Archive for the ‘climate change’ Category

Both sides sue over Chesapeake Bay plan

November 12, 2012

The Freshwater Society blog 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.

Suits challenge Chesapeake Bay clean-up plan
Read a good Washinton Post update on the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to force states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed  to enact major pollution-reduction changes as part of a Total Maximum Daily Load  plan. The Post article by Darryl Fears focuses on the litigation – from both  left and the right – challenging the EPA plan.

Several environmental groups recently filed suit, alleging that the EPA could not adequately monitor a pollution-credit trading program aimed at reducing agriculture fertilizers flowing into the bay. The plan also is being challenged by the Farm Bureau Federation  and the National Association of Home Builders. That litigation alleges only the states, not the EPA, have authority to require pollution reductions.

Presentations available from Metro Water Summit
About 70 people – representatives of lake and creek groups, citizens, business owners, and water resource professionals — packed into a conference room Nov. 7 at the Eisenhower Community Center in Hopkins to hear about and discuss the latest important water resource issues and to network with like-minded folks. The event, the Metro Water Summit, was sponsored by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and organized by the Freshwater Society.

View slides from three presentations.

Groundwater clean-up costs are huge
The prestigious National Research Council, part of the National Academy of Science, has tried to put a number on the cost of cleaning up contaminated groundwater in the U.S., and it’s a big number. The council, in a new report, estimates it would cost more than $110 billion to clean up 126,000 contaminated sites. Read the report.

Wisconsin court weighs groundwater case
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials say a court decision could determine ways in which it can regulate groundwater usage affecting streams such as the Little Plover River.

But DNR officials say they don’t plan to wait for that to find solutions.

Water scientists say the river is drying up because farmers and other users of high-capacity wells in the area are drawing too much water from the river.
–The Wisconsin Rapids Tribune

Urban runoff costly for California cities
Cities in Los Angeles County face spending billions of dollars to clean up the dirty urban runoff that washes pollution into drains and coastal waters under storm water regulations approved by the regional water board.

Despite more than two decades of regulation, runoff remains the leading cause of water pollution in Southern California, prompting beach closures and bans on eating fish caught in Santa Monica Bay.

The runoff — whether from heavy winter rains or sprinkler water spilling down the gutter — is tainted by a host of contaminants from thousands of different places: bacteria from pet waste, copper from auto brake pads, toxics from industrial areas, pesticides and fertilizer from lawns.

“Municipal wastewater treatment has made incredible strides over the past 20 or 30 years, and other sources of pollution have been well controlled,” said John Kemmerer, regional associate water director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Clean Water Act. “It really comes down now to urban runoff.”
–The Los Angeles Times

Shell, Sunoco to pay New Hampshire $35 million
New Hampshire reached a $35 million settlement with Shell Oil Co. and Sunoco Inc. of a lawsuit over claims that the gasoline refiners and manufacturers used chemicals that contaminated groundwater.

The state sued a number of oil companies in 2003, charging that they knew the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) would pollute water supplies, state Attorney General Michael Delaney said in a statement.

“My office will continue to hold oil companies responsible for their role in causing groundwater contamination in this state,” Delaney said. “This is a substantial recovery that will be used to clean up contaminated groundwaters throughout New Hampshire.”

A trial against the other remaining defendants, which include Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), ConocoPhillips (COP), Irving Oil Ltd., Citgo Petroleum Corp. and Vitol SA, is set to begin in Concord, New Hampshire, in January. It may last three to four months.
–Bloomberg

Scientists model road salt’s effects on concrete
Swedish scientists have studied models to help road and bridge maintenance engineers work out how much damage salting the roads in winter might cause to steel-reinforced concrete structures.

As the winter draws in, road safety becomes paramount especially in northern climes where icy roads are a perennial problem for motorists. Gritting and salting the roads can help reduce road traffic accidents but the use of salt, which contains chloride, comes at a price. Corrosive chloride ions can penetrate into porous concrete and reach the metal reinforcements within, leading to corrosion after months or years of use.

Luping Tang of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, at Chalmers University of Technology, in Gothenburg, Sweden and his colleague Dr Anders Lindvall of the Central Laboratory, at Thomas Concrete Group AB also in Gothenburg, have looked at the effects of exposure to road salt de-icing over a 10 year and a 25-30 year service period in computer simulations of chloride ingress into concrete structures. The models simulate heavy traffic moving at speed over such structures.

Writing in the International Journal of Structural Engineering, the team explains that, “Chloride induced corrosion of reinforcement in concrete is still one of the main concerns regarding durability and service life of reinforced concrete structures.
–Science Daily

GMO labeling rejected in California
A measure that would have required most foods made with genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled in California lost early Wednesday (Nov. 6).

Supporters of Proposition 37 said consumers have a right to know whether food has been genetically altered, particularly when the long-term health impacts are unclear. Opponents argued that the labels would stigmatize foods that are scientifically proven to be safe.

With 100 percent the precincts reporting, voters rejected the proposed labeling law by six percentage points. California would have been the first state in the nation to pass such an initiative.

“We said from the beginning that the more voters learned about Prop. 37, the less they would like it,” said Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the opposition. “We didn’t think they would like the lawsuits, more bureaucracy, higher costs, loopholes and exemptions. It looks like they don’t.”
–The San Francisco Chronicle

Some begin to re-think beach replenishment
For more than a century, for good or ill, New Jersey has led the nation in coastal development. Many of the barrier islands along its coast have long been lined by rock jetties, concrete sea walls or other protective armor. Most of its coastal communities have beaches only because engineers periodically replenish them with sand pumped from offshore.

Now much of that sand is gone. Though reports are still preliminary, coastal researchers say that when Hurricane Sandy came ashore, it washed enormous quantities of sand off beaches and into the streets — or even all the way across barrier islands into the bays behind them.

But even as these towns clamor for sand, scientists are warning that rising seas will make maintaining artificial beaches prohibitively expensive or simply impossible. Even some advocates of artificial beach nourishment now urge new approaches to the issue, especially in New Jersey.
–The New York Times

China buying water rights in Japan
Morihiro Oguma’s phone rang every day with calls from brokers representing foreign investors who wanted to buy his Japan Mineral water-bottling business.

“In many cases, I was told I could name my price,” Oguma said in an interview, adding he had no interest in selling the Hokkaido-based company. “It seems what they really wanted was our rights to groundwater.”

A two-decade slump in Japan’s real estate prices, an incomplete land registry and lax rules on buying forest with water rights are attracting investors led by China and come amid a fraying of ties between the two countries over a territorial dispute. Some areas of remote woodland in Japan, the only country in the Asia-Pacific region that doesn’t regulate property investment by foreigners, can be bought for 60 U.S. cents a square meter including groundwater.

Japan, whose population is shrinking, ranks in the top 10 percent of countries by water resources, while China and India, with the opposite demographic trend, will face shortages from 2030, according to a United Nations report in August. Almost half of China’s economy is already based in water-scarce regions, HSBC Holdings Plc said in a Sept. 12 report.
–Bloomberg News

Arctic sea ice hits new low

August 29, 2012

The amount of sea ice in the Arctic has fallen to the lowest level on record, a confirmation of the drastic warming in the region and a likely harbinger of larger changes to come.

Satellites tracking the extent of the sea ice found that it covered about 1.58 million square miles, or less than 30 percent of the Arctic Ocean’s surface, scientists said. That is only slightly below the previous record low, set in 2007, but with weeks still to go in the summer melting season, it is clear that the record will be beaten by a wide margin.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center, a government-sponsored research agency in Boulder, Colo., announced the findings in collaboration with NASA. The amount of sea ice in the summer has declined more than 40 percent since satellite tracking began in the late 1970s, a trend that most scientists believe is primarily a consequence of the human release of greenhouse gases.

“It’s hard even for people like me to believe, to see that climate change is actually doing what our worst fears dictated,” said Jennifer A. Francis, a Rutgers University scientist who studies the effect of sea ice on weather patterns. “It’s starting to give me chills, to tell you the truth.”
–The New York Times  

How hot was July? Hotter than in ’36

August 9, 2012

July in the U.S. was the hottest month ever in records going back to 1895. And the 12-month period ending in July also was the warmest. Read a New York Times article on the records and the causes. According to scientists quoted by the Times, the drought afflicting most of the country reduced soil moisture, leading to higher daytime temperatures in July. The higher nighttime lows most of the country experienced are part of a long-term trend.

Farm tiling called major cause of hypoxia

October 12, 2010

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.

Tile drainage main cause of hypoxia, research says
Tile drainage in the Mississippi Basin is one of the great advances of the 19th and 20th centuries, allowing highly productive agriculture in what was once land too wet to farm. In fact, installation of new tile systems continues every year, because it leads to increased crop yields. But a recent study shows that the most heavily tile-drained areas of North America are also the largest contributing source of nitrate to the Gulf of Mexico, leading to seasonal hypoxia. In the summer of 2010 this dead zone in the Gulf spanned over 7,000 square miles. 

Scientists from the University of Illinois and Cornell University compiled information on each county in the Mississippi River basin including crop acreage and yields, fertilizer inputs, atmospheric deposition, number of people, and livestock to calculate all nitrogen inputs and outputs from 1997 to 2006. For 153 watersheds in the basin, they also used measurements of nitrate concentration and flow in streams, which allowed them to develop a statistical model that explained 83 percent of the variation in springtime nitrate flow in the monitored streams. The greatest nitrate loss to streams corresponded to the highly productive, tile-drained cornbelt from southwest Minnesota across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. 

This area of the basin has extensive row cropping of fertilized corn and soybeans, a flat landscape with tile drainage, and channelized ditches and streams to facilitate drainage. 

“Farmers are not to blame,” said University of Illinois researcher Mark David. “They are using the same amount of nitrogen as they were 30 years ago and getting much higher corn yields, but we have created a very leaky agricultural system. This allows nitrate to move quickly from fields into ditches and on to the Gulf of Mexico. We need policies that reward farmers to help correct the problem.” 

The research is published in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality published by the American Society of Agronomists.
–Science Daily

 Ethanol plants violate air, water rules
The rush to produce more ethanol and strengthen Minnesota’s farm economy has come with an environmental price for communities hosting the huge plants.

 Five ethanol facilities have been cited in the past 12 months for widespread air and water quality violations. They have paid more than $2.8 million in penalties and corrective actions. Alarmed state pollution control officials are scrambling to help operators understand and comply with laws.

In the most recent penalty, Buffalo Lake Energy in Fairmont will pay $285,000. It’s a new plant that began production in June 2008 with a wastewater treatment system not permitted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
–The Star Tribune

Asian carp czar talks about battle plan
In an interview with National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel, John Goss, the Obama administration’s “Asian carp czar,” outlined his game plan for keeping the invasive carp out of the Great Lakes. One long-term solution might be a poison that would kill the carp, but not harm humans or other animals.

Scientists may experiment with toxins or genetic engineering, hoping they could alter the carp’s digestive system and/or reproductive system, Goss said.
–National Public Radio

Health Dept. warns consumers on water treatment sales
The Minnesota Department of Health is reminding Minnesota residents to beware of false claims, deceptive sales pitches, and scare tactics being used by some water treatment companies to sell expensive and unnecessary water treatment systems. High profile investigations of groundwater contamination in Washington County and elsewhere in the state have resulted in a noticeable increase in the number of complaints regarding such deceptive sales activities.

In some of the worst instances, the salesperson has implied or said that he is working with the city’s water utility or the state health department. In most cases, the systems are being sold for thousands of dollars more than they would cost if bought through a reputable water treatment company.

Even legitimate water treatment systems can be very expensive and if poorly operated or maintained may have limited effectiveness and, in some cases, make the water quality worse.

If you use city water, it should be safe to drink.
–Minnesota Health Department News Release

 Legislators eye lake development rules
Confusion over regulations critical to lakefront development has led two state senators to consider legislative changes to how Minnesota manages one of its most precious natural resources. 

