Pollution – Review of the Year 2008
As far as major pollution incidents go, Mother Nature got off pretty lightly in 2008.
In the UK, we didn’t have a major disaster like Buncefield or a close call like the Napoli shipwreck to deal with – but we did have reams of reports on those biggies of 2007 to wade through.
We heard how the Anglo-French decision to beach the stricken Napoli on the Dorset coast was the right one – for the environment as well as looters – and had averted a major oil spill in the Channel.
As things stood, the cargo ship still leaked over 300 tonnes of oil into the sea when it suffered a massive hull failure last January, but that was less than 10% of what could have reached the coast if it had gone down in deep water.
On the Buncefield front, it turned out we can learn form our mistakes with the oil depot blaster leading to a whole new raft of regs being rolled out to reduce the chances of a similar disaster happening again.
All new oil and fuel storage sites will have to meet tougher safety standards with better containment systems to capture spills if things do go wrong, while risk assessments will be carried out at all existing sites and operators will be expected to work with the authorities if upgrades are needed.
Towards the end of the year, London suffered a setback on the air quality front with the city’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, pledging to reverse predecessor Ken Livingstone’s expansion of the Congestion Charge zone into Kensington and Chelsea.
Agriculture continued to shoulder a considerable share of the blame for groundwater pollution in the UK and Europe, with researchers questioning why ‘natural’ pest control such as fungi and bacteria were not being used on this side of the Atlantic despite being widely used in the USA.
But farmers were given some reprieve in the blame game when Swiss scientists published research suggesting that a considerable chunk of the pesticides and other nasties found in our water ways can be attributed to our homes and gardens – with weed killer and biocides in paints and renders topping the list of domestic sources.
Meanwhile, the International Water Management Institute exposed another link between pollution and agriculture – this time the other way round.
According to the organisation, 80% of farmland in or near cities in the developing world is being irrigated by sewerage.
And continuing on the agriculture theme, A British-based scientist published research looking at a pollution paradox – that acid rain from rapid industrial expansion in China and elsewhere in Asia is actually curbing methane emissions from the continent’s rice paddies by up to a quarter.
Towards the end of the year edie completely did away with pollution, or its channel devoted to pollution monitoring and control anyway, and replaced it with a shiny new channel on green buildings instead in a move that we hope better reflects the evolution of the environmental industries.