting company—Blackwater—is named for the peat-colored water of the swamp. Blackwater USA was formed in 1990 to provide training support to military and law enforcement organizations. In 2002 Blackwater Security Consulting (BSC) was formed. It was one of several private security firms employed following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. BSC is one of over 60 private security firms employed during the Iraq War to guard officials and installations, train Iraq‘s new army and police, and provide other support for occupation forces. Blackwater was also hired during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by the United States Department of Homeland Security, as well as by private clients, including communications, petrochemical and insurance companies. Overall, the company has received over $1 billion USD in government contracts. Blackwater consists of nine divisions, and a subsidiary, Blackwater Vehicles.
(there have been some charges against Blackwater contractors used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina involving shooting deaths / and other very questionable events, including inordinate violence and brutality.)
Mercury poisoning (also known as hydrargaria or mercurialism) is a disease caused by exposure to mercury or its compounds. Mercury (chemical symbol Hg) is a heavy metal which occurs in several forms, all of which can produce toxic effects in high enough doses.
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Symptoms typically include sensory impairment (vision, hearing, speech), disturbed sensation and a lack of coordination. The type and degree of symptoms exhibited depend upon the individual toxin, the dose, and the method and duration of exposure.
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The consumption of fish is by far the most significant source of ingestion-related mercury exposure in humans, although plants and livestock also contain mercury due to bioaccumulation of mercury from soil, water and atmosphere, and due to biomagnification by ingesting other mercury-containing organisms. Exposure to mercury can occur from breathing contaminated air; from eating foods containing mercury residues from processing, such as can occur with high-fructose corn syrup; from exposure to mercury vapor in mercury amalgam dental restorations; and from improper use or disposal of mercury and mercury-containing objects, for example, after spills of elemental mercury or improper disposal of fluorescent light bulbs.
Human-generated sources such as coal plants emit approximately half of atmospheric mercury, with natural sources such as volcanoes responsible for the remainder. An estimated two-thirds of human-generated mercury comes from stationary combustion, mostly of coal. Other important human-generated sources include gold production, non-ferrous metal production, cement production, waste disposal, crematoria, caustic soda production, pig iron and steel production, mercury production (mostly for batteries), and biomass burning.
Mercury and many of its chemical compounds, especially organomercury compounds, can also be readily absorbed through direct contact with bare, or in some cases (such as dimethylmercury) insufficiently protected, skin. Mercury and its compounds are commonly used in chemical laboratories, hospitals, dental clinics, and facilities involved in the production of items such as fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, and explosives.
Mercury is such a highly reactive toxic agent that it is difficult to identify its specific mechanism of damage, and much remains unknown about the mechanism. It damages the central nervous system, endocrine system, kidneys, and other organs, and adversely affects the mouth, gums, and teeth. Exposure over long periods of time or heavy exposure to mercury vapor can result in brain damage and ultimately death.
Mercury poisoning’s effects partially depend on whether it has been caused by exposure to elemental mercury, inorganic mercury compounds (as salts), or organomercury compounds.
(and there’s more – )
My Note –
and for the record, there are gold mining strip mining operations in the areas of Alaska which had been protected areas and in the countries immediately west of the Gobi desert and Mongolia which have increased their sandstorms and desertification. The acreage increase in the deserts and the mercury damage to streams and being borne on the winds is evidently creating ecological damage around these operations, even across thousands of miles nearby where the updrafts carry the materials on the winds.
I’ll look into a bit more, but I have tracked some of how those gold mining operations were given lands that should’ve been protected. I’ll have to find that file . . .
And the Blackwater / Xe workers really ought to be checked – cause those folks are nuts . . .
– cricketdiane, 09-03-09