Posts Tagged ‘arsenic’

Precision conservation talks archived

April 11, 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.

David Mulla

David Mulla

Precision conservation talks archived
Did you miss the March 29 Freshwater Society conference on precision conservation? If you did, you missed some really exciting presentations on some of the most exciting strategies for targeting conservation and pollution-prevention practices to the places on the land where they will do the most good. But all the presentations are archived on video on the Freshwater website.Here’s the link to the lead presentation by University of Minnesota Professor David Mulla.

Report: States fail to plan for climate challenges to water 
Only nine states have taken comprehensive steps to address their vulnerabilities to the water-related impacts of climate change, while 29 states are unprepared for growing water threats to their economies and public health, according to a first ever detailed state-by-state analysis of water readiness released by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report ranks all 50 states on their climate preparedness planning, and is accompanied by an interactive online map at  showing the threats every state faces from climate change.

The new NRDC report, “Ready or Not: An Evaluation of State Climate and Water Preparedness Planning,” outlines four preparedness categories to differentiate between the nine best-prepared and most engaged states with comprehensive adaptation plans (including California, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), from those states that are least prepared and lagging farthest behind (including Florida, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, and Texas).

“Rising temperatures and more extreme weather events are impacting our families, our health and our pocketbooks. Water is a matter of survival. It powers our lives and industries, and it keeps our natural systems healthy,” said NRDC Water & Climate Program director Steve Fleischli. “This report is both a wake-up call and a roadmap for all communities to understand how vital it is to prepare for climate change so we can effectively safeguard our most valuable resources. Preparing for the impacts of a changing climate requires that states confront reality, and prioritize climate change adaptation to reduce local water risks and create healthier communities.”

Read what the report had to say about Minnesota.
–Natural Resources Defense Council news release

Research: U.S. rivers lower in sediment 
Almost all the sediment-associated chemical concentrations found in 131 of the nation’s rivers that drain to the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coasts are lower than worldwide averages, according to a new study by the USGS. These coastal rivers are a significant pathway for the delivery of sediment-associated chemicals to the world’s coastal zones and oceans.

“I hope that the results of this new study will remind everyone that it is not only river water that can transport chemicals and pollutants, but also the associated sediment load,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Our citizens expect high environmental quality as compared with worldwide averages, but clean water alone will not suffice if river sediments are host to toxic heavy metals and concentrated organics that can produce dead zones.”

Though overall levels are better than worldwide averages, about half the rivers draining to the Atlantic Ocean have elevated concentrations of nutrients and trace and major elements in their sediment. About a quarter of the rivers draining to the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico also have elevated levels.
–USGS News Release

144 Asian carp netted in two Iowa lakes
A commercial fishing company caught 55 silver carp and 82 big head carp on March 28 and 29, fishing in the same general area of East Okoboji Lake where two big head carp were netted by the Iowa DNR last August during a population survey.

On April 3, one silver carp was caught by the same commercial angler in Spirit Lake. A second netting effort on April 4 in the same East Okoboji Lake location resulted in only two bighead carp and two silver carp.

Mike Hawkins, fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said the invasive fish had a small window last summer in which to enter the Iowa Great Lakes. Flood events in June and July allowed the fish to navigate the Little Sioux River past the Linn Grove Dam, landing at the doorstep of the Iowa Great Lakes.

Once below the Iowa Great Lakes, heavy rain events in July caused flooding conditions on the lakes that allowed these fish to enter Lower Gar Lake, which is the final lake in the chain of six glacial lakes in Dickinson County.

“While it confirms the presence of both species, this commercial seine haul does not tell us how many Asian carp are in the lakes. Nor does it get us any closer to knowing at what level these fish will be a problem,” Hawkins said.
–Iowa DNR News Release

Federal ballast water rules target invasives 
Nearly a quarter-century has passed since an oceangoing ship from Europe docked somewhere in the Great Lakes and discharged ballast water carrying tiny but tenacious zebra mussel larvae from Europe.

