EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

USGS Looks To Twitter For Speedy Quake Alerts

Oct 11, 2015

The U.S. Geological Survey is exploring the use of Twitter to collect and analyze accounts of earthquakes around the world.

It's undeniable that we live in the age of the smartphone. When something interesting happens, people pull out their phones to tell everyone about it — even when it’s an earthquake.

By monitoring Twitter for words like “earthquake,” and by filtering out longer tweets — under the assumption people experiencing a quake aren’t very chatty — the USGS has been able to develop a new way to send rapid quake alerts.

Could A Mushroom Save The Honeybee?

Oct 9, 2015

Honeybees need a healthy diet of pollen, nectar and water. But at a bee laboratory in eastern Washington state, Steve Sheppard fills their feeding tubes with murky brown liquid from the forest.

His bees are getting a healthy dose of mushroom juice.

"If this does what we hope, it will be truly revolutionary," says Sheppard, who heads the Department of Entomology at Washington State University. "Beekeepers are running out of options."

Could A Mushroom Save The Honeybee?

Oct 9, 2015

Honeybees need a healthy diet of pollen, nectar and water. But at a bee laboratory in eastern Washington state, Steve Sheppard fills their feeding tubes with murky brown liquid from the forest.

His bees are getting a healthy dose of mushroom juice.

In 2014 Oregon Field Guide set off to explore the possible findings of a new cave system rumored to exist inside the glacier on the crater's south side of Mt St. Helens.

The segment aired with a fascinating story of its discovery but the shoot did not end as hoped. This behind-the-scenes view will reveal the difficult challenges and circumstances that lead to a dramatic departure from the crater.

Wildlife Crossings Reduce Collisions And Save Lives

Oct 8, 2015

Producer: Vince Patton, Videographers: Todd Sonflieth, Corky Miller, Michael Bendixen, Editor: Michael Bendixen

Additional Photos & Video: Oregon Dept. of Transportation Oregon State Police, Parks Canada: Banff National Park

When deer need to get where they’re going, they often must conquer an obstacle course of fences and roads.

Miles upon miles of human made barriers snake across even the most wide-open landscape.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday the state is pursuing clean water rules that match federal recommendations for protecting human health.

Inslee said he would direct the Washington Department of Ecology to draft a new clean water rules that reduce pollution enough for people to safely eat more fish from Washington waters. The proposed rule is based on a fish consumption rate of 175 grams per person per day and an allowable cancer risk of one in one million.

Northwest communities are breathing easier than many places in the United States after federal regulators clamped down on ozone pollution, the main component of smog.

The Environmental Protection Area last week lowered the acceptable limit to 70 parts per billion. The new clean air standard is not as far-reaching as health and environmental advocates were calling for. But it’s more strict than many industry representatives wanted to see.

As of 2014, no region in Washington or Oregon were averaging greater than 65 parts per billion.

What is ozone?

Portland Company Building Highrise From Wood

Oct 7, 2015

A 12-story highrise building is set for construction at the corner of Northwest 10th Avenue and Northwest Glisan Street. But this building stands out from the scores of new highrise construction in one significant way: it will be made of wood.

Diesel Spills Into Columbia After Ship Hits Astoria Pier

Oct 2, 2015

The Coast Guard says a diesel spill in the Columbia River is being cleaned up after a cargo ship leaked more than one-thousand gallons of fuel Friday.

The 1,100-gallon spill happened early in the morning after the vessel struck a pier. The collision created a 4-foot gash in the ship, which was arriving at the port to collect a load of logs.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Levi Read said the spill was contained and was being cleaned up.

Critics Say Whales Put At Risk By Navy Testing Plan

Oct 2, 2015

The Navy released the final environmental review Friday for its proposed sonar and explosives training practices in waters off the coast of the Northwest.

The Navy currently conducts training exercises in an area of the northeastern Pacific Ocean, roughly the size of Montana. It needs to renew its federal permit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in order to continue and expand those exercises.

The Environmental Protection Agency came out with new rules Thursday that will make it harder to pollute the air with ozone, the main ingredient in smog.

The new allowable threshold in the air is 70 parts per billion, down from 75.

While many cities across the U.S. will be forced to make changes to improve air quality, Northwest communities are generally in good shape for now.

Two Oregon state agencies have fined helicopter company Applebee Aviation close to $10,000 and suspended the company’s license to spray pesticides after a worker complained of chemical exposure in Douglas County.

Both the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health and the Oregon Department of Agriculture opened investigations in the case brought by Darryl Ivy, a truck driver and pesticide handler who was exposed to herbicides on the job and who released hundreds of photos and videos in alleging unsafe conditions during aerial herbicide sprays.

New Plan For Recovering Bull Trout Takes Effect

Sep 30, 2015

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a new plan for bringing back the declining bull trout in Oregon, Washington and three other Western states. But conservationists say it won't actually restore the fish's population to a healthy level.

Bull trout are predators native to streams across the Northwest. In some places, bull trout were purposely over-fished to keep them from eating precious salmon.

Federal energy regulators have signed off on a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal and pipeline in Southern Oregon. A final review published Wednesday says the Jordan Cove project won’t have significant negative effects on the environment.

The LNG export terminal proposed for Coos Bay would be the first on the West Coast. The 230-mile pipeline would connect the terminal to Rocky Mountain and Canadian gas supplies.

The Environmental Protection Agency released new rules Tuesday requiring better monitoring and control of air emissions from oil refineries, including five operating in Washington.

Refineries are being targeted by the new rules in part because they emit volatile organic chemicals, greenhouse gases and the carcinogenic compound benzene.

Shell announced Monday it will seal and abandon the test well it drilled in Alaska's Chukchi Sea, and end its offshore exploration in the Arctic for the foreseeable future.

The company cited high costs, challenging federal regulations and poor results from a test well.

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Yumei Wang dug one foot into the sand beneath her, and water crept in around it. Like a sandcastle left to the tide, the ground beneath her turned to silty pudding.

But Wang was not at the beach. She was in Northwest Portland’s industrial district, examining the six-mile stretch along the Willamette River that holds more than 90 percent of the state’s fuel supply.

“Is there any worse soil in Portland that we could have built on?” she asked.

Oregon Tsunami Maps Dangerously Out Of Date

Sep 27, 2015

Oregon is unprepared for the tsunami that could follow a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. The megaquake has a 1-in-3 chance of hitting in the next 50 years.

For years, experts have said that if there’s an earthquake we should "Duck, Cover and Hold." That is, duck under something strong — like a desk — then stay under cover and hold on until the shaking stops.

But Corbett School District superintendent Randi Trani doesn’t think the mantra works for his middle school. Corbett Middle School was built in 1921 without benefit of steel rebar or such modern ideas as tying the walls to the roof.