Daily Archives: March 6, 2009

Ocean Dumping – A Summary of Studies

Ocean Dumping – A Summary of 12 Studies Conducted between 1970 and 2001

By Jerry Botana

The dumping of industrial, nuclear and other waste into oceans was legal until the early 1970’s when it became regulated; however, dumping still occurs illegally everywhere.  Governments world-wide were urged by the 1972 Stockholm Conference to control the dumping of waste in their oceans by implementing new laws. The United Nations met in London after this recommendation to begin the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter which was implemented in 1975. The International Maritime Organization was given responsibility for this convention and a Protocol was finally adopted in 1996, a major step in the regulation of ocean dumping.

The most toxic waste material dumped into the ocean includes dredged material, industrial waste, sewage sludge, and radioactive waste. Dredging contributes about 80% of all waste dumped into the ocean, adding up to several million tons of material dumped each year. About 10% of all dredged material is polluted with heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, and chromium, hydrocarbons such as heavy oils, nutrients including phosphorous and nitrogen, and organochlorines from pesticides. Waterways and, therefore, silt and sand accumulate these toxins from land runoff, shipping practices, industrial and community waste, and other sources.  This sludge is then dumped in the littoral zone of each country’s ocean coastline.  In some areas, like the so called “vanishing point” off the coast of New Jersey, in the United States, such toxic waste dumping has been concentrated into a very small geographic area over an extended period of time. 

In the 1970s, 17 million tons of industrial waste was legally dumped into the ocean by just the United States.   In the 1980’s, even after the Stockholm Conference, 8 million tons were dumped bincluding acids, alkaline waste, scrap metals, waste from fish processing, flue desulphurization, sludge, and coal ash.

If sludge from the treatment of sewage is not contaminated by oils, organic chemicals and metals, it can be recycled as fertilizer for crops but it is cheaper for treatment centers to dump this material into the ocean, particularly if it is chemically contaminated. The UN policy is that properly treated sludge from cities does not contain enough contaminants to be a significant cause of eutrophication (an increase in chemical nutrients—typically compounds containing nitrogen or phosphorus—in an ecosystem) or to pose any risk to humans if dumped into the ocean, however, the UN policy was based solely on an examination of the immediate toxic effects on the food chain and did not take into account how the marine biome will assimilate and be affected by this toxicity over time.  The peak of sewage dumping was 18 million tons in 1980, a number that was reduced to 12 million tons in the 1990s.

Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste is also dumped in the oceans and usually comes from the nuclear power process, medical use of radioisotopes, research use of radioisotopes and industrial uses. The difference between industrial waste and nuclear waste is that nuclear waste usually remains radioactive for decades. The protocol for disposing of nuclear waste involves special treatment by keeping it in concrete drums so that it doesn’t spread when it hits the ocean floor however, poor containers and illegal dumping is estimated to be more than 45% of all radioactive waste. 

Surprisingly, nuclear power plants produce by far the largest amount of radioactive waste but contribute almost nothing to the illegal (after the Stockholm Conference) ocean dumping.  This is because the nuclear power industry is so closely regulated and accountable for its waste storage.  Off the coast of southern Africa and in the Indian Ocean, is the greatest accumulation of nuclear wastes.

The dumping of radioactive material has reached a total of about 84,000 terabecquerels (TBq), a unit of radioactivity equal to 1012 atomic disintegrations per second or 27.027 curies. Curie (Ci) is a unit of radioactivity. One curie was originally defined as the radioactivity of one gram of pure radium.  The high point of nuclear waste dumping was in 1954 and 1962, but this nuclear waste only accounts for 1% of the total TBq that has been dumped in the ocean. The concentration of radioactive waste in the concrete drums varies as does the ability of the drums to hold it.  To date, it is estimated that the equivalent of about 227 million grams (about 500,000 pounds) of pure radium has been dumped on the ocean floor.

