Our latest set to show you…..uranium mining!

From our early blogs about the increase in uranium mining here in the U.S. (which has just as much merit today with our country’s ever-rising energy prices as it did back in 2008) to our more recent blogs, uranium mining is something we’ve been watching for quite some time. Back in 2009 we blogged about the Cotter Corporation’s uranium mill in Canon City, CO and it’s status as one of the Superfund sites in the U.S. And we were pleased to receive a note of thanks for our blog regarding mining too close to residential areas.

So what is all the fuss about? Have a look:

Aerial views of open-pit uranium mines in the Gas Hills of central Wyoming. Probably taken during summer 2002. Photos courtesy of LightHawk.



Satellite images showing details of landscape impact caused by an “in-situ” uranium leaching operation in central Wyoming operated by Power Resources, Incorporated. In 2008, PRI was fined by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality for multiple violations at this facility.

Detail of open-pit uranium mining near Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada.

For more images, visit our Flickr gallery here.

Bristol Bay, Susquehanna Rivers Named “America’s Most Endangered”

The advocacy group American Rivers just issued their annual “America’s Most Endangered Rivers” report. The Susquehanna River in New York – Pennsylvania – Maryland makes the list this year because of concern over the unfolding boom in natural-gas drilling throughout the watershed, particularly drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shales that requires heavy-duty fracking and significant local water use — for example, a proposal to pull 250,000 gallons per day from Oquaga Creek, a small trout stream in upstate New York where my stepfather has fished many times. Stream and wetlands alteration (legal and otherwise) and poorly controlled stormwater runoff are two other, less publicized concerns that we’re investigating here at SkyTruth.

The rivers and tributaries of Bristol Bay, Alaska also make the list. The proposed Pebble copper/gold mine would directly destroy some of the headwaters, and would pose a potential threat of contamination if there were any problems with the massive tailings impoundments the mine would create. See our before and after maps of the Pebble plan, and just for grins, the same plan superimposed on Seattle for scale (Poof! 10,000 Starbucks disappear!).

North Dakota Oil Spill – Bigger Than Initially Reported

This article appeared in the Bismarck Tribune on Friday, May 20. A landowner notified the McKenzie County Emergency Manager that there was oil spilled near Keene in western North Dakota which may have flowed into a stock pond where cattle drink and into a creek that drains into Lake Sakakawea. Back on May 2, the company responsible for the spill, Newfield Exploration, reported that there was a 100-barrel spill as a result of a blizzard that knocked out power, but company officials told authorities that the oil was contained to a pit on the well site. Newfield told the department at that time there was no risk of any impact, that the spill was ‘contained’, and therefore, state health officials said that they didn’t initially investigate the spill.

It wasn’t until the landowner reported the possible flow into the larger body of water that officials took a look. The county’s Emergency Manager, Jerry Samuelson, said that the spill was actually more than 2 miles long and it appeared that there were more than 100 barrels spilled. Scott Radig, the State Health Department director of waste management, said the initial report was that 85 barrels were recovered from the spill, which apparently occurred because Newfield’s diesel-driven pump kept operating during the storm and no one could get to the well to shut it in.

“They reported it was contained within the dike except for a small amount of oil sprayed in the strong wind,” he said.

There is no record of this spill yet in the official oil and hazardous materials incident reports collected by the National Response Center. Maybe they weren’t required to report this spill; maybe they were, and failed to do so. Exactly the kind of question our new intern Michelle will be helping us look into.

Meet Michelle!

It’s our pleasure to introduce you to our newest intern here at SkyTruth, Michelle Behrmann. Michelle is a student at Shepherd University and during the summer months, she will be working on researching sources for information about pollution in the Gulf of Mexico related to oil and gas drilling. She’s been tasked with locating various sources for pollution reports, and then investigating whether or not those are good sources with usable information or if they are just dead ends.

Michelle will be reporting each week on the progress that she is making, so keep an eye on this spot for her blogs. Good luck Michelle, and welcome to SkyTruth!

Oil Slick at Platform 23051 Site, Gulf of Mexico

We’ve been watching the site of former platform #23051 in the Gulf since the BP spill last summer, when we discovered an unrelated chronic leak at this location. The most recent air photo from the site shows it still leaking in March.

And now this: today’s MODIS/Terra satellite image shows what appears to be an 18-mile-long oil slick emanating from this location. We’ve been told the site leaks an average of only 14 gallons per day. Once again we see evidence suggesting a much larger leak. See for yourself:

Detail from NASA MODIS/Terra satellite image taken May 11, 2011. Tip of Mississippi River delta at upper left.
Same image with annotation marking the location of the known leaking wells at the site of former platform 23051. Yellow measurement line marks apparent oil slick.

The total area of this slick is about 40 square kilometers. Assuming a minimum thickness of 1 micron (1/1000th of a millimeter) this indicates a total volume of 10,560 gallons of oil. At 14 gallons per day it would take 2 years to leak that much oil. But a micron-thick slick can survive at sea for no more than a couple of days at most before it dissipates.

Something isn’t adding up…