Giant sinkhole opens in Texas

large sinhole in Liberty County, Texas

A sinkhole opened as a crack in the road yesterday in Liberty County, Texas. Today it’s 550 metres across and has swallowed a truck.

It’s possible that an old salt dome has collapsed—dissolved away under the ground.

Television news footage showed a tractor, some oil field equipment and some telephone poles falling into the sinkhole as it grew near Daisetta, which has a population of around 1,000 and is located about 60 miles northeast of Houston….

Officials are trying to determine what prompted the sinkhole near the Liberty County community. But its history as a once booming oil town might be to blame.

The ground might have caved in because of the collapse of an old salt dome where oil brine and natural gas are stored underground, officials said. Daisetta sits on a salt dome, one of the most common types of traps for oil.

Sinkholes are rare and often take up to two weeks to stabilize, said Geoffrey Paine, a geologist and geophysicist with the University of Texas.

Update: the sinkhole is now 800m across but it has slowed down its growth.

A day earlier, Branch, other officials and residents had watched as large chunks of earth, as well as the oil field equipment, trees and vehicles that sat on them tumbled into the crater. The mixture of oil and mud at the bottom of the sinkhole made it look like a tar pit.

Carl Norman, a geologist working with officials, said he planned to measure the change of ground elevation around the sinkhole over the next few days to try to determine whether it is still growing or is now stabilized. But he added, “It will be at least three months before we can say if it’s stable or not.”

…Don Van Nieuwenhuise, a geosciences professor at the University of Houston, said oil production usually doesn’t affect the integrity of a salt dome. He said he thinks the sinkhole is probably related to saltwater waste that is being stored underground in the area. The saltwater is a byproduct of oil production and has to be stored underground so it won’t contaminate water supplies and the environment.

UPDATE: YouTube video

Collection of videos from a spam news aggregator:

Huge sinkhole opens up in Liberty Texas...sinkhole texas cw39 khcw houston

several of these in nearby towns and cities but much smaller....Sinkhole sink hole Daisetta texas oil field bush liberty county houston giant sinkhole nbc news

Huge sinkhole opens up in Liberty County Texas...sinkhole texas cw39 khcw houston

See “Giant sinkhole opens in Russian town.”

C. difficile outbreak went unrecognized at Burlington hospital

Clostridium difficile has been linked to dozens of deaths at a hospital in Burlington, Ontario.

Ontario’s health minister plans to make it mandatory for hospitals to report cases of Clostridium difficile to the province after a Burlington hospital revealed that dozens of people had died in an outbreak of the bacteria.

George Smitherman made the announcement Wednesday after officials at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital released the results of an investigation into a 20-month outbreak.

The external study found that the bacteria killed 30 patients and contributed to the deaths of 46 others. Earlier, the hospital said 12 people had died of the bacteria.

“It first came to our attention in late January [2007] that we had something different happening here with C. difficile than we’d seen before,” hospital president and CEO Don Scott told CBC News.

In 2007, Burlington hospital had an overall rate of C. difficile of 2 infections per 200 patients, twice the rate of other Canadian hospitals.

The outbreak lasted from May 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2007. C. difficile causes swelling of the intestines and diarrhea, as well as fever and vomiting.

The hospital said it hasn’t had a new case of C. difficile since April 15, 2008. “The status at this time is certainly [thatC. difficile] is well under control,” said Scott.

Patient rooms are now wiped clean twice a day, and the hospital has spent $1 million to hire cleaning staff and switch to more effective disinfectants.

Dr. Michael Gardam, the head of infection control at the University Health Network who was brought in to help control the outbreak, said the bacteria went undetected for far too long and then wasn’t treated aggressively enough.

“In this particular case, several months went by before senior administration understood that they were in an outbreak,” said Gardam.

“My concern is there’s many hospitals that we have no idea what their rates are,” he added.

Look at reporting other superbugs, expert says

Following the results of the investigation, the health minister was asked whether C. difficile should be a reportable disease.

“Yes, and it will be. We’re working right now with the Ontario Hospital Association,” said Smitherman.

He said it’s a way of letting patients feel secure in the safety of their hospitals.

Dr. Michael Gardam, the head of infection control at the University Health Network, said hospitals should have to report outbreaks of other antibiotic-resistant bugs.

“They’re talking about other so-called superbugs, such as MRSA and VRE, in hospitals,” said Gardam. “I think those are well worth looking at, in addition to C. difficile.”

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, can cause infection if it gets into the body through a cut or during surgery.

Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE), a normally benign bacterium, lives in the intestine. Infections can occur in the urinary tract, in the blood and in wounds, including surgical wounds.

Here’s the one-page report (PDF file).

About bloody time 2: fisheries body to reassess bottom trawling

trawler marks on sea bottom

One of the most destructive fishing practices is trawling. That means scraping the bottom of the sea. The goal is to stir up bottom-dwelling fish, such as flounder. The result is to destroy and disrupt practically everything on the sea floor. In cold waters, it can take fifty years for the bottom to recover. The fisheries management group, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), announced Wednesday that they would

….assess the impact of bottom trawling on several fishing grounds outside Canada’s 200-mile limit and close them if it finds the fishing method harms vulnerable sea life….

Environmentalists at a NAFO meeting in Montreal praised the decision after years of arguing that bottom trawling or dragging destroys corals, sea mounts, sponges and other marine life and habitat.

The fishing method involves dragging heavy nets with metal gates along the ocean floor. The nets scoop up everything in their path.

…NAFO, which manages commercial fishing outside Canada’s 200-mile limit, has pledged to complete the mapping of the fishing grounds and evaluation of marine life by the end of this year.

It will recommend that areas should be closed or fisheries restricted where damage to deep-sea species can’t be prevented.

Foreign trawlers operating outside the 200-mile limit are heavily subsidized by their national governments, thus creating overuse of the resources. Canadian fisherman are heavily subsidized, too, with the result that more and more fisherman are chasing fewer and fewer fish.

See also “It’s time to stop trawler fishing, November 2006.”

Hover cat T-shirt

You can now order a hover-cat T-shirt, which appears to be a variation of the cat-on-toast perpetual motion machine. I think, though, that it should be upside down for the proper effect.

hover cat T-shirt

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