Until it was banned, ocean dumping of radioactive waste was considered a safe and inexpensive way to get rid of tons of such materials.  It is estimated that the 1960’s and early 1970’s era nuclear power plants in New Jersey (like Oyster Creek – which is located just 21 miles from the Barnegat Lighthouse) and 12 other nuclear power plants located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York have dumped more than 100,000 pounds of radioactive material into the ocean off the New Jersey coast.

Although some claim the risk to human health is small, the long-term affects of nuclear dumping are not known, and some estimate up to 1,000 deaths in the next 10,000 years as a result of just the evaporated nuclear waste. 

By contrast, biologists have estimated that the ocean’s biome has been and will continue to be permanently damaged by the exposure to radioactive material.  Large scale and rapid genetic mutations are known to occur as dosage levels of radiation increase.  Plant, animal and micro-organisms in the immediate vicinity of leaking radioactive waste will experience the greatest and most radical mutations between successive generations.  However, test show that even long term exposure to diluted radioactive wastes will create accelerated mutations and adaptations.

The Problems with Ocean Dumping

Although policies on ocean dumping in the recent past took an “out of sight- out of mind” approach, it is now known that accumulation of waste in the ocean is detrimental to marine and human health. Another unwanted effect is eutrophication. A biological process where dissolved nutrients cause oxygen-depleting bacteria and plants to proliferate creating a hypoxic, or oxygen poor, environment that kills marine life. In addition to eutrophication, ocean dumping can destroy entire habitats and ecosystems when excess sediment builds up and toxins are released. Although ocean dumping is now managed to some degree and dumping in critical habitats and at critical times is regulated, toxins are still spread by ocean currents. Alternatives to ocean dumping include recycling, producing less wasteful products, saving energy and changing the dangerous material into more benign waste.

According to the United Nations Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution , the amount of ocean dumping actually brings in less pollution than maritime transportation, atmospheric pollution, and land based pollution like run-off. However, when waste is dumped it is often close to the coast and very concentrated as is the case off the coast of New Jersey.

Waste dumped into the ocean is categorized into the black list, the gray list, and the white list. On the black list are organohalogen compounds, mercury compounds and pure mercury, cadmium compounds and pure cadmium, any type of plastic, crude oil and oil products, refined petroleum and residue, highly radioactive waste, any material made for biological or chemical warfare.

The gray list includes water highly contaminated with arsenic, copper, lead, zinc, organosilicon compounds, any type of cyanide, flouride, pesticides, pesticide by-products, acids and bases, beryllium, chromium, nickel and nickel compounds, vanadium, scrap metal, containers, bulky wastes, lower level radioactive material and any material that will affect the ecosystem due to the amount in which it is dumped.

The white list includes all other materials not mentioned on the other two lists. The white list was developed to ensure that materials on this list are safe and will not be dumped on vulnerable areas such as coral reefs.

In 1995, a Global Waste Survey and the National Waste Management Profiles inventoried waste dumped worldwide to determine what countries were dumping waste and how much was going into the ocean. Countries that exceeded an acceptable level would then be assisted in the development of a workable plan to dispose of their waste.

The impact of a global ban on ocean dumping of industrial waste was determined in the Global Waste Survey Final Report the same year. In addition to giving the impact for every nation, the report also concluded that the unregulated disposal of waste, pollution of water, and buildup of materials in the ocean were serious problems for a multitude of countries. The report also concluded that dumping industrial waste anywhere in the ocean is like dumping it anywhere on land. The dumping of industrial waste had reached unacceptable levels in some regions, particularly in developing countries that lacked the resources to dispose of their waste properly.

The ocean is the basin that catches almost all the water in the world. Eventually, water evaporates from the ocean, leaves the salt behind, and becomes rainfall over land. Water from melted snow ends up in rivers, which flows through estuaries and meets up with saltwater.  River deltas and canyons that cut into the continental shelf – like the Hudson Canyon and the Mississippi Cone – create natural channels and funnels that direct concentrated waste into relatively small geographic areas where it accumulates into highly concentrated areas of fertilizers, pesticides, oil, human and animal wastes, industrial chemicals and radioactive materials.  For instance, feedlots in the United States exceed the amount of human waste with more than 500 millions tons of manure each year – about half of which eventually reaches the ocean basin.