Court decisions have become so convoluted that laws may need to be fixed, said state Sens. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, and Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji. “I have to ask if we’re being fair to Minnesotans,” Olson said. “The court decisions are very lacking in uniformity.”

 As a result of a recent state Supreme Court ruling, city residents are now forbidden from getting a zoning variance if they still have any “reasonable” existing use for their land. But for those living in unincorporated areas, the same Supreme Court all but guarantees the ability to win a variance. Mix in spotty enforcement with local politics and the result, elected officials, civil servants, landholders and advocates agree, is a morass.
–The Star Tribune 

Zebra  mussels found in Gull Lake
Zebra mussels have invaded Gull Lake, one of the Brainerd area’s more popular lakes.

“It’s really unfortunate,” said Dan Swanson, Department of Natural Resources invasive species specialist. “It’s a premier lake, used by a lot of people for fishing, boating, swimming and other recreation.”

The infestation is a blow to the Brainerd Lakes area and Gull Lake residents, who have tried to prevent the spread of zebra mussels. The impact to infested lakes varies, but the mussels filter vast amounts of water, which can affect water clarity, vegetation growth and thus possibly fisheries. 

“What will happen is unpredictable,” Swanson said.

 The discovery underscores the likelihood that zebra mussels will continue to spread throughout Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, despite efforts to educate boaters to drain their bilges and livewells when leaving lakes. In the past two years, the tiny mussels have been found in some of the state’s bigger and more heavily used lakes, including Mille Lacs, Minnetonka, Prior and Le Homme Dieu, and in parts of the Mississippi, St. Croix and Zumbro rivers.
–The Star Tribune

 State land purchases are controversial
Some northern Minnesota counties worry they’re losing their taxable lands. The state already owns millions of acres that counties can’t tax.

 Now, flush with cash from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, the state is buying up even more land.

 County leaders say it could squeeze their ability to provide services to residents.

 About 30 miles northwest of Bemidji, there’s a small, shallow lake that’s home to loons, eagles and a handful of cabin-dwellers. 

Balm Lake also has a mile-long stretch of undeveloped shoreline, and the DNR wants to buy it. The agency wants to purchase more than 150 acres to protect the sensitive lake from further development.

The DNR would use money from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was established after Minnesota voters approved the Legacy Amendment in 2008. 

Last month, Beltrami County leaders objected to the purchase because it removes land from their tax base.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Water Resources Conference set Oct. 19-20
Civil and environmental engineering solutions to wastewater issues, surface water contaminants and aquatic management will be among the topics of the Oct. 19-20 Minnesota Water Resources Conference.

 The conference is sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center and College of Continuing Education at the Saint Paul RiverCentre, 175 West Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul.

 Larry B. Barber, a chief geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Central Region Office in Boulder, Colo., will kick off the conference with a talk on the “Effect of Biologically Active Consumer Product Chemicals on Aquatic Ecosystems” at 8:20 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19.

 Conference topics include emerging contaminants in lakes, rivers and groundwater; technologies such as Minnesota’s Light Detection and Ranging high-resolution mapping project; and best practices in the design and application of filtration, drainage and wastewater systems. 

For registration details, visit wrc.umn.edu or call (612) 625-2900.
–University of Minnesota News Release

 Pollution leaching from old Hubbard County landfill
Under a benign-looking lush green hill in Hubbard County lurks a growing toxic concern.

The 9-acre former Pickett Landfill, which borders the Heartland Trail and is west of County Road 4, is about to become a household word once again. It now is a massive area of groundwater contamination that stretches from 204th Street on the north, then south and east of Ferndale Loop. It once held 93,269 cubic yards of municipal solid waste.

 It opened in 1973 and closed in 1987. Since then state pollution control officials have been monitoring the site for methane gas migration and ground water quality.

 Now, leaching chemicals have reached the point of concentration where public notification is necessary and mandated by law.

Those notices will go out to affected property owners soon.
–The Park Rapids Enterprise

 Climate:  No progress since Copenhagen
With wounds still raw from the chaotic United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen last December, negotiators are making final preparations for next month’s meeting in Cancún, Mexico, in a surly mood and with little hope for progress.

 There is no chance of completing a binding global treaty to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases, few if any heads of state are planning to attend, and there are no major new initiatives on the agenda.

 Copenhagen was crippled by an excess of expectation. Cancún is suffering from the opposite.

 Delegates in Tianjin, China, at the last formal meeting before the Cancún conference opens Nov. 29, are hung up over the same issues that caused the collapse of the Copenhagen meeting. Even some of the baby steps in the weak agreement that emerged from last year’s meeting, a slender document known as the Copenhagen Accord, have been reopened, to the dismay of officials who thought they had been settled.
–The New York Times

 Swackhamer to lecture on water
Nationally recognized freshwater expert and environmental chemist Deborah Swackhamer will deliver the University of Minnesota’s annual Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholars Lecture at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4. The lecture will be at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Cowles Auditorium, 301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis.

 Swackhamer’s lecture, “Drop by Drop: Everyday Solutions to Toxic Water,” will address the threats facing our freshwater resources and the achievements we’ve made in turning the tide toward sustainability.

From the loss of natural buffers and filters such as wetlands, to the introduction of endocrines and industry and consumer-induced toxins, the planet’s rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater reserves are under increasing stress. The good news is that concern for our finite water supply is beginning to take center stage in town halls and legislative chambers. Swackhamer will also offer an update on Minnesota’s 25-year plan for a sustainable water future.
–University of Minnesota News Release

Higher rivers suggest global warming
Rainfall is intensifying, rivers are rising and water flow into the ocean is increasing rapidly, a new UC Irvine study shows — a possible “warning sign” of higher sea levels and global warming.

 Satellite and surface measurements over 13 years revealed an 18 percent increase in the flow of water from rivers and melting polar ice sheets into the world’s oceans, according to the study, likely one of the first of its kind, to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 “Those are all key indications of what we call water-cycle acceleration,” said Jay Famiglietti, a UC Irvine Earth System Science professor and lead investigator on the study. “That is a very important and anticipated outcome of climate change.”

 Planetary warming includes higher ocean temperatures, which increase evaporation; higher air temperatures drive more evaporation as well, Famiglietti said.

 That means more fuel for monsoons, hurricanes and storms over land.
–The Orange County Register

 White House to get solar panels
Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced plans to install solar panels on the White House roof, kicking off a three-day federal symposium focused on targeting sustainability efforts throughout the federal government.

 “Around the world, the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy,” Chu told an audience of federal employees. “It should also be a symbol of America’s commitment to a clean energy future.” 

The Department of Energy aims to install solar panels and a solar hot water heater by the end of next spring as part of a demonstration project showcasing the availability and reliability of the country’s solar technologies. In a press release, DOE officials emphasized the growing industry and the availability of tax credits for those who install panels.

The news comes less than a month after environmentalist Bill McKibben led a rally demanding that President Obama install solar panels and presenting White House officials with a solar panel from former President Carter’s White House.
–The New York Times

 Research: Genetically modified corn benefits non-GMO crop
Transgenic corn’s resistance to pests has benefitted even non-transgenic corn, a new study led by scientists from the University of Minnesota shows.

The study, published in the Oct. 8 edition of the journal Science, found that widespread planting of genetically modified Bt corn throughout the Upper Midwest has suppressed populations of the European corn borer, historically one of corn’s primary pests. This areawide suppression has dramatically reduced the estimated $1 billion in annual losses caused by the European corn borer, even on non-genetically modified corn. Bt corn, introduced in 1996, is so named because it has been bred to produce a toxin from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kills insect pests.

Corn borer moths cannot distinguish between Bt and non-Bt corn, so females lay eggs in both kinds of fields, said the study’s chief author, University of Minnesota entomology professor William Hutchison. Once eggs hatch in Bt corn, young borer larvae feed and die within 24 to 48 hours. Because it is effective at controlling corn borers and other pests, Bt corn has been adopted on about 63 percent of all U.S. corn acres.
--University of Minnesota News Release

L.A. archdiocese pursues sustainability
God created earth and said, “Let there be light.”

 The Archdiocese of Los Angeles created an enviro-friendly committee that says, let’s make sure that light comes from energy-efficient bulbs.

 Hoping to lead its 5 million parishioners toward conservation, the archdiocese this week announced it wants all of its 288 churches to go as green as, well St. Jude’s robe.

“The foundation of our approach to the environment is Gospel-based,” said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese. “The question for us is, `How do the commandments to love God and neighbor find expression in our relationship to the environment?”‘

The newly formed Creation Sustainability Ministry, a committee of community members and environmentalists, has been charged with guiding parishes into sustainability.
–The Los Angeles Daily News

Tennessee gov. opposes mountain-top mining
For the first time a state government has submitted a petition to the federal government to set aside state-owned mountain ridgelines as unsuitable for coal surface mining.

 Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and the state of Tennessee filed a petition with the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, asking that the agency initiate a study and public dialogue on the suitability of state-owned lands in the Northern Cumberland Plateau for surface mining, also called mountaintop removal mining.

 Much of the 500 miles of ridgeline covered by the petition is part of Tennessee’s 2007 Connecting the Cumberlands conservation initiative and is located in Anderson, Campbell, Morgan and Scott counties.

 “These lands are managed by the state of Tennessee for hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing and other outdoor recreational activities,” said Governor Bredesen. “This petition asks the federal government to help us prevent mining on these ridgelines to protect their important cultural, recreational and scientific resources.”
–Environmental News Service

 EPA issues drinking water sustainability plan
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has issued a new Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy as part of its efforts to promote sustainable infrastructure within the water sector.

 The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy emphasizes the need to build on existing efforts to promote sustainable water infrastructure, working with states and water systems to employ robust, comprehensive planning processes to deliver projects that are cost effective over their life cycle, resource efficient, and consistent with community sustainability goals. The policy encourages communities to develop sustainable systems that employ effective utility management practices to build and maintain the level of technical, financial, and managerial capacity necessary to ensure long-term sustainability. 

 Download the Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy (PDF).
–EPA News Release 

 Red River flood-relief levee welcomes ducks
The fields of soybeans, corn and sugar beets in the Red River valley are crisscrossed by a network of ditches built and rebuilt by farmers and the government to speed spring runoff and plant crops early. 

Early planting makes for a better harvest, but rapid spring runoff increases flooding for cities downstream.

“The trick is to strike that balance,” said Jon Roeschlien, administrator for Bois de Sioux watershed district. “How do we balance [agricultural] drainage and flood protection?”

Roeschlien, who oversaw construction of what’s called the North Ottawa project, thinks he has the answer. 

The permanent levee completed last year surrounds three square miles of farmland about 20 miles south of Breckenridge. Essentially, it’s a shallow man-made lake holds all of the spring runoff from 75 square miles upstream. Gates can release the water slowly after the spring flood passes. 

Roeschlin said the $19 million project in the southern Red River valley is a bargain, given the flood damage it eliminates downstream. It also will create much needed wildlife habitat.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Dubuque launches water sustainability pilot
IBM and the City of Dubuque, Iowa, announced the launch of the Smarter Sustainable Dubuque Water Pilot Study.

  Dubuque is in the process of installing smart water meters throughout the city.  Initially 300 volunteer citizens in Dubuque have joined the program to understand water consumption and conservation.  Over the next several months, data will be collected and analyzed, providing information and insight on consumption trends and patterns that will enable both the volunteers and city management to conserve water and lower costs.

The study’s goal is to demonstrate how informed and engaged citizens can help make their city sustainable. By providing citizens and city officials with an integrated view of water consumption, the project will encourage behavior changes resulting in conservation, cost reduction and leak repair. 

Dubuque has implemented a city-wide water meter upgrade project and has worked with local manufacturer A.Y. McDonald to integrate a device called an Unmeasured Flow Reducer. This locally manufactured device is designed to augment the water meter in providing the most accurate measurement possible during low-flow use. The new system will allow consumers to identify waste and consider corrective measures which will translate into better water utilization and energy savings.
–IBM and City of Dubuque News Release

 

The Minnesota R.; zebra mussels; climate change

August 2, 2010

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.

