Environmental Disasters


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Environmental Disasters

  1. 1. Environmental Disasters
  2. 2. Love Canal Disaster Love Canal was one of the most widely known examples of groundwater pollution. In 1978, residents of the Love Canal neighborhood in upstate New York noticed high rates of cancer and an alarming number of birth defects. This was eventually traced to organic solvents and dioxins from an industrial landfill that the neighborhood had been built over and around, which had then infiltrated into the water supply and evaporated in basements to further contaminate the air. Eight hundred families were reimbursed for their homes and moved, after extensive legal battles and media coverage.
  3. 3. Love Canal Disaster • The Love Canal came from the last name of William T. Love, who in the early 1890s envisioned a canal connecting the Niagara River to Lake Ontario. He believed it would serve the area's burgeoning industries with much needed hydro electricity; however, the power scheme was never completed due to limitations of direct current (DC) power transmission, and Tesla's introduction of alternating current (AC).
  4. 4. Love Canal
  5. 5. Love Canal Disaster • With the project abandoned, the canal gradually filled with water. In the 1920s, the canal became a dump site for the City of Niagara Falls, with the city regularly unloading its municipal refuse into the pit. • By the 1940s, Hooker Electrochemical Company (later known as Hooker Chemical Company), founded by Elon Hooker, began searching for a place to dump the large quantity of chemical waste it was producing. Hooker was granted permission by the Niagara Power and Development Company in 1942 to dump wastes in the canal.
  6. 6. Love Canal Disaster • This dumpsite was in operation until 1953. During this time, 21,000 tons of chemicals such as "caustics, alkaline, fatty acids and chlorinated hydrocarbons from the manufacturing of dyes, perfumes, solvents for rubber and synthetic resins" were added. These chemicals were buried at a depth of twenty to twenty-five feet. After 1953, the canal was covered with soil, and vegetation began to grow atop the dumpsite.
  7. 7. Love Canal Disaster The Love Canal Disaster Sale of the site • At the time of the dump's closure, Niagara Falls was entering an economic boom and the population began expanding drastically, surpassing 85,000. The Niagara Falls City School District needed land to build new schools, and attempted to purchase the property from Hooker Chemical that had been used to bury toxic waste., Hooker Chemical agreed to sell on the condition that the board buy the entire property for one dollar. In the agreement signed on April 28, 1953, Hooker included a seventeen-line caveat that explained the dangers of building on the site. Hooker believed it was thus released from all legal obligations should lawsuits arise in the future.
  8. 8. Love Canal Disaster • Geography City Niagara Falls County Niagara County State New York • Love Canal was a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York, located in the LaSalle section of the city. It officially covers 36 square blocks in the far southeastern corner of the city, along 99th Street and Read Avenue In the mid-1970s Love Canal became the subject of national and international attention after it was revealed in the press that the site had formerly been used to bury 21,000 tons of toxic waste by Hooker Chemical (now Occidental Petroleum Corporation).
  9. 9. Love Canal Disaster • Hooker Chemical sold the site to the Niagara Falls School Board in 1953 for $1, with a deed explicitly detailing the presence of the waste, and including a liability limitation clause about the contamination. The construction efforts of housing development, combined with particularly heavy rainstorms, released the chemical waste, leading to a public health emergency and an urban planning scandal. Hooker Chemical was found to be negligent in their disposal of waste, though not reckless in the sale of the land, in what became a test case for liability clauses. The dumpsite was discovered and investigated by the local newspaper, the Niagara Falls Gazette, from 1976 through the evacuation in 1978. Potential health problems were first raised by reporter Michael H. Brown in July 1978
  10. 10. Love Canal Disaster
  11. 11. Love Canal Disaster
  12. 12. Love Canal Disaster
  13. 13. Love Canal Disaster
  14. 14. Love Canal Disaster • Construction of the 93rd Street School and the 99th Street School • Despite the disclaimer, the board began construction of the 99th Street School in its originally intended location. In January 1954, the architect of the school wrote to the education committee informing them that during excavation, workers discovered two dump sites filled with 55-US-gallon (210 L) drums containing chemical wastes. The architect also noted that it would be "poor policy" to build in that area since it was not known what wastes were present in the ground, and the concrete foundation might be subsequently damaged. The school board then moved the school site eighty to eighty-five feet further north.
