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Posts Tagged ‘hydraulic fracturing’

The Esso Aruba, built in 1931, a water tanker as much as an oil tanker.

Just today I heard an interesting bit of Hudson River trivia from my “grandfather.” Some of you know that both sides of my family have been in tug and barge and marine contracting work on New York Harbor for about a century. But I’m blessed with a third grandfather, Jim — my childhood landlord who, along with his wife, essentially adopted my mom, brother, and me during hard times and now we’re there for him as he reaches his 90s.
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I biked over to Jim in Flushing, and he told me something from his days as a Merchant Marine, 2nd engineer aboard this kind of oil ship, in World War II. The convoys to which he belonged ran oil both from the Middle East to Europe and Aruba to Albany. Regarding the latter, he noted that when oil was delivered stateside, they pumped about half out in NYC before heading up the Hudson River to Albany, where the other half was pumped out. The ships then took on ballast water (a practice now carefully regulated to avoid introducing invasive species).
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When the ships arrived to desert island of Aruba, that Hudson River water was so precious that it was pumped out, spun through a centrifuge to remove any oil residue, and used sparingly as a precious commodity! Who knew that we once swapped Hudson River oil for water in unofficial international trade?
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It occurred to Jim then, as a young man in his 20s, that much of the world would one day treat water as covetously as oil. He moved to water rich NYC after the war, and later thought the growth of huge cities in areas that required water conservation was madness.
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Science Photo Library caption: Desalination plant. View of a mixed desalination and electricity generating plant. This is the second largest desalination plant in the world. Oil-fired turbines generate electricity using sea water which condenses and is desalinated in the process. The water is then passed over coral rocks to add minerals and pumped to the rest of the island which receives little rainfall. Photographed on the Dutch island of Aruba in the West Indies in 1999.

Today, Aruba has a massive desalination plant. The Hudson River has endured environmental assault but now Rockland County is edging closer to relying on it for life. NYC might also turn to it if times get desperate.
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Instead of obsessing over another fossil fuel, natural gas, that lies under our region’s earth, we should be grateful for the plentiful water above it. Protecting it means, at this time, choosing water over dangerously extracted fuel.
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On June 5, race across a pristine lake and then drink it from your tap!

New York City’s drinking water comes from a vast system of reservoirs and lakes stewarded by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. They’re as picturesque as any scene you’ll find pasted across well-marketed bottled water, nestled in green ancient mountains and fed by spring thaws. Photographer Dick Bower has shared the beauty of the reservoir and lake system, and the region in which they rest, extensively in his online gallery.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the municipal government and nonprofit partners purchased vast acreages of forest to naturally filter the water. The system is so effective that NYC tap water needn’t be artificially filtered at the source, which saves taxpayers billions of dollars (home filters primarily address deposits from old building pipes).

Recently public awareness of this precious resource has been raised by controversy over the demand for natural gas drilling in the same region, which is hurting economically while sitting atop a vast expanse of gas-rich shale deposits. In particular, the practice called hydraulic fracturing (or “hydrofracking”) has alarmed environmentalists because of its record of contaminating water tables and damaging wildlife habitats. Specialized groups have formed to object to the practice, and established organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council have taken up the cause.

Cannonsville Reservoir by Dick Bower.

The Cannonsville Adventure Triathlon educates people about the New York City water supply in a brilliantly apolitical way. This event features a 10k run, 4 mile paddle, and 12 mile bike set amid the crystal waters of the Cannonsville Reservoir and rolling Catskill Mountain forests in Delaware County, NY. Whether you’re inspired to compete or would enjoy cheering the athletes through their course, you’ll have a blast getting to know each other and your water. Camping over the weekend is encouraged!

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