EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

It’s the kind of foggy day you’d expect at Redwood National Park on the Northern California coast. The headlands are shrouded in mist and the gray-blue ocean churns against the shore.

“This place is called Shin-yvslh-sri~ – the Summer Place,” says Suntayea Steinruck a member of the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation and Tribal Heritage Preservation Officer for Smith River Rancheria.

One of the leading makers of art glass in the Pacific Northwest has announced it will close its doors.

Spectrum Glass, based in Woodinville, Washington, is one of three top art glass producers in the region.

It's a competitor with Portland's Bullseye Glass, and a sometime collaborator with another Portland firm, Uroboros.

This weekend, thousands of environmental protesters will rally to block the oil flowing to refineries near Anacortes, Washington. But some worry the event may also block the Salish Sea’s largest colony of great blue herons from feeding their young.

Federal land managers labored long and hard on their latest plan for the 2.6 million acres in western Oregon known as the O&C lands.

And they admit it was crafted, at least in part, to avoid protracted legal battles.

But the plan hadn’t even been officially released yet when it began gathering threats of lawsuits from all sides.

Jim Whittington, with the Medford District of the Bureau of Land Management, says the agency’s four-year effort to update its management plan for the O&C lands hits the sweet spot.

On Monday federal officials defined the critical habitat for a rare Northwest creature: the Oregon spotted frog. That designation is required since the frog was listed as threatened in 2014.You'd be lucky to see or hear this frog.

The Oregon spotted frog is two-to-four inches long and is disguised by dark spots. It lives entirely in water (unlike many frogs who live partly on land) and makes low tapping sounds instead of a croak.

The Lummi Nation's Tribal Chairman Timothy Ballew pulled fellow council member Travis Brockie into his office to announce the big news:

He’d just gotten off the phone with Col. John Buck of the Army Corps of Engineers.

After four years of back and forth between the tribe and its adversaries, the Corps had decided not to permit a coal-shipping terminal on the north shore of Puget Sound; such a development would have done unacceptable harm to the Lummi's ability to fish those waters as their treaty with the U.S. government calls for.

High above the Pacific Ocean in a plane headed for Hong Kong, most of the passengers are fast asleep.

But not Jim Puckett. His eyes are fixed on the glowing screen of his laptop. Little orange markers dot a satellite image. He squints at the pixelated terrain trying to make out telltale signs.

He’s searching for America’s electronic waste.

“People have the right to know where their stuff goes,” he says.

You buy a new phone or computer and you take your old one to a local recycler. It's the green thing to do, right?

Well, it turns out a lot of those devices may not be getting recycled at all. The United States is the single largest producer of electronic waste, generating almost 8 million tons a year.

A good way to understand e-waste is in terms of cell phones.

Every year, the world produces 1.4 billion phones. Stacked up, these new phones would higher than the International Space Station. The average American replaces their phone every two years.

The biggest electronic recycling company in Washington faces multiple state investigations and has lost its environmental certification after it was caught secretly exporting televisions laden with hazardous materials to unregulated facilities in Hong Kong.

Seattle-based Total Reclaim, a certified electronics recycler in Oregon and Washington, admitted to withholding information about the exports after the nonprofit Basel Action Network placed GPS tracking devices in flat screen TVs and tracked their journey overseas.

How We Did It: Reporting 'The Circuit'

May 5, 2016

As EarthFix reporters Ken Christensen and Katie Campbell passed their eyes over stacks of electronic rubble in the middle of rural Hong Kong, something stuck out.

In the piles of discarded computers, television sets and other electronics, the two reporters picked out familiar names — namely, Total Reclaim, a recycling company that handles large amounts of the Northwest’s e-waste.

A new study conducted in Portland neighborhoods confirms that the more traffic there is on a street, the more air pollution cyclists are breathing.

A number of studies have measured air quality along bike routes, but Alex Bigazzi wanted to see how much pollution got into cyclists’ lungs.

A new forest study reveals an unexpected silver lining for forests attacked by insects like the mountain pine beetle.

Researchers from the University of Vermont and Oregon State University studied fires in forests with outbreaks of both mountain pine beetles and western spruce budworms in the past 25 years. The new report shows that forests eaten up by insects had less severe wildfires than those that were insect-free.

In a ruling Wednesday, Federal District Court Judge Michael Simon rejected the government's latest plan for protecting salmon in the Columbia River Basin, saying the system of fish-blocking dams “cries out for a new approach.”

Forty centimeters is a long way down when you’re digging a pit in the forest.

“That’s why you never find perpetrators burying a body six feet under – it’s way too much work,” quips Western Oregon University Professor Misty Weitzel to the raucous approval of her sweaty students.

These Western Oregon University students aren’t burying bodies. They’re digging them up. Weitzel assures that the bodies are not human.

“What we have are three domestic pig burials that were placed in the ground 10 years ago,” says Weitzel, who teaches criminal justice.

CASCADE LOCKS – Klairice Westley stoops at the edge of a spring in the woods above the Oxbow Fish Hatchery.

"Want to get a drink?" she asks.

She dips a cupped hand into the pool of water and takes a sip.

"Oh, that's good water,"she says. "That's the best."

Westley lives nearby in Cascade Locks and also belongs to the Grand Ronde and Warm Springs tribes. She says drinking from Oxbow Springs is more than a tradition among tribal members – it’s a religious rite.

A summary out Friday shows there are still elevated levels of hexavalent chromium in Southeast Portland — and Department of Environmental Quality investigators still don’t know where it’s coming from.

State health officials say the emission levels don’t pose an immediate health risk, but Health Authority spokesman Jonathan Modie said risks can go up, the longer people are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals.

Environmental Impacts Linked To Columbia River Coal Project

Apr 29, 2016

Coal dust, greenhouse gas emissions, noise and traffic congestion are among the environmental impacts from the proposed coal export terminal in Longview, Washington, according to a draft report released Friday.

Portland State University, the city of Portland and Multnomah County announced plans Wednesday to spend $125,000 on a two-year study of the city’s toxic air pollution.

In Seattle's King County, property owners have walled off most of the shoreline with concrete bulkheads and other heavy infrastructure.

Along Hood Canal and other rural parts of the sound, the owners of coveted waterfront homes keep building more walls to keep their properties from eroding.

These walls are going up around Puget Sound, and the sound is paying for it.

A new study from the University of Washington suggests the practice, known as shoreline armoring, is more harmful to Puget Sound than previously thought.

Pages