Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota River’

A report card and good news on the Minnesota R.

November 21, 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.

Minnesota environment gets a report card
Walleye and cisco populations are down. Lake trout and brown trout are up. Over the last decade, a fourth of the Minnesota lakes and streams tested for water clarity have gotten better. Nine percent of those water bodies are murkier than they were 10 years ago.

And, even as scientists get around to testing more and more of the state’s surface waters, the share of them that remain too polluted for fishing and swimming or too polluted to support healthy aquatic life remains stubbornly high: 40 percent.

Those are some of the facts in a draft Minnesota Environment and Energy Report Card presented to the Environmental Quality Board. Read the draft report card, which was commissioned by Gov. Mark Dayton. Learn more about the report card and a series of public meetings around the state being held to solicit citizen comments on the report. The meetings begin Nov. 27 in Rochester.

Forum set Dec. 13 on Red River, Lake Winnipeg
Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba receives water draining from four Canadian provinces and for U.S. states, including Minnesota. The lake – the world’s 10th largest – faces serious environmental challenges. Those challenges include algal blooms and depleted oxygen levels resulting from farm fertilizers and other nutrients, invasive species competing with native plants and animals, contamination by new or newly worrisome chemicals of many kinds and the effects of climate change.

Minnesota water bodies in the Red River Basin, including the north-flowing Red River, face the same challenges.
On Thursday, Dec. 13, the Consulate General of Canada will sponsor a free, public forum on the threats facing all those waters and on the work being done – and still needing to be done – to protect them.

The forum at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute is intended for scientists, teachers, students, policy-makers, public officials and anyone interested in learning about the health of the Red River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Watershed.

The forum, which will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Learn more and register. Get directions to the Humphrey Institute.

Phosphorus pollution drops in Minnesota River
Water quality in the last 20 miles of the Minnesota River has improved markedly over the last decade, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced. The improvement in the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water, a key indicator of the river’s ability to support plant, fish and other organisms, is largely the result of tens of millions of dollars spent to reduce phosphorus discharged into the river by sewage treatment plants. Read Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio reports on the MPCA’s announcement of the results of a new round of tests on the river.  Read a Pioneer Press op-ed column by MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine on the new phosphorus results for the river

U of M provides tool for estimating water’s value
If you’ve eaten fish, gone for a boat ride or even taken a drink from the tap, you know clean water is a valuable commodity. But just how valuable? That’s always been a tough question for policy makers to answer as they weigh the worth of clean water against societal needs that compromise it, such as the need to grow food or produce fossil fuels.

Now, however, their ability to do so has been greatly enhanced by a new policy-making framework developed by a team of scientists led by Bonnie Keeler, research associate at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

The framework, published in the Nov. 6 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides a tool for assessing and valuing the many services clean water provides –  from recreation and beauty to navigation and hydropower – and incorporating them into policy decisions.

“After repeated requests for information on the value of water quality, we realized that there was a huge gap between the demand for economic values of water quality and our ability to provide tools to estimate those values. This gap limits our ability to make informed decisions,” Keeler said. “We provide a framework that describes the numerous pathways in which changes in water quality affect our health, recreation and livelihoods and the economic value of those changes. This yields a far more accurate picture of the costs and benefits of decisions.”
–University of Minnesota News Release

EPA criticizes Iowa on livestock pollution
In a draft report, the federal EPA accuses the Iowa Department of Natural Resources of going too easy on livestock feedlots that pollute waters. The EPA said it might step in and take over from the state the responsibility for enforcing the federal Clean Water Act. Read a Des Moines Register report on the EPA’s findings.

Groundwater overused across the globe

August 13, 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.

Groundwater is being overused
Humans are over-exploiting underground water reservoirs in many large agricultural areas in Asia and North America, sucking up water faster than nature can replenish it, according to a recent inventory of global aquifer use.

In a study published in the journal Nature, scientists mapped the “groundwater footprint” of 15 major agricultural regions, including California’s Central Valley. The analysis, which gave spatial representation to rates of water extraction, concluded that the global groundwater footprint was 3.5 times greater than the size of all aquifers combined.

The heavy consumption of groundwater was driven by a handful of areas, according to lead author Tom Gleeson, a civil engineering professor at McGill University in Montreal.

The areas included the Upper Ganges in India and Pakistan, western Mexico, northern Saudi Arabia, Iran, the High Plains of the United States and the North China Plain. Although 80% of the world’s aquifers had a calculated footprint that was smaller than their actual size, these major agricultural regions contributed to a global deficit.
–The Los Angeles Times

Wisconsin takes comment on 5,300-cow dairy 
The DNR has opened public comment on a proposed ‘super dairy’ near the town of Saratoga. The Golden Sands Dairy would be home to 5,300 cows on 8,000 acres of land. The proposal also calls for 49 high capacity wells to irrigate and water the herd and the cropland to feed them. Comments on the farm’s environmental impact statement will be taken through September 21, and you can find out more online.
–WSAU Radio

MPCA Bottle Buyology exhibit promotes recycling 
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s State Fair exhibit this year will examine the 1.5 billion plastic bottles Minnesotans use – and mostly discard without recycling – each year.  Learn more about the MPCA’s Eco Experience planned for the fair.

