Arsenic, Asian carp and a climate poll

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

Arsenic often found in water samples
About 20% of untreated water samples from public, private, and monitoring wells across the nation contain concentrations of at least one trace element, such as arsenic, manganese and uranium, at levels of potential health concern, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

“In public wells these contaminants are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and contaminants are removed from the water before people drink it,” said Joe Ayotte, USGS hydrologist and lead author on the study. “However, trace elements could be present in water from private wells at levels that are considered to pose a risk to human health, because they aren’t subject to regulations.”

Trace elements in groundwater exceed human health benchmarks at a rate that far outpaces most other groundwater contaminants, such as nitrate, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds. Most trace elements, including manganese and arsenic, get into the water through the natural process of rock weathering. Radon, derived from naturally occurring uranium in aquifers, also occurs frequently at high levels in groundwater. Human activities like mining, waste disposal, and construction also can contribute to trace elements in groundwater.

Arsenic was found above the EPA human health benchmark in 7% of wells. (The Minnesota Health Department estimates that 10 percent of wells in the state have arsenic in excess of the health standard.)
Read the USGS full report.
–USGS News Release

No Asian carp caught in St. Croix
A commercial fishing operator and state fisheries employees failed to catch a single Asian carp in the St. Croix River in nine days on the water.

“That’s very good news,” said Tom Landwehr, Department of Natural Resources commissioner. “It most likely means there are a small number of fish in there.”

Water samples from the St. Croix tested positive last month for genetic material from silver carp, suggesting the invasive, leaping Asian species may be in the river as far north as the dam at St. Croix Falls.

The commercial operator from Illinois, with experience catching Asian carp, set nets at various places from the river’s mouth at Prescott, Wis., to the dam at St. Croix Falls over four days last week. The DNR also used nets and electro-fishing for five days and didn’t find an Asian carp.

Landwehr said experts believe the environmental DNA (eDNA) testing used to detect the carp is accurate, but it’s impossible to determine how many carp might be in the river. “They searched everywhere that looked like good carp habitat,” Landwehr said. Failing to find fish might give officials a bit more time to deal with the problem, he said.
–The Star Tribune

Poll: Climate change worry drops
Worldwide fears about climate change have receded in the past four years, as other environmental issues such as air and water pollution, water shortages, packaging waste and use of pesticides have been given more attention, according to a new report issued by Nielsen Co. In an Internet survey of more than 25,000 respondents in 51 countries, 69% said they are worried about climate change, up from 66% in 2009, but down from 72% in 2007.

Meanwhile, 77% of respondents named air pollution as a main concern, while 75% cited water pollution. For 73% of those surveyed, pesticides were seen as a serious problem, Nielsen said. “Focus on immediate worries such as job
security, local school quality, crime and economic well-being have all diminished media attention for climate stories in the past two years,” said Maxwell Boykoff, senior visiting research associate at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute.
–Market Watch

USGS offers on-line water quality modeling
The USGS has released an online, interactive decision support system that provides easy access to six newly developed regional models describing how rivers receive and transport nutrients from natural and human sources to sensitive waters, such as
the Gulf of Mexico.

Excessive nutrients in the nation’s rivers, streams and coastal areas are a major issue for water managers, because they cause algal blooms that increase costs to treat drinking water, limit recreational activities, threaten valuable fisheries, and can be toxic to humans and wildlife.

Each region and locality has a unique set of nutrient sources and characteristics that determine how those nutrients are transported to streams.

For example, the decision support system indicates that reducing wastewater discharges throughout the Neuse River Basin in North Carolina by 25 percent will reduce the amount of nitrogen transported to the Pamlico Sound from the Neuse River
Basin by three percent; whereas a 25 percent reduction in agricultural sources, such as fertilizer and manure, will reduce the amount of nitrogen by 12 percent.