Minnesota R. clean-up still a work in progress
The Minnesota River is flowing high and fast — and as dark as chocolate milk — boosted by rains, runoff and soil erosion.

 It’s been nearly 18 years since former Gov. Arne Carlson stood on the banks of the river — long the most polluted in the state — and vowed to make it clean enough to fish and swim in within 10 years.

That didn’t happen — call it a work in progress. 

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent for everything from new sewage treatment plants to wetland and grassland restorations. 

Though it’s hard to tell by looking at it, the river likely is a bit cleaner than it was when Carlson challenged the state to clean up what had become — and some would say still is — a giant drainage ditch.
–The Star Tribune

Zebra mussels found in Lake Minnetonka
Zebra mussels have invaded Lake Minnetonka, a breach of the state’s defenses against invasive species that threatens to dramatically change the character of Minnesota’s 10th-largest lake within just a few years. 

Department of Natural Resources biologists confirmed that a small number of mussels are attached to rocks along the shore, and their size suggests that a reproducing population has been in the lake for at least a year. 

In places where they’ve become established, the fingernail-sized mussels proliferate by the millions, consume food needed by fish, clog water intake pipes, ruin fish spawning beds and litter beaches and shallow areas with razor-sharp shells.
–The Star Tribune

 Climate change ‘unmistakable,’ agency says
“Global warming is undeniable,” and it’s happening fast, a new U.S. government report says.

 An in-depth analysis of ten climate indicators all point to a marked warming over the past three decades, with the most recent decade being the hottest on record, according to the latest of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual “State of the Climate” reports.  Reliable global climate record-keeping began in the 1880s.

 The report focused on climate changes measured in 2009 in the context of newly available data on long-term developments.

 For instance, surface air temperatures recorded from more than 7,000 weather stations around the world over the past few decades confirm an “unmistakable upward trend,” the study says.

 And for the first time, scientists put data from climate indicators—such as ocean temperature and sea-ice cover—together in one place. Their consistency “jumps off the page at you,” report co-author Derek Arndt said.
–National Geographic News

Minnesota’s air is much cleaner
Inhale. Exhale.

 That lungful of clean air was brought to you by the reformed polluters of Minnesota. 

They have slashed pollution by more than 50 percent since 1970. Smokestack industries have cut emissions by almost two-thirds. The biggest polluters — drivers — have cut pollution by 77 percent. 

Put another way, air pollution per capita in America has dropped almost two-thirds. 

“This is like the bald eagle coming back,” said Bob Moffitt, spokesman for the American Lung Association in Minnesota. “I think we should be celebrating.”
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

UN declares access to safe water a human right
 Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights, the General Assembly declared, voicing deep concern that almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water. 

The 192-member Assembly also called on United Nations Member States and international organizations to offer funding, technology and other resources to help poorer countries scale up their efforts to provide clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for everyone. 

The Assembly resolution received 122 votes in favor and zero votes against, while 41 countries, including the United States, abstained from voting. 

The text of the resolution expresses deep concern that an estimated 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and a total of more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Studies also indicate about 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year and 443 million school days are lost because of water- and sanitation-related diseases.
–United Nations News Release

 A.G. wants action on Asian carp in Mississippi River
One week after filing suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson suggested a similar approach to hold off their advance into the Upper Mississippi River. 

Swanson, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and other conservationists held a news conference along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis to highlight the problems of invasive Asian carp moving into Minnesota waters. 

“They are a major threat to our life in Minnesota,” said Klobuchar, noting how the voracious creatures have taken over other ecosystems and could devastate the state’s $2.7 billion fishing industry. 

Asian carp were brought to the United States four decades ago to control algae and other problems in southern fish farms. They escaped into the wild and have expanded their reach, moving up the Missouri River to South Dakota and the Mississippi to the southern Minnesota border area. 

Last month, a 19-pound Asian carp was caught in a Chicago-area waterway beyond an electrical barrier in the Illinois River designed to stop the fish from entering Lake Michigan and ultimately Lake Superior. Swanson and attorneys general from four other states filed suit against the Corps and the Illinois agency overseeing the waterway, seeking immediate action to keep the carp out of the lakes and long-term measures to separate the Illinois River from Lake Michigan.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Researchers find massive undersea river
Researchers working in the Black Sea have found currents of water 350 times greater than the River Thames flowing along the sea bed, carving out channels much like a river on the land. 

The undersea river, which is up to 115ft deep in places, even has rapids and waterfalls much like its terrestrial equivalents. 

If found on land, scientists estimate it would be the world’s sixth largest river in terms of the amount of water flowing through it. 

The discovery could help explain how life manages to survive in the deep ocean far out to sea away from the nutrient rich waters that are found close to land, as the rivers carry sediment and nutrients with them.
–The Telegraph

 FDA considers genetically modified salmon
It may not be the 500-pound “Frankenfish” some researchers were talking about 10 years ago, but a Massachusetts company says it is on the verge of receiving federal approval to market a quick-growing Atlantic salmon that’s been genetically modified with help from a Pacific Chinook salmon. 

Although genetically engineered crops such as corn and soybeans have been part of the American diet for several years, if the Food and Drug Administration approves the salmon, it will be the first transgenic animal headed for the dinner table.
–The Washington Post 

Research: Ag advances slow greenhouse gases
Advances in conventional agriculture have dramatically slowed the flow of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, in part by allowing farmers to grow more food to meet world demand without plowing up vast tracts of land, a study by three Stanford University researchers has found. 

The study, which has been embraced by many agricultural groups but criticized by some environmentalists, found that improvements in technology, plant varieties and other advances enabled farmers to grow more without a big increase in greenhouse gas releases. Much of the credit goes to eliminating the need to plow more land to plant additional crops. 

The study’s authors said they aren’t claiming modern, high-production agriculture is without problems, including the potential for soil degradation through intense cultivation and fertilizer runoff that can contaminate fresh water. 

“In this one way that we’ve looked at, which is the climate impact, its pretty obviously been a good thing,” said Steven Davis, a geologist at the Carnegie Institution at Stanford who worked on the study. “There’s very clearly other negative impacts of modern agriculture.”
–The Associated Press 

The sooty downside of Chinese economic boom
China, the world’s most prodigious emitter of greenhouse gas, continues to suffer the downsides of unbridled economic growth despite a raft of new environmental initiatives.

 The quality of air in Chinese cities is increasingly tainted by coal-burning power plants, grit from construction sites and exhaust from millions of new cars squeezing onto crowded roads, according to a government study issued this week. Other newly released figures show a jump in industrial accidents and an epidemic of pollution in waterways. 

The report’s most unexpected findings pointed to an increase in inhalable particulates in cities like Beijing, where officials have struggled to improve air quality by shutting down noxious factories and tightening auto emission standards. Despite such efforts, including an ambitious program aimed at reducing the use of coal for home heating, the average concentration of particulates in the capital’s air violated the World Health Organization’s standards more than 80 percent of the time during the last quarter of 2008.
–The New York Times 

Prince Charles urges sustainable lifestyle
Prince Charles urged Britain to tackle “possibly the greatest challenge humanity has faced” by creating a more sustainable future. 

The heir to the throne, 61, wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper that too often people saw “becoming more sustainable” as a threat to their quality of life or a risk to the economy. 

But he insisted that small, simple measures could be taken that would make the journey fun and more positive, as he launched a new initiative called Start. 

Charles said he was recycling bath water to use on the garden and turning old curtain material into “fashionable bags.”
Agence France-Presse

 BPA found on cash register receipts
A warning before you take your receipt at the grocery store, fast food restaurants or pharmacy.

A new study by the Environmental Working Group found they could put your health at risk.

Researchers say their findings show, BPA was found on 40 percent of receipts. The chemical levels were higher than those in canned foods, baby bottles and infant formula.
The study revealed, BPA was detected on at least one of several receipts from a number of popular stores, restaurants and the  U.S. House of Representatives cafeteria, according to the private Washington-based research group.

BPA, a plastic hardener linked to breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems, reacts with dye to form black print on receipts handled by millions of people daily.
–The Los Angeles Times

Kayaking the urban Los Angeles River
Environmental activist George Wolfe has always believed the best way to know a river is to kayak it. So when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently designated the entire Los Angeles River a “traditional navigable waterway,” he organized an expedition. 

Toting a waterproof first-aid kit and a sack of binoculars, Wolfe led seven people clad in T-shirts, shorts, sun hats and life vests to a lush, eight-mile stretch of river bottom near Griffith Park known as the Glendale Narrows. 

Awaiting them downstream were quiet pools draining into noisy chutes, strewn with shoes, clothing, shopping carts, tires and plastic bottles, and shaded by cottonwood trees, cane forests and cattails. Plastic grocery bags snared in tree limbs rustled in the breeze. The river was running warm, greenish and, as one of the kayakers put it, “smelly as old socks.”
–The Los Angeles Times 

White Bear homeowners fund study of lake level
Engineers will take a fresh look at the causes and evaluate possible solutions to record low water levels that have strangled White Bear Lake the past two summers.

The White Bear Lake Conservation District accepted a $5,000 White Bear Lake Homeowners Association grant to commission phase one of a Water Level Augmentation Study. The first phase will evaluate and interpret a comprehensive 1998 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources study on historic White Bear Lake water levels and associated groundwater pumping.

“It was not our intention to reinvent the wheel and study what the state has already studied,” said Homeowners Association President Mike Crary. “This will simply get more facts and get a better understanding of what the DNR study was saying.”

Crary said low water levels are driving lake home values down, which leads to decreased city tax revenue. There are approximately 500 homes on White Bear Lake and about 100 currently have no access to water, he said.
–The White Bear Press

L.A. weakens water conservation law
In June 2009, an ordinance limiting lawn and garden watering with sprinklers to two days a week took effect in Los Angeles. Citywide water consumption dropped by more than 20%. 

Yet, 13 months later, the ordinance that pushed Los Angeles to the fore of the Western water conservation movement is about to be gutted, having become collateral damage in a roiling brawl over rate hikes and green energy between the City Council and the mayor’s office. 

On July 6, the City Council sent the utility a neutered version of the lawn ordinance that would allow watering an extra day a week. Browbeaten Department of Water and Power commissioners quietly rubber-stamped it. What is being passed off as a tweak looks more like a death knell for one of the best collective environmental efforts made by the citizens of Los Angeles.
–The Los Angeles Times 

U of M helps form atrazine remediation venture
An atrazine remediation technology based on the research of University of Minnesota biochemist Lawrence Wackett and microbiologist Michael Sadowsky will serve as the basis for a start-up company launched by two recent College of Science and Engineering graduates, Joe Mullenbach and Alex Johansson. 

NewWater, the start-up created by Mullenbach and Johansson, will offer a biocatalyst-based drinking water filtration technology that can reduce atrazine concentrations in water to acceptable levels. 

Atrazine is a selective herbicide that is widely used by farmers in the United States to control broadleaf weeds and grasses. More than half of U.S. corn acreage, for example, is treated with atrazine. First registered for use in 1959, the Environmental Protection Agency has long required water systems to test and treat for atrazine. In recent years the safety of atrazine has been the subject of much debate among scientists, and the EPA recently initiated a new scientific evaluation to determine whether current regulations need to be strengthened.

The university granted NewWater the use of three university patents, and the university holds an equity stake in the company. In NewWater’s technology, enzymes developed by Wackett and Sadowsky will serve as a catalyst to initiate bacterial metabolism of atrazine, decomposing it into harmless by-products. The process does not produce a water waste stream, and it can treat to much lower levels of atrazine than can be achieved with the current solution, activated carbon.
–University of Minnesota News Release 

San Diego to test gray water for drinking
The San Diego City Council awarded a $6.6 million contract to build a test facility that will treat wastewater and turn it into safe drinking water. 

The contract went to global engineering firm Camp Dresser and McKee to design, test and operate the small-scale plant in order to deem whether a similar system should be used on a greater scale. 

The council voted 6-2 in support of the project — an ideological shift from discussions over the past two decades about turning wastewater into drinking water.

Opponents of the treatment process in the past derided it as “toilet to tap.” However, there was not a single member of the public who spoke out against it at the council meeting. 

Rather, nearly a dozen speakers representing groups ranging from the Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation to the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and the San Diego Building Industry Association came to show their support.
–The San Diego Union-Tribune 

Jordan River fit for baptisms, Israel says
Israel insisted that a site on the Jordan river reputed to be the spot where Jesus was baptised is “fit for baptism,” rejecting a claim water pollution has reached dangerous levels. 

Bacteriological tests at Qasr al-Yehud “prove that the Jordan River water in the area is fit for baptism,” the military office in charge of administration of the occupied West Bank said in a statement. 

“It should be noted that the test showed 88 fecal coliform bacteria per 100 millilitres of water whereas the relevant health ministry standard is 1,000 fecal coliform bacteria per 100 millilitres of water,” the statement said. 

But Friends of the Earth Middle East reiterated its call for baptisms to be banned at the lower Jordan River and dismissed the result of the test, pointing out that other tests have shown pollution levels to be far higher.
–AFP News Service

 

Report predicts climate impact on U.S. water

July 26, 2010

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.

Analysis predicts climate stress on water sustainability
Climate change will have a significant impact on the sustainability of U.S. water supplies in the coming decades, according to a new analysis commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental organization.

The analysis, performed by consulting firm Tetra Tech, examined the effects of global warming on water supply and demand in the contiguous United States. The study found that more than 1,100 counties — one-third of all counties in the lower 48 states — will face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming. More than 400 of these counties will face extremely high risks of water shortages, the analysis predicted. 

The study by Tetra Tech, a consulting firm used by the federal government, electric utility and other industries, finds that some states have an extreme or high risk to water sustainability, or are likely to see limitations on water availability as demand exceeds supply by 2050. These areas include parts of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. 

The report was not intended to predict where water shortages will occur, but rather where they are more likely to occur. The goal of the analysis was to estimate future renewable water supply compared with water demand, assuming a business-as-usual scenario of growth in demand for electricity production and domestic use, both largely driven by population growth, with other demands remaining at their present level. 

In Minnesota, the analysis identified eight counties – Anoka, Clay, Crow Wing, Hennepin, McLeod, Nicollet, Sherburne and Scott – as facing high or extremely high risk from predicted population growth and climate change.
–Natural Resources Defense Council 

Tell federal officials what you think
Do you have something you would like federal officials to hear about conservation, outdoor recreation and reconnecting people to the outdoors?

Here’s your chance.

Representatives of  the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Department of Defense will conduct a public listening session in Minneapolis from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4.

The listening session – to be held at the Ted Mann Concert Hall at 2128 Fourth St., S, on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank campus – grew out of a White House conference in April.

President Obama directed agency leaders to initiate a Great Outdoors Initiative and to travel across the country, seeking  grassroots solutions to conserve lands, waterways, historical and cultural resources, and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.  The listening session is meant to attract: tribal leaders, farmers and ranchers, sportsmen, community park groups, foresters, youth groups, businesspeople, educators, state and local governments, recreation and conservation groups and others.

The listening session is free and open to the public. For information and to register, click here. 

Community Clean-Ups win governor’s award
Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality, an effort initiated by the Friends of the Minnesota Valley to keep excessive phosphorus out of lakes and rivers, is one of six winners this year of a Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention.

 The clean-up campaign recruits neighborhood groups and other organizations to conduct spring and fall drives to collect and recycle leaves and other organic material that otherwise would be washed into storm sewers and then would flow – untreated – into surface waters.

 The Freshwater Society is partnering with the Friends of the Minnesota Valley to promote the clean-ups statewide and to develop a tool kit instructing community groups on how to conduct and publicize the clean-ups. Information on the tool kit is available here.

Over seven years, clean-ups inspired by the Friends of the Minnesota Valley have resulted in the removal of 8,400 pounds of phosphorus and 47,000 pounds of trash from the Minnesota River and its watershed.

Other winners of the Pollution Prevention awards are: 

  • East Metro Clean ‘n’ Press of West St. Paul.  A large dry cleaners and shirt laundry, East Metro made use of heat exchangers to increase energy efficiency and offer excess heat to a neighboring business in the winter. 
  • Sappi Cloquet, LLC, of  Cloquet. The firm’s Cloquet paper mill made changes in the pulping process that reduced the amounts of several sulfide compounds being emitted.  
  • The City of Buffalo. Buffalo’s wastewater treatment facility uses innovative technology to serve a growing population while nearly eliminating land-application of  bio-solids. Bio-solids are instead turned into fuel for the facility, reducing natural gas consumption by 80 percent. 
  • The Minnesota Department  of  Natural Resources -Alternative Energy and Energy Conservation Initiative.  The DNR recently completed several energy conservation projects, including a building at Camden State Park that uses wind and geothermal energy and a geothermal heating and cooling system for the Itasca State Park’s Douglas Lodge.  
  • The City of St. Anthony. The city of St. Anthony collects filter backwash water, a waste byproduct from the city’s wastewater treatment and stormwater runoff, and uses it to sprinkle a 20-acre site that includes a municipal park and City Hall, saving 5 million gallons of pure drinking water-quality water per year.

–Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

 EPA takes new look at ‘fracking’ process
So vast is the wealth of natural gas locked into dense rock deep beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio that some geologists estimate it’s enough to supply the entire East Coast for 50 years.

But freeing it requires a powerful drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” using millions of gallons of water brewed with toxic chemicals, that some fear could pollute water above and below ground and deplete aquifers. 

As gas drillers swarm to this lucrative Marcellus Shale region and blast into other shale reserves around the country, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking a new look at the controversial fracking technique, currently exempt from federal regulation. The $1.9 million study comes as the nation reels from the Deepwater Horizon environmental and economic disaster playing out in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The oil and gas industry steadfastly defends the process as having been proven safe over many years as well as necessary to keep the nation on a path to energy independence.
–The Associated Press

Rules update on shoreland, docks delayed
Long-awaited rules to protect Minnesota lakeshores and limit supersized docks are far behind schedule and have been parked in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office for several months. 

The lack of action by Pawlenty has angered some legislators, who in 2007 and 2008 ordered the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to revise the rules. 

“It’s obviously a purposeful delay that allows as much bad lakeshore development as possible,” said Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis and chair of the House environment and natural resources finance committee. 

Officials said the rules are complicated, and have required extra time for both the DNR and Pawlenty’s office to review.
–The Star Tribune

 Chesapeake Bay pollution suit continues
A federal judge has denied a bid by Perdue Farms and an Eastern Shore chicken grower to dismiss a lawsuit accusing them of polluting a Chesapeake Bay tributary, clearing the way for trial on the potentially pioneering legal case.

 Judge William M. Nickerson of the U.S. District Court in Baltimore ruled the lawsuit brought this year by the Waterkeeper Alliance could go forward, though he struck two environmental groups as plaintiffs on a technicality.

 The Waterkeeper Alliance, the Assateague Coastal Trust and Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips filed suit in March alleging that harmful levels of bacteria and nutrient pollution were flowing from a drainage ditch on a Worcester County farm into a branch of the Pocomoke River. It is the first lawsuit to target Maryland’s chicken industry for water pollution, and it named not just the farmers as defendants but poultry giant Perdue Farms, based in Salisbury, for whom the chickens were being raised.

 Lawyers for the farmers, Alan and Kristin Hudson of Berlin, and for Perdue had petitioned the judge to dismiss the case on a variety of legal grounds, and Perdue had argued that it should be let out of the lawsuit. The company contended that it was not liable for any pollution because the Hudsons owned the farm and held the government permit to raise chickens there, not Perdue.
–The Baltimore Sun

India, Pakistan at odds over water
BANDIPORE, Kashmir — In this high Himalayan valley on the Indian-controlled side of Kashmir, the latest battle line between India and Pakistan has been drawn. 

This time it is not the ground underfoot, which has been disputed since the bloody partition of British India in 1947, but the water hurtling from mountain glaciers to parched farmers’ fields in Pakistan’s agricultural heartland. 

Indian workers here are racing to build an expensive hydroelectric dam in a remote valley near here, one of several India plans to build over the next decade to feed its rapidly growing but power-starved economy. 

In Pakistan, the project raises fears that India, its archrival and the upriver nation, would have the power to manipulate the water flowing to its agriculture industry — a quarter of its economy and employer of half its population.
–The New York Times

Notre Dame gets $2.5 million to study invasives
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded $2.5 million to the University of Notre Dame and its partners to predict the next wave of invasive species likely to enter the Great Lakes and to identify cost-effective countermeasures. 

Invasive species such as zebra mussels are already a large problem, costing the region more than $200 million annually by disrupting Great Lakes fisheries and damaging waterway infrastructure by clogging water intake valves. Information generated by the study will help authorities prepare for new invasions and control current non-native populations. 

“We’ve got to identify the invasive species that pose the greatest environmental and economic threat here in the Great Lakes and plan for their containment,” said Felix Martinez, a program manager with NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Research . “There are many different potential invaders that could do enormous damage to the Great Lakes ecosystem and our region’s economies.”
–NOAA News Release

MPCA warns of toxic blue-green algae
When the summer sun shines and temperatures climb, conditions are ripe for Minnesota lakes to produce harmful algal blooms.  The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is again reminding people that some blue-green algae can harm pets, livestock and even people.

Algae are microscopic aquatic plants that are a natural part of any aquatic ecosystem.  But some forms of algae can become harmful.  Blue-green (cyanobacterial) algal blooms may contain toxins or other noxious chemicals that can pose harmful health risks.  People or animals may become sick if exposed to these blooms. 

 Blue-green algae are found throughout Minnesota, but thrive particularly in warm, shallow, nutrient-rich lakes.  Often occurring on downwind shorelines, it is in these blooms that humans and animals most often come in contact with blue-green algae and where the risk of algal toxins is greatest.

 There is no visual way to predict if a blue-green algal bloom contains toxins and is harmful to humans or animals, and distinguishing blue-green algae from other types may be difficult for non-experts.  But harmful blooms are sometimes said to look like pea soup, green paint or floating mats of scum. They often smell bad as well. 

 Humans are not affected very often, probably because the unpleasant appearance and odors of a blue-green algal bloom tend to keep people out of the water. An animal that has ingested toxins from an algal bloom can show symptoms that include skin irritation or vomiting, disorders involving the circulatory, nervous and digestive systems and skin lesions.  In worst cases, the animal may suffer convulsions and die. 

For more information about harmful algae blooms, go to www.pca.state.mn.us/water/clmp-toxicalgae.html or call 651-296-6300 or 1-800-657-3864.
–MPCA News Release

 MPCA seeks comment on Carver County lakes
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is seeking comments on two water quality improvement reports for seven Carver County lakes west of the Twin Cities. A public comment period began July 19 and continues through Aug. 18. 

The South Fork Crow River Lakes Excess Nutrients Total Maximum Daily Load Report covers Eagle, Oak and Swede Lakes. The Carver Creek Lakes Excess Nutrients Total Maximum Daily Load Report covers Goose, Hydes, Miller and Winkler Lakes. All are in primarily rural areas where agriculture is the dominant land use. 

 The seven lakes have been placed on the state’s impaired waters list because of excess nutrient levels, particularly phosphorus. While phosphorus is an essential nutrient for algae and plants, it is considered a pollutant when it stimulates excessive growth of algae. The TMDL studies indicated a phosphorus reduction from 42 to 97 percent will be needed to meet state water quality standards. 