Carbon credits encourage harmful gases 
When the United Nations wanted to help slow climate change, it established what seemed a sensible system. Greenhouse gases were rated based on their power to warm the atmosphere. The more dangerous the gas, the more that manufacturers in developing nations would be compensated as they reduced their emissions.

But where the United Nations envisioned environmental reform, some manufacturers of gases used in air-conditioning and refrigeration saw a lucrative business opportunity. They quickly figured out that they could earn one carbon credit by eliminating one ton of carbon dioxide, but could earn more than 11,000 credits by simply destroying a ton of an obscure waste gas normally released in the manufacturing of a widely used coolant gas.

That is because that byproduct has a huge global warming effect. The credits could be sold on international markets, earning tens of millions of dollars a year.
–The New York Times

MPCA tests Minnesota River
The lowest summertime flow on the Minnesota River in 24 years is providing a rare opportunity: to compare water quality under similar conditions two decades apart.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been testing the metro end of the river to see whether the oxygen content may have reached dangerously low levels after seven recent months of drought and the second-hottest July on record in the Twin Cities. It’s the first test of its kind since 1988, the last time the river flow in July and August was so meager.

“We still haven’t seen a fish kill, so that’s good news,” said Glenn Skuta, water monitoring manager for the MPCA.

Workers were testing 21 miles of the river last week, from where it enters the Mississippi River at Fort Snelling to near Valley Fair in Shakopee. Test results, which won’t be known for several weeks, will be compared with those from 1988, another legendary hot and dry year.
–The Star Tribune

Research pushes climate change argument
The percentage of the earth’s land surface covered by extreme heat in the summer has soared in recent decades, from less than 1 percent in the years before 1980 to as much as 13 percent in recent years, according to a new scientific paper.

The change is so drastic, the paper says, that scientists can claim with near certainty that events like the Texas heat wave last year, the Russian heat wave of 2010 and the European heat wave of 2003 would not have happened without the planetary warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases.

Those claims, which go beyond the established scientific consensus about the role of climate change in causing weather extremes, were advanced by James E. Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, and two co-authors in a scientific paper published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
–The New York Times

Beverage firms invest in protecting water 
Fifty miles outside the nation’s fourth-largest city is a massive field of waist-high grass, buzzing bees and palm-size butterflies, just waiting to be ripped up by an entrepreneur. Rather than develop this pristine remnant of coastal prairie, vast enough to house more than 300 football fields, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure it remains untouched.

The project is part of the company’s $1.1 million investment in the Nature Conservancy, designed to benefit five Texas watersheds — including Nash Prairie outside of Houston — from which its bottling plants draw water.

The money will go toward preservation work, such as reseeding the grass, to restore and expand an ecosystem that once covered 6 million acres from southwestern Louisiana through Texas. The projects will improve water quality and quantity by preserving the prairies’ sponge-like attributes. But for Dr Pepper and other beverage companies engaged in similar work, the impetus is their bottom line — conserving water guarantees long-term access to the most crucial ingredient in their products.
–The Associated Press

 

MPCA to test Minnesota River’s health

August 2, 2012

On Friday – Aug. 3 – the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will take advantage of unusually low water in the Minnesota River to begin a week’s worth of testing of the effectiveness of improvements in sewage treatment plants along the river.

Read an MPCA news release about the effort to measure dissolved oxygen in the river water.

A 2004 anti-pollution plan set new standards requiring sewage treatment plants to cut phosphorus discharges by 40 percent. Wastewater treatment plants are already meeting their 2015 reduced phosphorus discharge goals, according to MPCA researchers.

The river monitoring to begin Friday will test whether the phosphorus reductions are achieving the desired effect of keeping the river’s oxygen levels healthy for fish and other organisms.

October 24, 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.

Thousands of oceans just light years away
Water is everywhere on Earth, but nobody has ever been able to determine conclusively how it got here. Scientists know that the early Earth was far too hot to hold water or water vapor, but then, in relatively short geological time, the oceans appeared.

In a discovery that researchers say sheds important new light on that age-old question, a European team reported that it has found a very cold reservoir of water vapor in space that could explain where the water came from.

The region they discovered is at the outer reaches of a dusty disk surrounding a star 175 light-years away. The star and disk are in the early stages of forming planets, much as Earth was formed some 4.5 billion years ago.

The scientists’ conclusion from the new finding: Life-giving H2O was almost certainly delivered to Earth via comets and asteroids known to originate in these cold but water-filled zones, which were assumed to also be present when our solar system was forming.
–The Washington Post

Oct. 25 deadline for $500 clean-up contest
Do you want to reduce urban runoff and pollution that flow into lakes and rivers? Do you have a good idea for how you and your friends and neighbors could work together to clean up soil, grass clippings and leaves from streets and storm drains? And could you use $500?

Then we have a contest for you.