Within a few years after they turned up in Lake St. Clair, between Lakes Huron and Erie, the small freshwater mussels and their larger and even more destructive cousins, quagga mussels, had coated lakebeds throughout the region, clogging intake valves and pipes at power, water treatment and manufacturing plants.

The filter-feeding mussels have since helped to upend the ecosystems of the Great Lakes, fouling beaches, promoting the growth of poisonous algae and decimating some native fish populations by eating the microscopic free-floating plant cells on which their food web depends.
–The New York Times

Spawning steelhead get lift from DNR 
In an unprecedented move because of low water levels, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries officials began transporting steelhead from the Knife River fish trap upstream past the Second Falls on the Knife River to assist the fish on their spawning migrations.

The fish are being transported about 5½ miles in tanks on trucks.

“We were urged strongly to do this by the Lake Superior Steelhead Association,” said Don Schreiner, DNR Lake Superior area fisheries supervisor at French River. The steelhead association advocates for steelhead, or rainbow trout, that live in Lake Superior and migrate up North Shore streams each spring to spawn.

With low water flows this year, it’s more difficult for fish to clear the falls as they move upstream. The DNR would continue to move steelhead only if flows remain low, Schreiner said.
–The Duluth News Tribune

World food demand strains energy, water 
The northern region of Gujarat State in western India is semi-arid and prone to droughts, receiving almost all of its rain during the monsoon season between June and September.

But for the past three decades, many crop and dairy farms have remained green—even during the dry season.

That’s because farmers have invested in wells and pumps, using massive amounts of electricity to extract water from deep aquifers. The government has artificially propped up the agricultural sector through power subsidies and price supports.

The pumping hasn’t occurred without dire environmental impacts. Groundwater tables have fallen precipitously, 600 feet below the ground in some places, requiring even more powerful pumps to bring water to the surface. Over-consumption has taxed the power grid, constraining the electricity available for others.
–National Geographic

Navajo, Hopi may face choice on water rights
Arizona’s two senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, traveled to the Navajo reservation meet with Navajo and Hopi tribal leaders about a proposed water rights accord that would settle the two tribes’ claims to the Little Colorado River system.

Mr. Kyl and Mr. McCain have introduced a bill known as the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement, which would require the tribes to waive their water rights for “time immemorial” in exchange for groundwater delivery projects to three remote communities.

The tribes must sign off on the settlement, along with 30 other entities including Congress and the president, before the bill becomes law.
–The New York Times

Minnesota, Mississippi TMDL comment extended 
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has extended the public comment periods for reports about water quality in the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Due to a high level of interest, the public comment period has been extended to May 29, 2012, for the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) draft reports about Minnesota River turbidity and South Metro Mississippi River total suspended solids.

The comment period for the reports began Feb. 27 with a notice in the State Register.

The TMDL reports focus on turbid water caused primarily by sediment. Turbidity is caused by suspended and dissolved matter, such as clay, silt, organic matter, and algae. High turbidity results in poor water quality for aquatic habitat, recreation, industrial use, and human consumption.

The two documents are available for public review and comment on the MPCA’s TMDL Projects and Staff Contacts webpage.
–MPCA News Release

$5.2 million slated for water protection
Reducing phosphorus in lakes, protecting water resources, and addressing failing septic systems are among the projects funded by $5.2 million in financial aid recently approved by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. As funded by the Clean Water Partnership (CWP) program, 10 agency partners across Minnesota will receive grants and/or loans to investigate pollutants in lakes and rivers and take action to protect waters from those pollutants. View the projects.
–MPCA News Release

Invasive species decal required for boaters
A new required decal is now available for Minnesota boaters to help remind them of the state’s aquatic invasive species laws, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced.

The free decals are available at:

  •  DNR offices.
  •  Deputy registrar offices where licenses are sold.
  •    Large sporting goods shops.
  •  DNR watercraft inspectors and conservation officers.

