DR. DICKSON DESPOMMIER
spent thirty-eight years as a professor of microbiology
and public health in environmental health sciences at Columbia, where he won the
Best Teacher award six times. In 2003, he was awarded the American Medical Student
Association Golden Apple Award for teaching. He has addressed audiences at leading
universities including Harvard and MIT, and he has also been invited to speak at
the United Nations. In addition, he has been asked by governments of China, India,
Mexico, Jordan, Brazil, Canada, and Korea to work on environmental problems. Despommier
lives in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Floods and droughts are the farmer’s biggest worries. They seem to go hand in hand. Take this year, for example. The flood of 2011 continues to adversely affect the upper Missouri River system and all points south along its drainage basin. Minot, ND is under siege from that flood (in this case, from the Souris River). Its surrounding farmland is being devastated. But it is not just flooding, the worst in US history, that is causing problems. An oil pipeline, owned and operated by Exxon Mobil, traverses some six feet under the bottom of the Yellowstone River, supplying three large refineries in Billings, Montana. On July 2nd, that pipe broke, due presumably to erosion of the river bottom caused by flood stage waters. Over 42,000 gallons of crude oil flowed into the river before officials noticed the leak. Oil despoiled the banks of the river for miles downstream. All nearby irrigation ditches that use the river for agriculture were closed and cleanup efforts were begun.
LAUREL, Mont. (AP) — Teams of federal and state workers fanned out Sunday along Montana's Yellowstone River to gauge the environmental damage from a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline that spewed tens of thousands of gallons of crude into the famous waterway.
An Environmental Protection Agency representative said that only a small fraction of the spilled oil is likely to be recovered.
Agency on-scene coordinator Steve Way said fast flows along the flooding river are spreading the oil over a large area, making it harder to capture. But Way said that also could reduce damage to wildlife and cropland along the river.
A 25-mile long slick of oil had reached as far west as Hysham Saturday night. An estimated 1,000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons, spilled Saturday before the flow of oil from the damaged pipeline was stopped.
Duane Winslow with Yellowstone County disaster coordinator Duane Winslow says dozens more ExxonMobil cleanup workers began to arrive in Montana on Sunday morning.
The break near Billings in south-central Montana fouled the riverbank and forced municipalities and irrigation districts Saturday to close intakes. The river has no dams on its way to its confluence with the Missouri River just across the Montana border in North Dakota. It was unclear how far the plume might travel.
Meanwhile in the Southeast, a drought that has been around now for most of the spring and into the summer has raised havoc with livestock and crops.
Quote from USGS website:
The lack of rainfall has resulted in extremely low river and creek levels, with many wells going dry, and has begun to impact southwest Georgia water utilities that rely on groundwater. The dry weather and hot temperatures have ravaged crops, with a fourth to half of several crops (corn, cotton, peanuts, sorghum, and soybeans) rated in poor to very poor condition across several southeast states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina). The hard soils and hot temperatures have made successful sprouting of seed difficult and, due to lack of forage, farmers are sending cattle to feedlots or selling cattle.
Texas, too, has had to contend with a drought, that in some places, has limited the amount of drinking water to just one month’s supply. If rain does not come within the next few weeks, then cattle will die and people will have to rely on water drought in from outside sources.
Unintended and certainly unwanted consequences of this year’s extreme weather patterns are not yet over. What’s next?
For more, see: