Archive for April, 2010

Phosphorus, wind farms and ‘Kentucky tuna’

April 26, 2010

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

Group sees protection for 404 species
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has filed a massive petition to protect 404 freshwater species in the southeastern U.S. The list includes 48 fish, 92 mussels and snails, 92 crayfish and other crustaceans, 82 plants, 13 reptiles (including five map turtles), four mammals, 15 amphibians, 55 insects, and three birds. The species live in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

 Why seek protection for so many species at once? The CBD says they all form a cohesive ecosystem, and they depend upon each other for their survival. According to the CBD’s Web site about what it refers to as the southeastern freshwater extinction crisis,  “All these species are intricately interconnected: For example, the map turtles’ survival depends on the abundance of snails and mussels, which they eat, while mussels depend on fish to host their larvae—and the fish, in turn, depend on the abundance of flies, whose larvae they consume.”
–Scientific American

 Agencies disagree over mine filling with water
A disagreement between two government agencies has stalemated a solution to a big problem for the Iron Range town of Bovey. That’s where a nearby mine pit continues filling with water that could inundate Bovey if not stopped. 

The 2008 state bonding bill authorized $3.5 million to draw down water in the Canisteo Mine pit — and two years later the money remains unspent while the water keeps rising.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Governors back Cape Cod wind farm
Political pressure continues to build on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as he prepares to announce his decision this week on the fate of a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., that has been stalled for nine years.

 The governors of six East Coast states called on Mr. Salazar last week to approve the project, which is proposed by Cape Wind Associates and would be the nation’s first offshore wind farm. Turning it down, they said, especially on the grounds that it would harm the view from historic sites, “would establish a precedent that would make it difficult, if not impossible, to site offshore wind projects anywhere along the Eastern Seaboard.” 

Their states — Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island — all have offshore wind projects in the works. Four of the governors are Democrats and two, in New Jersey and Rhode Island, are Republicans, showing that views of Cape Wind do not break down along political lines.
–The New York Times

Wisconsin phosphorus rules could cost $1.3 billion
Nobody wants weeds and algae choking Wisconsin’s lakes. But are people willing to pay to clean up the widespread and sometimes dangerous problem? 

A proposal from the state Department of Natural Resources to toughen standards on phosphorus, a nutrient in fertilizers that causes weed growth in the state’s waters, could result in an $85 million bill to the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) for an upgrade of its treatment systems, according to district officials. That, they say, could add $40 to the average residential customer’s annual bill. 

Statewide, according to DNR estimates, as many as 160 treatment plants could be affected, and the total cost of improvements to treatment systems could run as high as $1.3 billion.
–The Wisconsin State Journal

Judge blasts ‘glacial delay’ in Everglades clean-up
In the two decades since pledging to clean up the Everglades, Florida water managers, environmental regulators and political leaders have professed unwavering commitment to getting the difficult and costly job done.

 In a double-barreled legal blast this month, two Miami federal judges found the state, abetted by a lax U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more committed to something else in the Everglades: foot dragging.

 “Glacial delay” is how an exasperated U.S. District Judge Alan Gold summed it up in a blistering ruling that ordered Florida environmental chief Michael Sole and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to appear personally in court in October with new plans and hard deadlines.
–The Miami Herald

Floating plastic fouls Atlantic
Researchers are warning of a new blight at sea: a swirl of confetti-like plastic debris stretching over a remote expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The floating garbage — hard to spot from the surface and spun together by a vortex of currents — was documented by two groups of scientists who trawled the sea between Bermuda and the Azores. 

The studies describe a soup of micro-particles similar to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a phenomenon discovered a decade ago between Hawaii and California that researchers say probably also exists in other places around the globe. 

The debris is harmful for fish, sea mammals and, at the top of the food chain, potentially humans, even though much of the plastic has broken into such tiny pieces they are nearly invisible.
–The Associated Press 

A little white wine with that Kentucky tuna?
It’s Extreme Makeover: Aquatic Edition.

 Asian carp are reviled as vanquishers of native species, feared as hefty jumpers able to break a boatman’s jaw, and scorned as, well, carp. But even as Northern states battle to keep them from ravaging the Great Lakes, officials in the South, where the alien species have multiplied like guppies, are working to transform the carp into marketable assets.

 First, the rebranding. In January, Louisiana wildlife officials rolled out the Silverfin Promotion, enlisting chefs to create recipes for what they called the tasty white meat of the bighead carp and silver carp, the two dominant invaders. 

