ENENews: TV: ‘Scary’ mystery illness killing off animals “at such a rapid rate”


TV: ‘Scary’ mystery illness killing off animals “at such a rapid rate” on West Coast — Hundreds of marine mammals found dead in small area — Gov’t Expert: “Something is likely affecting the entire ecosystem… Something is hitting them harder and faster… Something else seems to be involved” (VIDEO)
Published: October 19th, 2015 at 7:11 am ET
By ENENews

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Oct 8, 2015 (emphasis added): More than 200 dead or sick sea otters have been reported on beaches in [Alaska’s] Kachemak Bay region in 2015… A team of experts… are working to understand what has caused the spike in sea otter deaths and potential significance to the population… [T]he cause of death for many of the sea otters remains unknown.

Anchorage Daily News, Oct 10, 2015: Researchers see spike in Kachemak Bay sea otter deaths… [A news release from gov’t agencies] said the recent deaths and sickness could significantly affect the population.

KTVA transcript, Oct. 8, 2015: Hundreds of sea otters have been found dead in the Katchemak Bay area near Homer this year. Veterinarians at the Alaska Sea Life Center are working with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to figure out what’s making the otters so sick… It’s an unsettling mystery, killing off some of Alaska’s favorite furry animals.

KTVA, Oct 8, 2015: Unusually high number of sea otter deaths reported in Kachemak Bay… experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working to figure out what’s killing off the otters at such a rapid rate. “More recently, animals have appeared otherwise healthy and seemed to have died very quickly,” said Dr. Carrie Goertz… “it’s scary to know there’s something out there in the wild that we may or may not be able to do anything about.”

Peninsula Clarion, Oct 10, 2015: Spike in otter deaths in Kachemak Bay… “They were pretty healthy-looking, other than they were dead” [said Marc Webber, U.S. Fish & Wildlife]… The otters are clearly unwell… nonresponsive and unable to move, [Dr. Carrie Goetz, SeaLife Center veterinarian] said. “There haven’t been any obvious causes of death,” Goetz said. “That’s been limiting our understanding of what’s going on.”… Reports of dead animals of multiple species have risen in the Kachemak Bay area in the last few months, including birds and barnacles… Increased numbers of dead whales had been spotted as well…

KBBI, Oct 13, 2015: [Webber said] when something is going wrong with them, something is likely affecting the entire ecosystem… [Dr. Goetz] says they’ve been tracking a streptococcus illness… But the otters that have died since August seem different. “[They] have died acutely… in the last couple of months,” Goertz said… [What Webber is] seeing seems different than what he’s seen in the past. “Something is hitting them harder and faster… something else seems to be involved,” Webber said.

AP, Oct 14, 2015: “We’re finding otters all over the Homer area”… [the] otters are turning with neurological conditions that cause them to twitch, said Webber… dying otters could be an indicator that something is wrong with the entire ecosystem, according to Webber. The Alaska Sea Life Center has been tracking a streptococcus illness… but what’s happened since August is something new, said veterinarian Cari Goertz…

USGS California Sea Otter Stranding Network 2014 Stranding Summary: The number of sea otter strandings in 2014 (386) was the highest on record, 18 above the 368 sea otters that stranded in 2012. There were 340 strandings in 2013… A stranded sea otter is one that washes ashore dead or alive… NOTE: Stranding numbers only account for sea otters that people find… possibly less than 50% of sea otters that die in the wild end up on the beach…

Watch KTVA’s broadcast here

Published: October 19th, 2015 at 7:11 am ET
By ENENews
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Jeff McMahon Contributor for Forbes Article on Honeywell Accidental Release


Jeff McMahon
Jeff McMahon Contributor
http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2014/10/29/the-trouble-with-that-noxious-haze-at-the-illinois-nuclear-fuel-plant/

Jeff McMahon:
I cover green technology, energy and the environment from Chicago.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

TECH 10/29/2014 @ 3:53PM

The Trouble With That Noxious Haze At The Illinois Nuclear-Fuel Plant

The main threat from uranium hexafluoride, the gas that leaked at a Honeywell plant in Metropolis IL on Sunday night, does not derive from its radioactivity, but from its chemical toxicity, according to studies of people who have been exposed accidentally and animals who have been exposed intentionally.

“The carcinogenic hazard from radiation exposure is negligible compared with the chemical toxicity from acute inhalation exposure to UF6,” as uranium hexafluoride is commonly known, according to a 2004 report on the “Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Selected Airborne Chemicals” prepared by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science.

HW Leak BA

 

When exposed to water vapor, UF6 breaks down into hydrofluoric acid (HF) and uranyl fluoride (UO2F2), both of which are highly toxic. UF6 emits alpha, beta and gamma radiation, but radiation damage has not been observed in people who have been exposed. Instead:

“At high concentrations, death from HF-induced pulmonary edema is observed. Severe ocular injury; skin burns; and ocular, mucous membrane, and respiratory irritation are also attributable to HF. Kidney damage attributable to UO2F2, was also suggested from urinalysis data.”

This means anyone exposed to high concentrations at the Honeywell Plant on Sunday would already know it, and it tends to support the statement by Honeywell officials that the leak was contained to the plant’s “operations area.” At least one eyewitness report casts some doubt on that.

Honeywell officials say the leak and the noxious haze were contained within the operations area in about a half hour. UF6 is contained by spraying water vapor. The uranyl fluoride, a solid, drops out of the air as particulate matter.

“Uranyl fluoride is a heavy, solid material that immediately falls to the floor near the equipment. The plant has confirmed that none of this material was found beyond the immediate area of the leak,” said Plant Manager Jim Pritchett in a letter to employees.

Plant officials say a haze seen drifting outside the plant—and displayed on a video posted to a Facebook page supporting union workers who are locked out of the plant—consisted of water vapor sprayed in the air as a cautionary measure. Had any UF6 or its derivatives escaped the building, Pritchett said, it would have triggered alarms and the area would have been evacuated.

One alarm can be heard in the video, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission incident report suggests a different scenario:

“Members of the public outside the plant reported a cloud emanating from the building for five minutes before the mitigation spray towers were activated by Honeywell staff,” according to the NRC report, which also notes that the incident was initially reported to the NRC by a member of the public.

Nonetheless, no injuries have been reported, and there is no evidence to dispute Honeywell’s claim that the leak was contained to its operations area.

The NRC dispatched an inspector to review the event, assess Honeywell’s response, and monitor the recovery and cleanup. The plant remains closed pending the outcome of the investigation.

A uranium hexafluoride leak killed two workers at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in 1944 when a weld ruptured on a cylinder containing the gas. The cylinder launched like a rocket, traveling 164 meters, tearing out pipes and equipment in its path, and exposing 20 workers to the gas.

In addition to the two killed, “three people were seriously injured, 12 were hospitalized for observation, and three were without symptoms,” according to the National Research Council report.

“The seriously injured individuals experienced chemical conjunctivitis with edema, chemical erosion of the cornea (resulting in temporary blindness), first-, second-, and third-degree chemical burns, nausea and vomiting, chemical bronchitis, pulmonary edema, and/or shock,” the report states. “The seriously injured workers completely recovered within 3 weeks of the accident.”

A follow-up exam on two of the seriously injured workers found no apparent damage from radiation exposure after 38 years.

Uranium hexafluoride also killed one worker when an overloaded cylinder containing the gas ruptured at a uranium conversion facility in Gore, Oklahoma in 1986. He died within a few hours from pulmonary edema—fluid accumulation in the lungs—after inhaling hydrofluoric acid.

The Metropolis Honeywell plant uses a fluorine chemical process to convert raw uranium into a nuclear fuel precursor.