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Natural Breakdown of Petroleum Results in Arsenic Mobilization in Groundwater

Changes in geochemistry from the natural breakdown of petroleum hydrocarbons in groundwater promote mobilization of naturally occurring arsenic from aquifer sediments into groundwater. This geochemical change can result in potentially significant and overlooked arsenic groundwater contamination. Arsenic is a toxin and carcinogen linked to numerous forms of skin, bladder, and lung cancer. Of particular concern to public health is elevated arsenic in groundwater used for drinking water.For the past 32 years a collaborative group of scientists have investigated the natural attenuation of a petroleum hydrocarbon spill in the shallow, glacial aquifer at the National Crude Oil Spill Fate and Natural Attenuation Research Site near Bemidji, Minnesota. Scientists have found that the natural attenuation of petroleum hydrocarbons promotes a reduction of iron hydroxides, and they wondered if naturally occurring arsenic in the glacial aquifers in this area might be mobilized under these conditions. To address this question, for several years arsenic concentrations were measured in groundwater and sediment upgradient, within, and downgradient from the hydrocarbon plume. Results from this field investigation reveal that arsenic concentrations in the hydrocarbon plume can reach 230 micrograms per liter (µg/L), or 23 times the current drinking water standard of 10 µg/L. Arsenic concentrations are below 10 µg/L upgradient and downgradient from the plume. A scientist completes anaerobic processing of sediment from selected core depths prior to geochemical analyses.  The scientists attributed the elevated arsenic in the hydrocarbon plume to a series of interrelated geochemical and biochemical processes. In hydrocarbon plumes, anoxic (low oxygen) conditions occur when microbes metabolize the carbon–rich petroleum and consume oxygen in the process. Once oxygen has been consumed, then iron hydroxides are used to metabolize the carbon, which can result in the release of iron and arsenic from the sediments to the groundwater. The migration of the iron–reducing zone and shifts in the biodegradability of the carbon sources within the hydrocarbon plume result in changes in the concentration and extent of the dissolved arsenic plume over time. Results from this work also suggest that the arsenic released in the plume may reattach to aquifer sediments downgradient from the plume. This reattachment could be good news for limiting the extent of the arsenic contamination. However, this attachment process may be reversible, highlighting the need for long–term monitoring of arsenic and other chemicals that pose a water quality concern in areas associated with petroleum hydrocarbon leaks and spills. This research was supported by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program and Hydrologic Research and Development Program, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and the National Crude Oil Spill Fate and Natural Attenuation Research Site , a collaborative venture of the USGS, the Enbridge Energy Limited Partnership, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Beltrami County, Minnesota.”

Federal Reserve Issues Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payment System

“The Federal Reserve today issued “Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payment System,” which presents a multi-faceted plan for collaborating with payment system stakeholders including large and small businesses, emerging payments firms, card networks, payment processors, consumers and financial institutions to enhance the speed, safety and efficiency of the U.S. payment system. “A safer, more efficientContinue Reading

IMF Offers Free Access to Its Online Economic Data

“The International Monetary Fund has launched a new platform to support its move to free data and to improve online global statistical dissemination. The new portal enables bulk data downloads and introduces dynamic visualization to showcase datasets that became available free-of-charge on January 1, 2015. The platform will help users better query, visualize, download, andContinue Reading

Global Risks 2015 – World Economic Forum

“The 2015 edition of the Global Risks report completes a decade of highlighting the most significant long-term risks worldwide, drawing on the perspectives of experts and global decision-makers. Over that time, analysis has moved from risk identification to thinking through risk interconnections and the potentially cascading effects that result. Taking this effort one step further, this year’s report underscores potential causes as well as solutions to globalContinue Reading

Mapping America’s Futures – What Will America Look Like in 2030

The Urban Institute: “What will America look like in 2030? We can already see that the population is aging and becoming more diverse, but how will those trends play out at the local and regional levels? And what if, in the future, we live longer or have more babies? How would those trends affect theContinue Reading

DoD Releases 2013 Annual Report on Suicide

“…the Department of Defense (DoD) released its 2013 calendar year Suicide Event Report (DoDSER), which details the number of suicide attempts and deaths for U.S. service members. The DoDSER also includes detailed assessments of demographic information, behavioral health history, and deployment history for each suicide event. This comprehensive information informs DoD senior leaders as theyContinue Reading

Campus Law Enforcement, 2011-12

“During the 2011–12 school year, campus law enforcement agencies at U.S. 4-year colleges and universities with 2,500 or more students employed 31,904 persons, of which nearly half (14,576) were sworn officers, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. About two-thirds (68 percent) of the colleges and universities used sworn police officers with full arrestContinue Reading

Tax Havens: International Tax Avoidance and Evasion

CRS Report – Tax Havens: International Tax Avoidance and Evasion. Jane G. Gravelle, Senior Specialist in Economic Policy. January 15, 2015 “Addressing tax evasion and avoidance through use of tax havens has been the subject of a number of proposals in Congress and by the President. Actions by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and DevelopmentContinue Reading

Computers are learning to read emotion, and the business world can’t wait

The New Yorker – Raffi Khatchadourian: “Today, machines seem to get better every day at digesting vast gulps of information—and they remain as emotionally inert as ever. But since the nineteen-nineties a small number of researchers have been working to give computers the capacity to read our feelings and react, in ways that have comeContinue Reading

The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2015 to 2025

“CBO projects that, under current law, the federal budget deficit will fall to $468 billion in 2015 – 2.6 percent of GDP – and remain roughly stable, as a percentage of GDP, through 2018. After that, the gap between spending and revenues is projected to grow, raising the already high level of federal debt. CBOContinue Reading

The Cobweb Can the Internet be archived?

Jill Lepore, The New Yorker:  “The Wayback Machine has archived more than four hundred and thirty billion Web pages. The Web is global, but, aside from the Internet Archive, a handful of fledgling commercial enterprises, and a growing number of university Web archives, most Web archives are run by national libraries. They collect chiefly what’sContinue Reading

Guardian – WikiLeaks demands answers after Google hands staff emails to US government

Ed Pilkington and Dominic Rushe: “Google took almost three years to disclose to the open information group WikiLeaks that it had handed over emails and other digital data belonging to three of its staffers to the US government, under a secret search warrant issued by a federal judge. WikiLeaks has written to Google’s executive chairman,Continue Reading