Archive for June, 2010

Wisconsin adopts sweeping phosphorus rules

June 28, 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.

Wisconsin DNR adopts phosphorus rules
The Natural Resources Board approved sweeping and costly new regulations to limit phosphorus in state waterways that could top $1 billion.

The goal is cleaner water, fewer algae blooms and a better habitat for fish and other aquatic life. Phosphorus pollution from runoff is one of the contributing factors to the foul-smelling algae on Lake Michigan’s beaches. 

The measure was championed by the DNR and environmentalists, but the state hasn’t identified a way to finance a cost-sharing program, and business groups said the burden will fall unfairly on them. 

The regulations take a two-pronged approach by setting water quality standards for phosphorus and by putting new limits on municipal wastewater treatment plants and factories that have their own treatment systems. 

In turn, the water quality standards drive a complex series of regulations aimed at controlling phosphorus and other nutrients washed from farm fields, construction sites and urban streets.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Minnesota may seek pollution damages from 3M
3M Company may be liable for damage to natural resources because of chemicals that contaminated Mississippi River fish and tainted groundwater beneath much of the east metro area. State officials have met with 3M several times during the past few weeks, and said they hope to resolve the problems through negotiations rather than litigation. 

3M phased out the compounds in 2002 after making them for nearly half a century at its Cottage Grove plant. They were used in numerous products including Scotchgard, non-stick cookware and firefighting foam. The company dumped wastes in area landfills and at the plant decades ago, before those practices were illegal. The chemicals spread to contaminate nearby ground and river water. 

“For the past three years we’ve been focused on cleanup, on getting that moving forward,” said Kathy Sather, director of remediation for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “The time is right now for us to look at the natural resource damage that’s always part of the remediation that we do.”

Sather would not speculate on how much the damages might be.
–The Star Tribune

Asian carp caught close to Lake Michigan
A commercial fisherman patrolling the calm waters of Lake Calumet netted a 19-pound Asian carp, the first physical discovery of the feared invasive species in the Chicago waterway system north of the electric barriers.

Within minutes of the official announcement, lawmakers from Michigan and environmental advocacy groups were once more chastising Illinois’ response to the Asian carp crisis and threatening a new round of legal action aimed at permanently closing Chicago-area shipping locks.

“This was so tragically predictable,” said U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., who is among the architects of the Carp Act, a bill in Congress that would close the shipping locks. “For years, myself and so many others have raised concerns over this issue and were criticized for it or told we were overreacting. Today, our worst fears have been confirmed.”
–The Chicago Tribune 

Stunning levels of toxins found in whales
Sperm whales feeding even in the most remote reaches of Earth’s oceans have built up stunningly high levels of toxic and heavy metals, according to American scientists who say the findings spell danger not only for marine life but for the millions of humans who depend on seafood. 

A report noted high levels of cadmium, aluminum, chromium, lead, silver, mercury and titanium in tissue samples taken by dart gun from nearly 1,000 whales over five years. From polar areas to equatorial waters, the whales ingested pollutants that may have been produced by humans thousands of miles away, the researchers said.

 “These contaminants, I think, are threatening the human food supply. They certainly are threatening the whales and the other animals that live in the ocean,” said biologist Roger Payne, founder and president of Ocean Alliance, the research and conservation group that produced the report.
–The Associated Press

Minerals exploration near BWCA raises concerns
A new partnership between an Ely, Minn., company and a mining giant in Chile has spurred progress on copper and nickel exploration in northern Minnesota. 

But because some of the new exploration is in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, it’s raising concerns among residents and other observers. 

Ely-based Duluth Metals, with financial backing from the Chilean company Antofogasta, has drilled some 170 test holes in a 1,500-acre tract near the South Kawishiwi River and thinks the results are promising.

Duluth Metals is among six companies exploring for minerals near the boundary waters. The companies are drilling deep holes, probing huge deposits of valuable copper, nickel, gold, platinum, and palladium.
–Minnesota Public Radio 

Some question risk of BP drilling in Alaska
The future of BP’s offshore oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico has been thrown into doubt by the recent drilling disaster and court wrangling over a moratorium. 

