EPA chief Lisa P. Jackson announces a tougher effort to enforce water quality rules. An Illinois man, confronted with a river full of jumping Asian carp, develops a new sport: extreme aerial bow fishing. And cleaner air sometimes means dirtier water, the New York Times reports in the latest installment in its Toxic Waters series. Follow the links to read those articles and more.
EPA chief pledges stepped-up water enforcement
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing that the agency is stepping up its efforts on Clean Water Act enforcement.
The Clean Water Action Enforcement Plan is a first step in revamping the compliance and enforcement program. It seeks to improve the protection of our nation’s water quality, raise the bar in federal and state performance and enhance public transparency.
“The safety of the water that we use in our homes — the water we drink and give to our children — is of paramount importance to our health and our environment. Having clean and safe water in our communities is a right that should be guaranteed for all Americans,” said Administrator Jackson. “Updating our efforts under the Clean Water Act will promote innovative solutions for 21st century water challenges, build stronger ties between EPA, state, and local actions, and provide the transparency the public rightfully expects.”
The plan announced outlines how the agency will strengthen the way it addresses the water pollution challenges of this century. These challenges include pollution caused by numerous, dispersed sources, such as concentrated animal feeding operations, sewer overflows, contaminated water that flows from industrial facilities, construction sites, and runoff from urban streets.
–EPA news release
Extreme aerial bow fishing for invasive carp
The sound and vibration of a boat engine make the fish fly.
The Illinois River and other waterways flowing into the Mississippi have become infested with invasive Asian fish species commonly called silver carp, which can turn a leisurely ride on a johnboat into the aquatic version of the running of the bulls. The carp can jump out of the water by the hundreds, sometimes soaring 10 feet in the air and often landing in the boat. They have loosened fishermen’s teeth, broken their jaws and left them scarred.
This unlikely and often violent meeting of quaint pastime and airborne fish is a problem for wildlife officials. For Chris Brackett, a guide on the Illinois River, it is a business opportunity.
–The N.Y. Times
Cleaner air yields dirtier water
MASONTOWN, Pa. — For years, residents here complained about the yellow smoke pouring from the tall chimneys of the nearby coal-fired power plant, which left a film on their cars and pebbles of coal waste in their yards. Five states — including New York and New Jersey — sued the plant’s owner, Allegheny Energy, claiming the air pollution was causing respiratory diseases and acid rain.
So three years ago, when Allegheny Energy decided to install scrubbers to clean the plant’s air emissions, environmentalists were overjoyed. The technology would spray water and chemicals through the plant’s chimneys, trapping more than 150,000 tons of pollutants each year before they escaped into the sky.
But the cleaner air has come at a cost. Each day since the equipment was switched on in June, the company has dumped tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater containing chemicals from the scrubbing process into the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to 350,000 people and flows into Pittsburgh, 40 miles to the north. (From the New York Times Toxic Waters series.)
–The New York Times
Canada’s rivers in trouble, environmental group says
Serious action is required to keep Canada’s rivers flowing and to prevent them from being drained by expanding cities, soaring energy demands and climate change, says a new report.
“Flow regimes in some of Canada’s most important rivers, such as the South Saskatchewan and the St. Lawrence, have been modified to the extent that ecosystems are in serious trouble,” said the report, Canada’s Rivers at Risk, produced by WWF-Canada, an environmental organization. “Soon, many others — including some of the planet’s increasingly scarce, large, free-flowing rivers like the Skeena, the Athabasca, and the Mackenzie — could be in trouble, as well, as demands on the waters grow and climate change intensifies.”
Overall, the study assessed the flow of 10 Canadian rivers that drain into the Pacific, the Arctic, the Hudson Bay and the Atlantic, and the impact of economic development, infrastructure and hydroelectric dams in the water basins.
–CanWest News Service
EPA told to limit endocrine testing
The Office of Management and Budget has instructed U.S. EPA to use existing toxicity data rather than require companies to conduct new tests to determine whether chemicals can damage the human endocrine system.