The Carver Creek Lakes and South Fork Crow River Lakes draft reports are available on the Web at www.pca.state.mn.us/water/tmdl/tmdl-draft.html. For more information, contact Chris Zadak at 651-757-2837, 1-800-657-3864 or via e-mail at chris.zadak@state.mn.us
–MPCA News Release 

MPCA seeks comment on Nine Mile Creek
The Nine Mile Creek Watershed is in an urban area, which includes portions of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Richfield. Excess chloride levels in the creek are generally highest in the winter, when road salt is applied to paved surfaces. Excess chloride is harmful to fish, invertebrates and aquatic plants living in streams.

 The MPCA’s report indicates that chloride must be reduced by 62 percent for Nine Mile Creek to meet water quality standards. The report, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load study, or TMDL, quantifies pollutant levels, identifies sources of pollution and proposes ways to bring water quality back standards.

 The draft report is available online at www.pca.state.mn.us/water/tmdl/project-ninemilecreek.  For more information, to receive a copy of the report, or to submit comments, contact Chris Zadak by phone at 651-757-2837 or by e-mail at Chris.Zadak@state.mn.us.
–MPCA News Release

Army Corps admits missteps in Tennessee flooding
Poor communication within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and among the Corps and the National Weather Service and other agencies caused errant flood forecasts and other problems during the devastating May flooding in Tennessee, a Corps report concludes.

But the Corps’ after-action review also states that the Corps operated successfully and that its actions reduced the flood crest on the Cumberland River in Nashville by 5 feet.

The Corps’ report will be the centerpiece of a Senate hearing to look at what happened and discuss lessons that can be used to lessen future disasters.
–The Nashville Tennessean

Report: Ag research needs sustainability focus

July 6, 2010

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.

Research Council urges focus on agricultural sustainability 
Government policies and agricultural research are too focused on increasing crop production and should be directed toward softening the impact of farming on the land and water, researchers say.

Farms have increased production by 158 percent over the past 60 years, but that has come with a cost to water quality and water supplies, and agriculture also is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

 “Our finding was that there is too much emphasis on productivity, mainly of industrial ingredients,” said one of the 15 members of the study panel, Cornelia Flora, a sociologist at Iowa State University who specializes in agricultural and rural issues.

The report said that most public agricultural research funding is targeted toward improving farm productivity and reducing costs. Just one-third goes toward other aspects of farming practices, such as the environmental impact. Federal and state research programs “should aggressively fund” studies of farming systems that making farming “robust and resilient over time,” the report said.

The researchers also said that federal farm subsidies encourage farmers to maximize yields and plant the same crops year after year and that more study is needed to determine what impact alternative policies could have on farming practices.
–The Des Moines Register

 Sulfide mining review under way again
Four months after an environmental analysis of a proposed copper-nickel mining project in northeastern Minnesota was slammed by a federal agency, a revamped study is finally moving ahead.

Anxious environmentalists and many concerned residents hope this one turns out to be a lot more comprehensive.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction, and we are really counting on it being a thorough analysis,” said Betsy Daub, policy director for the advocacy group Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “It’s what Minnesota’s waters deserve.”

At issue is whether a type of mining proposed by PolyMet Mining, which has led to widespread pollution elsewhere, can be done safely near one of Minnesota’s most vulnerable areas — the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a vast system of federally protected and interconnected lakes and rivers. 

Nearby, two other ambitious sulfide-mining proposals also are in the works, offering the prospect of more intensive activity near the wilderness border.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Arsenic in groundwater epidemic in Bangladesh
Hanufa Bibi stoops in a worn sari and mismatched flip-flops to work the hand pump on her backyard well. Spurts of clear water wash grains of rice from her hands, but she can never get them clean.

Thick black warts tattoo her palms and fingers, the result of drinking arsenic-laced well water for years. It’s a legacy that new research has linked to 1 in 5 deaths among those exposed in Bangladesh — an impoverished country where up to half of its 150 million people have guzzled tainted groundwater.

 The World Health Organization has called it “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history,” as countless new wells continue to be dug here daily without testing the water for toxins.

 “The magnitude of the arsenic problem is 50 times worse than Chernobyl,” said Richard Wilson, president of the nonprofit Arsenic Foundation and a physics professor emeritus at Harvard University who was not involved in the study.
–The Associated Press

EPA proposes crackdown on nitrogen pollution
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed tough pollution caps for the Chesapeake Bay, requiring Maryland and other mid-Atlantic states to do more to clean up the troubled estuary than previously thought necessary.

The pollution limits proposed by the EPA would force the six states and the District of Columbia to roughly double the pace at which they’ve been removing nitrogen, one of the two nutrients fouling the bay. Maryland, for instance, would have to curtail nitrogen by 15 percent over the next seven years — a regimen likely to require costly upgrades to sewage treatment plants, expensive retrofits of storm drains in urban and suburban areas, and major new curbs on runoff of fertilizer and chicken manure from Eastern Shore farms.

EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said the draft pollution-reduction targets would not be easy for the states to achieve. But they represent federal scientists’ best estimates of what’s needed to restore fish-sustaining oxygen to the waters of North America’s largest estuary. Dead zones form every summer in the Chesapeake from algae blooms that are fed by sewage plants, farm and urban and suburban runoff and air pollution.
–The Baltimore Sun 

FDA inches toward regulating drugs fed to livestock
Federal food regulators took a tentative step toward banning a common use of penicillin and tetracycline in the water and feed given cattle, chickens and pigs in hopes of slowing the growing scourge of killer bacteria.

 But the Food and Drug Administration has tried without success for more than three decades to ban such uses. In the past, Congress has stepped in at the urging of agricultural interests and stopped the agency from acting.

 In the battle between public health and agriculture, the guys with the cowboy hats generally win.

The F.D.A. released a policy document stating that agricultural uses of antibiotics should be limited to assuring animal health, and that veterinarians should be involved in the drugs’ uses.
–The New York Times

Turn in a polluter – on line
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently launched its new online Complaint Tracker system. Citizens with environmental complaints can now fill out an online form available via the MPCA web site and click to send it directly to a MPCA inspector. 

 The MPCA receives about 1,000 environmental complaints from citizens each year. Complaints range from seeing a neighbor illegally dumping garbage to spotting a puzzling oily sheen on a lake. 

 “The MPCA relies on citizens to notify us of potential environmental problems, whether it’s someone dumping a mystery substance into a river or someone running a business without appropriate environmental safeguards and permits,” said Katie Koelfgen, supervisor, MPCA Air Quality Compliance and Enforcement Unit. “Speed and efficiency are important when it comes to protecting the environment. Once the MPCA knows about the problem and investigates, we’re able to take action quickly before further environmental damage is done. ” 

 While citizens can still rely on the phone to report a complaint, the new online system eliminates the need for messages, phone tag or repeated phone calls for more information. MPCA inspectors find the Complaint Tracker system to be user-friendly and efficient, allowing them to follow up on complaints more quickly. The phone numbers for complaints are 651-296-6300 or 1-800-657-3864.
–MPCA news release

DNR sampling well water in Benton County
Water samples from about 100 wells in Benton County are being collected and analyzed for general and trace chemistry during the next two months by hydrogeologists from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The data is being collected for the Benton County Geologic Atlas, a cooperative effort involving staff from the Minnesota Geological Survey, DNR Waters Division and Benton County. Samples are also being tested to learn how long the water has been underground.

 DNR Waters staff will be contacting Benton county residents to request permission for well sampling, which involves collecting a water sample and measuring the depth to water in each well. The selection of wells for sampling will be based on geology, location, well depth and well construction. Water sampled will come from wells drawing water from aquifers at varying depths. Owners of wells that are sampled will receive a report of the laboratory results for their well.
–DNR News Release

No federal permit required for U.P. mine
A member of Congress says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided that Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. doesn’t need a federal permit to build a nickel and copper mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak, whose district includes the section of Marquette County where the mine would be located, announced the decision. The Associated Press left messages seeking comment with EPA’s regional office in Chicago. 

The federal permit was the last regulatory hurdle for Kennecott Eagle, which already has state permits to build and operate the mine.

 Opponents of the project contend the mine would pollute groundwater and rivers in the remote area near Lake Superior. Kennecott says it will protect the environment.
–The Associated Press 

Penn State climate scientist cleared of misconduct
An American scientist accused of manipulating research findings on climate science was cleared of that charge by his university, the latest in a string of reports to find little substance in the allegations known as Climategate.

 An investigative panel at Pennsylvania State University, weighing the question of whether the scientist, Michael E. Mann, had “seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities,” declared that he had not.

 Dr. Mann said he was gratified by the findings, the second report from Penn State to clear him. An earlier report had exonerated him of related charges that he suppressed or falsified data, destroyed e-mail and misused confidential information.
–The New York Times

Study links atrazine to frog sex changes

March 9, 2010

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.

Atrazine alters frogs’ gender, study finds
A new study has found that male frogs exposed to the herbicide atrazine — one of the most common man-made chemicals found in U.S. waters — can make a startling developmental U-turn, becoming so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.

 The study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, seems likely to add to the attention focused on a weedkiller that is widely used on cornfields. The Environmental Protection Agency, which re-approved the use of atrazine in 2006, has already begun a new evaluation of its potential health effects.

 Its manufacturer, Swiss agri-business giant Syngenta, says research has proven that the chemical is safe for animals and for people, who could be exposed to trace amounts in drinking water. 

But in recent years, a series of scientific studies have seemed to show atrazine interfering with the hormone systems that guide development in fish, birds, rats and frogs. In many cases, the result has been “feminized” males, with behaviors or body parts more like those of females.
–The Washington Post 

U of Iowa aims to hire 10 sustainability profs
University of Iowa officials are working to draw 10 experts on water sustainability to tenure-track positions by the fall of 2011. With searches underway now, five of the 10 may be here by July 1.

The water-sustainability hirings will be the first group of the 100 new tenure-track positions that the UI  Strategic Plan will create. 

A committee overseeing the hirings has been working for more than a year on the new initiative. UI administration are searching to fill five slots soon, while various departments will begin the process of hiring the other five next fall. The first round of candidates began visiting campus in February. 

“For [water sustainability] to be studied, and talked about, and investigated across campus, we think, is an outstanding opportunity,” said Larry Weber, director of the UI’s hydroscience labs.

The 10 new positions will cost roughly $1 million plus start-up costs, UI Provost Wallace Loh said.
–The Daily Iowan

 Everglades restoration threatened
It started out so big, so bold and with so much promise for healing the River of Grass that environmentalists proclaimed it the holy grail of Everglades restoration.

But 20 months after Gov. Charlie Crist unveiled his $1.75 billion bid to buy out the U.S. Sugar Corp., the grail is at serious risk of slipping away — rather, what’s left of it. 

Crist remains confident his landmark land buy will survive. “It’s a done deal,” he told The Miami Herald. “It’s got to be done.” 

Others, even supporters like Drew Martin, Everglades chairman for the Sierra Club, are less certain. “There is no question it’s hanging by a thread,” he said.
–The Miami Herald

Conservation easements go unchecked
Minnesota is preparing to pay more landowners to set aside thousands of acres for conservation, but it appears state officials have little idea how much they have already spent on such projects over the years and have rarely monitored how the land was being used. 

A continuing inventory of the properties, ordered by a state panel, shows that the Department of Natural Resources now has more than 1,000 such “conservation easements” across Minnesota, but has not inspected many properties in years. 

Use of conservation easements has grown since the practice started in the 1970s, exploding in recent years.
–The Star Tribune 

Minnesota DNR  lacks land management $$
The Department of Natural Resources continues to buy land for wildlife areas, parks, trails and other natural areas even though it lacks adequate resources to manage and maintain its current land, according to a report released by the legislative auditor.

 The report notes that the DNR or citizens advisory groups have recommended significant acquisitions of land and conservation easements in recent years — including a 64 percent increase in wildlife management areas, land open to public hunting.

 “Despite these ambitious proposals, DNR does not appear to have adequate resources to manage and maintain its current land holdings,” the report said.
–The Star Tribune

 EPA enforcement slows
The Environmental Protection Agency is riling many businesses with proposals to regulate greenhouse gases for the first time, but data suggest it has been slow out of the gate under President Barack Obama in enforcing existing regulations on traditional pollutants. 