“A cross between scallops and crabmeat,” declared Philippe Parola, a noted seafood chef whose new recipes include silverfin almondine. 

Meanwhile, would-be carp exploiters in Kentucky, after trying the fish smoked, canned and in fried balls, concluded that it tasted remarkably like tuna and proposed labeling it Kentucky tuna.
–The New York Times

 Two men fined in minnow-selling case
The commercial minnow licenses of two Baudette men have been revoked for three years following an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources .

 John D. Hult, 69, and Kim D. Barsness, 55, convicted in Beltrami County District Court on April 14 for the attempted illegal selling of wild animals (minnows), also face fines and court costs of $1,500 each. A six-month jail sentence was stayed pending no similar incidents, but both men were placed on two years probation. 

Their equipment was forfeited to the state. 

Prior to the 2009 fishing season, the men were reported to be using invasive species-infested equipment from Lake of the Woods to take minnows from Upper Red Lake. 

To prevent the spread of invasive species, such as spiny waterfleas, to U.S. – Canada border waters, the DNR has implemented regulations on Rainy Lake, Namakan Lake, Rainy River and Lake of the Woods that prohibit the transport of water, prohibit harvest of bait for personal use, and restrict the commercial harvest of bait from those waters.
–DNR News Release

Earth Day turns 40 this year

April 20, 2010

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

Thursday, April 22, is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the movement that raised American consciousness about the environment.

Last weekend, President Obama announced the launching of web site,, that will compile success stories of citizens’ efforts to protect the environment. 

To read a good Wall Street Journal column by William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency upon its creation in 1970, on the pollution challenges we still face, click here. To view a 1970 New York Times article about preparations for the first Earth Day in 1970, click here

And to see a partial list of Earth Day events in Minnesota – a watershed clean-up in Minneapolis, another clean-up in the Three Rivers Park District, and activities at the Minnesota and Como Park zoos and the Harriet Alexander Nature Center in Roseville – click here

Freshwater Society staff members will participate in Earth Day events from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday at the Hennepin Technical College Brooklyn Park campus and at Cedar Park School in Apple Valley on Thursday. 

Science panel evaluates GMO crops
Genetically engineered crops have provided “substantial” environmental and economic benefits to American farmers, but overuse of the technology is threatening to erode the gains, a national science advisory organization said.

 The report is described as the first comprehensive assessment of the impact of genetically modified crops on American farmers, who have rapidly adopted them since their introduction in 1996. The study was issued by the National Research Council, which is affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences and provides advice to the nation under a Congressional charter.

The report found that the crops allowed farmers to either reduce chemical spraying or to use less harmful chemicals. The crops also had lower production costs, higher output or extra convenience, benefits that generally outweighed the higher costs of the engineered seeds.

But David E. Ervin, the chairman of the committee that wrote the report, warned that farmers were jeopardizing the benefits by planting too many so-called Roundup Ready crops. These crops are genetically engineered to be impervious to the herbicide Roundup, allowing farmers to spray the chemical to kill weeds while leaving the crops unscathed.
–The New York Times

Minnesota firms face new storm water rules
New storm water regulations from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will require as many as 19,000 Minnesota businesses to monitor potential pollution on their property.

 The new rules will affect different industry sectors over time. They require businesses to obtain a new storm water permit designed to stop polluted rain or snow runoff from a business property. They also target leaking oil from trucks or hazardous materials stored outside that could wash into wetlands or streams.

The first round of permit applications began earlier this month.
–Minnesota Public Radio  

L.A. water use hits 31-year low
Los Angeles has grown by about a million people in the last three decades, but you wouldn’t know it from the way water has been trickling out of taps and sprinklers.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported Monday that water usage in the city reached a 31-year low for the month of February, dropping more than 20% compared with the same period in 2007.

Officials tied the decrease to water rationing that went into effect in 2007. The rationing was prompted by the ongoing regional drought.

The best conservers were residents of single-family homes, who used nearly 30% less water as compared with February 1997.
–The Los Angeles Times 

 ‘Climate-gate’ review finds no fraud
In the second of three investigations of the scandal known as “climate-gate,” a panel of academic experts said that several prominent climate scientists did not engage in deliberate malpractice but did not use the best statistical tools available to produce their findings.

 The University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit has been under intense scrutiny since November, when hackers posted more than 1,000 pirated emails and a raft of other documents that highlight the scientists’ hostility toward global warming skeptics. But the review — which follows a British parliamentary review that defended the institution’s research but faulted its tendency to withhold information — did nothing to bridge the divide between many climate researchers and their critics. 

