The Leaning Tower of Pisa Just Got a Little Bit Straighter

Flickr/Neil Howard

Pisa’s famous bell tower has just lost a little bit of its lean, according to a new report by researchers. The Italian tower, which has been tilting perilously for more than 800 years, has straightened by 2.5cm (1 inch) since 2001 thanks to a massive restoration project.

The Tower of Pisa has been leaning to one side pretty much from the beginning-the tower took nearly two centuries to build and it was obvious from the start that things were a little off kilter.

By the early 1990s, the tower was leaning nearly 18 feet, and each year, the tower was tilting more and more, with the incline increasing by more than a millimeter (0.04 inches) a year. That might not sound like much, but experts feared the building could collapse all together.It has taken engineers years to stabilize the tower, which included digging tunnels under one side of the structure to give its foundation room to shift, and attaching steel cables to the tower to keep it upright. It worked, and the tower has been straightening as predicted. In fact, engineers say that theoretically, they could straighten the tower completely. That, however, is unlikely to happen. More than 6 million people visit Pisa each year lured by the sight of the leaning tower, so while locals are happy to see the building restored, they’re not eager to see it straightened anytime soon.

Report lists America’s most polluted beaches

On Tuesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council released its annual Testing the Waters report, which lists the most polluted beaches at the country’s oceans, lakes and bays.

The worst offenders have been on the list for several years, with contamination levels exceeding national standards anywhere from 60% to 90% of the time. The top beaches for contamination include Shired Island, Florida; Kings at Stacy Brook, Massachusetts; and Joerse Park in Indiana.

The report lists the number of days that beaches were closed or that contamination warnings were issued. This year’s number, 20,000, is one of the highest in the 19-year history of the report. The full report also shows how often each beach checks its contamination level. While the majority perform checks every day, others lack the funds and only check the water a few times a week, so contamination levels may actually be higher than reported at some beaches.

The biggest culprit of beach pollution: stormwater run-off and poorly designed sewage systems. For those of you as grossed out as I am right now, don’t worry. The report also lists the beaches that are the cleanest.

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