But about three miles off the coast of Alaska, BP is moving ahead with a controversial and potentially record-setting project to drill two miles under the sea and then six to eight miles horizontally to reach what is believed to be a 100-million-barrel reservoir of oil under federal waters. 

All other new projects in the Arctic have been halted by the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling, including more traditional projects like Shell Oil’s plans to drill three wells in the Chukchi Sea and two in the Beaufort. 

But BP’s project, called Liberty, has been exempted as regulators have granted it status as an “onshore” project even though it is about three miles off the coast in the Beaufort Sea. The reason: it sits on an artificial island — a 31-acre pile of gravel in about 22 feet of water — built by BP.
–The New York Times

 EPA seeks tax renewal for Superfund clean-ups
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to Congress in support of reinstating the lapsed Superfund “polluter pays” taxes. Superfund is the federal government’s program that investigates and cleans up the nation’s most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. 

 If reinstated, the Superfund provision would provide a stable, dedicated source of revenue for the program and increase the pace of Superfund cleanup. It would also ensure that parties who benefit from the manufacture or sale of substances that commonly cause environmental problems at hazardous waste sites, and not taxpayers, help bear the cost of cleanup when responsible parties cannot be identified.

The Superfund taxes expired on Dec. 31, 1995. Since the expiration of the taxes, Superfund program funding has been largely financed from General Revenue transfers to the Superfund Trust Fund, thus burdening the taxpayer with the costs of cleaning up abandoned hazardous waste sites. The administration is proposing to reinstate the taxes as they were last in effect on crude oil, imported petroleum products, hazardous chemicals, and imported substances that use hazardous chemicals as a feedstock, and on corporate modified alternative minimum taxable income.
More information on the Superfund program: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/
–EPA News Release 

Early spring brings bumper crop of watermilfoil
The weeds on Lake Calhoun have grown so thick this year that it almost looks as if the Minneapolis lake has islands.

 Much of it is Eurasian watermilfoil, an invasive species that has taken over in most lakes in the Twin Cities and elsewhere throughout the state. The milfoil has become a common sight, but this year’s warm spring means it has hit its peak earlier than usual. 

The weeds tickle swimmers’ legs and feet and make it harder for boats — especially sailboats — to navigate the lake without getting stuck. 

“It’s just gotten progressively worse, and this is the worst year we’ve had,” said Mike Elson, who leads the Calhoun Yacht Club and has been sailing on Lake Calhoun since 1979.
–Minnesota Public Radio 

California suit challenges groundwater pumping
Commercial fisherman have filed a lawsuit accusing California officials of not leaving enough water in a Northern California river for coho salmon. 

The lawsuit says the State Water Resources Control Board and Siskiyou County allowed groundwater well permits that have depleted the Scott River. 

The plaintiffs say the endangered coho salmon are now on the verge of extinction in the river. 

A spokesman at the State Resources Water Control Board, William L. Rukeyser, says the lawsuit appears to raise many theories about pumping that are not established in California law.
–The Associated Press

 A solar economy – We’re already living in one
We have a solar-based economy, whether or not we realize it. Ninety-four percent of the world’s energy comes from the sun, even energy that doesn’t at first glance seem solar. Coal, oil and natural gas are mostly the products of ancient plants that grew with the sun’s help. The sun drives hydroelectric power by evaporating low-lying water, then dumping it at higher altitudes. Windmills turn because the sun warms the planet’s air unevenly. 

Fortunately, there’s plenty of sun to go around. Our local star is continuously transmitting 180 quadrillion watts of energy to the Earth, 14,000 times our requirements for generating power. So the question isn’t where to get our energy, but how to capture it. 

Solar cells, also known as photovoltaic cells, are our most identifiable effort to convert the sun’s energy into electricity. They depend on a phenomenon known as the photovoltaic effect, discovered in 1839 by a French teenager. Alexandre Edmond Becquerel, then 19, placed two metal plates in a salt solution and generated an electric current by simply placing his rig in the sun.
–The Washington Post 

Ban on genetically modified alfalfa overturned
In its first-ever ruling on genetically modified crops, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ban on the planting of alfalfa seeds engineered to resist Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. 

