Saturday, June 21, 2014

178 barrels of oil spill into Colorado’s only designated wild and scenic river


A 7,500-gallon storage tank of crude oil has completely drained into the scenic Cache La Poudre, Colorado's only designated National Wild and Scenic River, southeast of Fort Collins. Vegetation was covered by an oil slick a quarter-mile downstream, but authorities claim “no drinking water intakes have been affected.” The environmental disaster occurred at Noble Energy facility near Windsor in northern Colorado, in imminent proximity to the popular Poudre River Trail, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) reported late Friday afternoon. Spring floods caved in the riverbank with a sat storage tank containing 178 barrels (roughly 7,500 gallons or over 28 tons) of crude oil. As a result the tank dropped from its foundation and broke a discharge valve, so all of the oil inside just flowed out right into the river, polluting the water and vegetation several hundred meters downstream.
Cache La Poudre River (Photo from Wikipedia.org)Cache La Poudre River (Photo from Wikipedia.org) A statement issued by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources maintained that no drinking water intakes have been affected by the spill, said Todd Hartman, a representative of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “The release is not ongoing,” he said, adding that the well near the tank has been shut in. A similar tank next to the damaged one remained intact. The operator of the oil storage facility reported the incident to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and State Department of Public Health and Environment. A combined response team from these organizations and Noble Energy have been deployed to the area. The clean-up crew deployed skimming absorbent material everywhere oil could be seen and used a vacuum truck to remove oil-contaminated water from the low area around the tank.

Putin orders surprise drills to check combat readiness of central Russia forces


All Russian forces in Siberia, the Urals and beyond have been put on combat-ready alert, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said after President Putin ordered surprise drills.
Russia’s troops in the Central Military District have been put on alert to verify troops’ combat-readiness during massive war games of all branches of the armed forces. The exercises involve the relocation of military personnel and hardware, firing training and complex inspections. “In accordance with president’s order, today starting from 11:00 Moscow time [07:00 GMT] all troops of the Central Military District have been placed in a state of full combat readiness," Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said at staff meeting. The drills will last for a week, from June 21 through 28, Shoigu said.
Russia's military disctricts: Blue - West, Green - Center, Orange - East, Brown - South (Image from wikipedia.org)Russia's military disctricts: Blue - West, Green - Center, Orange - East, Brown - South (Image from wikipedia.org) During the first 24 hours, the troops’ readiness for immediate deployment on a combat mission will be checked. After that, military units will switch to tactical training, marching in battle formation to firing ranges for practice, Shoigu said. Air Force units in the district will relocate planes to operational airfields to check their readiness for action in new locations. In particular, the 98th Airborne Division will be relocated from the Ivanovo Region of the Volga Federal District to the Urals for paratrooper jump exercises at the Chebarkul firing range. The minister specifically ordered units to avoid any possible damage to civilian installations and infrastructure during the military drills, and to ensure the safety of military personnel, arms and hardware. The June 21-28 drill is the second stage of general exercises in the Central Military District, Shoigu said. A special commission has already verified the general situation in the district and now the war games will give the picture of combat readiness of the troops stationed on a swathe of huge territory from the Volga River through the Urals Mountains to Siberia, and from the Kara Sea in the Arctic to the steppe on Russia’s southern border with Kazakhstan. Shoigu said that the 28th and 35th Motorized Brigades began the training June 20, when both units were put on alert ahead of the rest of the military forces in the region.

Mass graves filled with remains of immigrants discovered in Texas


Anthropologists uncovered a series of mass graves filled with the human remains of immigrants stuffed into shopping and garbage bags in a county-owned section of a cemetery in South Texas. Now, a local politician is calling for an inquiry.
The group of anthropology researchers is made of professors and students from the University of Indianapolis and Baylor University, who are working on the Reuniting Families project. The multi-year project seeks to identify the bodies of the hundreds of undocumented immigrants who died (usually from exposure in the 100-degree-plus heat) while crossing the Texas-Mexico border over the last few years. They resumed work two weeks ago, exhuming 52 plots in a Brooks County-owned section of the Sacred Heart Burial Park in Falfurrias. In those plots, they found the remains of multiple people instead of just one. In one burial plot, bones of three bodies were inside one body bag. In another instance, there were at least five people in body bags and smaller plastic bags were piled on top of each other, Baylor University anthropologist Lori Baker said to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Skulls were found in biohazard bags — like the red plastic bags in receptacles at doctors’ offices — placed between coffins. “To me it’s just as shocking as the mass grave that you would picture in your head, and it’s just as disrespectful,” Krista Latham, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Indianapolis, said to the Caller-Times. Due to the commingling of remains, the researchers are unable to determine the total number of people buried in the 52 plots. County Judge Raul Ramirez told the Caller-Times that, for at least 16 years, Brooks County paid the local funeral home, Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams, to bury the bodies after they were discovered in the remote areas of the county’s brush country. The funeral home currently charges $450 to handle each body, Brooks County Chief Deputy Benny Martinez said. The funeral home has “certain records related to these burials, but this does not amount to confirmation that Howard-Williams was involved in depositing the remains in the manner the researchers described,” Houston-based Service Corporation International (the parent company of Howard-Williams since 1999) spokeswoman Jennifer McDunn told the Corpus newspaper in an e-mail. “Because of the sensitive nature of our business, it is not our general practice to share our records publicly, no matter the decedent or the family we serve,” McDunn said. After the discovery became known, Democratic state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa called for the district’s attorney general to open a criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers, the Caller-Times reported. “This is too serious of a wrongdoing,” he said. “It is horrible, and any human being deserves a burial of respect and dignity,” Hinojosa went on. “I’m appalled at the number of bodies just left in body bags and, in many instances, more than one body in one bag. That’s not right. We need to get to the bottom of the situation.” Various Texas laws and regulations require records be kept for burials, set minimum burial depths, require certain containers and prohibit mass burials in some instances, according to the Caller-Times. “When I see that more than likely this was done by a funeral home, well, they’re supposed to be aware of the regulations and what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do it,” 79th Judicial District Attorney Carlos Omar Garcia said to the Corpus paper. Chief Deputy County Clerk Elva Ray Silvas said the county courthouse held no records of burials except for an assessment of grave markers performed by a volunteer group in 2000.

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