At issue in the White House directive is the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program created by the 1998 Food Quality Protection Act to identify chemicals that can disrupt reproductive systems.
EPA started the program in April with the announcement of the first 67 pesticides for screening with a “Tier 1” goal of identifying possible endocrine disruptors and requiring that they be tested by their manufacturers. The program’s second tier is aimed at determining safe exposure levels for such chemicals.
–The New York Times
Carver County septic system gets pricier
For several years, Carver County officials have been trying to force Lowell and Janet Carlson to replace the septic system at their Norwood-Young America farm, eventually threatening them with a jail sentence earlier this month if they did not comply.
It turns out, however, that the septic system the county approved and wanted the Carlsons to install in 2006 apparently would have been illegal, according to people the Carlsons brought in to help them replace the system.
As a result, the couple will have to install an even more costly mound system to keep themselves out of the Carver County jail.
–The Star Tribune
Lake Vermillion park negotiations dormant
Back in 2008, funding for Lake Vermilion State Park was one of the signature accomplishments of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s legislative maneuvering, a prize for which he had twisted arms and played hardball in last-minute negotiation with legislators.
When the session was over, the governor had agreed not to veto funding for the Central Corridor Light Rail line between Minneapolis and St. Paul. In exchange, DFL leaders approved $20 million in bonding authority for the “acquisition and development” of nearly 3,000 acres of land, including five miles of pristine shoreline, along Lake Vermilion.
It was to be Minnesota’s first new state park since 1979. Today, however, the chances that Lake Vermilion State Park will ever happen are remote, and steadily diminishing. Negotiations between the Minnesota DNR and property owner U.S. Steel over the purchase of the land are, according to both sides, lying dormant.
–St. Paul Legal Ledger
Faucet snails found in Twin lakes
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is in the process of designating Upper and Lower Twin lakes in Hubbard and Wadena counties as “infested waters” because the faucet snail (Bithynia tentaculata) has been found there. The snail has been linked to waterfowl deaths at Lake Winnibigoshish and the Upper Mississippi pool system in southeastern Minnesota.
A local resident of Lower Twin Lake first noticed the snails attached to his boat and brought them to the attention of local DNR staff. Trained DNR and U.S. Geological Survey staff later verified them as faucet snails.
New regulations will take effect at the lake to help stop the movement of the faucet snail to other waters. Once designated as “infested waters,” state law prohibits the transport of water from Upper and Lower Twin without a permit. It also prohibits anglers or commercial bait harvesters from harvesting bait from these waters.
–Minnesota DNR news release
USGS assesses risk of giant invasive snakes
Five giant non-native snake species would pose high risks to the health of ecosystems in the United States should they become established here, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report.
The USGS report details the risks of nine non-native boa, anaconda and python species that are invasive or potentially invasive in the United States. Because all nine species share characteristics associated with greater risks, none was found to be a low ecological risk. Two of these species are documented as reproducing in the wild in South Florida, with population estimates for Burmese pythons in the tens of thousands.
Based on the biology and known natural history of the giant constrictors, individuals of some species may also pose a small risk to people, although most snakes would not be large enough to consider a person as suitable prey. Mature individuals of the largest species—Burmese, reticulated, and northern and southern African pythons—have been documented as attacking and killing people in the wild in their native range, though such unprovoked attacks appear to be quite rare, the report authors wrote.
Midwestern governors want CO2 pipeline
Midwestern states are working with energy companies to overcome one of the biggest obstacles to carbon capture and storage: finding ways to transport the gas from its industrial source to its final resting place.
The Midwestern Governors Association announced a goal to site and permit by 2012 at least one interstate pipeline to ferry global warming pollution from the region’s power plants to suitable underground storage sites.
The goal was among several laid out in the Midwestern Energy Infrastructure Accord aiming to transform the region’s coal-rich states into hubs for CCS technology (Greenwire, Oct. 7).
An early step in the accord involves the development of a pipeline that would move carbon dioxide from capture-ready coal plants in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky to the Gulf Coast for use in enhanced oil recovery.
–The New York Times