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Could a Flint, Michigan-Style Water Crisis Happen in Canada?

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tap by Olly Clarke via flickr

The short answer is, yes. When it comes to aging infrastructure, mismanagement, and lack of resources, anything and everything can happen. The crisis that caused so many to wonder how the world’s wealthiest country could be afflicted by such a seemingly foreseeable and preventable chain of events can certainly happen anywhere – Canada included.

What Happened in Flint?

In April 2014, the city of Flint began drawing water from the nearby Flint River as a temporary measure to assuage residents concerned with water quality as the municipality transitioned between suppliers. The water, which the city decided to draw untreated from the river, immediately began to corrode the pipes, leaching lead into the supply.

In October of that year, General Motors announced that it would not use water drawn from the river, citing concerns that the water’s elevated chlorine levels might corrode and damage their equipment.

Fast forward to February 2015. After months of resident complaints, a water test conducted in a resident’s home found that the water the family was using on a daily basis had a lead count of 104 ppb (parts per billion). To give this figure some context, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA)’s maximum limit for the amount of lead that should be present in water destined for human consumption is only 15 ppb. It bears repeating that consuming lead is incredibly dangerous and can lead to a host of medical problems, particularly in children.

Months of controversy ensued, some of which included statements by city and government that claimed the water was in fact safe to drink, insisting tests showing elevated lead counts could be dismissed as outlying situations that did not represent the norm. Since then, subsequent third party analysis has continued to conclude that an excessive amount of lead is present in Flint’s drinking water. Ultimately the lack of admission and conflicting statements only served to muddy the waters.

The State of Water in Canada

Canada may be known the world over for it’s pristine rivers, lakes, and wetlands, but that doesn’t mean that we’re completely safe from our own Flint-like water scare. In fact, the Canadian Water Network estimates that upwards of 60,000 homes across the country may still be hooked up to their city’s water supply via lead service lines.

Thankfully, municipalities all over the country have recognized the risk and have taken steps to mitigate the public’s exposure to leached lead in their drinking water. In addition to replacing aging lead pipes on city property, using new pipeline condition assessment technology. Furthermore, cities can also take advantage in innovations in water treatment technology, investing in state of the art municipal water treatment systems to keep their water clean.

But here’s the rub – there’s only so much your city can do to protect you. That’s right, some of the responsibility falls to you, the homeowner to protect yourselves from lead-laced water. Service lines located on your property are your responsibility to maintain and, depending on the size of your property, replacement of lead lines can cost thousands dollars.

At greatest risk are buildings and infrastructure built before 1950 as lead pipes were a staple of construction projects prior to that year. Owners of buildings and homes built after 1990 are drastically less likely to contain materials capable of poisoning inhabitants.

Canada’s Unforgotten Water Crisis

Sometimes, lessons concerning public safety are learned the hard way. Canada may be in decent shape now, but we too once suffered through our own water crisis.

In 2000, residents of Walkerton, Ontario, were exposed to an E. coli contaminated water supply, which resulted in the death of 7 residents, with thousands more becoming incredibly ill. The shocking tragedy prompted a province wide review of 659 water treatment facilities, which concluded that 57% of them were not complying with provincial regulations and standards.

Shocking as it was, these findings did inspire other provinces to examine their own practices and paved the way for Ontario to abandon its voluntary compliance standards in favour of legally enforceable obligations.

Canada’s water system is far from flawless, and perhaps it will never be perfect. Events like those that have taken place in Walkerton and Flint, while tragic, do help to identify glaring issues with the way we provide public services; issues that perhaps would never have come to light had tragedy not struck. Is Canada safe from a Flint-like crisis or a repeat of Walkerton’s E. coli outbreak? – Perhaps not completely. Knowledge however, is power – one hopes that, knowing the danger, a large-scale crisis is a lot less likely to occur.

 

Energy

7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption

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Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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