Great Lakes levels rebound
Great Lakes water levels are rebounding after a decade-long slump that hammered the maritime industry and even fed conspiracy theories about plots to drain the inland seas that make up nearly one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water.
The three biggest lakes — Superior, Huron and Michigan — have risen steadily since fall 2007, when for a couple of months Superior’s levels were the lowest on record and the others nearly so. Erie, shallowest of the lakes, actually exceeded its long-term average in June. So did Lake Ontario, although its level is determined more by artificial structures than nature.
The lakes follow cycles, rising and falling over time. Scientists say it’s a natural process with environmental benefits, such as replenishing coastal wetlands. But extreme ups or downs can wreak havoc for people.
–The Associated Press
State seeks eased pollution targets for 2 lakes
Minnesota regulators are seeking easier pollution-control targets for Lake Byllesby and Lake Pepin, two popular recreation areas south of the Twin Cities slated for cleanup under the state’s Clean Water Legacy program.
If the new targets are approved, those water bodies still will undergo major pollution-control efforts but would not have to meet the same standards as other deep lakes in the region.
This is the first time Minnesota has proposed special standards for specific water bodies.
–The Star Tribune
Invasive flowering rush on Lake Minnetonka
Department of Natural Resources officials say they plan to announce flowering rush has become a major problem in the Detroit Lakes area and Lake Minnetonka.
Flowering rush was just discovered on Lake Minnetonka on June 29—the first invasive plant discovered since 1987 when milfoil was found.
“We’re officially designating it an infested water with flowering rush this week. This week it goes into the state register, and this week we’re planning to treat both those bays,” said Certified Lake Manager Dick Osgood.
It was spotted on Smith’s Bay first, and later located on Brown’s Bay. However, officials say they will survey the lake in order to be sure they treat all infected areas.
UW-Superior researcher fight invasives
The tiny worms, midges and water fleas growing in fish tanks at a university lab represent the invasive organisms that have spread throughout the Great Lakes, often by hitchhiking in the ballast tanks of giant cargo ships.
A few miles down the road on the shores of Lake Superior, colorful pipes and several 50,000-gallon tanks can mimic a ship’s ballast water intake and discharge system.
Together, the lab and elaborate piping system are helping researchers figure out the best way to kill invaders before they further damage the lakes’ fishery, threaten water quality and cost the regional economy even more money. Ballast water helps stabilize ships in turbulent waters. It’s also blamed for carrying invasive species such as zebra mussels and ruffe into areas where they have overwhelmed native species and damaged that environment.–The Chicago Tribune
Futures market in water predicted
Underscoring a jolting shift in how people pay for water, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange predicts that one day water will trade on commodities exchanges just like crude oil and wheat.
That outlook, delivered at a water-technologies conference in Milwaukee, does more than suggest that utility prices eventually will fluctuate – perhaps even wildly.
The notion of trading water like pork bellies also reflects how rapidly new markets are emerging around water – in its conservation, treatment, pricing and whatever other niches entrepreneurs can tap.
New opportunities was the theme that emerged at Water Summit III, sponsored by the Water Council, a trade group that promotes the Milwaukee region’s water technology companies and research programs.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wall of bubbles halts carp
The Great Lakes are under attack. A swarm of Asian carp are advancing up the Illinois River, breeding wantonly and gorging on plankton. How can we halt the piscatory horde before it reaches Lake Michigan? Well, possibly with noisy bubbles.
In a tributary near Havana, about 200 miles from Chicago, ecologist Greg Sass is testing a barrier that injects beeping sounds into an effervescent wall, which captures and magnifies the noise. The chirping bothers only the carp because it hears higher frequencies than native species do; a series of tiny bones connecting the carp’s swim bladder to its auditory system amplifies sound. In hatchery trials, the acoustic “fence” stopped 95 percent of the invasive fish.
Boston households offer conservation examples
It may seem paradoxical to New Englanders who spent June carrying umbrellas to work every day to hear that Dighton has a desalination plant that converts saltwater into fresh, and that there are more such plants on the way in the area. “We’re hardly Saudi Arabia,” says Bob Zimmerman, executive director of the nonprofit environmental group the Charles River Watershed Association. “To find ourselves in a situation where cities feel compelled to turn sea water into potable drinking water in a state that gets 4 feet of rain a year is absurd.”
The problem, Zimmerman maintains, is that because of sprawl — which paves over natural areas that could be replenishing ground-water supplies — and overuse, even normally damp New England is threatened with water shortages. Already, three dozen communities in Eastern Massachusetts have mandatory or voluntary outdoor water-use restrictions.
Better engineering in cities and towns is a big part of the long-term answer, but conservation is key, especially in the short term, says Zimmerman. The message of conservation has been slow to reach the New England states, but these Massachusetts residents are a little ahead of the curve.
–The Boston Globe
State laws vary widely on well testing
Douglas Wagner bought a home in the Rochester, N.Y., suburb of Webster last year, contingent on the well water being judged safe.
Standard testing showed the water was fine and the Wagner family moved in. Then, he learned that nearby wells had arsenic problems.
Wagner’s well hadn’t been checked for the toxic metal because state and local regulations do not dictate how private wells should be tested. After testing for and finding levels of arsenic above the 10-parts-per-billion federal and state regulation, Wagner faces the expense of hooking up to the public water supply at a cost of more than $1,800, said Edward Marianetti, executive director of the Monroe County (N.Y.) Water Authority.
Only three states — New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island — require well water quality testing when a property is sold, according to the National Ground Water Association. Eighteen states require water be tested when a new well is built.
Wetlands fugitive arrested in Mexico
Robert Wainwright, a fugitive wanted in Indiana for allegedly polluting wetlands, was arrested July 14 in Mexico by U.S. Marshals and ATF Agents working with Mexican police. Wainwright, who was convicted of federal firearms violations is being extradited back to the United States.
Wainwright is one of 21 fugitives listed on EPA’s fugitive Web site http://www.epa.gov/fugitives. His arrest resulted from two anonymous tips from people who saw Wainwright on the Web site, contacted EPA’s tip line and EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division Chicago area office.
Wainwright was manager of Sterling Material Services in Lake County, Ind. The company, which separated metal from slag and brick waste from steel mills, allegedly disposed of waste in an adjacent wetland without a permit. The Northern Indiana Environmental Crimes Task Force, CID and ATF agents conducted a search warrant at the site and a follow-on consent-search at Wainwright’s residence, where they discovered firearms and ammunition. Since Wainwright had a prior felony conviction, his possession of the munitions was illegal.
–EPA News Release