The new USGS regional models were developed using the SPARROW (SPAtially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes) modeling framework. Results detailing nutrient conditions in each region are published in the Journal of American Water Resources Association.
–USGS News Release

AGs press to close L. Michigan to Asian carp
Six attorneys general in the Great Lakes region called for a multi-state coalition that would push the federal government to protect the lakes from invasive species such as Asian carp by cutting off their artificial link to the Mississippi River basin.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the officials invited colleagues in 27 other states to join a lobbying campaign to separate the two watersheds, contending they have as much to lose as the Great Lakes do from migration of
aquatic plants and animals that can do billions in economic damage and starve out native species.

“We have Asian carp coming into Lake Michigan and zebra mussels moving out of the Great Lakes and into the heart of our country, both of which are like poison to the ecology of our waters,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said. “This is not just a Great Lakes issue. By working together, we hope to put pressure on the federal government to act before it’s too late.”

Also signing the appeal were attorneys general from Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It was being sent to their counterparts across the Mississippi basin as well as Western states such as Nevada, where Lake Mead and other waterways have been infested by zebra mussels believed to have been transported from the Great Lakes by unwitting recreational boaters.

Five of the Great Lakes states are suing the Army Corps over its operation of a Chicago-area waterway network that creates
an artificial pathway between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, a Mississippi River tributary.
–The Associated Press

Iowa Farm Bureau rejects conservation rule
The Iowa Farm Bureau’s policy conference reversed itself. After lengthy debate and a multitude of motions, the group approved a resolution stating that compliance with conservation programs not bea condition for purchasing federally subsidized insurance programs.

The new resolution reads “the Iowa Farm Bureau supports conservation compliance; however, eligibility for federal crop
insurance should not be subject to farm program conservation requirements.”

If federal direct payments to farmers are eliminated by congress, as is widely expected, federal agriculture and
environmental regulators would be left without a compliance requirement if conservation compliance were not added to insurance eligibility. Such compliance was linked to farm insurance for decades but removed in 1996.

The county delegates spent the largest chunk of their debate on conservation issues, matching concerns voiced earlier by
conservationists that wholesale changes in the Farm Bill would imperil hard-won advances in conservation and environmental practices in agriculture.

The delegates had approved the linkage resolution by voice vote, but when the matter was brought for the final consideration that normally is routine, a tallied vote went 57-36 in favor of removing the compliance requirement.
–The Des Moines Register

How many species? Would you believe 8.7 million?
In the foothills of the Andes Mountains lives a bat the size of a raspberry. In Singapore, there’s a nematode worm that dwells only in the lungs of the changeable lizard.

The bat and the worm have something in common: They are both new to science. Each of them recently received its official scientific name: Myotis diminutus for the bat, Rhabdias singaporensis for the worm.

These are certainly not the last two species that scientists will ever discover. Each year, researchers report more than
15,000 new species, and their workload shows no sign of letting up. “Ask any taxonomist in a museum, and they’ll tell you they have hundreds of species waiting to be described,” says Camilo Mora, a marine ecologist at the University of Hawaii.

Scientists have named and cataloged 1.3 million species. How many more species there are left to discover is a question that has hovered like a cloud over the heads of taxonomists for two centuries.
–The New York Times

UM sponsors raingarden documentary
“A Neighborhood of Raingardens,” a documentary depicting the transformation of a Minneapolis neighborhood through a community raingarden project, will premiere Friday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. at the St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis.The
60-minute film, sponsored in part by the Institute on the Environment, follows the initiative from inception to fruition.
–University of Minnesota News Release

Land use/biofuels conference set
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, will host a one-day conference on land use change and biofuel sustainability on Sept. 14 on the university’s St. Paul Campus. There is a $125 fee, $95 for students and representatives of nonprofit organizations.

Get more information.

Projects honored for pollution prevention
Three projects have won Minnesota Governor’s Awards for Pollution Prevention.

The awards honor Minnesota’s businesses, nonprofits, governmental agencies and other institutions demonstrating a commitment to pollution prevention, resource efficiency and sustainable practices.