The Freshwater Society and InCommons are sponsoring a Work For Water “micro challenge” that will award two $500 prizes for the best short-term community projects to protect our waters from the pollution found in the leaves, grass and soil that wash into streets. Enter here.

In addition to the two statewide prizes, a grant from the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation, will provide two additional $500 prizes for the best ideas coming from entrants in the 14 counties the foundation serves in Central Minnesota.

Fred Kirschenmann photo

Fred Kirschenmann

Lecture on water and ag set Nov. 10
Don’t miss the Nov. 10 free public lecture on water and the future of agriculture by Fred Kirschenmann, a national leader in the organic food and farming movement.

His lecture, sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, is the sixth in a series. It will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, in the theater of the Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus. Seating is limited. Please register to reserve your place.

There are lots of ways to describe Kirschenmann: philosopher, farmer, author and advocate. Since 2000, he has been the director or a distinguished fellow at Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He also is president of the board of directors of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. He wrote Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher, published in 2010 by the University Press of Kentucky. This year, he was honored by the James Beard Foundation for “lifelong work on sustainable food and farming systems.”

View video of past lectures in the Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources.

DNA evidence puts Asian carp in Twin Cities
Water samples from the Mississippi River downstream from the Ford Dam in Minneapolis have tested positive for genetic material from silver carp, indicating the invasive Asian species may be present in the Twin Cities stretch of the river, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Known as environmental DNA (eDNA) testing, the results are a chemical indication that some silver carp are in the river, but they do not provide any information on the possible number of fish present, their size or whether they are breeding.

The Mississippi River eDNA testing was conducted in September by the National Park Service and the DNR after similar testing in June indicated the presence of silver carp in the St. Croix River.

The DNR will immediately hire a commercial fisherman to begin netting and searching for Asian carp below the Ford Dam, also known as Lock and Dam 1. No Asian carp were discovered this summer in the St. Croix River after a nine-day search by DNR biologists and a commercial fisherman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean some fish aren’t present.

“The eDNA tests are very sensitive, but they can only tell us that DNA is present in the water,” said Tim Schlagenhaft, Mississippi River biologist. “In other states where DNA testing has resulted in positive samples, the fish have proven very difficult to subsequently capture, and we expect this to the case in the Mississippi River if the fish are in present in low numbers.”

In the most recent round of Mississippi River eDNA testing, 14 of 49 samples were positive for silver carp.

Read Pioneer Press and Star Tribune reports on the new test results. Read a q-and-a interview with Schlagenhaft published in the October Freshwater Society newsletter.
–DNR News Release

Drainage blamed for Minnesota R. flow increase
A comprehensive new study pinpoints agriculture — specifically, half a century of artificial field drainage — as the primary force behind the massive runoff of sediment that is adding pollution to the Mississippi River and threatening the future of Lake Pepin.

The study, presented at a conference in St. Paul, identifies with new precision the sources of sediment that is slowly filling in Lake Pepin, one of the state’s recreational jewels, and coursing down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, where it contributes to a massive “dead zone” that cannot sustain aquatic life.

Scientists said it’s the latest in a growing body of evidence indicating that transformation of the land from prairie and wetlands to corn and soybeans — not, as some have argued, more rain and natural erosion — has accelerated the rate of sedimentation.

“It’s the weight of the evidence,” said Peter Wilcock, a geography professor from Johns Hopkins University.
He was not involved the study but attended the University of Minnesota’s annual Water Resources Center conference, where it was presented.
–The Star Tribune

DNR questions Christmas Lake gate
A new electronic gate — installed at a cost of $30,000 — is ready to drop its arm across the public boat ramp on Christmas Lake in Shorewood, if the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources approves its use in an experiment aimed at stopping the spread of zebra mussels.

“The next boating season is just seven months away. So there is no let up on the urgency,” said Joe Shneider, president of the Christmas Lake homeowners association.

Residents around Christmas Lake, as well as Lotus Lake and Lake Minnewashta in Chanhassen, want to work with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to require all boats launching at the lakes to first pass inspections for aquatic invasive species. But the plan would require boaters to travel to a centralized inspection point before entering the lakes, and the DNR says there’s no legal way to compel them.

As a first-of-its-kind grass-roots attempt to let boats launch into a lake only after an inspection — and to close ramps outside of inspection hours — the proposal is being watched by lake associations around the state and by anglers, some of whom oppose more ramp controls.
–The Star Tribune

Opinion: EPA chief rips Republican critics
Read a Los Angeles Times op-ed commentary in which Lisa Jackson accuses Congressional Republicans of trying to cripple regulation of air and water pollution. She writes:

“Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation’s environmental laws… Using the economy as cover, and repeating unfounded claims that “regulations kill jobs,”  they have pushed through an unprecedented rollback of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and our nation’s waste-disposal laws, all of which have successfully protected our families for decades. We all remember “too big to fail”; this pseudo jobs plan to protect polluters might well be called “too dirty to fail.”

