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August 19th, 2014
It’s no secret that the Bay Area, as well as the rest of California, has been hit hard by this summer’s record-breaking drought. Unfortunately for Bay Area residents, newly released data on the condition of water pipes is showing us just how much of the water we have is wasted.
State records have reflected that the Bay Area loses a whopping 23 billion gallons of water a year, enough water to serve 71,000 families annually. The water loss can be attributed to failing, underground water pipes. These leaks not only waste the increasingly scares resource, but cause revenue losses and property damage as well. These figures are especially disparaging to residents, who are being asked to cut water use by as much as 20 percent.
The estimations of lost water for Bay Area cities and counties have varied between 3 and 16 percent annually. On the low end, cities like Antioch and Santa Clara have fared relatively well (3.5 and 5.2 percent, respectively), but some cities like Livermore (14.2 percent) and Hayward (15.75 percent) are losing a significant amount.
One of the major factors leading to pipe leaks and failures is age. Most pipes are made of one of two materials: cast iron and asbestos cement. Both materials are very close to the end of their functional lifespans. Adding the state’s penchant for earthquakes and landslides, California is faced with a landscape that does not bode well for underground piping.
Although agencies like the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) have utilized new technology to better detect leaks, the American Water Works Association still feel that the nation is fast facing “the dawn of the replacement era”. They predict that replacing and expanding water systems will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years. While these figures seems especially daunting, it will be worth it in the long run if California or any other state is faced with a severe water shortage.
By Ethan Malone
August 6th, 2014
For the first time in years, the city of Oakland will be counting on a different company to handle garbage pickup.
Last week, city council unanimously voted to award the highly coveted 10-year contract (valued at $1 billion) to California Waste Solutions (CWS), an Oakland-based company whose primary expertise lies in recycling. The decision to place garbage-collecting responsibilities for the entire city in the hands of a company with no experience with garbage represents an extremely risky venture.
With CWS taking over garbage collection duties, it marks the end a decades-long business relationship between the city and Waste Management, the agency previously handling garbage pickup. At times in the past the relationship has been strained, many pointing the Waste Managements decision to lock out 500 members of the Teamsters labor union after workers refused the companies demand that they pay a larger share of their healthcare benefits as a major factor. As a result, trash was left uncollected for two weeks and city officials were not too happy. (Source)
The major turning point during negotiations came when Waste Management refused to budge off the proposed $100 a year rate increase. CWS offered a more competitive bid, with a figure that would only cost residents around $80 more per year. With the winning bid comes the daunting task of CWS expanding their current operations to meet its new needs. In less then a year, CWS must:
- Build a transfer station in Oakland
- Add 150+ employees
- Double its 70-truck fleet
- Invest around $80 million into operations
- Swap out 300,000 trash bins
Should CWS fall short during preparations, they have prepared to let Republic Services, the second largest garbage service in the US, will allow them to use their transfer station in Richmond.
August 1st, 2014
As California began to feel the worsening effects of this summers drought, Gov. Jerry Brown called for a 20% cutback on overall water use among resident. Unfortunately, residents are failing to act accordingly. In a recently updated report of statewide water use, not only has consumption failed to fall, but also residents are actually using 1% more then last month.
This alarming data comes on the heels of the data released last month that showed only a 5% drop in use. Compared to the new data, those look more and more favorable. This is leaving state officials stammering to find means to get residents on board with conservation efforts. The study has pointed towards two geographical areas as the worst offenders: coastal communities in Southern California and communities in the northeastern corner of the state. A $500-a-day penalty implemented last month for people using excess water for things like landscaping, car washing, and fountains is failing to inspire conservation.
Felicia Marcus, Chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, recently commented on the ongoing failure to conserve water, saying, “Not everybody in California understands how bad this drought is … and how bad it could be. There are communities in danger of running out of water all over the state.” The board is currently looking into imposing stricter usage rules, including requiring water districts to repair leaks and working with local agencies to increase rates to heavy users.
While this blog usually cover topics relating to recycling and waste management, we felt it was necessary share this information with our readers. We implore everyone to remember that just because you can turn on the faucet and see water come out, doesn’t mean the drought is not affecting you. Please think twice to analyze your water use and look for ways you can cut down.
(Source: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/california/California-Water-Use-Rises-Amid-Crippling-Drought–267215981.html#246934731246934731 )
July 10th, 2014
The recycling center at the Market Street Safeway
In San Francisco a heated battle continues to over one current recycling center that has overstayed their welcome, as well as opposition over another one looking for city approval before setting up shop.
At the Safeway located at 2020 Market St., residents and business owners had enough with the industrial sized center operated by Community Recyclers. People have grown tired of the seemingly endless line of shopping carts and overflowing trash bags lining the street up to the center, creating hefty amounts of litter, noise, and traffic congestion.
Last summer, Safeway terminated the center’s lease, but Community Recyclers opted to not leave without a fight. The center stayed open, forcing Safeway to file suit. When the dust settled, a settlement was reached that would see the center close on June 30th.
The 30th came and went, with the center still holding normal operating hours. With Community Recyclers violating a court order and facing a formal eviction, the task of enforcement falls on the shoulders of the Sheriff’s Department. According to department policy evictions take place on Wednesdays, although there has been no word as to if they have followed through.
Many of the same reasons why locals wanted the Market St. center closed are coming into play to try and stop a new center from opening on 10th and Harrison. Residents of the area came out in droves to almost unanimously oppose the planned recycling center, citing the already dangerous intersection as a less-then-ideal site for the increased foot traffic a recycling center will bring.
In the end, San Francisco is faced with a unique and challenging problem with public recycling. While recycling centers play a huge role in the illegal collection and processing of recyclables (which can cost the city around $5 million annually), the city hopes not to completely alienate people looking to help them reach the goal of zero waste.
By Ethan Malone
June 30th, 2014
Albertsons, a grocery chain with more than a thousand locations nation-wide, has agreed to pay $3.3 million dollars to settle a case brought against them alleging stores in California mishandled the disposal of hazardous waste.
In the lawsuit, filed in the Orange County Superior Court, several government agencies accused Albertsons of illegally transporting and disposing of dangerous and possibly deadly materials including pool chemicals, batteries, and various types of over-the-counter medication. It was claimed that these products were disposed of in dumpsters meant for non-hazardous material and transported to unauthorized waste processors.
Although Albertson’s has asserted that they have done nothing wrong, they have agreed to overhaul the waste management policies and practices at all 118 California locations. The overhaul includes implementing a computerized waste management tracking system, expanding employee training on the proper handling of hazardous materials, and conducting regular internal audit. Albertsons is also required to submit progress reports over the next five years, or face further penalties.
This is quite a setback for the chain, which in the last few years has made great strides towards putting more environmentally friendly policies into action in the state where these allegations took place. In 2012, the Albertson’s location in Carpintina earned the EPA GreenChill Environmental Achievement Award for being the first grocery store in the nation to use low global warming potential refrigerants. Two stores in Santa Barbara achieved “zero waste” goals, diverting 95% of waste away from landfills. Three stores in Carlsbad, Oceanside and Alpine are currently using rooftop solar panels to power the stores.
Hopefully, whether these charges took place or not, Albertsons can use this opportunity to promote better communication and continue to strive towards an eco-friendly business model.
By Ethan Malone
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