  15. 15. Love Canal Disaster • The kindergarten playground also had to be relocated because a chemical dump lay directly beneath. Upon completion in 1955, 400 children attended the school, and it opened along with several other schools that had been built to accommodate students. That same year, a twentyfive foot area crumbled exposing toxic chemical drums, which then filled with water during rainstorms. This created large puddles that children enjoyed playing in.
  16. 16. Love Canal Disaster
  17. 17. Love Canal Disaster Health problems, activism, and site cleanup • In 1976, two reporters for the Niagara Falls Gazette, tested several sump pumps near Love Canal and found toxic chemicals in them. The matter went quiet for more than a year and was resurrected by reporter Michael Brown, who then investigated potential health effects by carrying forth an informal door-to-door survey in early 1978, finding birth defects and many anomalies such as enlarged feet, heads, hands, and legs. He advised the local residents to create a protest group, which was led by resident. The New York State Health Department followed suit and found an abnormal incidence of miscarriages. The dumpsite was declared an unprecedented state emergency on August 2, 1978. • Mr. Brown, who wrote more than a hundred articles on the dump, tested the groundwater and later found the dump was three times larger than originally thought, with possible ramifications beyond the original evacuation zone. He was also to discover that highly toxic dioxins were there.
  18. 18. Love Canal Disaster
  19. 19. Love Canal Disaster • On August 2, 1978, Lois Gibbs, a local mother who called an election to head the Love Canal Homeowners' Association, began to rally homeowners. Her son, Michael Gibbs, began attending school in September 1977. He developed epilepsy, suffered from asthma and a urinary tract infection, and had a low white blood cell count, all associated with his exposure to the leaking chemical waste. Gibbs had learned from Mr. Brown that her neighborhood sat at 21,000 tons of buried chemical waste. • In the following years, Gibbs led an effort to investigate community concerns about the health of its residents.
  20. 20. Lois Gibbs
  21. 21. Love Canal Disaster State of Emergency • The lack of public interest in Love Canal made matters worse for the homeowners' association. Initially, members of the association had been frustrated by the lack of a public entity that could advise and defend them. Gibbs met with considerable public resistance from a number of residents within the community: the mostly middle-class families did not have the resources to protect themselves, and many did not see any alternative other than abandoning their homes at a loss. • By 1978, Love Canal had become a national media event with articles referring to the neighborhood as "a public health time bomb," and "one of the most appalling environmental tragedies in American history.
  22. 22. Love Canal Disaster
  23. 23. Love Canal Disaster • Eventually, the government relocated more than 800 families and reimbursed them for their homes, and the United States Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), or the Superfund Act. Because the Superfund Act contained a "retroactive liability" provision, Chemical firm was held liable for cleanup of the waste even though it had followed all applicable U.S. laws when disposing of it. Occidental Petroleum was sued by the EPA and in 1995 agreed to pay $129 million in restitution. Residents' lawsuits were also settled in the years following the Love Canal disaster.
  24. 24. Eventually, the government relocated more than 800 families and reimbursed them for their homes
  25. 25. Minamata Disease • Minamata disease sometimes referred to as ChissoMinamata disease, is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. • Minamata disease was first discovered in Minamata city in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan, in 1956. It was caused by the release of methylmercury in the industrial wastewater from the Chisso Corporation's chemical factory, • Symptoms include ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision, and damage to hearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanity, paralysis, coma, and death follow within weeks of the onset of
  26. 26. Minamata Disease
  27. 27. Minamata Disease • The Chisso Corporation first opened a chemical factory in Minamata in 1908. Initially producing fertilisers, the factory followed the nationwide expansion of Japan's chemical industry. • The waste products resulting from the manufacture of these chemicals were released into Minamata Bay through the factory wastewater. These pollutants had an environmental impact. Fisheries were damaged in terms of reduced catches, • The rapid expansion of the Minamata factory spurred on the local economy and as Chisso prospered, so did Minamata
  28. 28. Minamata Disease • On April 21, 1956, a patient was examined at the Chisso Corporation's factory hospital in Minamata, • The physicians were puzzled by her symptoms: difficulty walking, difficulty speaking and convulsions. • After a house-to-house investigation eight further patients were discovered and hospitalised. The hospital director reported to the local public health office the discovery of an "epidemic of an unknown disease of the central nervous system", marking the official discovery of Minamata disease.