Not only does the waste flow into the ocean, but it also encourages algal blooms to clog up the waterways, causing meadows of seagrass, kelp beds and entire ecosystems to die. A zone without any life remaining is referred to as a dead zone and can be the size of entire states, like in coastal zones of Texas and Louisiana and north-east of Puerto Rico and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  All major bays and estuaries now have dead zones from pollution run-off. Often, pollutants like mercury, PCBs and pesticides are found in seafood meant for the dinner table and cause birth defects, cancer and neurological problems—especially in infants.

One of the most dangerous forms of dumping is of animal and human bodies.  The decomposition of these bodies creates a natural breeding ground for bacteria and micro-organisms that are known to mutate into more aggressive and deadly forms with particular toxicity to the animals or humans that they fed on.  Of the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States was a common dumping zone for animals – particularly horses and human bodies up until the early 1900’s.  Today, the most common areas for human body dumping is in India in which their religious beliefs advocate burial in water.  The results of this dumping may be seen in the rise in extremely drug resistant strains of leprosy, dengue fever and Necrotizing Fasciitis bacteria.

One of the largest deep ocean dead zones is in the area between Bermuda and the Bahamas.  This area was a rich and productive fishing ground in the 1700’s and early 1800’s but by the early 20th Century, it was no longer productive and by the mid-1900’s, it was virtually lifeless below 200 feet of depth.  This loss of all life seems to have coincided with massive ocean dumping along the New Jersey and Carolina coasts.


Water recreation is another aspect of human life compromised by marine pollution from human activities like roads, shopping areas, and development in general.  Swimming is becoming unsafe, as over 12,000 beaches in the United States have been quarantined due to contamination from pollutants. Developed areas like parking lots enable runoff to occur at a much higher volume than a naturally absorbent field. Even simply driving a car or making a house warm can leak 28 million gallons of oil into lakes, streams and rivers. The hunt for petroleum through offshore gas and oil drilling leaks extremely dangerous toxins into the ocean and luckily is one aspect of pollution that has been halted by environmental laws.

Environmental Laws

In addition to the lack of underwater national parks, there is no universal law like the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act to protect the United States ocean territory. Instead, there are many different laws like the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act , which only apply to certain aspects of overfishing and are relatively ineffective. The act developed in the 1970’s is not based on scientific findings and is regulated instead by the regional fisheries council. In 2000, the Oceans Act  was implemented as a way to create a policy similar to the nationwide laws protecting natural resources on land. However, this act still needs further development and, like many of the conservation laws that exist at this time, it needs to be enforced.

 The total effects of ocean dumping will not be known for years but most scientists agree that, like global warming, we have passed the tipping point and the worst is yet to come.

Perpetual Motion = Unlimited Power….Sort of…

The serious pursuit of perpetual motion has always intrigued me. Of course I know the basic science of conservation of energy and the complexities of friction, resistance, drag and less than 100% mechanical advantage that dooms any pursuit of perpetual motion to failure…but still, I am fascinated at how close some attempts have come. One college professor built a four foot tall Ferris wheel and enclosed its drive mechanism in a box around the hub. He said it was not perpetual motion but that it had no inputs from any external energy source. It did, however, make a slight sound out of that box. The students were to try to figure out how the wheel was turning without any apparent outside power source. It turned without stop for more than two years and none of his students could figure out how. At the end of his third year, he introduced his mechanism. He was using a rolling marble design that was common for perpetual motion machines but that also had been proven to not work. What he added was a tiny IC powered microcircuit feeding a motor that came out of a watch. A Watch! The entire 4 foot high Ferris wheel needed only the additional torque of a watch motor to keep it running for nearly 4 years!