In fiscal 2009, the EPA’s enforcement office required polluters to spend more than $5 billion on cleanup and emission controls—down from $11.8 billion the previous year, according to a report recently published by the agency. The report, which examines the EPA’s performance in enforcing limits on pollutants like sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and soot, covers the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, a period that covers the last 3½ months of President George W. Bush’s watch and the first 8½ months of Mr. Obama’s. 

Defendants in agency enforcement cases committed to cut pollution by about 580 million pounds in fiscal 2009, down from 3.9 billion pounds in fiscal 2008, according to the report.
–The Wall Street Journal

Obama adviser defends climate science
The disclosure of research “missteps” hasn’t shaken the consensus that manmade emissions from burning fossil fuels are contributing to climate change, President Barack Obama’s top science adviser said.

 The release of scientists’ e-mails and errors in a report by a United Nations climate panel show researchers are human, John Holdren said at an energy conference in Washington’s Maryland suburbs.

The errors don’t alter the reality that carbon dioxide emissions are warming the earth, he said. 

Opponents of limits on emissions from burning coal and oil have seized on the miscues to challenge Obama’s plan to put a price on gases that cause global warming. Climate-change legislation has stalled in the Senate and more than 80 lawmakers are seeking to curb the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new greenhouse-gas limits. 

“Fossil-fuel and biomass burning, and land-use change are almost certainly responsible for a large part of the changes that are being observed,” Holdren said. “Nothing in the recent controversies cast doubt on any of those fundamental propositions.”
–bloomberg.com 

Take time to test your well
National Ground Water Awareness Week, sponsored annually by the National Ground Water Association, is March 7-13.

The majority of public water systems in the United States use groundwater as their primary source to provide drinking water to an estimated 90 million persons. An additional 15 million U.S. homes use private wells, which also rely on groundwater.

 Owners of private wells are responsible for ensuring that their well water is safe from harmful groundwater contaminants. These contaminants can occur naturally, but are usually the result of local land use practices (e.g., fertilizer and pesticide use), manufacturing processes, and leakage from nearby septic systems. The presence of contaminants in drinking water can lead to illness, disease, and other health problems.

NGWA uses this week to stress the importance of yearly water testing and well maintenance (4). Private well owners can take simple steps to reduce well water contamination risks. These precautions include ensuring that the well is located away from potential contamination sources (e.g., septic and waste-water systems, animal enclosures, and chemical storage areas) and conducting an annual maintenance check of the well.

 Additional information about Ground Water Awareness Week, well maintenance, water testing, and well water treatment is available from the Centers for Disease Control at http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/private/wells/index.html, from the Environmental Protection Agency at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/privatewells/whatyoucando.html  and from NGWA at http://www.wellowner.org.
–Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

 World Bank warns of groundwater crisis in India
About 60 per cent of aquifers in India will be in a critical condition in another 15 years if the trend of indiscriminate exploitation of ground water continues, the World Bank has said in a report.

 In its latest report on the country’s ground water level, the bank has expressed concern over the rate of depletion of water table in the country and has called for immediate corrective measures.

Around 29 per cent of ground water blocks in the country are semi-critical, critical or overexploited and the situation is deteriorating rapidly. By 2025, an estimated 60 per cent of ground water blocks will be in a critical condition. Climate change will further strain ground water resources, the report said.

India is the largest user of ground water in the world, with an estimated use of 230 cubic km of ground water every year––more than a quarter of the global level. Now,  ground water supports around 60 per cent of irrigated agriculture and more than 80 per cent of rural and urban water supplies.

“Out of a total of 5,723 ground water blocks in the country, 1,615 are classified as semi-critical, critical or overexploited, and regulatory directives have been issued by the Central Ground Water Authority for 108 blocks.  However, neither the authority nor the state ground water agencies have the resources or the personnel to oversee the enforcement of these regulations.”
The Deccan Herald

 Women and Water Rights: Rivers of Regeneration
Who has the right to bodies of water, in our state, our country, our world? What are the issues involved in making water available to us? How does gender affect the right to water?

These are just some of the questions a group of women began asking a couple of years ago. Their inquiry has blossomed into a project called Women and Water Rights: Rivers of Regeneration, which includes a visual arts exhibit, with music, dance and poetry performances, a two-day symposium and multiple lectures.

“Bringing awareness, gathering unity and encouraging legislation about the global fresh water crisis-and the part that women play” is what all of this activity is about, said Liz Dodson, board member on the Women’s Caucus for Art and coordinator of the project. “We can see [the crisis] especially in Africa, where women are the ones who need to gather fresh water for their families. Here, in Minnesota, it’s about women being part of water management efforts.”

The month-long WWR project began on Feb. 26 at a reception at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus. At the center of the WWR project is the exhibit of work by around 50 women artists from Minnesota and around the world. Displayed in the Nash Gallery of the Regis Center for Art, their artwork is inspired by the symbolism and deep meaning of water.

Throughout the month of March, events will be held to challenge people to think analytically and emotionally about global and local water rights.
–Minnesota Women’s Press

Methane being released undersea
Climate scientists have long warned that global warming could unlock vast stores of the greenhouse gas methane that are frozen into the Arctic permafrost, setting off potentially significant increases in global warming.

Now researchers at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and elsewhere say this change is under way in a little-studied area under the sea, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, west of the Bering Strait.

Natalia Shakhova, a scientist at the university and a leader of the study, said it was too soon to say whether the findings suggest that a dangerous release of methane looms.
–The New York Times

 Wind turbines in Lake Michigan?
Halfway up Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, wooded bluffs rise next to dunes, ice-fringed winter beaches, and steel-gray water stretching as far as the eye can see.

 Pentwater, a resort town whose year-round residents number fewer than 1,000, sits in the middle of some of the most prized lakefront in the region. So when a Norwegian-American company recently proposed putting up as many as 200 wind turbines in the water, many residents were appalled.

 “People are very up in arms about this,” says Juanita Pierman, Pentwater’s village president. “We still need to find alternative forms of energy, but I’m not sure putting windmills two or three miles out in the lake is going to do it.
–The Christian Science Monitor

 E.U. eases resistance to genetic modification
The European Commission began a new push to allow farmers in Europe to grow more biotech crops, clearing a genetically modified potato for cultivation despite persistent public opposition to the technology.

 In the first such decision in more than a decade, the commission approved the Amflora potato produced by the German company BASF for cultivation inside the 27-country European Union. John Dalli, the bloc’s health commissioner, said the potatoes could be planted in Europe, with some conditions, as soon as next month.

 The potato is engineered to be unusually rich in a starch suitable for making glossy paper and other products, as well as for feeding animals.

 Currently the only other biotech crop grown in Europe is a type of corn produced by Monsanto, which was approved in 1998.
–The New York Times

 USDA seeks water quality proposals
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking project proposals that will improve water quality and the overall health of the Mississippi River in 41 eligible watersheds in 12 states.

The Request for Proposals  for the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, through which up to $75 million will be available for partnership projects, was published in the Federal Register.Proposals are due by May 1. The RFP explains the procedures for potential partners to sign agreements with USDA for projects that meet with the initiative’s objectives. 

In Minnesota, three watersheds are eligible to participate: the Root, Middle Minnesota and Sauk. 

For more information about the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, including the RFP and the eligible watersheds, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/mrbi/mrbi.html.
–USDA news release

Climate change, declining moose, St. Croix ruling

February 16, 2010

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.

How will climate change affect ecosystems?
Scientists have made lots of projections over the past few years about how warming temperatures and a changing climate will affect the planet. Real-world measurements have confirmed at least some of them: sea level is clearly rising, for instance, and the ice that covers the Arctic Ocean is shrinking and thinning — in the latter case, faster than anyone had expected just a few years ago.

Other measurements are a lot more difficult, though. It’s reasonable to expect, for example, that ecosystems will change as plants and animals respond to a rising thermometer — but how do you measure the change of an ecosystem that may consist of hundreds or even thousands of species?

 The answer, evident in a paper just published in the journal Global Change Biology, is that it isn’t easy — but it’s possible nevertheless. A team of scientists led by Stephen Thackeray, an expert on lake ecology at the United Kingdom’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, has combed through observations of more than 700 species of fish, birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, plankton and a wide variety of plants across the U.K. taken between 1976 and 2005, and found a consistent trend: more than 80% of “biological events” — including flowering of plants, ovulation among mammals and migration of birds — are coming earlier today than they were in the 1970s.
–Time Magazine

 Minnesota moose decline, survey indicates
Northeastern Minnesota’s moose population continues to decline, according to results of an aerial survey released by the Deparment of Natural Resources. 

Survey results revealed lower moose numbers and the proportion of cows accompanied by calves continued a 13-year decline and dropping to a record low of 28 calves per 100 cows. 

“These indices along with results from research using radio-collared moose all indicate that the population has been declining in recent years,” said Dr. Mark Lenarz, DNR forest wildlife group leader. 

Moose populations are estimated using an aerial survey of the northeast Minnesota moose range. Based on the survey, wildlife researchers estimate that there were 5,500 moose in northeastern Minnesota. The estimate, while not statistically different from last year’s 7,600, reinforces the inference that the moose population is declining.
–DNR news release 

Supreme Court rules against DNR on St. Croix mansion
The Minnesota Supreme Court sided with broadcasting executive Rob Hubbard in his fight with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources over building a 10,000-square-foot house on the St. Croix River.

 The court ruled that the DNR, which oversees the lower portion of the federally protected riverway, had no authority to overturn the city of Lakeland’s approval of the project.

 Hubbard said the ruling vindicates what he has argued since the case began almost four years ago.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

DNR downplays court ruling’s impact
Is the crown jewel of regional rivers in trouble? 

No, said the deputy commissioner of the state agency that no longer will be able to veto local government shoreline decisions along the St. Croix River.

 Larry Kramka said the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that takes away the state’s ability to govern “setback variances” on waterfront construction won’t lead to significant new development pressure on the river. 

“All of the requirements remain in effect,” said Kramka, of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “The only part that was found illegal was that the DNR had a veto.”
–The Star Tribune

 Close Chicago canal, invasive species expert says
Unless Congress or federal agencies decide to permanently wall off the infamous Sanitary and Ship Canal from the Great Lakes, it will continue to be a superhighway for invasive species, a scientist warned at a Congressional hearing.

 The canal already has helped to spread invasive species such as Asian carp between the  Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, and there are other species waiting to invade in both directions, said David Lodge, director of the Center for Aquatic Conservation at the University of Notre Dame. Lodge is among the scientists conducting DNA testing for Asian carp in the canal.

“This is not just about Asian carp,” he told members of a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee in Washington, D.C.
–The Detroit Free Press

 U.S. proposes $78.5 million anti-carp plan
Federal authorities presented a $78.5 million plan intended to block Asian carp, a hungry, huge, nonnative fish, from invading the Great Lakes.

 The threat has grown increasingly tense throughout the region in recent months as genetic material from the fish was found near and even in Lake Michigan.

In a meeting in Washington with leaders of some Great Lakes states, officials from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies laid out an “Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework” to ensure that the fish, known to take over entire ecosystems, do not establish themselves in the lakes.
–The New York Times 

California eyes 43-mile tunnel for water
A giant tunnel – not a canal – has emerged as the leading option to ship Sacramento River water across the Delta to thirsty Californians from the Silicon Valley to San Diego.

 Officials guiding the Bay Delta Conservation Plan chose the tunnel for more detailed study at a meeting in Sacramento. The plan is an effort to secure California water supplies from environmental problems, flood risk and rising sea levels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. 

About 25 million Californians and 2 million acres of farmland depend on the Delta today for at least some of their water supplies.
–The Sacramento Bee

Disinfectant reduces fish virus transmission
A disinfection solution presently used for salmon eggs also prevents transmission of the virus that causes viral hemorrhagic septicemia or VHS — one of the most dangerous viral diseases of fish — in other hatchery-reared fish eggs, according to new U.S. Geological Survey-led research. 