The decision was a victory for Monsanto and others in the agricultural biotechnology industry, with potential implications for other cases, like one involving genetically engineered sugar beets. 

But in practice the decision is not likely to measurably speed up the resumption of planting of the genetically engineered alfalfa.
–The New York Times 

Improvement predicted in Chesapeake ‘dead  zone’
The fish-smothering “dead zone” now forming in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay is likely to be one of the smallest in the past 25 summers, scientists predicted , a brighter outlook they credited to favorable weather as well as to long-running efforts to clean up the estuary.

Researchers with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science forecast that this summer will produce the fifth-smallest stretch of water in the bay’s depths deprived of the oxygen that fish, crabs and oysters need to breathe.

Whether that means the bay is on the road to recovery depends on which scientist you ask.
–The Baltimore Sun 

Taconite mill to pay $19,000 in air-quality case
ArcelorMittal Mine Inc. recently agreed to pay a $19,000 civil penalty for alleged air quality violations and will be required to complete corrective actions to bring the facility back into compliance within 45 days, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced.  

The company owns and operates a taconite production facility in Virginia, Minn. The facility processes taconite ore and produces pellets for iron-making.  

ArcelorMittal’s air quality permit, issued in 2007, regulates equipment emissions and sets allowable operating ranges for air pollution control devices at several stages of the production process. Company monitoring reports submitted between the second half of 2006 and the second half of 2009 documented a number of deviations from air pollution control equipment permit requirements and allowable operating parameters.
–MPCA News Release 

 Grants, loans available for water protection
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is seeking grant proposals from local government units and other entities interested in leading a nonpoint-source, pollution-control project. Priority for funding will be given to projects that protect waters currently meeting state water quality standards. 

The due date for proposals is 4:30 p.m., Aug. 13. 

 The MPCA anticipates there will be $2 million available for grants and $2 million for loans this year. Eligible applicants include watershed districts, Indian tribes, cities and counties, joint powers organizations and watershed management organizations. There is a $500,000 limit on each grant funding request and no limit for a loan request. Proposals must be sent electronically to CWP.Grant.PCA@ state.mn.us. 

This year, the MPCA will offer funds for two types of projects:

  • Resource investigation to monitor, assess and develop a diagnostic study for water bodies, along with a plan to implement activities that address the needs of the water bodies.
     
  • Implementation of activities already identified by a comprehensive assessment and planning process in the watershed or area around the water body of concern. 

For information, go www.pca.state.mn.us/water/cwp-319.html.
–MPCA News Release

Progress seen on curly-leaf pondweed
Two years after Eden Prairie’s Anderson Lakes were drained in an experiment with natural weed control, rain is finally filling them up again and early results are encouraging:

The weeds, after back-to-back cold treatments, seem to be in retreat.

Northwest and Southwest Anderson Lakes were drained in the fall of 2008 to expose the lake beds to a winter freeze in an attempt to kill unwanted curly-leaf pondweed. The freeze targeted burrlike buds embedded in the lake bed that allow the weed to reproduce.
–The Star Tribune

 

 

USDA: Progress on erosion; more needed

June 21, 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.

 USDA: Progress on pollution and erosion; more needs to be done
A new U.S. Department of Agriculture report says farmers in the Upper Mississippi River Basin have made good progress in reducing sediment, nutrient, and pesticide losses from farm fields through conservation practices. But more work is needed to reduce nonpoint agricultural sources of pollution to acceptable levels, according to the draft report.