This got me to thinking that if I could find a way to make up that tiny little additional energy input, I could indeed make perpetual motion. Unlike most of my other ideas, this was not something that could easily be simulated in a computer model first. Most of what does not work in perpetual motion is totally unknown until you build it. I also knew that the exchange of energy to and from mechanical motion was too inefficient to ever work so I concentrated on other forms of energy exchange. Then I realized I had already solved this – back in 1963!

Back in 1963, I was a senior in high school. Since 1958, I had been active in science fairs and wanted my last one to be the best. To make a long story short, I won the national science fair that year – sponsored by Bell Telephone. My project was “How far will sound travel” and my project showed that the accepted theory that sound diminishes by one over the square of the distance (the inverse square law) is, in fact, wrong. Although that may occur in an absolutely perfect environment of a point source of emission in a perfectly spherical and perfectly homogeneous atmosphere, it never ever occurs in the real world.

I used a binary counting flashing light circuit to time sound travel and a “shotgun” microphone with a VOX to trigger a measure of speed and power of the sound under hundreds of conditions. This gave me the ability to measure to 1/1000th of a second and down to levels that were able to distinguish between the compressions and rarefaction’s of individual sound waves. Bell was impressed and I got a free trip to the World’s Fair in 1964 and to Bell Labs in Murry Hill NJ.

As a side project of my experiments, I attempted to design a sound laser – a narrow beam of sound that would travel great distances. I did. It was a closed ten-foot long Teflon-lined tube that contained a compressed gas – I used Freon. A transducer (a flat speaker) at one end would inject a single wavelength of a high frequency sound into the tube. It would travel to the other end and back. At exactly 0.017621145 seconds, it would pulse one more cycle at exactly the same time that the first pulse reflected and returned to the transducer. This was timed to exactly coincide with the first pulse so that it was additive, making the first pulse nearly double in amplitude. Since the inside of the tube as smooth and kept at a constant temperature, the losses in one pass through the tube were almost zero. In less than 5 minutes, these reinforcing waves would build the moving pulse to the point of containing nearly all of the gas in the tube into the single wave front of one pulse. This creates all kinds of problems so I estimated that it would only be about 75% efficient but that was still a lot.

Using a specially shaped and designed series of chambers at the end opposite the transducer, I could rapidly open that end and emit the pulse in one powerful burst that would be so strong that the wave front of the sound pulse would be visible and it would remain cohesive for hundreds of feet. It was dense enough that I computed it would have just over 5 million Pascal’s (Pa) of force or about 750 PSI. The beam would widen to a square foot at about 97 meters from the tube. This is a force sufficient to knock down a brick wall.

One way to make the kind of transducer that I needed for this sound laser was to use a carefully cut crystal or ceramic disc. Using the property of reverse piezoelectric effect, the disc will uniformly expand when an electric field is applied. A lead zirconate titanate crystal would give me the right expansion while also being able to respond to the high frequency. The exit chambers were modeled after some parabolic chambers that were used in specially made microphones used for catching bird sounds. The whole thing was perfectly logical and I modeled it in a number of math equations that I worked out on my “slip stick” (slide rule).

When I got to Bell Labs, I was able to get one scientist to look at my design and he was very intrigued with it. He said he had not seen anything like it but found no reason it would not work. I was asked back the next day to see two other guys that wanted to hear more about it. It was sort of fun and a huge ego boost for me to be talking to these guys about my ideas. In the end, they encouraged me to continue thinking and that they would welcome me to work there when I was old enough.

I did keep thinking about it and eventually figured out that if I can improve the speed of response of the sensors and transducer, I could shorten the tube to inches. I also wanted more power out of it so I researched what was the gas with the greatest density. Even this was not enough power or speed, so I imagined using a liquid – water – but it turns out that water molecules are like foam rubber and after a certain point, they absorb the pulses and energy too much. The next logical phase of matter was a solid but that meant that there was nothing that could be emitted. I was stumped…for awhile.

