Signal News

Signal Restoration Services’ Website Wins 2 Silver ADDY Awards

Signal’s website was recently honored at The American Advertising Awards (also known as The ADDY Awards), the world’s leading advertising competition. The winners were chosen from various local entries from the Greater Fort Lauderdale & The Palm Beaches area. The ADDY Gala was held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Thursday March 2nd 2017.

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EPA declares ’emergency’ asbestos cleanup in Montana town

For the past ten years, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been overseeing the asbestos clean-up in the small town of Libby, Montana, which has been on the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List.

On Wednesday, the Obama administration declared Libby and the immediate area a “public health emergency”. Under this state of emergency the EPA is increasing clean-up assistance and medical care. According to federal prosecutors, asbestos has taken 200 lives and is the root cause of at least 1,000 illnesses in the surrounding area.

“This is a tragic public health situation that has not received the recognition it deserves by the federal government for far too long,” according to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

In the 1920’s The Zonolite Company began producing vermiculite, a mineral that is often used in insulation. Between 1963 and 1990, W.R. Grace & Company took over the mine operations. Tremolite asbestos was discovered in the vermiculite product. A study conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry discovered that the incidence of asbestosis in the population of the mine site area is far higher than the national average.

Airborne asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma, a cancer which develops in the sac surrounding the lungs and chest cavity, the abdominal cavity, or the sac surrounding the heart. Prolonged exposure can lead to lung scarring, asbestosis, and lung cancer. Patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma generally are left with six months to a year before death.

The tremolite dust from the mine began leaking into the air from the plant in 1919. This resulted in a hazy asbestos dust cloud covering lawns, cars, clothing, and school athletic fields, creating an issue that citizens of Libby had to deal with on an everyday basis. The large amount of dust gave the impression of the aftereffects of a light sandstorm.

W. R. Grace and Company did not deny that asbestos was found contaminating the vermiculite in the old mine. They said they proceeded in a responsible manner to clean up contamination following the mine closure. Grace will reimburse the EPA for US$250 million of the US$333 million that the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services has set aside for medical expenses and asbestos clean-up. This money will be invested over the next five years, and does not include the millions in medical costs already footed by the company for residents of Libby and the nearby town of Troy.

“Today is the day that after years of work we were able to succeed in getting this [emergency declaration] done,” Senator from Montana Max Baucus said, speaking at the EPA press conference. “We will continue to push until Libby has a clean bill of health.”

 

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Typhoon makes landfall, displacing at least 16,000

Typhoon Koppu, known additionally as Lando, made landfall in the northern Philippines on Sunday, killing at least two and displacing at least 16,000 people.

The deadly storm caused a concrete wall in a home in Subic, Zambales to topple over, killing a 62-year-old woman and injuring her husband. A 14-year-old teenager was killed after being fatally pinned down in Manila by a tree which got knocked over. The same fallen tree injured four others, including a three-year-old. The tree additionally damaged three nearby houses.

The injured people were sent to the East Avenue Medical Centre for treatment.

The typhoon made landfall in the town of Casiguran, a town with a population of 25,000 in the province of Aurora. Subsequently it ripped roofs off of houses, uprooted trees, and knocked down power lines. Nine provinces were left without electricity. Flash floods and landslides heavily damaged roads, and as a result 25 roads were made impassable.

The army attempted to clear routes leading to Casiguran, according to the state-owned Philippines News Agency. Nigel Lontoc, an employee of the Office of Civil Defense said that some residents were trapped on rooftops in the province of Nueva Ecija. Troops were sent to that location as a part of a rescue operation.

The typhoon weakened as it moved over land, and weather improved in some regions. Officials urged residents to be cautious since Koppu may still cause landslides and flash floods.

Alexander Pama, Executive Director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said that they were asking their countrymen “not to become complacent.”

The typhoon is expected to move slowly over the Philippines, causing large amounts of rainfall.

This year, Koppu is the twelfth typhoon to hit the Philippines, where around 20 typhoons make landfall per year.

Bob Henson, weather blogger from Weather Underground, said that the Philippines is considered to be “the most vulnerable large nation on earth for tropical cyclones.”