The report’s executive summary states:

  • Use of soil erosion control practices is widespread, with most acres receiving some form of erosion control treatment. Nevertheless, about 15 percent of the cultivated cropland acres still have excessive sediment loss from fields and require additional erosion control practices.
  •  Complete and consistent use of nutrient management (proper rate, form, timing, and method of application) is generally lacking throughout the region. About 62 percent of the cultivated cropland acres require additional nutrient management to reduce the loss of nitrogen or phosphorus from fields. 
  • The most critical conservation concern in the region is loss of nitrogen through leaching. About 51 percent of cropped acres require additional nutrient management to address excessive levels of nitrogen loss in subsurface flow pathways, including tile drainage systems. About 36 percent of cropped acres need treatment only for nitrogen loss in subsurface flow. 
  • About 15 percent of the acres are critically under-treated in terms of conservation practices. 
  • Nutrient loss from fields is within acceptable limits when soil erosion control practices are paired with management of rate, form, timing, and method of nutrient application that maximizes the availability of nutrients for crop growth while minimizing environmental losses. A suite of practices that includes both soil erosion control and consistent nutrient management is required to simultaneously address soil erosion and nitrogen leaching loss. 
  • Treatment of erosion alone can exacerbate the nitrogen leaching problem because reducing surface water increases infiltration and, therefore, movement of soluble nitrogen into subsurface flow pathways. Soil erosion control practices are effective in reducing the loss of nitrogen in surface runoff, but for some acres the re-routing of surface water runoff to subsurface flow along with incomplete nutrient management results in a small net increase in total nitrogen loss from the field. 

The full draft report is available here.

Wisconsin poised to adopt phosphorus limits
Wisconsin farmers would face phosphorus run-off limits for the first time and wastewater treatment plants would have to follow tighter discharge standards on the oxygen-depleting nutrient under a sweeping rules package state environmental officials are poised to adopt.

The rules represent more than a decade’s worth of work by the Department of Natural Resources to curtail phosphorus pollution in state waters. They address a wide range of pollution sources, from farm fields to wastewater plants to developers. The Natural Resources Board, which sets DNR policy, is scheduled to vote on them.

Bruce Baker, the head of the DNR’s Water Division, said phosphorus regulation has been one of the agency’s weak points since the early 1980s. Now research has advanced enough to provide a scientific basis for new standards, he said.
–The Associated Press  

North-flowing phosphorus threatens Lake Winnipeg
A commercial fishing industry that has prospered for 120 years on Lake Winnipeg, the world’s 10th largest freshwater lake, is threatened by pollution, much of it flowing north in the Red River from Minnesota and North Dakota. 

The main culprit is phosphorus from both human-made and natural sources, and scientists say there are no easy solutions to the problem. State and international borders make it more complicated as farmers, fishermen and scientists alike try to save the lake.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Half a world away from the Gulf, oil spills are commonplace
BODO, Nigeria — Big oil spills are no longer news in this vast, tropical land. The Niger Delta, where the wealth underground is out of all proportion with the poverty on the surface, has endured the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every year for 50 years by some estimates. The oil pours out nearly every week, and some swamps are long since lifeless.

Perhaps no place on earth has been as battered by oil, experts say, leaving residents here astonished at the nonstop attention paid to the gusher half a world away in the Gulf of Mexico. It was only a few weeks ago, they say, that a burst pipe belonging to Royal Dutch Shell in the mangroves was finally shut after flowing for two months: now nothing living moves in a black-and-brown world once teeming with shrimp and crab.
–The New York Times  

EPA’s proposed Florida water standards draw fire
The Hillsboro Canal slices through the sugarcane fields south of Lake Okeechobee and heads east through the houses and strip malls of Parkland, Boca Roton and Deerfield Beach. Empty plastic bottles, candy wrappers and other trash litter the banks. An occasional wading bird pokes for food in the black water.

The canal is among hundreds of streams, canals, lakes and rivers that face tough and controversial new pollution standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The rules are intended primarily to keep algae from choking the springs, lakes and rivers of North and Central Florida, but the EPA has included all the state’s waterways, with special criteria for South Florida’s canals.

Environmental groups, who sued to force EPA to impose the limits, say the restrictions are necessary to protect water bodies from fertilizer and other pollutants washing off lawns, farms and industrial operations.