In the late 1970’s I figured, what if I extended the piezoelectric transducer crystal to the entire length of the tube – no air – just crystal. Then place a second transducer at one end to pulse the crystal tube with a sound wave. As the wave travels the length of the crystal tube, the compression and rarefaction’s of the sound wave pulse create stress or strain on the piezoelectric crystal, making it give off electricity by the direct piezoelectric effect.   this is how a phonograph needle works as it bounces on the grooves of the record. 

Since the sound pulse will reflect off the end of the tube and bounce back, it will create this direct piezoelectric effect hundreds of times – perhaps thousands of times – before it is reduced by the transfer into heat. As with my sound laser, I designed it to pulse every single bounce to magnify the amplitude of the initial wave front but now the speed was above 15,000 feet per second so the pulses had to come every 0.0001333 seconds. That is fast and I did not know if current technology was up to the task. I also did not know what it would do to the crystal. I was involved in other work and mostly forgot about it for a long time.

In the late 1980’s, I now was working for DARPA and had access to some great lab equipment and computers. I dug out my old notes and began working on it again. This time I had the chance to actually model and create experiments in the lab. My first surprise was that these direct piezoelectric effects created voltages in the hundreds or even thousands of volts. I was able to get more than 10,000 volts from a relatively small crystal (8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter) using a hammer tap. I never thought it would create this much of a charge. If you doubt this, just take a look at the Mechanism paragraph in Wikipedia for Piezoelectricity.

When I created a simple prototype version of my sound laser using a tube of direct piezoelectric crystal, I could draw off a rapid series of pulses of more than 900 volts using a 1/16th watt amplifier feeding the transducer. Using rectifiers and large capacitors, I was able to save this energy and charge some ni-cads, power a small transmitter and even light a bulb.

This was of great interest to my bosses and they immediately wanted to apply it to war fighting. A friend of mine and I cooked up the idea of putting these crystals into the heels of army boots so that the pressures of walking created electricity to power some low power devices on the soldier. This worked great but the wires, converter boxes, batteries, etc.,  ended up being too much to carry for the amount of power gained so it was dropped. I got into other projects and I dropped it also.

Now flash forward to about 18 months ago and my renewed interest in perpetual motion. I dug out my old notes, computer models and prototype from my DARPA days. I updated the circuitry with some newer faster IC circuits and improved the sensor and power take-off tabs. When I turned it on, I got sparks immediately. I then rebuilt the power control circuit and lowered the amplitude of the input sound into the transducer. I was now down to using only a 9-volt battery and about 30 ma’s of current drain to feed the amplifier.   I estimate it is about a 1/40th watt amplifier.  The recovered power was used to charge a NIMH battery of 45 penlights of 1.2 volts each.

Then came my epiphany – why not feed the amplifier with the charging battery! DUH!

I did and it worked. I then boosted the amplifier’s amplitude, redesigned the power take-off circuit and fed it into a battery that was banked to give me a higher power density. It worked great. I then fed the battery back into an inverter to give me AC. The whole thing is about the size of a large briefcase and weighs about 30 pounds – mostly from the batteries and transformers. I am getting about 75 watts out of the system now but I’m using a relatively small crystal. I don’t have the milling tools to make a larger properly cut crystal but my modeling says that I can get about 500 watts out of a crystal of about 3 inches in diameter by about 12 inches long.

I call my device “rock power” and when I am not using it for power in my shop or on camping trips, I leave it hooked up to a 60 watt bulb. That bulb has been burning now for almost 7 months with no signs of it diminishing. It works! Try it!!!

The Down Side to Lucid Dreams

Some of you may have read my other stories about my experiences with Lucid Dreaming. See LUCID DREAMS and THE POWER OF THE MIND. Now I am going to tell you there is a down side to doing that.

It started when I noticed that I was constantly playing music in my head. Everybody does that but this was different. It was like the background music in a movie. I could “think” this music in my head even while I was actively thinking and even talking about something totally unrelated to the music. Like the music in the movies, I was not always aware that this background music was there but if I had a lull in other thoughts, I would immediately become aware of it.

