Oil Companies to Clean U.S. Groundwater

Throughout the next 30 years, some of the nation’s largest oil companies will have to pay to clean groundwater contaminated with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether. To settle a suit brought by 153 public water providers in 17 states, a dozen companies— including BP, London; Shell, The Hague, Netherlands; ConocoPhillips, Houston; and Chevron, San Ramon, Calif.—will have to pay a total of $423 million. Six defendants, including Exxon Mobil, Irving, Texas, did not agree to the settlement. MTBE, which had been added to gasoline since 1979, increases octane levels, is a possible carcinogen and can give water the taste and odor of turpentine. It now is banned in 23 states and oil companies stopped using it in 2006. Estimates of the cleanup cost have reached $30 billion.

Site Monitors Drought

The Drought Monitor, produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center, Lincoln, Neb.; National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, Camp Springs, Md.; and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C., helps people and institutions develop and implement measures to reduce social vulnerability to drought. The map uses a classification system to show drought intensity and type, similar to the schemes currently in use for hurricanes and tornadoes. It combines key indices of rainfall and drought to produce the final drought intensity rating. Because drought often affects various activities differently, the map indicates whether drought is affecting agriculture, water supplies or fire danger. It is updated weekly with data from numerous sources, including the National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, N.C.; regional climate centers; USDA’s Joint Agricultural Weather Facility, Washington; and U.S. Department of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey, Washington. View the site at drought.unl.edu/dm.

Treatment Plant Hosts Solar Panels

Water Treatment Plant in Willits, Calif., houses a photovoltaic system from Perpetual Energy Systems, Harrison, N.Y. It has the capacity to generate approximately 530,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year to meet 100 percent of the plant’s current power needs. Willits began its move toward becoming a sustainable community in 2004 when it partnered with the Willits Economic LocaLization, or WELL, a citizen’s organization created to foster a sustainable, local economy based on the principles of sufficiency, responsibility and life-promoting actions. The city and WELL worked with the Renewable Energy Development Institute, a Willits-based professional services organization specializing in renewable-energy project development, to solicit a solar-energy project in Willits. “Even as a community of 5,000 residents, we feel it is important to do the most we can to reduce or eliminate our impact on the environment,” says Holly Madrigal, Willits’ mayor. “Hosting solar-energy systems at our water-treatment plant not only reduces the city’s energy consumption and costs during the next 25 years, the project reaffirms our commitment to being a green community.” For more information about the PV system, visit www.goperpetual.com.