Dr Ward was inspired by the previous work of Arribére and co-workers from the Barriloche Nuclear Research Institute who in 2002 completed an assessment of the chemical contamination of canal sediment, aquatic weeds, lichens and fish liver and muscle samples collected from the length of the Canal Grande and other water bodies in the area. One of the main objectives of the 2002 study was to determine the contamination status of a closed down chlor-alkali plant, and the possible distribution of mercury into the canal.
Whilst there is local concern over the historical discharge of mercury and other chemicals into the Canal Grande at Cinco Saltos in Argentina, there are many modern-day practices that provide hot-spots of chemical pollution throughout the Rio Negro Valle. Many of these waste disposal practices are regulated by municipal authorities and others are illegal, relating to human habits where it is better to “pollute someone else’s garden”. In some cases this means local communities depositing their waste (human effluent and domestic waste) into the local canal or stream at the bottom of their garden. Unfortunately, when the river or canal floods they are exposed to their own waste. Moreover this is the environment in which their children play. It is basically a matter of education. The problem is not mercury but the chemical and physical waste (paper, plastic, tins, etc) that everyone is constantly dumping into the environment of the Rio Negro Valle today.
The University of Surrey study was planned around the fact that the upper Rió Negro Valley region, whose economy is based on agriculture – mainly fruit production, is artificially irrigated through a system of channels fed by a main canal, the Canal Grande. The canal, which is sourced from the Neuquén River, passes through numerous towns. Fruit production and the associated processing agri-industry (cold storage plants, fruit packaging, fruit juice, and wine and cider production) are the predominating commercial activities in the Alte Valle. This has lead to the settlement and expansion of the local towns with the founding of associated secondary industries, such as, ceramics production, chemical industry, paper and battery factories and a disused chlor-alkali plant located in Cinco Saltos. This disused plant is an important part of the study due to the potential release of mercury, as large quantities of mercury were used historically as a liquid cathode in the chlor-alkali process. Arribére and co-workers reported elevated levels of mercury in the sediment of the Grande Canal, with a maximum level of 5.4 mg/kg Hg compared with background levels below 0.05 mg/kg Hg. These levels reduced with increasing distance from the disused factory to levels similar to the non-contaminated levels.
Dr Ward has an international reputation for having been involved in investigating the impact of many major chemical incidents and major pollution problems, including the Chernobyl nuclear reactor incident, the Camelford water treatment works aluminium sulphate poisoning incident in Cornwall, England, and the impact of chemical works in Iceland, New Zealand, Greece, Scotland, Nigeria, Canada and Mexico. For the last 30 years he has been a major researcher in the field of chemical pollution from motorways and has been involved in many studies assessing the impact of metal contamination of roadside environments, especially storm water drainage systems and the accumulation of chemicals from motor vehicles in drainage pond and discharge stream sediments, aquatic plants and fish.
Dr Ward comments: “The University of Surrey project in the Alte Valle has provided an excellent opportunity to enable the local Rio Negro authorities to obtain chemical data using our internationally recognised expertise in the field of environmental and analytical chemistry research, such that they now have a more revealing picture of their local chemical pollution problems. Moreover, the study provided the opportunity for a postgraduate researcher at the University to carry out a project for his MSc where there were both challenges in analysing the samples for a range of chemical pollutants and in providing data for public evaluation. The Rio Negro newspaper released the report as an eight page supplement, the first time a scientific study has been published in this style. The supplement will be circulated to local schools to be used as an educational aid in addressing local ecological and chemical problems.”
Stuart Miller | alfa
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
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A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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