After interviewing staff members and analyzing 11 peer-reviewed articles published between 1986 and 2008, the panel concluded: “We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it.”
–The Washington Post

 Chesapeake Bay crabs rebound
And now for something completely different: good news about the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake’s blue crabs, in decline for a decade, are in the middle of an extraordinary comeback, officials in Maryland and Virginia said. The estuary’s crab population has more than doubled in two years, they said, reaching its highest level since 1997. 

The chief reason, officials said, is a set of limits placed on the crab harvest in 2008. These were aimed at protecting more female crabs, which can produce millions of baby crabs apiece — but not if they’re turned into she-crab soup first.
–The Washington Post

 Water-saving devices spur Kohler growth
Water-saving devices have come a long way since federal mandates first required toilets to flush a maximum of 1.6 gallons in 1994.

 The knock on the toilets was that they required multiple flushes.

 But designs have improved and “there’s no trade-off now,” said Shane Judd, product manger for water conservation at the Kohler Co. “They’re more efficient in terms of using less water and performing better than their 1.6-gallon counterparts.” 

Just installing a high-efficiency toilet, faucet and shower head can save an average family of four 39,000 gallons of water a year, compared with models considered the industry standard.
–The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 

Wal-Mart’s Scott pulls retailer toward sustainability
If a single executive at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. deserves the lion’s share of credit for the company’s recent drift into corporate sustainability, most agree it is Lee Scott, CEO of the largest retailer on the planet from 2000 to 2009.

Scott, now the chairman of Wal-Mart, has been praised by many for sparking a cultural overhaul at the big-box chain that resulted most recently in a voluntary commitment to slash 20 million metric tons of carbon emissions from its global supply chain by the end of 2015. Other notches on Scott’s résumé are the company’s pledge to attain 100 percent of its power from renewable sources of energy and a promise to create zero waste.

 Critics see the shift as a public relations campaign for a company historically associated with suburban sprawl, but optimists have applauded Scott and other high-ups at Wal-Mart for prodding the Bentonville, Ark.-based corporation toward a more eco-friendly business model.
–The New York Times 

Antarctic researchers protect fragile environment
There’s nothing like carrying a pee bottle to remind you of your personal impact on the environment.

Staffers with the National Science Foundation’s U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) mentioned pee bottles during an environmental awareness lecture for our seven-person media group when we got to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, in January. 

We had already passed an online test and absorbed a packet of reading materials. Now, as we prepared to visit some of the most exotic places on Earth, lead environmental specialist Kevin Pettway told us that when we visited protected areas, we’d carry those pee bottles — and that we would be responsible for cleaning them when we got back to McMurdo. 

Antarctica is the world’s coldest, windiest, highest and driest continent. But from our first day in this polar desert, I realized how delicate the Antarctic environment is.
–The Washington Post 

VHS confirmed in herring from Apostle Islands
VHS fish disease has been officially confirmed in lake herring collected in the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior northeast of Bayfield. The disease is not a threat to human health.

 This most recent finding came from lake herring collected in mid-December 2009 by a commercial fisherman working cooperatively with the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility in Bayfield and U.S. Geological Survey biologists in Ann Arbor, Mich., who submitted the fish for testing. The Michigan DNR notified Wisconsin that the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, had officially confirmed the presence of active VHS virus in the fish samples using the standard cell culture method. 

This is the first time active VHS virus has been confirmed in lake herring and in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior using the standard testing method. It follows, and reconfirms, a January 2010 announcement from Cornell University scientists that they had detected viral fragments in fish from Lake Superior using experimental methods. 

VHS, which stands for viral hemorrhagic septicemia, is not a human health risk but can infect dozens of native fish species and can cause them to bleed to death.
–The Superior Telegram 

DNR forbids use of smelt as bait
As the smelt run begins in the Duluth area, people who harvest the silvery forage fish are being told they can be used only for eating, not as bait.

 The message is being spread in an effort to limit the movement of VHS, a virus that has caused fish kills elsewhere on the Great Lakes. The disease is not harmful to humans. 

“We’re saying go ahead and harvest, but do it for consumption only,” said Mike Scott, a DNR conservation officer specializing in invasive species.
–The Duluth News Tribune 

 T. Boone Pickens finds few water buyers
The Panhandle’s best-stocked water marketer has led many a buyer to the well but can’t find anyone to drink.