VHS has caused large fish kills in wild fish in the U.S., especially in the Great Lakes region, where thousands of fish have died from the virus over the last few years.  The disease causes internal bleeding in fish, and although in the family of viruses that includes rabies, is not harmful to humans. Thus far, the virus has been found in more than 25 species of fish in Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie, St. Clair, Superior and Ontario, as well as the Saint Lawrence River and inland lakes in New York, Michigan and Wisconsin.
–USGS News Release

 Nitrate limits working in Europe
The implementation of legislation to prevent nitrates from agricultural sources polluting ground and surface waters is proving effective, a European Commission report says.

 However, in some regions, nitrate concentrations exceed water quality standards and farmers must adopt sustainable practices, said the report on the implementation of the nitrates directive. It reported that between 2004 and 2007, nitrate concentrations in surface water including rivers, lakes and canals remained stable or fell at 70 per cent of monitored sites. Quality at 66 per cent of groundwater monitoring sites was stable or improving. 

But the report revealed a number of regions where nitrate levels were “worrying” in groundwater sites, including parts of Estonia, southeast Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, several parts of France, northern Italy, northeast Spain, southeast Slovakia, southern Romania, Malta and Cyprus.
–The Irish Times 

UN climate scientist faces scrutiny
Just over two years ago, Rajendra K. Pachauri seemed destined for a scientist’s version of sainthood: A vegetarian economist-engineer who leads the United Nations’ climate change panel, he accepted the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the panel, sharing the honor with former Vice President Al Gore. 

 But Dr. Pachauri and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are now under intense scrutiny, facing accusations of scientific sloppiness and potential financial conflicts of interest from climate skeptics, right-leaning politicians and even some mainstream scientists. Senator John Barrasso,  a Wyoming Republican, called for Dr. Pachauri’s resignation. 

Critics, writing in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph and elsewhere, have accused Dr. Pachauri of profiting from his work as an adviser to businesses, including Deutsche Bank and Pegasus Capital Advisors, a New York investment firm — a claim he denies.
–The New York Times 

U.S. consolidates climate-change team
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will create a new  climate change office to gather and provide data to governments, industry and academia as part of a broad federal effort to prepare for long-term changes to the planet, officials said.

The new unit, to be known as the NOAA Climate Service, will assemble the roughly 550 scientists and analysts already working on the issue at the agency into a cohesive group under a single leader.

 The climate service is designed to be analogous to the National Weather Service, also part of NOAA, which celebrates its 140th birthday this month. Officials said they hoped the reorganization would shore up the profile of government climate science and perhaps drive the creation of new businesses like those that repackage and sell weather and census data.
–The New York Times

Two slots on Clean Water Council are open
The Minnesota Clean Water Council, which advises the governor and Legislature on water policy, has two vacancies. One is for a member representing an environmental organization to complete a four-year term expiring on Jan. 3, 2011. The second vacancy is for a representative of tribal governments. 

Council members are appointed by the Governor. The application deadline for the slot reserved for environmental organizations is Tuesday, Feb. 23. Information about the Clean Water Council and this vacancy can be found on the Secretary of State’s Open Commissions and Appointments web site, along with the application forms. Information about the Clean Water Council; its members, publications, and past meeting agendas and minutes can be found on the council’s web site at Clean Water Council

The vacancy for the tribal representative will be posted in March on the Secretary of State’s Open Commissions and Appointments web site.
–Clean Water Council news release 

California company eyes Mojave groundwater
More water could exist below privately owned valleys in the eastern Mojave Desert than in all of Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, according to a geological study released by the company that hopes to tap the vast supply.

The study by CH2M Hill, a Colorado-based environmental consulting firm, also estimated that rain and snowmelt add about 32,000 acre-feet of water a year into the aquifer below the Cadiz Valley and nearby areas. That’s more than three times as much as previous estimates, a company official said.

“We always believed that this is a significant water resource, but having these findings, we are now able to point to the science behind it,” said Courtney Degener, investor relations manager for the Los Angeles-based Cadiz Inc.

 The company wants to use the aquifer about 40 miles east of Twentynine Palms to store water from the Colorado River and then pump out a combination of stored and natural water at a volume of 50,000 acre-feet each year — enough to meet the needs of about 400,000 people.
–The Press-Enterprise 

China’s water pollution doubles in new report
China’s government unveiled its most detailed survey ever of the pollution plaguing the country, revealing that water pollution in 2007 was more than twice as severe as official figures that had long omitted agricultural waste. 

The first-ever national pollution census, environmentalists said, represented a small step forward for China in terms of transparency. But the results also raised serious questions about the shortcomings of China’s previous pollution data and suggested that even with limited progress in some areas, the country still had a long way to go to clean its waterways and air. 

The pollution census, scheduled to be repeated in 2020, took more than two years to complete. It involved 570,000 people, and included 1.1 billion pieces of data from nearly 6 million sources of pollution, including factories, farms, homes and pollution-treatment facilities, the government announced at a news conference.
–The New York Times

U.S. considers protection for coral
The Obama administration will consider federal protection for 82 coral species threatened by warming water temperatures.

The National Marine Fisheries Service said that it has found “substantial scientific or commercial information” that Caribbean and Indo-Pacific corals may be threatened or endangered.

 Environmentalists have predicted the corals — found near Florida, Hawaii and U.S. territories — could be wiped out by midcentury if the government does not take steps to protect them from warming waters, rising ocean acidity and pollution.

The announcement in the Federal Register launches a formal status review by federal biologists.
–The New York Times

 Rural-urban video conferences planned
As part of a cooperative effort with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, Minnesota Rural Partners Inc. is hosting a series of videoconferences through May 2010 to encourage conversations across the state about rural – urban connections that impact individual lives, communities, and work.  

 The goal is to foster increased innovation and job growth by leveraging the strengths of rural and urban areas.

The USDA’s Rural Development program aims to improve housing, create jobs and improve the lives of residents of rural communities. Minnesota Rural Partners is a 10-year-old nonprofit organization that works to strengthen rural-urban partnering, increase community entrepreneurship and support continued broadband deployment in rural communities. 

“We want to get Minnesotans talking and thinking about the interdependence between rural and urban areas, as well as future opportunities arising from stronger rural-urban connections,” said Jane Leonard, president of Minnesota Rural Partners. 

The videoconferences will culminate in a Symposium on Small Towns and Rural-Urban Gathering at the University of Minnesota, Morris, on June 9 and 10.  

Participants are asked to register for videoconferences in advance at http://blog.rurb.mn/videoconferences/. Information on the video conferences is available there.

Climate, nitrogen flow and ‘sneaker males’

June 22, 2009

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of regional, national and international articles and research about water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to the original sources.

Climate change research regionalizes U.S. impact

Man-made climate change could bring parching droughts to the Southwest and pounding rainstorms to Washington, put Vermont maple sugar farms out of business and Key West underwater over the next century, according to a federal report released. 

The report, a compilation of work by government scientific agencies, provided the most detailed picture yet of the United States in 2100 — if nothing is done to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

It found that a warmer world, with average U.S. temperatures increasing four to 11 degrees, would significantly alter natural ecosystems and urban life. More than before, scientists broke down those effects to the regional level. 

To read the full report, click here. To read the Midwest-specific analysis and predictions, click here.

–The Washington Post 

Farm groups oppose climate change bill

Minnesota farmers thought they’d be wearing the white hats.

When the climate-change debate began, many growers were intrigued. They control millions of green acres, the dawn of carbon credits promised new revenue and biofuels showed green could be profitable.

“We are the ones that are growing the crops, and we are the ones that have control over the carbon capture,” said Doug Albin, a corn and soybean farmer near Clarkfield. “So we were trying to figure out if there’s anything we could do to help.”

 It hasn’t worked out that way. As global-warming legislation is being rushed through Congress, nearly every farm group in America now opposes it. Even the Farmers Union, which remains gung-ho about carbon-credit trading, said it would “very much like to support climate-change legislation.” But it won’t, as written.

 A pair of bruising battles has hardened the lines. First came a fight over measuring the carbon footprint of corn-based ethanol. It’s not part of the cap-and-trade bill, but it was a big part of the climate-change debate. When regulators took a hard line against ethanol, the once-hopeful farm sector soured.

–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 3M wins groundwater suit

The 3M Co. won a landmark court case when a jury ruled against claims of Washington County residents suing the company over chemicals in their groundwater.

 For 3M, it was a triumphant end to a five-year case that once loomed as one of the largest environmental lawsuits in Minnesota history.

 “Obviously, we are pleased with the verdict. It was supported by the evidence,” 3M spokesman Bill Nelson said.

 The jury delivered the unanimous verdict with surprising speed — deliberating four hours to decide a case that involved five weeks in court, 35 witnesses, eight law firms and more than 300 exhibits.

–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Nitrogen flow to Gulf reduced from 2008

The amount of nutrients delivered from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in April and May of 2009 to the northern Gulf of Mexico was the tenth- highest measured (about 295,000 metric tons of nitrate-nitrogen) by the U.S. Geological Survey in three decades.

 The amount of nutrients delivered in the spring is a primary factor controlling the size of the hypoxic zone that forms during the early summer in the northern Gulf of Mexico, which is the second largest hypoxic zone in the world. Hypoxic zones are areas where oxygen levels drop too low to support most aquatic life in the bottom and near-bottom waters.

In 2008, the hypoxic zone exceeded 20,000 square kilometers, an area similar in size to the state of New Jersey. This spring’s delivery of nitrogen was about 23 percent lower than what was measured in 2008, but still about 11 percent above the average from 1979 to 2009. The amount of nutrients delivered to the Gulf each spring depends, in large part, on precipitation and the resulting amounts of nutrient runoff and streamflow in the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin. Streamflows in spring 2009 were about 17 percent above average over the last 30 years.

In previous years, preliminary nutrient fluxes were estimated through June, and were provided in July. Researchers have reported that the May nutrient fluxes are more critical than June nutrient fluxes in determining the extent of the hypoxic zone for that summer. Thus, the USGS is now releasing preliminary estimates of the nutrient flux in mid-June to better address the needs of researchers predicting the size of the hypoxic zone.

–U.S. Geological Survey

 Ruffed grouse count up significantly

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts are significantly higher than last year across most of their range, according to a report released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

 “Counts have been increasing steadily since 2005 but this is the substantial annual increase we’ve been hoping for,” said Mike Larson, DNR research scientist and grouse biologist. “Drumming counts this year are as high as counts during recent peaks in the population cycle.”

 Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. This year observers recorded 2.0 drums per stop statewide. Last year’s average was 1.4 drums per stop. Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.

–Minnesota DNR 

Beware the round goby ‘sneaker’ males

Scientists have found the existence of two types of males of a fiercely invasive fish spreading through the Great Lakes, which may provide answers as to how they rapidly reproduce.

 The research, published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, looks at the aggressive round goby, a bottom-dwelling fish which infested the Great Lakes watersheds around 1990. Presently, they are working their way inland through rivers and canal systems and can lead to the decline of native species through competition and predation.

Researchers at McMaster University discovered evidence that in addition to round goby males which guard the nest from predators and look after their offspring, there exists what scientists call “sneaker” males – little males that look like females and sneak into the nests of the larger males.

–Science Daily.com

 Good and bad news on fish in upper Mississippi

The current health and status of the Upper Mississippi River and its resources, such as fish species, are profiled  in a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal and state partners.

 Good news — the report indicates that almost all fish species known from the Upper Mississippi River over the past 100 years still presently occur in the river. Bad news — five species of non-native carp make up one half of the weight of all fish, while the other half of the scale is made up of nearly 150 native fish species. These non-native fish harm the ecosystem by destroying habitat and competing for food and space with native species.