Dozens of powerful opponents have lined up against the proposal, with paper, citrus and power companies expressing concern about costs. The Florida Department of Agriculture estimates it would cost more than $1 billion a year to implement.
–The Sun-Sentinel

Colorado River water runs a deficit
Colorado River water consumed yearly for agriculture and by the 30 million Westerners who rely on it now exceeds the total annual flow.

A growing awareness of that limited flow is leading to increased scrutiny of urban development — especially projects that require diverting more water to the east side of the Continental Divide.

“We’re no longer in a surplus situation,” said Bill McDonald, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s deputy commissioner for policy and budget. “The teeter-totter has tipped.”

Federal data show that the average annual use of Colorado River water (15.4 million acre-feet) has surpassed the average annual supply (14.5 million acre-feet) in the river.
–The Denver Post

California not ready to say drought is ended
Late spring storms smothered the Sierra in snow. The state’s biggest reservoir is nearly full. Precipitation across much of California has been above average. By standard measures, California’s three-year drought is over.

“From a hydrologic standpoint, for most of California, it is gone,” said state hydrologist Maury Roos, who has monitored the ups and downs of the state’s water for 50 years.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t lifting his drought declaration. Los Angeles isn’t ending its watering restrictions and Southern California’s major water wholesaler isn’t reversing delivery cuts. Despite months of rain and snow and rising levels in the state’s major reservoirs, water managers aren’t ready to celebrate or make the drought’s end official.
–The Los Angeles Times 

 Faucet snails afflict Crow Wing River
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will designate the Crow Wing River in Hubbard, Wadena, Todd, Cass and Morrison counties as “infested waters” later this month because the faucet snail (Bithynia tentaculata) has been found there. The snail is linked to waterfowl deaths at Lake Winnibigoshish and the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota. 

The faucet snail was first noticed in nearby Upper and Lower Twin lakes and the Shell River in Wadena County last fall. The Twin lakes and the Shell River are connected to the Crow Wing River, so the recent detection of the faucet snails is not a surprise.

New regulations will take effect along the river to help stop movement of the faucet snail to other waters. Once designated “infested water,” state law prohibits the transport of water from the Crow Wing River without a permit.  It also prohibits anglers or commercial bait harvesters from harvesting bait from these waters without a permit.
–Minnesota DNR news release

Ethanol producer eyes 1,700-mile pipeline
Poet, the world’s largest producer of ethanol, and Oklahoma-based Magellan Midstream Partners LP want to build the nation’s first pipeline to transport corn ethanol from the Midwest to the East Coast.

Both companies say the project would create more than 50,000 construction jobs during the installation of the ethanol pipeline, which could be complete as soon as 2014.

About 1,100 permanent jobs would be generated by the joint venture following completion of the pipeline, which could position the United States as an exporter of ethanol.

Stretching from South Dakota to New Jersey, the proposed 1,700-mile, $3.5 billion project would extend into southern Minnesota and snake through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey before terminating in Linden, N.J.
–Finance & Commerce 

EPA questions Monsanto dam in Idaho
Federal regulators are concerned that a dam built by Monsanto Co. earlier this year to trap phosphate mine runoff may be stopping more than just pollution.

They say the dam has also halted millions of gallons of water in Sheep Creek that would otherwise help fill the Blackfoot River.

The Environmental Protection Agency now wants the maker of Roundup herbicide to begin a costly treatment to remove selenium and heavy metals, then discharge clean water downstream, instead of capturing it in a 50-million-gallon lake behind the dam and using it for dust control on its mining roads.

The situation shows the predicament that companies like St. Louis-based Monsanto and the government face in Idaho’s rich-but-polluted phosphate mining country not far from Yellowtone National Park: They must work to contain naturally occurring poisons unearthed during a century of digging, while protecting water supplies in an agricultural state hit hard by drought over the last decade.
–The Associated Press

U.S.-Canada panel warns of threats to groundwater
 The Great Lakes Science Advisory Board issued a bi-national assessment of threats to groundwater in the Great Lakes basin.