 T. Boone Pickens said he had picked up little interest in his plans to sell groundwater from beneath 200,000 acres of rolling ranchland to Dallas, San Antonio, or really any thirsty customer down state wanting to buy.

 “They’re not lined up in the hall waiting to talk to me,” Pickens said. 

The 81-year-old billionaire called the billions of groundwater gallons to which his Mesa Water company holds rights “stranded water;” trapped under ranchland not suited for farming and far from big Texas metropolises.
–The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

43 world nations face ‘water stress’

April 12, 2010

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

43 countries face ‘water stress,” report says
Ethiopia, Haiti and Niger are facing the world’s worst water shortages, but 700 million people in 43 countries are under “water stress,” according to a new report released by the World Bank last month.

 Almost a third of all the bank’s projects in recent history have been water-related, and a total of $54 billion was spent financing them, the report said. Some, of course, have been controversial, since dams, irrigation projects, flood prevention and watershed-management projects often benefit one group at the expense of others. Also, many projects fail, once built, because the host country is not wealthy or sophisticated enough to maintain them.

 Most countries with severe water problems are also so poor that they are “not creditworthy enough to borrow their way out of water crisis,” the report noted.
–The New York Time

3M clean-up pumps vast amount of groundwater
The good news is that groundwater in Washington County is being cleaned up.

 The bad news is that the cleanup effort will consume more water — up to 9.2 million gallons a day — than Woodbury and Cottage Grove, combined, typically use on a winter day.

 The two cities are asking if there is some way to re-use the water before dumping it into the Mississippi River.

 The cleanup by 3M Co. was ordered by state officials in order to remove traces of perfluorochemicals from groundwater.

 The company is currently pumping at several sites, but its plans to dig new wells in Cottage Grove are raising concerns.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Wildlife Federation calls for closing locks
The National Wldlife Federation is the latest group to call for closing the locks that connect the Mississippi River system with Lake Michigan in an effort to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

 At the national conservation meeting in Houston, members unanimously passed a resolution calling for the river to be separated from the lakes. It’s a step that has been vigorously opposed by the shipping industry, the tourism industry in Chicago and Illinois lawmakers.

“The National Wildlife Federation realizes this is a hugely important issue, not just for the Great Lakes but for all U.S. waters,” said Jordan Lubetkin of the federation’s Great Lakes office. “Invasive species are a problem that has to be tackled aggressively and immediately.”
–The Detroit News

Invasives speed uptake of PCBs in fish
New University of Michigan research finds invasive species are accelerating PCBs up the food chain.

 Recent dredging of the Saginaw River was intended to remove PCB contaminated soil. U of M fishery biologist David Jude says tests indicate the dredging worked.

 But he says walleyes are showing signs of increased PCB contamination. Jude traces the problem to two invasive species, zebra mussels and round gobies. 

“Zebra mussels filter a liter of water a day. They are removing a large amount of the algae out of that water,” says Jude, “and as a result of that they are picking up a lot higher concentration of PCBs. There are some really outrageous high concentrations of pcbs in zebra mussels in the Saginaw River.”
–Michigan Public Radio

 Fears of new Dust Bowl loom
James Wedel remembers seeing thunderheads on the horizon and thinking: “Oh good, we’re finally gonna get some rain.”

One problem: Those weren’t rain clouds.

“The wind started blowing, the dust started blowing, and you could hardly see in front of your face,” Wedel says. “Static electricity was flying around. It was hard to breathe. I tell you, it was awful scary.” 

Seventy-five years have passed since the worst of the Dust Bowl, a relentless series of dust storms that ravaged farms and livelihoods in the southern Great Plains that carried a layer of silt as far east as New York City. Today, the lessons learned during that era are more relevant than ever as impending water shortages and more severe droughts threaten broad swaths of the nation.
–USA Today

 Source of Minneapolis pollution found
State pollution officials have solved a four-year-old mystery about the source of fish contamination in Lake Calhoun.

A St. Louis Park company used a chemical formerly made by 3M, and it entered the southwest Minneapolis lake through a storm water system, said Ralph Pribble, spokesman for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Although the PCA didn’t identify the company, Douglas Corp., which has five manufacturing plants in Minnesota, acknowledged Thursday that air emissions from its St. Louis Park plant may have contributed to the chemical, known as PFOS, being found in the sewer system leading to Lake Calhoun. Company spokesman Blois Olson said the company is cooperating with the investigation.
–The Star Tribune

 ‘Water battery’ captures condensation for trees
According to the World Health Organization, 1.2 billion people – or almost 1 out of 5 people in the world – are without access to safe drinking water.  And even in areas with access, 70 percent of water withdrawn from fresh groundwater sources is used for agriculture.

