The Stream, February 5, 2021: Research Indicates Arctic Ocean Was Once Filled With Fresh Water


  • New research finds the Arctic Ocean was once filled with fresh water.
  • Climate scientists are blaming an atmospheric river for recent flooding and snowfall in California.
  • Singapore opens its fourth desalination plant.
  • New Mexico officials try to move a PFAS lawsuit back to the state.

A Brazilian mining giant agreed to financial penalties stemming from a dam disaster almost two years ago.

“We know that we have a long way to go and we remain firm in our purpose.” – Eduardo Bartolomeo, chief executive of Vale. The Brazilian mining firm will pay 37.7 billion reais ($7 billion) to the state of Minas Gerais, according to the terms of a financial settlement. A dam at Vale’s iron ore mining complex collapsed in 2019. The Associated Press reports that the disaster killed more than 270 people and devastated the city of Brumadinho. As of Thursday, Minas Gerais officials said 11 people are still missing. According to the settlement, just under a third of the money will go to Brumadinho. Another portion will be put towards public transport improvements and new infrastructure across the state.


EPA Nominee Regan Touts Collaboration during Senate Confirmation Hearing

The Senate confirmation hearing for Michael Regan, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, proceeded on February 3 with many lines of questioning but few serious objections to his qualifications for the job.

Regan has been the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality since 2017. Though he has a long history of working on water issues in that state, discussion of those topics took a backseat during the three-hour hearing. What came to the forefront was how Regan would approach being the country’s top environmental regulator.

In Case You Missed It:

U.S Civil Rights Commission Advisers File Report on Water Inequity in Massachusetts – Report approaches water access and affordability as civil rights issues.

HotSpots H2O: In Ethiopian Conflict, Water Insecurity and Disease Risk Escalate – Destruction to infrastructure in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia has left people without access to clean water and increased the risk of fatal diseases.

New Study Reveals Arctic Ocean Was Filled With Fresh Water During Recent Glacial Periods

A new study suggests that fresh water once filled the basin of the Arctic Ocean for thousands of years, Nature reports. Researchers analyzed the amount of excess Thorium-230 produced in the Arctic Ocean to determine changes in salinity. They found long intervals during the last two glacial periods where none of the element was produced, indicating that the entire water column, down to the sea floor, was essentially fresh.



Inside Climate News reports that flooding and record snow in California last week can be partially explained by a long stream of moisture from the subtropical Pacific Ocean, known as an atmospheric river. Climate scientists say that as climate change worsens, stronger atmospheric rivers will become more frequent. Recent research found that between 1978 and 2017, the 10 most intense atmospheric rivers caused nearly half of all flood damage in the Western United States. Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said water managers in western states should be prepared for climate-driven weather extremes, including above- and below-average rain, snow and runoff.


Singapore opened its fourth desalination plant, which can treat both sea water and reservoir water, The Straits Times reports. The plant can treat about 30 million gallons a day, or up to seven percent of the country’s daily water demand. Singaporean officials heralded the plant, saying that a focus on desalination can ensure water security.

In context: Desalination Has a Waste Problem


A lawsuit over PFAS contamination from two military bases in New Mexico was moved to South Carolina recently, although the New Mexico Environment Department and the New Mexico attorney general are trying to bring the case back. The Alamogordo Daily News reports that reverting the PFAS litigation to a single-district case in New Mexico could get the case processed faster for “the health and livelihood of New Mexico families,” according to the New Mexico Environment Department cabinet secretary.

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