Infrastructure

  • Inexpensive seismic alert device may help Mexico City residents

    Mexico City has been experiencing an unusually large number of tremors within the past few months, and though the country has one of the most advanced seismic alert systems in the world, many residents are unable to receive notifications before tremors occur. Mexican regulations limit the sale of government-issued earthquake alert receivers to one private company, but since the receivers cost an average of $310, most families are unable to afford them. Andres Meira, a 39-year-old architect, has designed an earthquake alert receiver, which costs only $54 at retail, which taps into the government’s earthquake alert frequency to notify its users of a pending earthquake.

  • Texas limits release of information about toxic chemicals storage in the state

    Shortly after the 2013 chemical explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, the Texas Department of State Health Services(DSHS) releasedto several media outlets its list of businesses across the state that store or handle large supplies of chemicals, including ammonium nitrate, the chemical which ignited the explosion. More recently, the department has been working to limit the release of its database of chemical inventories from the public.

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  • Chemical pollution of European waters is worse than anticipated

    Until now environmental authorities and parts of the scientific community have considered toxic chemicals to be rather a local problem affecting only a few bodies of water. A new study, however, reveals for the first time on a large scale the ecological risks emanating from chemical toxicants for several thousands of European aquatic systems. Chemical toxicity represents an ecological threat to almost half of all European bodies of water, and in approximately 15 percent of cases, the biota in freshwater systems may even be subject to acute mortality.

  • Spotting sewage pipes in need of repair -- before they burst

    The maintenance of U.S. wastewater collection systems costs an estimated $4.5 billion every year, much of which goes toward fixing or replacing 8,000 miles of sewers. In the future, these annual costs could top $12 billion. Part of the problem is corrosion caused by sewer gases that feed acid-generating microbes, which grown in biofilms on the inside top surface of the pipes.

  • Turning mining wastewater into rainwater-quality water

    A new cost-effective technology to treat mining wastewater and reduce sludge by up to 90 percent has been used for the first time at a commercial mine. The technology, called Virtual Curtain, was used to remove metal contaminants from wastewater at a Queensland mine and the equivalent of around twenty Olympic swimming pools of rainwater-quality water was safely discharged.

  • Number of structurally deficient bridges in U.S. declines

    The number of structurally deficient bridges in the United States has declined by 14 percent in the last six years, but despite the improvement, 10 percent of American bridges are in need of maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement. The average age of bridges in the country is forty-three years old, and most bridges were built to last for fifty-years, so eventually all bridges will become structurally deficient unless they are repaired or replaced.

  • Urban man-made drainage may increase risk of flooding

    Installing drainage systems in developing towns and cities can cause water to reach rivers more quickly, potentially raising the risk of flooding, say scientists. They suggest that, in some cases, storm drains may do more to increase the risk of flooding than changes in the land surface.

  • Towns in northeast U.S. develop adaptation strategies for climate change

    In many northeastern towns along the coast of the United States, local officials are attempting to identify and predict the effects of climate change which will occur over the next few decades. “You’re going to feel impacts. It’s a global issue with local effects…We don’t know exactly what’s coming, so let’s plan to be adaptable,” says a leader of a regional climate adaptation project.

  • Could devastating floods help Bosnians heal their war wounds?

    The violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the subsequent war in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995 took the lives of more than 100,000 Bosnians and left two million homeless. Two decades later those survivors have been forced once again to abandon their homes — this time by floodwaters rather than bullets. The heaviest rainfalls ever recorded in the Balkans have led to catastrophic flooding in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Swelled by weeks of rain, the devastating floodwaters swamped more than 60 percent of the country last month, destroying more than 100,000 homes and displacing around 950,000 citizens. The floods also damaged vital infrastructure, destroyed industrial assets, and killed livestock. It is difficult to find a ray of light in this grim story of disaster, except this: Over the past weeks, media outlets have been flooded with stories and images of bravery, camaraderie, and community spirit where ethnicity suddenly became irrelevant. It remains to be seen how this feeling of camaraderie and community can be harvested to mobilize the people of Bosnia ahead of the general elections in October. Such a movement would have the potential to force corrupted political elites into the corner by draining them of their political capital.

  • Smart infrastructure sensors are powered by the pavement, bridges they monitor

    As states look to improve its infrastructure — roads and bridges — researchers think they may have one solution. They are creating smart infrastructure sensors that are powered by the pavement and bridges they are designed to monitor. These small sensors will self-diagnose damage and mechanical failure in pavements and bridges.

  • Carbon-cutting regulations may boost prospects of nuclear power plants

    In a report issued last Thursday, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (S&P) predicted that new nuclear plant construction could benefit from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent carbon-cutting guidelines for current natural gas power plants.

  • IT security at U.S. ports weak: GAO

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that maritime security policies and plans at three high-risk U.S. ports do not effectively address how to assess, manage, and respond to cybersecurity threats. While all three ports have strategies to deal with physical security, there were few policies that specifically addressed cybersecurity.

  • Debate continues over controversial lawsuit-killing Louisiana oil bill

    Governor Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana) is facing a difficult decision over whether or not to veto a measure which would kill a contentious lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against ninety-seven different oil and gas companies regarding long-term environmental damage claims, including those of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion.

  • NNSA says security at Y-12 National Security Complex has improved

    Retired Air Force lieutenant-general and now National Nuclear Security Administration(NNSA) chief Frank Klotz asserted last week that security at the Y-12 National Security Complexat Oak Ridge National Laboratory(ORNL) has improved significantly since a 28 July 2012 break-inat the plant when three aging peace activists, led by an 82-year old nun, managed to breach the facility’s supposedly impregnable perimeter security systems.

  • Recession-related cost measures blamed for U.S. infrastructure lagging development

    In an alarming fall, the United States is currently ranked 19th in the quality of its infrastructure, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. Additionally, the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given the country a D+ on its annual Infrastructure Report Card, arguing that $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 for maintenance and upgrades.