But using groundwater to grow crops and trees doesn’t make sense to Pieter Hoff, a Dutch inventor. Not only are traditional irrigation techniques inefficient because most of the water is lost to evaporation, Mr. Hoff says, but water can be easily captured from the atmosphere to grow just about anything.
–The New York Times

Nature Conservancy atlas focuses on ecosystems
What does it take to determine which of the world’s 9,800 bird species depend on fresh water for survival? Try devoting two months’ worth of evenings and weekends to reading the descriptions of every known avian species, which is what Timothy Boucher did. 

Being a fanatic birder, I decided this could be really fun,” recalled Boucher, a senior conservation geographer at the Nature Conservancy who has personally seen and identified 4,257 species of birds in his life. So his “life list,” as birders say, covers 43 percent of the bird species that exist.

The result of Boucher’s work — a map showing the wetlands and rivers on which 828 freshwater bird species depend — is part of the Atlas of Global Conservation, a new publication that shows how nature is faring across the globe.
–The Washington Post 

Fisherman spots polluter in the act
Ken Larson was bewildered by the white foam he spotted twice in two years in the Vermillion River in Hastings.

 “It must’ve been 18 inches thick, and all I knew was that it wasn’t natural,” said Larson, 65, an avid fisherman who walks by the river every day.

 The Hastings resident reported the mystery to city officials and the Dakota County Water Resources Department. Also stumped, they told him to keep monitoring it.

 He did, and said he later saw an employee of a West St. Paul carpet-cleaning business dumping wastewater into a storm-sewer manhole in a Hastings neighborhood. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency served the company, Dynasty Cleaning Services, with a violation notice, and last month Dynasty completed the required corrective actions.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Scott County’s Credit River getting cleaner
The collapse of homebuilding in once-booming Scott County is having at least one quiet payoff:

A lot less pollution. 

It’s one leading theory, anyway, to explain why the Credit River, one of the county’s most important bodies of water, may soon be taken off the state’s list of impaired waters. 

And it would be a particular point of pride in Savage, which boasts of its environmental-mindedness while acknowledging it does contribute to pollution.
–The Star Tribune 

ConAgra vow to cut water, energy use
Over the next five years, ConAgra Foods will ratchet up its sustainability efforts by reducing waste, water use and greenhouse gas emissions companywide, the company said. 

The Omaha-based food producer, whose packaged foods brands include Healthy Choice, Marie Callendar, Orville Redenbacher popcorn and Hunt’s canned tomatoes, said that by 2015 it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent and reduce water use by 15 percent from 2008 levels. 

The company said the solid waste it sends to landfills will drop by 75 percent between 2011 and 2015. It also will seek to improve supply chain waste reduction and will work with farmers to increase sustainable farming methods.
–The Omaha World-Herald

Report criticizes ag pollution regulation

April 5, 2010

Each week, the Freshwater Society posts 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.

Regulation of ag pollution lacking, report says
A new report addresses the failures and successes of agricultural regulations in Iowa, Wisconsin, California and other agricultural states meant to reduce agricultural pollution that harms waters and aquatic life both locally and downstream, such as in the Gulf of Mexico where farm run-off from states upstream has created an aquatic Dead Zone the size of Massachusetts.

The report, conducted by the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Mississippi River Collaborative a partnership of environmental organizations and legal centers from states bordering the Mississippi, examined the effectiveness of state-based rules and laws meant to regulate non-point agricultural pollution.

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, nonpoint source pollution, or polluted run-off, is one of the most pervasive forms of water pollution in the U.S. Nonpoint source pollution is not directly regulated by the Clean Water Act and is left up to the states.

Authors of the study, titled “Cultivating Clean Water,” said they found “a fragmented and poorly-implemented system of state-based regulation of nonpoint pollution.”

 Cities struggle to pay for wastewater plants
Under a federal order to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant, Buffalo, Mo., residents approved a $3.4 billion bond two years ago fully anticipating that its largest employer — and its largest water user — would repay the bulk of that loan.

But Petit Jean Poultry shut down in October 2008, months before the upgrade was completed. And the town, which has fewer than 2,500 households, was left to pay back the bond minus about 500 jobs.

 “Had we known they would close, we wouldn’t have went to the extent of improving the wastewater facility as we did,” Mayor Jerry Hardesty said. “The citizens passed the bond with Petit Jean figured into that. We were counting on that.” 

Buffalo is not alone.
–The New York Times

An unexpected divide on global warming
The debate over global warming has created predictable adversaries, pitting environmentalists against industry and coal-state Democrats against coastal liberals.

 But it has also created tensions between two groups that might be expected to agree on the issue: climate scientists and meteorologists, especially those who serve as television weather forecasters. 

Climatologists, who study weather patterns over time, almost universally endorse the view that the earth is warming and that humans have contributed to climate change. There is less of a consensus among meteorologists, who predict short-term weather patterns.
–The New York Times

 DNR  maps underground water routes
When snow is melting in the woods and fields of southeastern Minnesota, Jeff Green wants to know where it’s going.

For Green, a karst hydrologist for the state Department of Natural Resources, the running waters of spring offer a chance to work on maps of underground pathways that water takes in the fragile geology of southeastern Minnesota. His maps will help fire departments, land-use planners, farmers, and people who want to protect trout streams. 

Finding underground pathways are important, because Minnesota’s driftless area wasn’t scraped by the last glacier. The area’s honeycombed limestone bedrock makes it highly vulnerable to pollution caused by chemical spills, development or poor farming practices. 

The first step in making groundwater maps is dye tracing, a process in which scientists pour dye in melting snow and track where it leads.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 EPA takes new look at plastic compound
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to add bisphenol-A, or BPA, a plastic widely used in food packaging and plastic bottles, to its list of chemicals of concern because of potential adverse impacts on the environment and human and animal health. 

The agency will require new studies of concentrations of the plastic in surface water, groundwater and drinking water to determine where it exists in levels requiring action. More than a million pounds of the chemical, used to harden plastics, are released into the environment each year, the agency said. 

The environmental agency will also require manufacturers that use BPA to provide test data to help evaluate effects on growth, reproduction and development in aquatic organisms and wildlife.
–The New York Times

Renewable energy gulps water
Rising U.S. water usage is worrying experts who will gather April 15 at this year’s intelligent water summit in Washington.

 Ironically, water consumption has risen because of the drive toward renewable energy

 Solar power generation consumes huge quantities of water, as does production of other forms of energy.

 Despite educational programs and official exhortations, waste remains a major issue in water usage for landscaping and gardens, experts who are to attend the summit said ahead of the meeting.

While inefficient use of sprinklers and other devices for landscaping and gardening is an old problem, federal land managers have raised concerns that some types of solar energy projects in the western United States consume far too much water.

Grants awarded for Lake Superior projects
Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program has awarded $502,041 in grants for 13 projects that protect and preserve the coastal resources of Lake Superior.

The grants include $75,000 to Carlton County to aquire 4 miles of right-of-way for the St. Louis River Trail in Clouqet and $7,600 to the Lake Superior Maritime Museum to create a new exhibit on shipwrecks in Lake Superior. 

Funding for the grants comes from the Coastal Zone Management Act and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. The Governor’s Council on Minnesota’s Coastal Program, a 15-member citizen advisory board, helped select the projects.
–DNR news release



Ruling jeopoardizes Everglades project

The Miami federal judge overseeing Everglades cleanup issued a ruling that could prove the final nail in the coffin of Gov. Charlie Crist’s controversial Big Sugar land buy — or serve as a judicial kick in the butt to finally seal the much-delayed, twice-downsized deal.

Saying he was tired of waiting, Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno ordered water managers to restart construction on a $700 million reservoir in western Palm Beach County — a project once touted as critical to Everglades restoration but halted two years ago and left in limbo while the state bargained to buy massive tracts from the U.S. Sugar Corp.

Moreno sided with the Miccosukee Tribe, which had argued that halting the reservoir exposed tribal lands to worsening pollution that the $536 million sugar deal, scaled back in size and cost twice by the deteriorating economy, might not alleviate for a decade or more.

–The Miami Herald




Baby, it’s cold inside

Some like it hot. Apparently, the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog is not among them.

The three-inch-long amphibians much prefer it cold as melting snow. So conservationists at the San Diego Zoo have placed two dozen of the nearly extinct frogs in refrigerators they jokingly refer to as “Valentine’s Day retreats” in hopes the animals will emerge with the urge to mate.

The big chill at the zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research represents one of the most ambitious wildlife reintroduction experiments in the nation. If it is successful, the frogs could produce upward of 6,000 tadpoles next month, all of them scheduled for a spring homecoming in a remote San Jacinto Mountains stream from which they have been absent for a decade.

–The Washington Post