Thursday, December 2, 2010

PIC 1: The smelter owner took us to an amazing South Indian lunch and honored us with some necklaces (lead-free I might add). He was very excited to have visitors from the US and took good care of us.

This is the infamous abandoned Chromium Plant at Ranipet. Chromium (Cr) is used to fix collagen in hides ultimately producing leather. Practically all leather worldwide is processed this way. India is has the worlds second largest Cr deposits and dozens of American and Italian shoe companies. Trivalent Chromium is insoluble but hexavalent is water soluble and a confirmed human carcinogen. The "neon" yellow is all Cr+6 (YIKES).

PIC 2: A local man walking through runoff containing hexavalent Cr. (no comment necessary)

PIC 3: Everything you see is a hugh Cr waste pile (10 meters tall). Rainwater runoff seeps out of waste pile and migrates through community. This Pool was dug to try to collect leachate but was abandoned. Chromium swim anyone?

PIC 4: This is my second visit to Ranipet and nothing has changed in 6 years. Owners are bankrupt and gone; who will clean this up?? Are you wearing leather shoes?? Uhmm??

Video of Ranipet run-off across the road from people's homes.

Pictures of Smelter - Vellore

Here are some pics of the Pb smelter in Vellore (3 hr West of Chennai).
(1) CLD surrounded by batteries (and smiling??); (2) Standing next to one of 2 rotary kiln ovens and smiling again.. (battery plates, charcoal, soda ash are all fired up for 3 hrs); (3) this is how they split the batteries and take out the plates (wow). (4) A family across the street standing on high lead level soil.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pb Refinery and Puducherry

Yesterday we went a lead refinery.  They refine lead alloys and mixtures into pure lead or alloys ordered by their customers.  They mainly import their raw material and export their products.  They do not smelt lead oxides.

In  the evening we Strolled around Puducherry barefoot in the rain, wandered into a hindu temple and a famous ashram, and ate french food and paneer all thanks to our cultural directuor, EC.

Today we went to a battery recycling facility.  They showed us such wonderful hospitality.  The plant was very compact and they process about 300 tons of lead per month compared to 2000-3000 per month at the first smelter.  This smelter was located near a few homes though.  We had tali plates for lunch and then finished the day at the Ranipet "super un-funded" site.  This is an abdandoned chromium ore processing facility.  The water literally runs bright neon yellow (Think: TMNT) out of this place and into the community through a wetlands area and into a lake.

Tomorrow EC and I are off to New Delhi for the day and then to Agra on Saturday.  The end of the India marathon begins tomorrow.  Schedule below;

5:00 am car to Chennai airport
7:25 am flight to New Delhi
5:00 am car to Agra
7:10 pm flight to Chennai
2:00 am flight to Europe
no clue what time from Europe to NYC

Wish us luck!! May not have time to blog until we get back to NYC.  PJC may be able to pick up the slack. Stay tuned!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday's trip to a regulated smelter (and the beach)

By request and out of respect, I cannot post any pictures from yesterday's smelter audit.  I am also unable to comment on the location of the smelter or its operations.  Makes for a pretty boring blog entry...

Lead ranges in and around the facility ranged from below detectable limits to upwards of 5% in soil.  The slag and detritus by the slag maxed out the XRF.  These results were not surprising.

At the end of the day, we had time to visit Marina Beach to observe  some active Holocene sedimentation. The beach consisted of Quartz sand sourced from the Himalayas with a fair amount of heavy minerals still present. This was also the first time EC and I were exposed to India's impoverished community.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Team meetings with Anna University and TNPCB

We spent Sunday recovering from our jetlag.

Today (Monday) was our first work day.  We spent the day touring the laboratories at Anna University in Chennai, presenting the project to various groups at th University and TNPCB (Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. Think: NYS DEC), demonstrating the use of the XRF and GPS, and we even found some time at the end of the day to go shopping.
Environmental Science Masters and PhD students testing the XRF on University soil.

TNPCB meeting
PJC found a lead containing item (brass) in the conference room of the TNPCB to help with the XRF demonstration
Maybe we should get these signs in NYC?

How amazing are all these colors at the cloth store in Chennai?
Tomorrow we will begin touring and take some initial samples at formal ULAB facilities in Tamil Nadu.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We have arrived!

After a long day of traveling, we arrived in Chennai last night and got to the hotel at around 2:00 am.  There is a 10.5 hours time difference between NYC and Chennai so I think that means we got here around 3:30 pm eastern time.
The airport and the roads were not nearly as choatic as I anticipated they would be.  PJC and EC were able to spot me right after I cleared customs despite the crowds.  When we were about to leave,  PJC had to have his luggage rechecked because the GPS in his suitcase looked suspicious however, the XRF made it out of the airport just fine. 
The taxi drivers here remind me exactly of the ones in Manhattan.  We did need to turn around to get off a one way exit ramp from the highway against stopped traffic.  I guess you don't see that happen in NYC.
We are planning on taking the rest of the day easy as we all continue to adjust to the time change.  I slept great last night but I am still exhausted! Then this evening, we will be meeting up with our partners from the Blacksmith Institute for dinner.
We get to work tomorrow morning with the rest of the team.

Monday, November 22, 2010

5 days until I leave for India!

I am leaving for India on Friday!  I am fortunate enough to be tagging along with PJC to help identify, assess, and initiate clean up of lead-acid battery sites in Chennai.  I am really excited for the trip.  I have always been fond of lead since my days working with U and Th (Pb is the stable daughter of these decay series) and  it has a been a couple of years since I have done any environmental field work.  I am really looking forward to the experience.

I leave for India the night after Thanksgiving.  I can't believe how much school work I still have to finish before I leave.  I haven't had too much time to worry about packing or the logistics of the 20+ hours of traveling yet. However, I was able to find time to make an appointment with a travel medicine specialist at NYPH/CUMC about 3 weeks ago to get all my vaccines.  They gave me Typhoid, Hepatitis B, and a Polio booster.  I had received Tdap and the flu shot at the end of the summer from my employer.  The doctor gave me some antibiotics to take along should I get sick while I am traveling and on Wednesday I will start taking my malaria pills.

To learn more about why this work is important from the Blacksmith Institute (PJC's partner institution) click here.