Opinion: Farm Bill should retain conservation
Read a Des Moines Register editorial on the federal Farm Bill. It calls on Congress to maintain some spending for conservation programs, and to make conservation compliance a requirement for subsidized crop insurance. Freshwater Society President Gene Merriam makes the same argument about crop insurance in Freshwater’s current newsletter.

Legacy money eyed for a stadium
A Republican leader says some of his colleagues in the Minnesota Legislature are considering a plan that would rely on a portion of the state’s Legacy funds to pay for a new Vikings Stadium.

It’s an option they say must be considered as Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers continue to discuss how to pay for a stadium. Other options include ticket taxes, a sports memorabilia tax, slot machines at the state’s horse tracks or a new casino in downtown Minneapolis.

But critics say voters didn’t intend to use that money for professional sports stadiums when they approved a higher sales tax in 2008.

“I certainly think that taking a look at the Legacy money to fund a stadium is something that should be on the table,” said Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, an assistant Majority Leader in the Minnesota House.

There isn’t an organized effort by legislative leaders to tap the Legacy funds yet, Daudt said. But there is increasing talk among members and GOP staff that this may be the only way that the Republican-controlled House and Senate pass a Vikings stadium bill.

Daudt said the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund could generate about $50 million annually to finance the stadium. He said that would be enough to pay both the state’s and Ramsey County’s share but is unsure if that would be the plan.

“You certainly can’t argue that the Minnesota Vikings and these sports teams in the state of Minnesota aren’t a part of the state’s heritage and certainly part of the state’s legacy,” Daudt said
–Minnesota Public Radio

‘Wonder fish’ to environmental pariah
The Asian carp infesting the major rivers of America didn’t sneak into the country in the ballast of ocean freighters, as so many invasive species have. They didn’t slowly invade through freighter locks and into the Great Lakes, as the sea lamprey did.

Decades ago, federal and state officials purposefully imported carp, which they believed were “the wonder fish.”

The carp were imported because officials were eager to find a safer way than chemicals to control weeds, algae, sewage and parasites. Grass carp eat as much as three times their body weight in weeds each day, replacing the toxic chemicals commonly used for weed control.

But during the past four decades, not only have the Asian carp escaped into the wild, they also have expanded their reign to rivers and lakes across America — as state and federal officials have stood idly by.
–The Cleveland Plain Dealer

China faces groundwater pollution
More than half of the groundwater monitored in 182 Chinese cities by the Ministry of Land and Resources was classified as bad, meaning the health of individuals could be harmed, the China Daily reported, citing a report by the ministry.

Groundwater at 57.2 percent of the 4,110 monitoring stations in 182 cities was classified as bad last year, the newspaper reported. The quality of groundwater in most northern and eastern parts of China was worse last year than it was in 2009, according to the report. The ministry’s report didn’t identify locations, according to the newspaper.

Household sewage, industrial pollution, and the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides has caused further deterioration of groundwater, the newspaper reported, citing Ma Chaode, former director of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s fresh-water program in China.
–Bloomberg

EPA approves strict Oregon standards
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved Oregon’s new standards for toxic water pollution, the strictest in the United States.

The new standards, approved by the EPA’s Seattle office, are designed to protect tribal members and others who eat large amounts of contaminated fish.

Oregon’s current water quality standards are built on an assumption that people eat 17.5 grams of fish a day, about a cracker’s worth and typical of most states. The proposed standard boosts that to 175 grams a day, just shy of an 8-ounce meal.

The change dramatically tightens Oregon’s human health criteria for a host of pollutants, including mercury, flame retardants, PCBs, dioxins, plasticizers and pesticides.

That could boost cost for industry such as paper mills and for municipal sewage treatment plants, increasing sewer rates.
–The Portland Oregonian

Cost rises for ‘Erin Brockovich’ clean-up
PG&E Corp. said that replacing underground drinking water in Hinkley, Calif., that was contaminated by utility operations decades ago will cost much more than the $54 million the company had set aside for the project.

The town’s underground drinking water supply was contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing chemical, after PG&E’s utility used the substance at its natural gas pumping station there to control algae and protect metal equipment from rust.
The groundwater problem in Hinkley was made famous by the film “Erin Brockovich.”

Last week, the state agency overseeing the cleanup of Hinkley’s contaminated groundwater ordered PG&E to provide a new, permanent source of drinking water to Hinkley residents. Rather than continue to supply bottled water to residents, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board for the Lahontan Region told PG&E it would have to provide a permanent water replacement system for all properties served by wells that are near an underground plume of hexavalent chromium and that have been “impacted” by the plume.
–Fox Business

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

 

Merriam calls for ‘cultural shift’ on water

January 25, 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.

Merriam calls for ‘cultural shift’ on water 
Most Minnesotans no longer think it is OK to smoke in the office or in other places where their secondhand smoke will affect non-smokers. And most Minnesotans now accept the minor inconvenience of buckling up their seatbelts as a small price to pay for the safety the belts provide.

In a commentary published by Minnpost.com, an on-line news source, Freshwater Society President Gene Merriam reflects on the “cultural shift” he says has occurred in recent decades in the way people view smoking and seatbelt use.