  29. 29. Minamata Disease • To investigate the epidemic, the city government and various medical practitioners formed the Strange Disease Countermeasures Committee. • During its investigations, the committee uncovered surprising anecdotal evidence of the strange behaviour of cats and other wildlife in the areas surrounding patients' homes. Crows had fallen from the sky, seaweed no longer grew on the sea bed and fish floated dead on the surface of the sea. As the extent of the outbreak was understood, the committee invited researchers from Kumamoto University to help in the research effort.
  30. 30. Finding the Cause • Researchers from Kumamoto University also began to focus on the cause of the strange disease. They found that the victims, often members of the same family, were clustered in fishing hamlets along the shore of Minamata Bay. • The staple food of victims was invariably fish and shellfish from Minamata Bay. This led the researchers to believe that the outbreak was caused by some kind of food poisoning, with contaminated fish and shellfish being the prime suspects. • The research group announced its initial findings: "Minamata disease is rather considered to be poisoning by a heavy metal... presumably it enters the human body mainly through fish and shellfish."
  31. 31. Minamata Disease
  32. 32. Identification of Mercury As soon as the investigation identified a heavy metal as the causal substance, the wastewater from the Chisso plant was immediately suspected as the origin. • In February 1959, the mercury distribution in Minamata Bay was investigated. The results shocked the researchers involved. Large quantities of mercury were detected in fish, shellfish and sludge from the bay.
  33. 33. Minamata Disease
  34. 34. Identification of mercury Official government recognition • Finally on 26 September 1968 — twelve years after the discovery of the disease the government issued an official conclusion as to the cause of Minamata disease.
  35. 35. Identification of mercury • "Minamata disease is a disease of the central nervous system, a poisoning caused by longterm consumption, in large amounts, of fish and shellfish from Minamata Bay. The causative agent is methyl mercury.... Minamata disease patients last appeared in 1960, and the outbreak has ended. This is presumed to be because consumption of fish and shellfish from Minamata Bay was banned in the fall of 1957, and the fact that the factory had waste-treatment facilities in place from January 1960."
  36. 36. The Litigation Group & Compensation • The verdict handed down on 20 March 1973 represented a complete victory for the patients of the Litigation Group: • "The defendant's factory was a leading chemical plant with the most advanced technology and ... should have assured the safety of its wastewater. The defendant cannot escape liability for negligence. "The "sympathy money" agreement was found to be invalid and Chisso was ordered to make one-time payments of ¥18 million ($66,000) for each deceased patient and from ¥16 million to ¥18 million ($59,000 to $66,000) for each surviving patient. The total compensation of ¥937 million ($3.4 million) was the largest sum ever awarded by a Japanese court.
  37. 37. The Litigation Group & Compensation
  38. 38. Bhopal Disaster
  39. 39. Case Study: Air Pollution Episode Bhopal Gas Tragedy • The Story of Bhopal Gas Tragedy: The Lucky Ones Died That Night • It was five minutes midnight in Bhopal on December 2 1984. The congested city was asleep and the winter air was heavy. Many had gone sleep. It was all quite, but the city was to change forever. • Suddenly, 27 tons of lethal gases including methyl Isocyanate (MIC) started leaking from Union Carbide’s Pesticide factory. The cloud of gases rapidly blanked the city. • Grossly under designed safety systems were either malfunctioning, under repair, or had been switched off as part of a cost cutting exercise. The warning siren at the factory had reportedly been turned off. It was the world’s worst Industrial Disaster.