 

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Wildfire in California displaces 30,000

The recent Jesusita Fire in Santa Barbara County, California, has burned more than 8,600 acres of land over the last four days. Over 75 homes were destroyed, and more than 30,500 residents were evacuated. Another 23,000 are on standby to leave immediately when the notice comes down.

Approximately 3,500 homes along with 100 businesses are currently threatened by the blaze.

“Right now, if you are not evacuated in the Santa Barbara area, you are sheltering evacuees,” said city Fire Chief Andrew DiMizio, “We saw the fire spread laterally across the top of the city and the fire front extend to almost eight kilometers now.”

The firefighting crew on guard against the fire has amassed 2,300 firefighters with 246 fire engines, fourteen air tankers, fifteen helicopters as well as a DC-10 jumbo jet tanker.

There have been no reports of residents being injured, however 11 firefighters have sustained injuries battling the fire, placing three in the hospital.

Wildfire_California_Santa_Clarita

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Can railroads help alleviate California’s 4-year drought?

 

By Jeff Daniels

 

As California’s four-year drought worsens and water supplies dwindle in the state, an old technology—railroads—could play a role in alleviating some water shortages.

“We certainly have that capability today,” said Mike Trevino, a spokesman for privately held BNSF Railway, which operates one of the largest freight railroad networks in North America. “We carry chlorine, for example. We carry liquefied commodities.”

Experts say the East Coast’s plentiful water could cost cents per gallon to Californians and provide a stable, potable water supply for small communities. Obstacles include identifying a state willing to share some of its water, and securing the construction funds for key infrastructure work, including terminals that can handle water.

“We’ve actually spent some time on this and some energy, and there’s merit; there’s value for railroads to play a role in moving water,” said Ed McKechnie, chairman of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Overall, McKechnie estimates it would cost upwards of $40 million to build the terminals needed to load and unload the water. He bases that figure on the investment for a similar facility to handle oil.

McKechnie, who also serves as executive vice president for short-line railroad holding company Watco Companies, said the estimated cost of the water would depend on how much is spent on construction. “It wasn’t dollars per gallon,” he said. “It was in the cents range per gallon.”

Bulk water delivered by truck can run under 10 cents per gallon in parts of California’s drought-parched Central Valley, but some of those supplies are at risk of drying up. The truck water tanks typically hold around 2,500 gallons, while each railroad tank car carries about 29,000 gallons, and sometimes more.

“We move trains that are 110 cars long with liquefied materials,” said BNSF’s Trevino. “There would be costs associated with shipping it, but those can certainly be overcome.”

Trevino’s not aware of any municipality or private enterprise that has approached BNSF about hauling bulk quantities of water. The railroad operates in the western half of the United States, so if the water were to come from the East Coast, it would likely require an eastern railroad, such as Norfolk Southern or CSX, to assist in the delivery.

During Union Pacific’s quarterly earnings conference call last week, an analyst commented on how truckers were moving water into California and asked the railroad’s management about water hauling. An executive essentially shot down the idea, saying: “I do not think that’s material.”

The concept of water by rail has historic precedent. Railroads with water tank cars played a role during earlier U.S. droughts, in the West, the Midwest and on the East Coast. Southern Pacific Railroad, which later became part of Union Pacific, was one of the railroads that hauled water in the late 19th century to small towns in California.

Only in modern times have arid communities been able to drill wells deep enough to pump water. If wells are running dry, or water isn’t potable, the rail option could help for domestic use. But the idea faces big challenges.

According to California historian Richard Orsi, “It was extremely expensive to deliver it even then, and railroads only did it for their own operations and economic stimulus plans for their regions. It seems to me, that if this importing is indeed done, it would require vast infrastructure, and finance systems that I can’t see actually emerging in this fractious, politically divisive society we live in.”

Nepal: We will need huge foreign support for reconstruction

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal’s government will need immense international support as the Himalayan nation begins turning its attention toward reconstruction in the coming weeks, in the wake of the devastating April earthquake, a top official said Monday. Nepal is one of the world’s poorest nations, and its economy, largely based on tourism, has been crippled by the earthquake, which left more than 7,300 people dead. While there are no clear estimates yet of how much it will cost to rebuild, it will certainly be enormously expensive.