It was my subconscious mind playing this music and my conscious mind was hearing it while my conscious mind was busy with other thoughts. What was worse, is that I cannot stop it easily. I think to myself – NO MORE MUSIC – over and over again and after several minutes, it stops…only to start again in 10, 20, 60 minutes later.

This sounds silly but my conscious mind seems to have a mind of its own. Yeah, I know that is crazy but why else would I not be able to control it? In my lucid dreams, I have complete control and even instruct my subconscious mind to not do that any more but it doesn’t help much. But outside of those moments when I am expressly trying to control my subconscious mind, it seems to be thinking almost independently of my conscious mind. I say, “almost” because it has begun a new “background activity”.

I am very well aware of both the jokes and the reality of hearing “voices in your head”. These are just a few I found on a bumper sticker site. “You’re just jealous because the voices are talking to me” “The voices in my head are stealing my sanity” “I can’t go to work today – the voices in my head said stay home and clean the guns”. This is no joke. I really do have voices in my head that I don’t seem to have full control over.

In my story THE POWER OF THE MIND, I described over a decade of work with my lucid dreaming and my interactions with my subconscious mind. I have been able to take that to some very remarkable levels to include being able to invade other people’s thoughts and dreams and to extend my remote viewing to some amazing levels. Well now it seems I have a back seat driver to these events. My subconscious mind seems to be working at trying to make these contacts and invasions even during the day when I am otherwise engaged in other activities. It is really annoying.

The other day, I visited a friend; I’ll call her Jane. She had company and I was introduced to “Terry”. As I was introduced, I heard this weak voice in my mind saying she was a smoker and a bad driver and she drinks too much. I was shocked by these comments and could not imagine where they came from since she looked and talked perfectly normal, well dressed and certainly appeared sober. There was nothing to indicate these awful things about this woman that I had just met for the first time.

In my mind, I was literally having an argument in my head between my subconscious mind telling me awful things about Terry while my conscious mind was shouting that all that was nonsense. Meanwhile, I am also having a conversation with Jane and Terry and sitting down for some coffee.

I can’t tell you how distracting these mind games were while I am trying to smile and act cordial. I had to work at not saying some of my responses to my subconscious mind out loud. Just the fact that this was happening at all was annoying and very disconcerting but it was also re-framing the entire visit from a pleasant exchange with a friend to a mental brawl and mental shouting match. Jane had to ask me a several questions twice before I responded because I was so distracted.

I finally had to excuse myself but as I did, so did Terry. As Terry stood up, Jane rushed to help her. I thought she might be disabled or be injured the way that Terry was trying to hold her up but she was in her mid-50’s and seemed quite capable. While Terry was looking for her purse, I wrinkled my brow and shrugged my shoulders to Jane as if to say, what is going on? Without Terry seeing her, Jane curved her hand as if holding a glass and raised it to her face while rolling her head back. The obvious sign that Terry had been drinking. It was only then that I noticed that there was a large empty wineglass next to where Terry had been siting.

Jane and I helped Terry out to her car and she was definitely not able to drive safely. Jane repeatedly said she would drive Terry home – it was just a few blocks. After some effort, we got Terry to agree and I followed them to Terry’s house and then picked up Jane and drove her back home. Just as I was backing out of Terry’s driveway, I noticed deep tire marks on the lawn going right up to the front steps. The first few steps were broken or missing. I made the comment to Jane that somebody missed the driveway. Jane said that happened when Terry was driving home drunk one night and dropped a cigarette into her lap.

I am still annoyed by this running commentary of my conscious world and by the continuous background music but I am learning to live with it. It has not really told be to go home and clean the guns and I am not hearing messages from God. What I am hearing is sort of a news flash or intelligence report from my subconscious mind of matters that I am not immediately aware of and that have, so far. All proved to be correct. I can live with that.