  40. 40. Bhopal Disaster
  41. 41. Case Study: Air Pollution Episode Bhopal Gas Tragedy • Here is a survivor’s account of what happened on that ill fated night: • “ The poison cloud was so dense and searing that the people were reduced to near blindness. As they gasped for breath its effects grew more suffocating. The gases burned the tissues of their eyes and lungs, and attacked their nervous systems. People lost control of their bodies Those who escaped with their lives are the unlucky ones; the lucky ones are those who died that night.”
  42. 42. Bhopal Gas Tragedy
  43. 43. How did the accident occur? • How did the accident occur? • Most probably water entered the storage tank and caused a runway chemical reaction that led to an increase in temperature, which converted the liquid MIC into gas. Investigations reveled that there had been six early accidents in the plant and that workers had complained off exposure to dangerous substances. Yet proper safety mechanisms were allegedly not put in place.
  44. 44. Bhopal Disaster
  45. 45. Bhopal Gas Plant
  46. 46. Bhopal Gas Plant
  47. 47. Case Study: Air Pollution Episode Bhopal Gas Tragedy • Union Carbide accepted only moral responsibility for the disaster and not any liability. The Government of India filed a case against the company for US $ 3 billion, but strangely accepted US $470 million as settlement in 1989. Nearly 95 % of the survivors had received just Rs 25000 for lifelong injury and loss of livelihood. That works out to be 9 US cents a day for more than 20 years of Unimaginable suffering. • A criminal case was filed in the court of Bhopal against Union Carbide, and its then chairmen Warren Anderson for negligence,. They did not attend the court proceedings and Anderson has been proclaimed a fugitive from justice by the court.
  48. 48. Bhopal Gas Tragedy
  49. 49. What does the story of the Bhopal Tragedy Tell us ? • The tragedy shows that poor communities are disproportionately affected by toxic materials discharged into air, land and water. When a crisis occurs, or an accident occurs these people cannot get justice from the polluters, or the governments.
  50. 50. Alang : A Disaster in Waiting
  51. 51. Alang • Alang is a census town in Bhavnagar district in the Indian state of Gujarat. In the past three decades, its beaches have become a major worldwide centre for ship breaking. • Ship breaking or ship demolition is a type of ship disposal involving the breaking up of ships for scrap recycling. Most ships have a lifespan of a few decades before there is so much wear that refitting and repair become uneconomical. Ship breaking allows materials from the ship, especially steel, to be recycled. Equipment on board the vessel can also be reused. • As an alternative to ship breaking, ships are also sunk to make artificial reefs after being cleaned up. Other possibilities are floating (or land-based) storage
  52. 52. Alang • In addition to steel and other useful materials, ships (particularly older vessels) can contain many substances that are banned or considered dangerous in developed countries. Asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are typical examples. Asbestos was used heavily in ship construction until it was finally banned in most of the developed world in the mid-1980s.
  53. 53. Alang • Currently, the costs associated with removing asbestos, along with the potentially expensive insurance and health risks, have meant that ship breaking in most developed countries is no longer economically viable. Removing the metal for scrap can potentially cost more than the value of the scrap metal itself. In the developing world, • however, shipyards can operate without the risk of personal injury lawsuits or workers' health claims, meaning many of these shipyards may operate with high health risks. Protective equipment is sometimes absent or inadequate. Dangerous vapors and fumes from burning materials can be inhaled, and dusty asbestos-laden areas are commonplace.
  54. 54. Alang • In recent years, ship breaking has become an issue of environmental concern beyond the health of the yard workers. Many ship breaking yards operate in developing nations with lax or no environmental law, enabling large quantities of highly toxic materials to escape into the general environment and causing serious health problems among ship breakers, the local population, and wildlife. Environmental campaign groups such as Greenpeace have made the issue a high priority for their activities
  55. 55. Alang
  56. 56. Alang
  57. 57. Alang
  58. 58. Alang
  59. 59. Thanks…