“In two to three weeks a serious reconstruction package needs to be developed, where we’ll need enormous help from the international community,” said Information Minister Minendra Rijal. “There’s a huge, huge funding gap.”

He also said foreign rescue workers were welcome in Nepal, saying they could remain as long as they are needed. He had earlier said that the need for their services was diminishing, but later denied that he wanted them to leave the country.    Soon, he added, the nation will be shifting away from a rescue mode and “will be concentrating more on relief operations.”

Since the April 25 earthquake, 4,050 rescue workers from 34 different nations have flown to Nepal to help in rescue operations, provide emergency medical care and distribute food and other necessities. The still-rising death toll from the quake, Nepal’s worst in more than 80 years, has reached 7,365, police said.

Meanwhile, Buddhists turned out to visit shrines and monasteries to mark the birthday of Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. At the base of the Swayambhunath shrine, located atop a hill overlooking Kathmandu, hundreds of people chanted prayers as they walked around the hill where the white iconic stupa with its gazing eyes is located Some of the structures around the stupa, built in the 5th century, were damaged in the quake. Police blocked off the steep steps to the top of the shrine, also called the “Monkey Temple” because of the many monkeys who live on its slopes.

“I am praying for peace for the thousands of people who were killed,” said Santa Lama, a 60-year-old woman. “I hope there will be peace and calm in the country once again and the worst is over.”

Kathmandu’s main airport remained closed since Sunday to large aircraft delivering aid due to runaway damage, but U.N. officials said the overall logistics situation was improving. The airport was built to handle only medium-size jetliners, but not the large military and cargo planes that have been flying in aid supplies, food, medicines, and rescue and humanitarian workers, said Birendra Shrestha, the manager of Tribhuwan International Airport.

There have been reports of cracks on the runway and other problems at the only airport in Nepal capable of handling jetliners.

“You’ve got one runway, and you’ve got limited handling facilities, and you’ve got the ongoing commercial flights,” said Jamie McGoldrick, the U.N. coordinator for Nepal. “You put on top of that massive relief items coming in, the search and rescue teams that have clogged up this airport. And I think once they put better systems in place, I think that will get better.”

He said the bottlenecks in aid delivery were slowly disappearing, and the Nepalese government eased customs and other bureaucratic hurdles on humanitarian aid following complaints from the U.N.

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Improvements to flood preparation continue 5 years after devastating flood

By Davis Nolan
Published: May 1, 2015, 2:22 pm  Updated: May 1, 2015, 3:27 pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Five years ago, Nashville residents witnessed the beginning of 2010’s historic flooding when Mill Creek inundated Interstate 24 near Bell Road.

Cars were covered to their roofs, with motorists barely escaping to safety. Even a portable classroom from Lighthouse Christian School floated down the interstate and disintegrated before our eyes. Many improvements have been made since 2010 to prevent motorists from driving into such a life-threatening situation again.

“Since the May 2010 flood, the United States Geological Service has partnered with the city of Nashville to add additional stream gauging in some of the problem areas that come up, including here at Mill Creek and the Nolensville Road area. And this will help give some lead time to hopefully prevent an incident like we had on I-24,” said James LaRosa, hydrologist for the National Weather Service.

A camera was installed at this location and will be used by the Metro Office of Emergency Management and Metro Water Services to monitor Mill Creek.

“We can see in the field what the conditions are now, we can feed all this information into a model and we can predict what’s going to happen next and what the peaks will be. We can send out state police to block the interstate, if that’s looking like what is going to be necessary,” said John Kennedy, Deputy Director of Metro Water Service. In addition, TDOT cameras and message boards will be used to warn motorists of impending danger.

James La Rosa explained the partnership between agencies: “This is really a partnership between the USGS and the city of Nashville, and we’ve taken that to establish flood stages here and gather impacts here and all up and down Mill Creek,” said LaRosa. The hope is that new technology and coordination between all agencies involved will keep travelers on a federal interstate out of danger.