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On the News With Thom Hartmann: California’s Dwindling Water Supply Is Contaminated, and More

In today’s On the News segment: California is already dealing with the worst drought in history. The last thing residents needed was to learn that their dwindling water supply has been contaminated, and more.

In today’s On the News segment: The last thing Californians needed was to learn that some of their dwindling water supply has been contaminated; last week, a lab official pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering whether to extend Diablo Canyon’s operating license for another 20 years; and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of….science & green news…..

You need to know this. California is already dealing with the worst drought in that state’s history. So, the last thing residents needed was to learn that some of their dwindling water supply has been contaminated. Back in June, California regulators shut down 11 fracking injection wells after finding that wastewater may have contaminated aquifers. The Environmental Protection Agency ordered the state to send a full report, which the California State Water Resources Board turned in earlier this month. The board confirmed that at least nine of the fracking sites in question were dumping waste into aquifers used for drinking water and farm irrigation. The Center for Biological Diversity obtained a copy of the letter that the board sent to the EPA, which revealed some alarming information. That letter said about three billion gallons of fracking wastewater was pumped into injection wells and seeped into aquifers near the center of that state. Water samples taken from these areas have extremely high levels of carcinogens and toxins like thallium and arsenic. Timothy Krantz of the University of Redlands, said, “The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.” Considering that many of California’s reservoirs are already sitting at about half of their historic average, that state can’t afford to lose access to any of their drinking water. But, thanks to the fossil fuel industry, residents may have to risk consuming dangerous chemicals or risk going thirsty. This is exactly why they can’t be trusted. It’s time for a complete moratorium on natural gas drilling, and time to end our addiction to fossil fuels.

We’ve all heard that dogs age seven times faster than humans, but it turns out that ratio is just a myth. According to animal experts, dogs age at different rates, depending on their breed and size, and depending on what stage of life that they’re in. Most dogs age very quickly early in life, reaching full maturity by age two, but that aging slows down later in life. And, while smaller dog breeds tend to reach maturity even faster, larger dogs actually have shorter life spans. Although veterinarians have known all along that this calculation wasn’t true, the myth seems to be believed by many people. When asked why the 7-to-1 ratio persists, William Fortney, a veterinarian at Kansas State University, told the Wall Street Journal, “[It’s] a way to educate the public on how fast a dog ages compared to a human, predominately from a health standpoint. It was a way to encourage owners to bring in their pets [for a check up] at least once a year.” We certainly wouldn’t go seven years without getting a health check up, and our pets shouldn’t wait that long either.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering whether to extend Diablo Canyon’s operating license for another 20 years, but environmentalists say that’s a really bad idea. Pacific Gas & Electric – AKA PG&E – applied for the license extension back in 2009. However, the permit process was suspended after the massive disaster at Fukushima. Even before the tsunami in Japan, activists were calling on regulators to shut down that plant until operators could prove that it could withstand a major earthquake. In 2011, the NRC released a study that showed Diablo Canyon was the nuclear plant most at risk of failure because of an earthquake, and new data has proven that the threat is even larger than believed. Seismic data released last month shows that the 1960s-era plant is surrounded by fault lines capable of producing earthquakes that the plant could never withstand. The environmental group Friends of the Earth has filed a petition for a public hearing on the new data before Diablo Canyon’s license is renewed. We shouldn’t have to wait for a massive disaster in the United States before we wake up to the danger of nuclear power, and the public should have a say in which plants are allowed to stay in operation.

Last week, a lab official pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act. John W. Shelton admitting to diluting water samples and substituting clean water to help coal mining companies get away with polluting West Virginia waterways. The charges against Shelton state that the conspiracy helped coal companies “avoid fines and other costs associated with bringing their operations into compliance with the Clean Water Act.” The thing is – one person can’t commit a conspiracy alone. Based on his admission, we know that Shelton helped coal companies, but as of now, we don’t know who at those companies asked him to do so. Under current law, many companies are allowed to “self-report” their supposed compliance with air and water quality samples. The biggest questions we should have after learning of this story is who directed John Shelton to “self-report” a lie, and when will they be punished. It does no good to charge the low-man on the totem pole if you keep the lying, cheating, polluting people in charge of “self-regulation.” We should be demanding some answers in this case, and demanding that regulators are the ones doing the regulation.

And finally… It looks like humans aren’t the only ones who can be introverts or extroverts. According to a new study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, even sharks have personalities. Dr. David Jacoby of the Institute of Zoology in London conducted a study on ten groups of catsharks, which were monitored in different levels of social structure. Dr. Jacoby and his colleagues found that, “some sharks are gregarious and have strong social connections, whilst others are more solitary and prefer to remain inconspicuous.” Those personalities remained constant even when researcher changed the sharks’ environment. Once again, science has proven that a quality we think of as unique to humans is actually present among wild animals. These studies should remind us that we are part of an interconnected, amazing web of life, and why it is so important to respect and care for all species. And, if you happen to come across a shark while swimming, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to hope that it’s one with a friendly personality.

And that’s the way it is for the week of October 20, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.