The decals will also be included in envelopes with new and renewal watercraft licenses mailed from the DNR. The decal should be attached to all types of watercraft including canoes, kayaks and duckboats before launching on, entering into, or operating on any Minnesota waters.

The two-piece, gray-and-black decals detail new state laws that watercraft users must follow in order to avoid spreading aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas.
 –DNR News Release

Maryland eyes banning arsenic in chicken feed
The state Senate signed off on a bill to ban chicken feed containing arsenic, bringing Maryland a step closer to being the first state to prohibit the additive.

The chamber approved a version of the measure 32-14, sending it back to the House of Delegates for final authorization.

The bill bans the use of roxarsone, a chemical used to help the birds grow and fight parasites. Supporters of the legislation say the arsenic additive contaminates chicken meat and waste, polluting soil and the Chesapeake Bay.

But opponents say the legislation isn’t necessary because Pfizer Inc., the company that makes roxarsone, voluntarily suspended the sale of the chemical.
–The Associated Press

A report card on Minnesota’s environment

November 21, 2011

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.

Dayton seeks environmental report card
Trumpeting his administration’s success in speeding up permitting and environmental reviews, Gov. Mark Dayton ordered additional steps to make things even better.

With state departments now issuing 80 percent of permits within a time frame he called for in January, Dayton signed an executive order requiring the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board to recommend ways to simplify and to improve things further and to come up with an annual report card tracking the state’s performance.

“We’re feeling really good about this,” said Dayton, adding, “We’re looking for ways to do even better.”

At a Capitol press conference, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Paul Aasen said his agency has issued more than 1,300 permits within a 150-day goal set by Dayton and Republican legislators last winter as both sought ways to speed up the permitting and environmental review pace to make things easier for businesses.

Dayton and Aasen said 96 percent of permits for new or expanding projects are being issued within 150 days. Aasen, meanwhile, said permits not decided within the 150-day period typically involved complex air-quality issues.

During the legislative session, Republicans called their streamlining efforts a signature achievement, even though Dayton had required some of them in an earlier executive order.

Dayton said he wants the first EQB report card by Nov. 15, 2012. By the following Jan. 15, he wants the EQB to organize and host a followup “congress” on the state of Minnesota’s environment.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

3M, state agree on clean-up
The 3M Co. and state regulators signed off on a plan to start cleaning up groundwater in Cottage Grove that for decades has been contaminated with industrial toxins used in some of the company’s best-known consumer products.

Though it brings the long, controversial cleanup one step closer to completion, the parties still haven’t agreed on how to address a far more difficult problem: removing the contaminants, known as PFCs, from the water before it is discharged from the company’s Cottage Grove manufacturing plant into the Mississippi River. The river above Hastings is also contaminated with the toxins, and, as a result, the state Health Department has said fish there are not safe to eat.

Early this year both 3M’s groundwater cleanup and the water treatment plan were presented to east metro communities affected by contamination from PFCs, chemicals that 3M used for years in the manufacture of Post-it Notes, fire retardants and other products.

But many local residents objected to the plan. It gave 3M two years to reduce the concentrations of the most critical contaminant, called PFOS, down to the level that would protect the Mississippi — seven parts per trillion. At that level, pollution in the river would gradually improve, eventually making the fish safe to eat again.

But even with the best available technology, company officials said, 3M has been able to get the PFOS level down only to 100 to 500 parts per trillion.
–The Star Tribune

Dec. 6 book-signing by Darby Nelson
Darby Nelson, a Freshwater Society board member, will talk about  and read excerpts from his new book, For Love of Lakes,  in a book-signing event at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 6, in theStudent Center Theater on the University of  Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus. Read his introduction to  the book. Please RSVP for the event.

House passes ban on state ballast water rules
The U.S. House has approved a bill that would set a national policy for cleansing ship ballast water to kill invasive species while prohibiting states from imposing tougher requirements.

The measure that passed the Republican-controlled chamber would adopt an international standard limiting the number of live organisms in ballast water. Vessel operators would have to install technology to comply.