They were:

  • The City of St. Paul’s Public Pools Green Initiative, which worked with Creative Water Solutions and
    USAquatics to reduce chemical use in public swimming pools. Water use for pool
    backwash was reduced by 30,000 gallons every two weeks, and the city saved $40,000
    in overtime costs and $36,000 in chemical costs.
  •  Recycling and Waste Reduction Initiatives, a partnership between Fairview Health Services, Merrick Inc., Partnership Resources Inc., PPL Industries, and Minnesota Waste Wise, developing an environmentally friendly way to handle material used to cover operating room supplies during sterilization in Fairview Health Services buildings.
  •  From Roofs to Roads, a coalition public, private and nonprofit partners — Solid Waste Management
    Coordinating Board, Dem-Con, Minnesota Asphalt Pavement Association and
    Commercial Asphalt Company –worked to recycle roofing shingles. Some of the
    shingles now are used in paving asphalt.

To learn more about the award winners, go to the Governor’s Awards  webpage.

Floating environmental classroom launched
Just in time for back-to-school season, Living Lands & Waters (LL&W) is launching a floating classroom that will bring students out on the river to learn about life on the nation’s waterways. This new, 150-foot barge features a handicapped-accessible classroom that can host up to 60 students at a time, as well as sleeping quarters for the eight-person LL&W crew. LL&W premiered the floating classroom at a dedication hosted on the Mississippi River by long-time partner Cargill on Sept.1 in St. Paul.

The primary goal of the floating classroom is to give participants – specifically young people – the tools and experience to teach others about the need to preserve and protect natural resources. This classroom will bring kids of all ages on board for workshops on a variety of topics related to their studies in history, biology and economics among others, using the river as a teaching tool.

Each workshop will be customized with the teacher to correspond with in-class curriculum. LL&W staff and classroom members will also participate in river clean-ups during their day-long journey on the river.

The floating classroom was made possible by the  support of five LL&W partners: Cargill, ADM, AEP River Operations,
Caterpillar, and Ingram Barge Company, as well as several unions whose members donated many hours of labor to help complete this project in time for the upcoming school year.
–Cargill News Release

British firm developing zebra mussel poison
Cambridge University spinout, BioBullets Ltd, has won a £500k grant from the Technology StrategyBoard to advance commercialisation of its pest control technology for water treatment plants and power facilities.

The company estimates that zebra mussels fouling the plants costs industry billions every year – $5bn in the US alone. Other
invasive species for which the company is developing pesticides cost the UK £2bn a year.

It has patented technologies for the environmentally-friendly control of the pests.

BioBullets has produced and is currently testing a control product for fouling by invasive mussels in shrimp farms. Scientists call it a toxic Malteser.

The products greatly increase toxicity of active ingredients by microencapsulation in edible coatings that the mussels actively filter from the water. Uneaten material rapidly degrades to harmless concentrations.
–Business Weekly

Peterson scales back Red River flood request
Come hell, high water or partisan priorities, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson had pledged for months he’d secure $500 million in the 2012 farm bill toward water-retention projects in the Red River Valley.

Not so fast.

Facing the harsh reality of federal spending constraints, the veteran Democrat acknowledged he needs to scale back his plans.

“It’s going to be more difficult, and that’s why I have to be ealistic in what we can accomplish,” Peterson said, reflecting a significant hift in tone from previous months.

Peterson says he’s now hoping to get at least $300 million uaranteed toward boosting regional flood mitigation – but even that’s not a certainty.

This fall, a special committee of Congress will outline spending cuts for the federal budget.

However much the committee demands from agriculture will influence how much the Red River Valley might get for its water projects, Peterson said.
–In Forum

Wisconsin court hears dairy case
A long-running battle between the residents of one Rock County community and thereach of big dairy will come to a head when the first case to test the state’s livestock siting law will be heard before the state Supreme Court.

The law, which was approved in 2004 under former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and a Republican-controlled Legislature, for
the first time outlined state standards for location, odor and air emissions, manure spreading and storage, and runoff management for new farms of all sizes or those that are looking to expand.

The law gave local governments the option of using the new state standards or adopting their own siting ordinances as long as they weren’t more restrictive than the state’s.

And that is the problem, say the eight families from the town of Magnolia who brought John Adams v. Wisconsin.

When their town board tried to place groundwater and manure-spreading stipulations on Larson Acres Inc., Rock County’s largest dairy farm, it was ultimately overruled by the Livestock Facility Siting Review Board.
–The Capital Times

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