Expert Pitch
West Virginia University

Long term air and water pollution to remain steady despite quarantines, says climate change expert

26-Mar-2020 5:15 PM EDT, by West Virginia University

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – One of the COVID-19’s more pleasant impacts has been stories of a cleaner environment as people hunker down inside.

Satellite video shows pollution dissipating across the United States and China; the usually murky Venice, Italy canals are now flowing crystal clear.

So, this could be a silver lining in the coronavirus cloud?

Maybe some places, and probably only for a little while, but not at all in West Virginia, says Nicolas Zegre, director of the West Virginia University Mountain Hydrology Laboratory.

Zegre bases his conclusion on the continued operations of the mining and energy industries in the state, despite a stay-at-home order by Gov. Jim Justice that went into effect Tuesday (March 24). During a news conference announcing the order, Justice referred to coal as “essential.”

According to Zegre, the top contributors to water and air pollution in West Virginia are industries related to mining, natural gas, electricity and manufacturing.

“Four of the top five largest producers of pollution in the state are related to power generation,” said Zegre, associate professor of forest hydrology in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. “The fifth is a metal processing facility. Only if the pandemic disrupts our economy at the levels we’ve seen in China and Italy, then maybe we’d see a short-term reduction in pollution.”

In parts of the U.S., satellite images taken over the first three weeks of March show less nitrogen dioxide compared to this time last year. Nitrogen dioxide, a gaseous air pollutant, comes from vehicle emissions and power plants.

China has seen more dramatic dips in air pollution. Earlier this month, a Stanford University scientist calculated that two months of pollution reduction there may have been enough to save the lives of 4,000 children under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70.

“Coal consumption in China fell 36 percent over the last month because of the disruption in manufacturing,” Zegre said. “China slowed down those operations.”

Pollution levels are bound to rise again as the country recovers from the worst of the threat.

And those glimmering translucent Venice canals? They’ll be murky again.

“While the clarity of the Venice canals has changed, the water quality itself has not,” Zegre said. “The chemistry of the water hasn’t changed. It’s clear due to the lack of boat traffic.”

As other parts of the world have halted or slowed operations that spit out carbon emissions, West Virginia, so far, has not, Zegre said. Even if it did, the long-term environmental challenges would remain.

“Contaminated water systems are due to manufacturing, so those problems will continue to exist despite what happens,” he said. “They’re not going away. Acid mine drainage doesn’t care what’s going on with coronavirus.”

It’s estimated that nearly 913,000 West Virginians already consume water from systems not compliant with the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act, based on a 2019 report titled “Watered Down Justice” by three national environmental nonprofits. Another report, published by nonprofits DigDeep and the US Water Alliance, stated that two million people in the Ohio Valley don’t have access to clean drinking water and basic plumbing.

“Another chronic water quality problem in West Virginia is the sanitation and lack of adequate infrastructure,” Zegre said. “There’s emerging research that is suggesting COVID-19 can spread through fecal matter. That poses a problem for parts of West Virginia that have inadequate septic systems and communities not tied into water treatment facilities.”

Even in areas with water treatment systems, Zegre wonders if staff shortages due to the pandemic would affect water quality in those places, too.

“Something we need to consider is the staffing of our water treatment facilities,” he said. “Will this pandemic impact the workforce that ensures we have clean, reliable sources of water for the community?

“Regardless, there’s a very clear connection between our public health, environmental health and economic health. I think the citizens are awakening to not only the inequality of our economic system but also the unsustainability of that system. We have some very real opportunities to rethink how we do things in West Virginia.

"West Virginia's pollution problems are largely chronic and can be addressed principally through active cleanup and mitigation. In other words, they are not going to correct themselves in the absence of industrial activities."

-WVU-

js/03/26/20

Call 1-855-WVU-NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.




Filters close

Showing results

110 of 5636
Released: 13-May-2021 7:05 PM EDT
FLCCC Statement on the Irregular Actions of Public Health Agencies & the Disinformation Campaign Against Ivermectin
Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC Alliance)

FLCCC Alliance calls for whistleblower to step forward from within WHO, the FDA, the NIH, Merck, or Unitaid to counter this misrepresentation

Newswise: shutterstock_1724336896.jpg
Released: 13-May-2021 12:55 PM EDT
Kreuter receives $1.9 million in grants to increase vaccinations in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis

Matthew Kreuter, the Kahn Family Professor of Public Health at the Brown School, has received $1.9 million in grants to help increase COVID-19 vaccinations among Blacks in St. Louis City and County.

Released: 13-May-2021 11:35 AM EDT
COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines are Immunogenic in Pregnant and Lactating Women, Including Against Viral Variants
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

In a new study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center researchers evaluated the immunogenicity of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in pregnant and lactating women who received either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. They found that both vaccines triggered immune responses in pregnant and lactating women.

Released: 13-May-2021 10:30 AM EDT
Pandemic stigma: Foreigners, doctors wrongly targeted for COVID-19 spread in India
Monash University

The Indian public blamed foreigners, minority groups and doctors for the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the country during the first wave, due to misinformation, rumour and long-held discriminatory beliefs, according to an international study led by Monash University.

Released: 13-May-2021 9:15 AM EDT
28 Community Programs Receive Grants Through Penn Medicine CAREs Program
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Penn Medicine CAREs awarded grants to 28 projects, many of which aim to fill vast needs in the community created by the COVID-19 pandemic, while others seek to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Released: 13-May-2021 9:00 AM EDT
How to Win Over Vaccine Skeptics: Live Expert Panel for May 20, 3pm ET
Newswise

How to Win Over Vaccine Skeptics: Live Expert Panel for May 20, 3pm ET

Released: 13-May-2021 8:00 AM EDT
Dental procedures during pandemic are no riskier than a drink of water
Ohio State University

A new study’s findings dispel the misconception that patients and providers are at high risk of catching COVID-19 at the dentist’s office.

Newswise:Video Embedded lung-damage-not-the-culprit-for-post-covid-exercise-limitations
VIDEO
Released: 13-May-2021 7:00 AM EDT
Lung Damage Not the Culprit for Post-COVID Exercise Limitations
American Physiological Society (APS)

A new study suggests the lungs may not be the main factor that reduce exercise ability in people recovering from severe COVID-19. Anemia and muscle dysfunction also play a role. The study is published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology. It was chosen as an APSselect article for May.


Showing results

110 of 5636

close
1.30339