The shipping industry says an existing patchwork of more than two dozen state and tribal policies is unworkable because vessels move constantly from one jurisdiction to another. New York rules scheduled to take effect in 2013 would be 100 times tougher than the House standards.

Environmentalists say the House measure isn’t strong enough to prevent more invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes. They say they hope to derail it in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
–The Associated Press

Groups seek lock closing as Asian carp barrier
More than a dozen conservation and environmental groups urged a state-federal panel to endorse closing two navigation locks in the Twin Cities to keep Asian carp from moving farther up the Mississippi River.

“The ability to temporarily and permanently close the locks at St. Anthony Falls and the Ford dam needs to be of the highest priority in any final Asian carp plan,” said the letter signed by the 14 organizations.

The letter was given to Gov. Mark Dayton, who convened the panel to identify strategies the state can adopt to limit the statewide impact of those fish, which already have been caught in border waters in recent years. Genetic material from one type, silver carp, has even been found as far upriver as the Ford dam, between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The groups’ request was echoed by Paul Labovitz, National Park Service superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, a 72-mile stretch of river corridor winding through the Twin Cities metro area.

The Department of Natural Resources will prepare responses the panel can consider next month.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

UM researchers study common carp
Fitted with electrofishing equipment, the boat eased into the cattails along North St. Paul’s Casey Lake, two University of Minnesota technicians standing at the bow with dip nets ready to scoop up stunned common carp.

In short order, they did, plopping them into a pail so that small radio tags could be inserted into the largest ones, enabling researchers to track their movements.

That outing, on a recent sunny afternoon, was just one of a half-dozen ways U scientists are researching one of the state’s most vexing creatures. Brought to Minnesota in the 19th century, common carp have taken over thousands of shallow lakes and wetlands, rooting on the bottom for food and turning many of them into mud holes that no longer sustain ducks and other species.

Now, though, relief could be on the way.

Led by professor Peter Sorensen, U scientists are trying to figure out what makes these carp tick: where they go, when and why, and what attracts and repels them.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Research offers hope for oil sands
Several years ago, Paul Painter, a professor of polymer science at Pennsylvania State University, saw a news report about the deaths of hundreds of ducks that landed on a tailings pond near an oil sands mine in the Canadian province of Alberta. The ducks had become coated with residual petroleum floating on the pond, which was filled with wastewater from the process used to extract oil from the strip-mined sands.

“It wasn’t that I’m a rabid environmentalist,” Dr. Painter said recently. “It just occurred to me that we were working with something that might prove useful.”

That something was an ionic liquid, a salt that, unlike ordinary table salt, is liquid at temperatures below the boiling point of water. Dr. Painter had been using ionic liquids to try to get nanoparticles to mix with polymers, but he realized that they could also be used to help separate different materials — in this case, oil from sand.

Dr. Painter has since demonstrated in the laboratory that ionic liquids have the potential for greatly reducing the amount of water used in the oil sands industry. If he can scale up the process, and if it is adopted, it could go a long way to making the oil sands industry more environmentally sound.
–The New York Times

National Geographic documents river preservation
The November National Geographic magazine has a beautiful article on America’s Wild and Scenic Rivers. It quotes former Vice President Walter Mondale, a co-sponsor of the legislation that preserves the rivers, on the St. Croix River. Read the article here.

Arsenic taints Iowa wells
Hundreds of Iowans across the state are drinking tap water polluted with poisonous arsenic as health workers move to rein in the problem.

The problem is so widespread that health officials statewide gathered last week in Des Moines to discuss remedies. Large public water supplies routinely test for arsenic. But health officials are now stepping up efforts to encourage private well owners to pay for their own tests, which cost about $20.

The element occurs naturally in Iowa’s soil. It leaches into ground water, which is the source of tap water for 55 percent of Iowans.