Merriam says he and the Freshwater Society are working to bring about a similar cultural shift in attitudes toward water protection and conservation.

 He concludes that – as with smoking restrictions and requirements for seatbelt use – we eventually will need more government regulation to enforce that protection and conservation of water resources. 

MPCA won’t renew controversial dairy’s permit
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says it won’t re-issue a permit for the Excel Dairy farm in northwestern Minnesota, in effect shutting it down, but that doesn’t mean the foul-smelling and overflowing manure pits will be cleaned up anytime soon.

 The state has been unable to get the farm, near Thief River Falls, to obey state law, for three years. Excel Dairy has been in violation of state law almost from the moment it opened in 2005.

The operators had more cows in the barn than they should have, they built a feed pad without permission, and they tried methods of treating manure that weren’t approved. They also ignored orders to repair and empty manure ponds and failed to cover manure ponds that can hold 33 million gallons of manure.

Neighbors for more than a mile around have been enduring extremely high levels of hydrogen sulfide. That’s the rotten egg smell no one likes to encounter.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Wisconsin approves dairy expansion
A Wisconsin dairy farm has been given permission to double its herd despite environmentalists’ concerns that manure might poison groundwater supplies.

The Department of Natural Resources approved a permit by Fon du Lac County’s Rosendale Dairy to expand its herd from 4,000 to 8,000 cows, making it Wisconsin’s largest dairy operation, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Rosendale told the newspaper the expansion represents an investment of more than $70 million.

But an attorney for the environmental group Clean Wisconsin sees the approval of Rosendale’s expansion as a step toward more large dairy farms, the Journal Sentinel said.
–United Press International

 Amendment money not raided for deficit, group says
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Minnesota Legislature kept faith with voters last year when they approved the first round of conservation funding under the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, a review by a key conservation group says.

 In a report, Conservation Minnesota said Pawlenty and legislators followed a constitutional requirement that amendment funds raised by a sales-tax increase not be used as a substitute for general-fund spending.

 The amendment approved by voters in 2008 said, in part, that “money under this section must supplement traditional sources of funding for these purposes and may not be used as a substitute.”

 Still, with the governor and lawmakers looking to solve a projected $4.6 billion budget deficit last session, environmental and outdoors interests feared they might disproportionately cut spending for such places as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the state Department of Natural Resources. 

The report, however, said cuts to general-fund spending at the MPCA and the DNR were “roughly proportionate to those of the overall state budget.”
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Ramsey looks to soil to save water
Quality dirt has become a consuming issue in Ramsey in recent years. It’s drawn the attention of city commissions, staff and elected leaders, who have mulled over what kind of topsoil to require in new developments. The goal?  To save water by reducing the need for lawn and garden irrigation on lots where new homes or buildings go up.

 Black dirt containing organic material holds water so that it doesn’t drain as quickly through Ramsey’s sandy soil, which is part of the underlying Anoka Sand Plain. The city erected a new water tower last year and doesn’t want to build another anytime soon.
– The Star Tribune

Last decade sets warmth record, NASA says
The decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record, new surface temperature figures released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration show.

The agency also found that 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when modern temperature measurement began. The warmest year was 2005. The other hottest recorded years have all occurred since 1998, NASA said.

James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that global temperatures varied because of changes in ocean heating and cooling cycles. “When we average temperature over 5 or 10 years to minimize that variability,” said Dr. Hansen, one of the world’s leading climatologists, “we find global warming is continuing unabated.”
–The New York Times

U.N. climate change panel admits error
For many Indians, the most powerful and urgent reason to battle global warming arose from a report warning that the Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035.

But that prediction was an error, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which authored the report, said.

Speaking publicly on the issue for the first time ,Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning panel, said the mistake occurred because rigorous procedures for scientific review were not followed. He promised a more robust research system in the future. 

But he said the blunder should not detract from a sense of urgency over the need for action on a crisis that threatens the entire planet. “I hope that people around the world are not going to be distracted by this error. Climate change is not only limited to what will happen to the Himalayan glaciers,” he said.
–The Washington Post 

Signs of life in the Minnesota River
The Minnesota River contains less phosphorus, a whole lot more fish, less sediment and is seeing a rebound in the otter population.

But nitrate levels haven’t improved much, if at all, mussel populations are just holding steady, and the amount of prairie land continues to dwindle.

Those are some of the conclusions in a first-ever trends report recently completed by the Water Resources Center, Minnesota State University and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Scott Kudelka of the Water Resources Center said they pulled various data and research together to get a big picture of what’s happening in the 335-mile-long river. To read the full report, click here.

–The Mankato Free Press 

Asian carp DNA found in Lake Michigan
Genetic material from the Asian carp, a voracious invasive species long feared to be nearing the Great Lakes,  has been identified for the first time at a harbor within Lake Michigan, near the Illinois-Indiana border, ecologists and federal officials said. 

A second DNA match was found in a river in Illinois within a half-mile of the lake, according to scientists at the University of Notre Dame who tested water samples and provided the results to officials. 

