The Steam, August 21, 2019: Wildfires Blaze in Drought-Hit Alaska

The Global Rundown

Wildfires strike parched areas of Alaska. The National Olympic Committee says they are confident that organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics can fix lingering water quality issues. Drought cuts palm oil production in Indonesia. Residents of Newark, New Jersey, where lead is polluting some household drinking water, say that their water has tasted odd for years. California prepares to vote on a $1.3 billion safe drinking water act. 

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By The Numbers

659 Wildfires this year in Alaska, which have burned roughly 2.5 million acres. Parts of the state are experiencing the hottest and driest summers on record, boosting the likelihood of forest fires. Reuters 

48-49 million tonnes Predicted output of Indonesian palm and palm kernel oil in 2019. Next year’s yield is expected to be lower, however, due to current drought conditions, which farmers say will likely hamper outputs in the first half of 2020. Reuters

Science, Studies, and Reports

On a three-day trip to Tokyo, Japan, the National Olympic Committee expressed confidence that the city will be able to address water quality and other issues prior to the Games, which begin on July 24, 2020. Over the weekend, the swimming portion of a paratriathlon was canceled after E.coli was detected in the water. In response, Games organizers say they plan to have triple-layer filtration screens installed by next summer. Reuters

On the Radar

Bottled water distribution is continuing in Newark, New Jersey, after testing found that filters distributed by the city were failing to eliminate high levels of lead from household drinking water. Many residents are expressing frustration over the situation, saying that their water has been “tasting funny for years,” and that the government ignored past warning signs about the lead contamination. The New York Times

California’s State Water Resources Control Board is set to authorize a $1.3 billion program to ensure safe and reliable drinking water for the state’s underserved residents. More than 1 million Californians do not have steady access to good quality water. If approved, the $1.3 billion will be dispersed over 10 years, and go toward projects that will improve water quality. Bloomberg Environment 

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