Drinking large amounts of arsenic over decades could lead to cancer of the skin, bladder, lungs, liver and prostate, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Short-term exposure to very high levels can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and skin problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

(In Minnesota, the state Health Department estimates that about 10 percent of all wells have levels of naturally occurring arsenic that exceed a 10 parts per billion health standard. Learn more.)
–The Des Moines Register

DNR makes grants for habitat
Twenty grants totaling $1.83 million have been awarded to conservation groups to improve state habitat.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources manages the Conservation Legacy Partners program to provide competitive grants from $5,000 to $400,000 to local, regional, state, and national nonprofit organizations, including government entities. The grants are for work to enhance, restore, or protect the forests, wetlands, prairies, and habitat for fish, game, or wildlife in Minnesota.

The grants are made possible by Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment dollars.
–DNR News Release

Long Prairie packing plant pays pollution penalty
Long Prairie Packing Co., LLC, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently reached an agreement that requires the company to pay $52,000 for alleged water quality violations. The violations occurred between fall 2009 and spring 2010 at the company’s facility in Long Prairie, Minn.

According to MPCA staff inspection reports, the company improperly stockpiled and land applied industrial byproducts, and failed to maintain a required 600-foot land application setback from surface waters at seven sites. Some of the land applications occurred within farmed wetlands. The company also failed to notify the MPCA or immediately recover blood-contaminated leachate which spilled out of a dumpster and a large storage tote; improperly stored more than 500 gallons of used oil; and operated parts of the facility without a required federal and state industrial stormwater permit.

Of the $52,000 civil penalty, half will be paid to the MPCA, and half will be spent on completing a supplemental environmental project. Long Prairie Packing Co. plans to construct an industrial anaerobic digester near the plant that will reduce the amount and toxicity of pollutants entering area waters, and significantly reduce the land application of industrial byproducts.
–MPCA News Release

Groundwater use threatens rivers
Great Plains river basins are threatened by pumping of groundwater from aquifers, risking a bleak future for native fish in many streams, U.S. researchers say.

Unlike alluvial aquifers, which can be replenished with rain and snow, these regional aquifers were created by melting glaciers during the last Ice Age, the researchers say, and when that water is gone, it’s gone for good.

“It is a finite resource that is not being recharged,” Jeffrey Falke, a researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study, said.

“That water has been there for thousands of years, and it is rapidly being depleted. Already, streams that used to run year-round are becoming seasonal, and refuge habitats for native fishes are drying up and becoming increasingly fragmented.”
–UPI

Mormons criticize groundwater pipeline
An attorney for the LDS Church called a proposal for tapping ground water in the dry regions of Nevada and pumping it to Las Vegas a disaster with good intentions.

“It’s the cotton candy of good intentions with nothing good at its core,” attorney Paul Hermonskie said. “It does not provide the protection my client must have.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is just one of hundreds of protestors who have lined up against the proposal for tapping groundwater aquifers in eastern Nevada. Hermonskie was among several who testified during a closing hearing convened by the Nevada State Engineer’s Office.

Hearings first began in September in which hundreds of documents were submitted and more than 80 people have testified.

At issue is the divisive proposal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to take ground water so it can supply the future needs of customers in the Las Vegas area. As many as 126,000 acre-feet of groundwater would be tapped to fill the proposed 300-mile, $3.5 billion pipeline that proponents say is necessary to keep the tourism industry — and the economy — of Las Vegas and Nevada afloat.
–The Deseret Sun

Canadian report urges higher water prices
Canadian provinces should consider charging higher fees for water to encourage its water-reliant natural resource industries to use the resource more efficiently, a new report suggests.

The natural resource sectors — agriculture, manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, pulp and paper and thermal electricity generation — use more than four litres of water for every litre used by all other sectors combined, including drinking water, said the report released Thursday by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

“And many of them depend on water to do their business,” said Marc Parent, vice-chair of the, round table.
–CBC News

Arsenic, Asian carp and a climate poll

September 6, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get more information.

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

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

They were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not so fast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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