Experts said the most recent findings, from Calumet Harbor and the Calumet River, could mean that the carp has found its way beyond an elaborate barrier system built at the cost of millions of dollars to prevent the fish’s access to the Great Lakes and its delicate ecosystem, where it has no natural competitors and would threaten the life of native fish populations.
–The New York Times

Silverfin (a.k.a. Asian carp) coming to a store near you
Building off a state-developed marketing plan, a group of Louisiana-based companies has started a joint venture that will put Asian carp on retail shelves within weeks.

The fish are being marketed as silverfin, the name it was given in a marketing plan developed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The agency is promoting recreational and commercial applications of an invasive fish that has caused huge problems for boaters in northern states.

Rather than poisoning the fish to get rid of them like northern states have done, wildlife officials are opting to make them an appetizing meal.
–National Public Radio

Volunteers worth $8.8 million to Minnesota DNR
More than 32,000 citizens donated services valued at $8.8 million during 2009 to assist the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources with a variety of projects and programs. That’s the equivalent of an extra 209 full-time staff. 

DNR managers, professionals and technicians work alongside volunteers to help manage the state’s diverse natural resources. 

“We’re fortunate to have so many dedicated Minnesotans who are willing to donate their time and talents for conservation projects,” said Renée Vail, DNR volunteer programs administrator. “We’re extremely grateful for their efforts. Many of our projects would not be possible without their help.” 

Volunteer positions can range from specialist jobs requiring extensive skill and experience to work requiring little or no previous experience.
–Minnesota DNR news release

Florida cold snap saps groundwater
An uneasy truce could be struck in the impending groundwater rift between agitated Plant City area residents whose wells have run dry and the strawberry farmers who sucked the water out of the ground to keep their crops from freezing during this month’s unusually long cold spell.

 Over the past week, about 400 small, private wells around the strawberry fields of Plant City have dried up. 

Some residents have been forced to move from their homes; others have resorted to running hoses to neighbors’ homes for drinking water. Families are showing up at fire stations for water rations. One woman has had to carry water for her horses.

 Anger is growing among some of the residents, even though strawberry farmers must pay for new wells or well repairs under their water-use permit with the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

 Still, the inconvenience of living without running water is irking people, who have accused big growers of ignoring their neighbors to make a profit. Growers have said they also stand to lose money after the unusually long freeze and had no other choice but to run sprinklers all night to save their crops.
–The Tampa Tribune 

Maryland chicken farm resists testing
A month after environmental groups alleged that an Eastern Shore chicken farm was polluting a Chesapeake Bay tributary, state regulators have yet to test the fouled waterway or the pile of sewage sludge said to be contaminating it, officials have acknowledged.

Robert M. Summers, deputy secretary of the environment, said the owner of the farm near Berlin has refused to allow inspectors to take samples of the pile or of the water in a drainage ditch running through his property. Summers said the department had mailed the farmer a letter Friday and warned that the state would seek a search warrant if he did not permit sampling.

The disclosure that no testing has been done on the farm comes after a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment told reporters more than two weeks ago that inspectors had collected samples and that most of the sludge pile had been removed to a local landfill. Dawn Stoltzfus, the spokeswoman, confirmed last week that both statements were in error after the environmental groups alleged the department had given out inaccurate information.
–The Baltimore Sun

Radioactive water found at Vermont nuke plant
A day after contaminated water was found in a test well at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, company officials announced finding wastewater containing high levels of radioactivity, news outlets are reporting.

The water, reportedly about 100 gallons, was contaminated with radioactive tritium at a concentration of about 2 million picocuries per liter, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told the Brattleboro Reformer. That’s about 100 times the allowable federal level for drinking water and 70 times the standard for groundwater.
–USA Today

Gray water, revived rivers, and a new day for Venetian tap water

June 15, 2009

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

Mussel revival targets Mississippi
Federal divers waded into the Mississippi River looking for signs of life. Finding the winged mapleleaf mussels that had been planted last fall downstream from the Ford Dam would give hope that even sensitive native species can once again survive there.

“Forty or fifty years ago you couldn’t find anything alive in this section of the river, let alone think about reintroducing an endangered species here,” said Byron Karns, biologist for the National Park Service.

Karns and another diver swam parallel upstream, feeling their way along the murky bottom about 25 feet from shore and towing a float with a bright orange safety flag. They were looking for two containers, each about the size of a salad-mixing bowl. Each held five winged mapleleaf mussels — named for a small extension of the shell that resembles a wing — that scientists had helped to propagate and nurture since late 2004.
–The Star Tribune

Venice promotes l’acqua del sindaco
In this hot and noble city, discarded water bottles float by gondolas on the edges of the canals and spill out of trash cans on the majestic Piazza San Marco. Because Venice has no roads, trash must be collected on foot at enormous expense. And while plastic bottles can in principle be recycled, the process still unleashes greenhouse gases.

Italians are the leading consumers of bottled water in the world, drinking more than 40 gallons per person annually. But as their environmental consciousness deepens, officials here are avidly promoting what was previously unthinkable: that Italians should drink tap water.

