If you live near a coal ash pond in North Carolina, you might look up the scientific definitions of vanadium and hexavalent chromium.
You won’t like what you find.
Those carcinogens (plus other harmful chemicals) are the residue of coal ash seepage into groundwater and appear in alarming quantities in hundreds of rural drinking water wells. The state offers assurances that the water remains safe to drink. By ‘the state,’ I mean the non-scientific political portion of North Carolina government. Indeed, earlier this year the state rescinded previously-issued advisories cautioning citizens to avoid the water. Water quality standards were, the state reasoned, too stringent.
The recision came against the advice of two state scientists who monitored water quality for a living. Those two scientists are now gone, in part because they objected to the state action as intentionally misleading residents about the safety of drinking water. The scientists feel the professional rug was pulled from beneath them by political operatives in an election year.
Some, including the editorial boards of some newspapers, have called the state out for ignoring the educated view of scientists who think the overriding public interest needs to be protected when negative water quality headlines make for bad political PR for an incumbent governor, Pat McCrory, who’s up for reelection but lags in opinion polls.
This story isn’t over, and likely won’t be for some time.
Long live the sponge. Literally.
The scientific longevity database AnAge says the Antarctic hexactinellid sponge can live an estimated 15,000 years. Its kin, the epibenthic sponge can live to 1,550 years.
Colder water seas are also kind to other long-living creatures. The ocean quahog, a clam, can live for 500 years. The Greenland shark tops out age-wise at 392 years and one bowhead whale, also an Arctic denizen, lived to the ripe old age of 211 years.
My Friday walk turned up – surprise! – another bagful of litter.
Man, it really gets old doing this. One day I’d love to take a stroll for the sake of exercise and not find any more junk to pick up.