The Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.
Suits challenge Chesapeake Bay clean-up plan
Read a good Washinton Post update on the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to force states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to enact major pollution-reduction changes as part of a Total Maximum Daily Load plan. The Post article by Darryl Fears focuses on the litigation – from both left and the right – challenging the EPA plan.
Several environmental groups recently filed suit, alleging that the EPA could not adequately monitor a pollution-credit trading program aimed at reducing agriculture fertilizers flowing into the bay. The plan also is being challenged by the Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of Home Builders. That litigation alleges only the states, not the EPA, have authority to require pollution reductions.
Presentations available from Metro Water Summit
About 70 people – representatives of lake and creek groups, citizens, business owners, and water resource professionals — packed into a conference room Nov. 7 at the Eisenhower Community Center in Hopkins to hear about and discuss the latest important water resource issues and to network with like-minded folks. The event, the Metro Water Summit, was sponsored by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and organized by the Freshwater Society.
View slides from three presentations.
Groundwater clean-up costs are huge
The prestigious National Research Council, part of the National Academy of Science, has tried to put a number on the cost of cleaning up contaminated groundwater in the U.S., and it’s a big number. The council, in a new report, estimates it would cost more than $110 billion to clean up 126,000 contaminated sites. Read the report.
Wisconsin court weighs groundwater case
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials say a court decision could determine ways in which it can regulate groundwater usage affecting streams such as the Little Plover River.
But DNR officials say they don’t plan to wait for that to find solutions.
Water scientists say the river is drying up because farmers and other users of high-capacity wells in the area are drawing too much water from the river.
–The Wisconsin Rapids Tribune
Urban runoff costly for California cities
Cities in Los Angeles County face spending billions of dollars to clean up the dirty urban runoff that washes pollution into drains and coastal waters under storm water regulations approved by the regional water board.
Despite more than two decades of regulation, runoff remains the leading cause of water pollution in Southern California, prompting beach closures and bans on eating fish caught in Santa Monica Bay.
The runoff — whether from heavy winter rains or sprinkler water spilling down the gutter — is tainted by a host of contaminants from thousands of different places: bacteria from pet waste, copper from auto brake pads, toxics from industrial areas, pesticides and fertilizer from lawns.
“Municipal wastewater treatment has made incredible strides over the past 20 or 30 years, and other sources of pollution have been well controlled,” said John Kemmerer, regional associate water director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Clean Water Act. “It really comes down now to urban runoff.”
–The Los Angeles Times
Shell, Sunoco to pay New Hampshire $35 million
New Hampshire reached a $35 million settlement with Shell Oil Co. and Sunoco Inc. of a lawsuit over claims that the gasoline refiners and manufacturers used chemicals that contaminated groundwater.
The state sued a number of oil companies in 2003, charging that they knew the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) would pollute water supplies, state Attorney General Michael Delaney said in a statement.
“My office will continue to hold oil companies responsible for their role in causing groundwater contamination in this state,” Delaney said. “This is a substantial recovery that will be used to clean up contaminated groundwaters throughout New Hampshire.”
A trial against the other remaining defendants, which include Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), ConocoPhillips (COP), Irving Oil Ltd., Citgo Petroleum Corp. and Vitol SA, is set to begin in Concord, New Hampshire, in January. It may last three to four months.
Scientists model road salt’s effects on concrete
Swedish scientists have studied models to help road and bridge maintenance engineers work out how much damage salting the roads in winter might cause to steel-reinforced concrete structures.
As the winter draws in, road safety becomes paramount especially in northern climes where icy roads are a perennial problem for motorists. Gritting and salting the roads can help reduce road traffic accidents but the use of salt, which contains chloride, comes at a price. Corrosive chloride ions can penetrate into porous concrete and reach the metal reinforcements within, leading to corrosion after months or years of use.
Luping Tang of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, at Chalmers University of Technology, in Gothenburg, Sweden and his colleague Dr Anders Lindvall of the Central Laboratory, at Thomas Concrete Group AB also in Gothenburg, have looked at the effects of exposure to road salt de-icing over a 10 year and a 25-30 year service period in computer simulations of chloride ingress into concrete structures. The models simulate heavy traffic moving at speed over such structures.
Writing in the International Journal of Structural Engineering, the team explains that, “Chloride induced corrosion of reinforcement in concrete is still one of the main concerns regarding durability and service life of reinforced concrete structures.
GMO labeling rejected in California
A measure that would have required most foods made with genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled in California lost early Wednesday (Nov. 6).
Supporters of Proposition 37 said consumers have a right to know whether food has been genetically altered, particularly when the long-term health impacts are unclear. Opponents argued that the labels would stigmatize foods that are scientifically proven to be safe.
With 100 percent the precincts reporting, voters rejected the proposed labeling law by six percentage points. California would have been the first state in the nation to pass such an initiative.
“We said from the beginning that the more voters learned about Prop. 37, the less they would like it,” said Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the opposition. “We didn’t think they would like the lawsuits, more bureaucracy, higher costs, loopholes and exemptions. It looks like they don’t.”
–The San Francisco Chronicle
Some begin to re-think beach replenishment
For more than a century, for good or ill, New Jersey has led the nation in coastal development. Many of the barrier islands along its coast have long been lined by rock jetties, concrete sea walls or other protective armor. Most of its coastal communities have beaches only because engineers periodically replenish them with sand pumped from offshore.
Now much of that sand is gone. Though reports are still preliminary, coastal researchers say that when Hurricane Sandy came ashore, it washed enormous quantities of sand off beaches and into the streets — or even all the way across barrier islands into the bays behind them.
But even as these towns clamor for sand, scientists are warning that rising seas will make maintaining artificial beaches prohibitively expensive or simply impossible. Even some advocates of artificial beach nourishment now urge new approaches to the issue, especially in New Jersey.
–The New York Times
China buying water rights in Japan
Morihiro Oguma’s phone rang every day with calls from brokers representing foreign investors who wanted to buy his Japan Mineral water-bottling business.
“In many cases, I was told I could name my price,” Oguma said in an interview, adding he had no interest in selling the Hokkaido-based company. “It seems what they really wanted was our rights to groundwater.”
A two-decade slump in Japan’s real estate prices, an incomplete land registry and lax rules on buying forest with water rights are attracting investors led by China and come amid a fraying of ties between the two countries over a territorial dispute. Some areas of remote woodland in Japan, the only country in the Asia-Pacific region that doesn’t regulate property investment by foreigners, can be bought for 60 U.S. cents a square meter including groundwater.
Japan, whose population is shrinking, ranks in the top 10 percent of countries by water resources, while China and India, with the opposite demographic trend, will face shortages from 2030, according to a United Nations report in August. Almost half of China’s economy is already based in water-scarce regions, HSBC Holdings Plc said in a Sept. 12 report.