Editor's note: This is adapted from a lecture Zoeller gave at the 51st Session of International Seminars on Planetary Emergencies: Science for Peace the World Over, in Erice, Italy, in August. It has been lightly edited.
In Uniontown, Ala., a landfill next to a historic black cemetery overflows with coal ash. A cheese plant leaks lime green sludge into a creek, and tap water is undrinkable. Complaints from the town's residents, who are mostly black and poor, have not led to any action.
The death toll in North Carolina from Hurricane Florence currently stands at 39. In New Hanover County, an 85-year old man died from an infected cut after cleaning storm debris. Much of the storm-related pollution, and risk for infection, is in the water.
Traces of toxic chemicals have persisted in waterways, including in the Chesapeake Bay, for decades since the U.S. government banned their use. A new study in Maryland could help explain how the polychlorinated biphenyls continue to wash into the Baltimorea area's Back River.
A worker's puncture wound received while changing cables on a glove box at the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Tech Area 55 Aug. 18 was contaminated with plutonium-238, lab officials said. The internal contamination was found during medical testing done in the wake of the accident.
The West Lake Landfill contains thousands of tons of radioactive material from the World War II-era Manhattan Project that was dumped at the site in the 1970s, where it has languished ever since amid other waste. The latest plan calls for excavating 70 percent of the radioactive waste from the site.