–USGS web site

 Wisconsin DNR issues controversial pumping permit

After years of pilot programs and numerous stopgap measures, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued the Crystal, Fish and Mud Lake District a controversial five-year permit that will allow it to continually pump water from its lakes to the Wisconsin River.

 For the residents living in the lake district, the permit represents the culmination of nearly 10 years and about $600,000 spent devising a way to lower the lakes encroaching upon their homes.

 The permit will allow the district to pump 24 hours a day, seven days a week until Fish Lake is lowered about 3 feet to its normal high-water mark.

 However, opponents of the permit view it as eroding environmental standards and potentially damaging the quality of the lower Wisconsin River.

–The Wisconsin State Journal

 Wisconsin crayfish harvested for perch bait

Jim Hansen waded into the chocolate milk-colored Root River, pulled up one of his nine mesh traps and examined the dripping, snapping, writhing contents – crayfish destined to lure Lake Michigan perch to anglers’ fishhooks.

 Some clung valiantly to the sides of the trap, like shipwrecked sailors clutching a life raft. As Hansen tipped the trap toward a white plastic bucket, one critter fell into the water.

 “Oh, we didn’t want him anyway. We’ll get him tomorrow,” Hansen said.

 The 65-year-old Mount Pleasant man, as well as other wild bait harvesters elsewhere in the state, is busy trapping the invasive species that panfish love to eat.

–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Suit challenges de-listing of wolves

Five groups sued the government for removing more than 4,000 gray wolves in the upper Great Lakes region from the endangered list, prolonging a dispute over whether the predator can survive without federal protection.

 Despite the wolf’s comeback from near-extinction in the region over the past two decades, some activists insist it remains vulnerable. The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeks an injunction returning Great Lakes wolves to the endangered list while the case is heard.

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped federal protections last month, as the Obama administration upheld a Bush-era finding that the wolf could survive under state management. The animal protection and environmental groups disagreed.

Management plans crafted by Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin presently do not allow wolves to be hunted or trapped, although farmers and pet owners can kill wolves attacking domestic animals.

–The Associated Press

 USDA kills 4.9 million animals

The number of animals poisoned, shot or snared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than doubled last year, and environmentalists who are critical of the killings are renewing their effort to cut the program’s funding.

 The USDA’s Wildlife Services division killed more than 4.9 million animals during the 2008 fiscal year, some of them pests that threaten crops. That’s more than double the 2.4 million animals killed the previous year, but the agency contends the increase is due to more accurate counting methods.

 Wildlife Services, which released the annual death count last week, reported that 90 percent of animals killed in 2008 included crows, blackbirds, magpies and three species of invasive birds: European starlings, sparrows and pigeons.

–The Associated Press

 U.S., Canada to revise Great Lakes pact

The United States and Canada say they will update a key agreement to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species, climate change and other established and emerging threats to the world’s biggest surface freshwater system.

 Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which was last amended in 1987, is no longer sufficient.

 She announced the deal to revise it — something environmental groups have been pushing for — with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon during a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. The treaty created an international commission to settle water-related disputes between the two countries.

–The Associated Press

 Chemicals, human hormones don’t mix

First organic food — free of pesticides — had the spotlight. Then consumers learned about buying cosmetics without parabens. Just last month Minnesota banned the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) from baby bottles and sippy cups.

The mounting health cautions might seem tedious — does every little thing cause cancer? — but a common thread weaves through the concerns. Numerous everyday products are made with chemicals that may disrupt people’s endocrine system, which is also known as the hormone system.

–The Star Tribune

EPA sets hearing in Ashland, Wis., cleanup

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a cleanup plan for polluted soil, ground water and sediment at the Ashland/Northern States Power Lakefront Superfund site in Ashland, Wis. A public comment period runs June 17 to July 16.

  A formal public hearing where comments on the plan will be accepted is set for 7 p.m., Monday, June 29, at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.

The EPA, with consultation from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is proposing an estimated $83 million to $97 million cleanup project that includes:

  •  Removing soil from the most contaminated areas of Kreher Park and the Upper Bluff/Filled Ravine, thermally treating the soil on-site and re-using it or disposing of it off-site.
  • Using barriers to contain and stop the movement of contaminants in groundwater, possibly treating the groundwater in-place and adding wells to extract and treat ground water.
  •  Digging up wood waste and contaminated sediment near the Chequamegon Bay shore and dredging contaminated sediment offshore, covering the offshore cleanup area with 6 inches of clean material and treating contaminated sediment after removal or disposing of it off-site.

 The Ashland/NSP Lakefront Superfund site includes several properties within the city of Ashland, including Kreher Park, and about 16 acres of sediment and surface water in Chequamegon Bay. Environmental concerns stem from a manufactured gas plant that operated in the area from 1885 to 1947.

Find more site information at http://www.epa.gov/region5/sites/ashland/index.htm.
–EPA News Release

Obama stuns environmentalists with national forest stance

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama wooed environmentalists with a promise to “support and defend” pristine national forest land from road building and other development that had been pushed by the George W. Bush administration.

But five months into Obama’s presidency, the new administration is actively opposing those protections on about 60 million acres of federal woodlands in a case being considered by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

 The roadless issue is one of several instances of the administration defending in court environmental policies that it once vowed to end.

Its position has been a disappointment to environmentalists who had hoped for decisive action in rolling back Bush-era policies.

–Los Angeles Times

 Pollution studied through tiny microorganisms

With a $165,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, Melissa Lobegeier will soon begin a second study focused on water quality, and this time, she will focus her research in the Clinch and Powell Rivers of southwestern Virginia, where pollution from mining is a concern.

 An assistant professor of geosciences at Middle Tennessee State University, Lobegeier will examine two types of microorganisms that are indicators of pollution; namely, thecamoebians and foraminifera, which are hard-shelled, single-celled organisms that tend to be very well preserved because of their hard shells. While a lot remains unknown about them because it’s difficult to keep them alive in the lab, Lobegeier says they are believed to catch food particles by sticking protoplasm out through holes in the shells. Their reproductive cycle is something of a puzzle.

 “They have an asexual phase where they reproduce by splitting up their protoplasm up into a whole lot of juveniles and then regrow,” she says. “And then they have a sexual phase where that asexual generation produces the egg and the sperm, which then they release from their shell. And they come together to form the next juveniles, who reproduce asexually.”

–Science Blog

 “Green” rating system developed for fish

Quick: Which fish has a smaller carbon footprint: yellowfin or barramundi? What about halibut or salmon? Oysters or clams?

 Those are questions that even the most earnest chef would probably have a hard time answering. Even if he could know, just keeping track would be a full-time job.

Chefs have plenty of other things to do. And so at their behest, Washington, D.C.-based seafood distributor ProFish soon will unveil a rating system that helps chefs compare the environmental impacts of popular fish from sea to table.

 The program, called Carbon Fishprint, gives each fish a score based on whether it was farmed or wild, how it was caught, and the amount of energy used in harvesting and shipping.

–The Washington Post

 Lake Tahoe project aims to end invasive species spread

This summer, researchers will begin a project aimed at halting the spread of invasive species in Lake Tahoe. While the Tahoe Keys are the focus, the work is important for all who live around the lake, take advantage of its recreational opportunities, appreciate its beauty or depend on tourism for their livelihood.

Most of us are familiar with the efforts to keep destructive quagga mussels out of the lake. While we’re winning that battle for now, other invaders — such as the aquatic plants Eurasian watermilfoil and curlyleaf pondweed and the warm water fish largemouth bass and bluegill — are already established.

–The Tahoe Daily Tribune

 Hearing proposed for Arizona gas storage bill

The collapse of two salt water wells in southeast New Mexico is reason enough to kill a bill exempting a proposed natural gas storage facility in Eloy from Arizona groundwater protection rules, the project’s opponents say.

 Supporters, however, say that it’s not fair to compare the two operations because they’re significantly different, and that the Arizona gas storage site can be designed to make sure a collapse doesn’t happen.

 An Arizona State Senate committee plans a hearing on the proposed Eloy facility on Monday afternoon. The House has already passed the bill, which supporters say is needed to ensure adequate long-term natural gas supplies and which opponents fear risks groundwater contamination

–Arizona Daily Star

 Joshua trees could disappear from S. California

A breeze stirs the silence at Joshua Tree National Park as a red-tailed hawk takes flight from the spiky arm of one of the namesake plants in search of breakfast.

It’s a scene that national parks protector Mike Cipra has witnessed many times. Still, he can’t contain his enthusiasm on this early morning outing, despite the gloomy topic he’s discussing with a visitor — the probable extinction of the Joshua tree in the park that bears its name.

 The ancient plants are dying in the park, the southern-most boundary of their limited growing region, scientists say. Already finicky reproducers, Joshua trees are the victim of global warming and its symptoms — including fire and drought — plus pollution and the proliferation of non-native plants. Experts expect the Joshuas to vanish entirely from the southern half of the state within a century.

–The Press Enterprise

 U-Haul customers give $1 million to offset emissions In April of 2007, U-Haul began partnering with The Conservation Fund to facilitate customers’ donations at checkout in order to offset carbon emissions generated from in-town and out-of-town moves. In just two years, more than 287,000 U-Haul customers have elected to offset their emissions. The Conservation Fund has used those donations to plant 133,000 trees that are expected to trap 156,000 tons of carbon dioxide as they mature.

“By leveraging our human, technical, financial and business resources, U-Haul and our customers have made a real difference in protecting the environment and mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions,” stated John “J.T.” Taylor, president of U-Haul International, Inc. “U-Haul customers should be applauded for their support of The Conservation Fund, and for benefiting the communities where we live and serve.”

–PR Newswire

Sustainable practices yield profits, study says

A series of scandals over the years have taught Western companies an important lesson about operating in developing countries: Any indication that a company or one of its suppliers is exploiting workers or damaging the environment in these regions can have devastating effects on a company’s reputation—world-wide. The result is fleeing customers and investors.

 But here’s a lesson many executives have yet to learn: A commitment to improving social and environmental conditions in the developing countries where a company operates is the key to maximizing the profits and growth of those operations.

 That’s the conclusion we drew after studying more than 200 companies. As a group, the companies most engaged in social and environmental sustainability are also the most profitable.

–The Wall Street Journal

 Veterans want inquiry into Camp Lejeune water contamination

Kidney cancer, Mike Edwards says, came so close to killing him five years ago that he saw a stairway to heaven and smelled the brimstone of hell.

Now, Edwards and thousands of other veterans are caught in a kind of purgatory. They believe decades of drinking-water contamination at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base sickened them or their family members.

But they may never know the truth.

 Federal officials acknowledge that, from the 1950s to 1985, up to 500,000 people at Lejeune might have been exposed to high doses of chemicals that probably cause cancer and other illnesses.

 A new report offers little hope of answers. No amount of study, it said, is likely to conclusively prove the contamination made anybody sick.

–The Sun News

 Alaska lake dumping permit upheld by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has upheld a federal government permit to dump waste from an Alaskan gold mine into a nearby lake, even though all its fish would be killed.

 By a 6-3 vote, the justices say a federal appeals court wrongly blocked the permit on environmental grounds.

Environmentalists fear that the ruling could set a precedent for how mining waste is disposed in American lakes, streams and rivers.

 The Army Corps of Engineers in 2005 issued a permit for waste disposal at the proposed Kensington mine north of Juneau. Under the plan, tailings — waste left after metals are extracted from ore — would be dumped into Lower Slate Lake.

–The Star Tribune

 Hudson River PCB-sludge to be dumped in Texas

Later this month, the first trainloads of PCB-tainted sludge dredged from the Hudson River will arrive and, in the eyes of critics, will turn a stretch of West Texas into New York’s “pay toilet.”

 They argue that burying dirt so toxic that General Electric Co. will spend at least six years and an estimated $750 million to dig it up will only create a new mess for future generations to clean up.

 But for 15 new jobs and the little bit of money it’ll bring local businesses, the folks who live near the site are willing to take the risk, however remote, of tainting the area’s groundwater by taking out somebody else’s trash.

–The Star Tribune


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