For decades bottled water has been the norm on European tables, although tap water in many, if not most, cities is suitable for drinking. Since the 1980s, the bottled water habit has also taken hold in the United States, prompting cities from New York to San Francisco to wage public education campaigns to encourage the use of tap water to reduce plastic waste.
–The New York Times

Groundwater sends mercury to sea, fish
Groundwater flowing into the ocean may be a significant source of a highly toxic form of mercury, University of California scientists say.

The group headed by researchers at UC Santa Cruz found high levels of methylmercury in underwater flows at Stinson Beach in Marin County, north of San Francisco, and at Elkhorn Slough in Monterey County, south of San Francisco.

The study suggests that groundwater may be as big a source of mercury in coastal waters as mercury deposited from atmospheric pollution.

Methylmercury accumulates in the food chain, leading to levels in some sea food that can be dangerous if too much is consumed.

“The big question for public health is, ‘Where is all the mercury in seafood coming from?’” says coauthor Russell Flegal, a professor of environmental toxicology at UC Santa Cruz. “What we have shown is that methylmercury is coming from groundwater in California at surprisingly high levels.”
–United Press International

WA farmers object to water rights transfer
Conservation groups and farmers are opposing a June 11 decision by the Washington Department of Ecology to approve a water rights transfer for a proposed large feedlot on dry land near the small town of Eltopia, about 75 miles east of Yakima, according to a June 12 Associated Press (AP) report.

Easterday Ranches Inc., one of the largest feedlot operators in the Northwest, has said the proposed feedlot, which it hopes to begin building later this summer, could accommodate as many as 30,000 cattle at peak operation. The feedlot still requires a state air quality permit.

The Department of Ecology approved the water rights transfer for the project from a neighboring farm that used 316 acre-feet of water annually to irrigate potatoes, blue grass and winter wheat. The department estimated that a feedlot of 30,000 cattle would consume more than 500,000 gallons of water daily.
–Water Tech Online

Congress urged to protect fish from drugs
Pollution experts pressed a congressional panel for stronger action to keep pharmaceuticals and other contaminants out of the water, saying they are hurting fish and may threaten human health.

Thomas P. Fote, a New Jersey conservationist who sits on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, said the pollutants are damaging commercial fisheries. He told congressmen not to “study a problem to death and never do anything.”

Fote appeared in a lineup of witnesses before the subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife of the House Natural Resources Committee. The witnesses pointed to research showing damage to fish and other aquatic species from pharmaceuticals, pesticides and other industrial chemicals, especially those that alter growth-regulating endocrine systems. Some scientists worry about the potential of similar harm to humans.
–The Associated Press

Report released on endocrine disruptors
The Endocrine Society — conducting its annual meeting in Washington, DC, — has released a 50+ page detailed Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals.

According to the EPA, endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mimic a natural hormone, fool the body into over-responding to the stimulus (e.g., thyroid hormone that results in hyperthyroidism), or respond at inappropriate times (e.g., producing thyroid hormone when it is not needed). Other endocrine disrupting chemicals block the effects of a hormone from certain receptors (e.g. thyroid hormones required for normal development). Still others directly stimulate or inhibit the endocrine system and cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones (e.g. an over or underactive thyroid). Certain drugs are used to intentionally cause some of these effects, such as birth control pills. In many situations involving environmental chemicals, however, an endocrine effect is not desirable.

American endocrinologists have not formally weighed in on the issue in depth until the release of the statement. You can download a free copy of this PDF document online now.
–Endocrine Society news release

Recycling gray water cheaply, safely
A severe drought out West continues to threaten farms, fish, and water supplies to nearly everyone. Tighter water restrictions went into effect this month in much of Southern California, and the federal government issued a directive that could cut water delivery to farmers and residents in the state by 7 percent.

But some believe California is missing out on a key conservation method that’s already available.

Susan Carpenter breaks California state plumbing code three times a week. Her accomplice is her washing machine. Rinse water from washing machines usually goes into the sewer — so what if you could recycle it? That’s what Carpenter does, using it to water plants at her Southern California home.
–National Public Radio

German scientists distill water from air
Not a plant to be seen, the desert ground is too dry. But the air contains water, and research scientists have found a way of obtaining drinking water from air humidity. The system is based completely on renewable energy and is therefore autonomous.

Cracks permeate the dried-out desert ground, the landscape bears testimony to the lack of water. But even here, where there are no lakes, rivers or groundwater, considerable quantities of water are stored in the air. In the Negev desert in Israel, for example, annual average relative air humidity is 64 percent – in every cubic meter of air there are 11.5 milliliters of water.

Research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart working in conjunction with their colleagues from the company Logos Innovationen have found a way of converting this air humidity autonomously and decentrally into drinkable water.
–Science Daily

St. Croix River case goes to Supreme Court
Broadcasting executive Rob Hubbard’s new house on the St. Croix River is finished and his family has moved in, but his three-year fight with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources isn’t over.

The Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Hubbard’s case last week.

“This case is about property rights,” Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea said. “It is a big deal. It’s a really big deal.”

The DNR asked the Supreme Court to review a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling that favored Hubbard.

Hubbard bought a 3.8-acre parcel on the river in Lakeland for $1.6 million in April 2006. He planned to knock down a small cabin on the property and build a much larger house on the cabin’s footprint. He asked for and received permission from Lakeland officials to set the footprint of the house closer to the bluff line than rules allow.

But that fall, officials from the DNR, which manages the federally protected scenic riverway, refused to sign off on the variances granted by Lakeland. According to the DNR, any new house must be built 40 feet from the bluff line.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Gray water use now legal in Oregon
Reusing bath, laundry and sink water used to be illegal in eco-friendly Oregon, but no more.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a bill today that makes it OK to replumb your house to capture so-called “gray water” as a way to save water and dollars.

“This will allow us to water our garden with our bath water. It’s very simple,” said Brenna Bell, a citizen activist working to change state codes that block environmental practices
–Oregonlive.com

Water is the next carbon
Move over, carbon, the next shoe to drop in the popular awareness of eco-issues is the “water footprint.”

That’s the word in environmental circles these days. Just as the image of a heavy carbon foot made it possible for the masses to grasp the power of carbon-dioxide emissions, water footprint is the phrase now drawing attention to the impact of human behavior regarding water.

“H2O is the next CO2,” says Nicholas Eisenberger, managing principal of GreenOrder, a consulting firm that specializes in sustainable business. As a phrase, water footprint “will probably move more quickly through the public mind as it catches on,” he says, because water is more tangible than carbon.
–The Christian Science Monitor

Minnesota River making a comeback
One of the best parts of this job is “discovering” some unsung Minnesota treasure and singing its praises.

In some cases, the intent is to prod St. Paul policymakers to lift a finger to see that the treasure survives for future generations.

Yet the case already has been made — often — to preserve the Minnesota River. My plea here is for more Minnesotans to consider this river’s fishery. It is truly unsung, amazing and worth improving upon.

Remarkably, paddlefish are returning in these waters, which once were an open sewer for river communities and industry. Another returnee and pollution-sensitive species, lake sturgeon, is increasingly being caught. Giant flathead catfish in excess of 50 pounds are beginning to lure anglers from as far as Texas.
– St. Paul Pioneer Press

US. Canada agree to re-open negotiations on Great Lakes Pact
Canada and the U.S. have agreed to renegotiate their pact on protecting the Great Lakes.

In her first trip to Canada since becoming the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton met with Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon on  Saturday to announce the reopening of the Great Lakes agreement, which was created in 1972 and last amended 22 years ago.

The move is being cheered by environmentalists and politicians who say the Great Lakes agreement is in desperate need of an overhaul to deal with growing and new threats such as invasive species and climate change.
–The Hamilton Spectator

EPA plans public meeting on Cass Lake cleanup
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public meeting June 23 to update Cass Lake residents on the development of cleanup plans for ground water at the former St. Regis Paper wood treatment facility. The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m., at Leech Lake Tribal College, Room 100, A-Wing, 113 Balsam N.W., Cass Lake.

The EPA is working with International Paper Co. and BNSF, as well as the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, to develop options to permanently reduce health risks at the Superfund  site.  A feasibility study to evaluate a number of options is under way.

Once the study is complete, EPA will propose a recommended approach and present it to area residents. A public hearing will likely occur in late 2009 or early 2010.  The June 23 meeting will provide a progress report and give citizens an opportunity to ask questions of EPA and its partners.

The St. Regis Paper Superfund site was a wood treatment facility that operated from about 1958 to 1985.  The site was initially cleaned up in the 1980s by its former owner, Champion International.  International Paper is the current property owner and continues to treat groundwater from the site.

For more information, go to www.epa.gov/region5/sites/stregis/.
–U.S. EPA news release

In Massachusetts and elsewhere, beavers are back
The dozens of public works officials, municipal engineers, conservation agents and others who crowded into a meeting room here one recent morning needed help. Property in their towns was flooding, they said. Culverts were clogged. Septic tanks were being overwhelmed.

We have a huge problem,” said David Pavlik, an engineer for the town of Lexington, Mass. where dams built by beavers have sent water flooding into the town’s sanitary sewers. “We trapped them,” he said. “We breached their dam. Nothing works. We are looking for long-term solutions.”

Mary Hansen, a conservation agent from Maynard, said it starkly: “There are beavers everywhere.”
–The New York Times

Georgia declares end to two-year drought
Georgia lifted tough outdoor water restrictions and declared an end to the drought that has gripped much of the state since late 2007.

The move takes effect immediately.

“This drought has ended,” Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch said. “Our water supplies are flush. Our rivers and streams have rebounded.”

At a meeting of the State Drought Response Committee, Couch said that Georgia is moving to non-drought water rules. Homeowners can now water their lawns three days a week, based on whether they have an odd or even street addresses.
–Rome News-Tribune


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