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'Office Space' Goes Nuclear, Chicken Fried Salmonella, Snakes with Hats (!)
Our top picks: today's environmental news and best #greenreads.

Calling it a day, or seven: Heather Zichal has stepped down from her post as the White House’s senior energy and climate advisor. Working for the administration for the last five years, she played a crucial role in achieving stricter fuel efficiency standards for automobiles and limiting emissions from power plants. Though it seems the president wanted Zichal to stay, Joshua Freed of the centrist think tank Third Way remarked that years spent working for the White House should be measured in dog years. “Heather spent the equivalent of 35 years working at the White House,” according to Freed’s math. “That’s a long time. At a certain time, everyone feels the need to have a change of scenery.” Washington Post

The Office Space treatment: We store more radioactive waste in Hanford, Washington, than anywhere else in the United States. As part of a plan to clean up that waste—which is leaking from its underground tanks, by the way—URS Corp., the company that operates the site, planned to build a treatment plant that would turn the radioactive material into glass. Great idea, except one of the plant’s senior scientists found all kinds of flaws with the plant’s designs. When he brought this up with management, “he was assigned to work in a basement room without office furniture or a telephone.” (I mean, seriously. All that’s missing from this story is a flashlight and a can of bug spray.) The story blew up last week when the company finally went ahead and fired him. Los Angeles Times

Trouble in the henhouse: Chicken contaminated with strains of Salmonella Heidelberg has sickened hundreds of people across 18 states. Officials traced infected products back to Foster Farms in California, but have issued no recall. (Can spoiled meat be blamed on the government shutdown? Not yet anyway. It’s true that the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s staff has been reduced, but the group says meat, poultry, and processed egg inspections “have been maintained.”) Reuters

That fresh feeling: A chemical used to kill bacteria may be polluting our bodies of water each time we brush our teeth or wash our dishes. Many of today’s products contain a bacteria-killing chemical called triclosan, and though it helps keep our yoga mats from stinking to high heaven (regular soap and water does the same thing), it remains unregulated by the FDA (see "Antibacerial Soaps: Safe Suds or Snake Oil?"). And now, water samples taken from the Thames River (the one in Connecticut, not England) have tested positive for triclosan. Mae Wu, an attorney for health programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth) put a fine point on it: “This is a stupid use of a toxic chemical.” The Day

Sand, sand, everywhere: If you live near a processing plant for fracking sand, you may want to invest in a Dyson. Residents of New Auburn, Wisconsin, live near two such plants and report a constant layer of fine crystalline silica dust on their floors and counters. While the town has decided to conduct studies to determine the health consequences of so much particulate in the air, the local high school has already upgraded its air filters as a precaution. And a good thing—the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration limits workers’ exposure to crystalline silica due to its link to silicosis (an incurable lung disease), lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, and airway diseases. The Northwestern


Antarctic evacuation: The countdown clock is ticking for National Science Foundation research in Antarctica. If the government doesn’t come back online by mid-October, all three Antarctic research centers will have to evacuate all but essential staff. This would mean the end of this year’s research season for hundreds of scientists studying glaciology, ecology, and climate change. Says one government researcher, “I don’t think the public realizes the devastating impact that this has on scientific research.” ThinkProgress


Puttin’ on the ritz: After that last blurb, we could really use some snakes with tiny tophats and mustaches. (And don’t worry, peanut butter is the only adhesive at work here.) Jezebel


NWS Staff Walks to Work in Blizzard Despite Shutdown Climate Central

It Continues: Two Pennsylvania Coal Plants Will Close for Good Next Week Grist

Rhino Poaching Hits New Record in South Africa Guardian

Reef Record Project Offers Panoramas of Disappearing Coral Reefs Verge

Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)

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