The report, prepared for the International Joint Commission, notes groundwater in the Great Lakes basin is similar in volume to Lake Michigan and provides a source of drinking water for millions of basin residents.

“Yet this major component of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem receives inadequate attention in policies designed to protect Great Lakes water quality,” officials said. A PDF of the full report is available.
–UPI.com

 St. Paul to get new water meters
That dusty, aging water meter in your basement? It’s getting replaced.

St. Paul Regional Water Services is embarking on a nearly $20 million program to replace every water meter in St. Paul, Maplewood, West St. Paul, Mendota Heights, Falcon Heights and Lauderdale. That’s 94,000 meters in all, over the next three years, beginning this fall.

The new meters will be high-tech compared with the current devices. They will allow workers to remotely check water use by driving past meter locations but never actually going onto private property.

Important details, such as when a work crew will come into your basement to do the work, and how much your rates will go up as a result, have yet to be determined. The water agency is still sorting through bids on the project, and its top executive will propose an annual budget and water rates next month.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Loons, Gulf oil, feedlot pollution

June 14, 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.

Gulf oil spill could impact Minnesota loons
Could Minnesota’s state bird, the common loon, become a victim of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico more than 1,200 miles away?

 A state Department of Natural Resources expert says it is a real possibility.

 Unknown numbers of nonbreeding, juvenile loons from Minnesota reside in the Gulf, awaiting the time when they will be old enough to breed and return north. Juvenile loons spend three years in the Gulf before they are sexually mature and migrate to Minnesota, said DNR nongame lake wildlife expert Pam Perry. 

“We have juvenile loons down there right now, and we don’t know what will happen to them,” she said. “Oil can have a direct impact on their mortality, but it can also disrupt the food chain. We certainly have a lot of concerns.” 

Mature loons residing in Minnesota are raising their young, but come late October and early November, they will migrate to the Gulf Coast, as well as the shores of Florida, where they will spend the winter. During that time, they will molt, or grow new feathers, and spend their time feeding in the Gulf, Perry said.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 Estimate of Gulf oil flow doubled
A government panel essentially doubled its estimate of how much oil has been spewing from the out-of-control BP well, with the new calculation suggesting that an amount equivalent to the Exxon Valdez disaster could be flowing into the Gulf of Mexico every 8 to 10 days.

 The new estimate is 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day. That range, still preliminary, is far above the previous estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day.

 These new calculations came as the public wrangling between BP and the White House was reaching new heights, with President Obama asking for a meeting with BP executives and his Congressional allies intensifying their pressure on the oil giant to withhold dividend payments to shareholders until it makes clear it can and will pay all its obligations from the spill.

 The higher estimates will affect not only assessments of how much environmental damage the spill has done but also how much BP might eventually pay to clean up the mess — and they will most likely increase suspicion among skeptics about how honest and forthcoming the oil company has been throughout the catastrophe.
–The New York Times

 Gulf oil plumes unprecedented in ‘human history’
Vast underwater concentrations of oil sprawling for miles in the Gulf of Mexico from the damaged, crude-belching BP PLC well are unprecedented in “human history” and threaten to wreak havoc on marine life, a team of scientists said, a finding confirmed for the first time by federal officials.

 Researchers aboard the F.G. Walton Smith vessel briefed reporters on a two-week cruise in which they traced an underwater oil plum 15 miles wide, 3 miles long and about 600 feet thick. The plume’s core is 1,100 to 1,300 meters below the surface, they said.

“It’s an infusion of oil and gas unlike anything else that has ever been seen anywhere, certainly in human history,” said Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia, the expedition leader.

 Bacteria are breaking down the oil’s hydrocarbons in a massive, microorganism feeding frenzy that has sent oxygen levels plunging close to what is considered “dead zone” conditions, at which most marine life are smothered for a lack of dissolved oxygen.
–The New York Times 

Scientists skeptical of Gulf sand berms
The frenzied response to the BP oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico has featured any number of wing-and-a-prayer options from engineers and elected officials. But the debate over a sand-barrier plan that skeptical scientists are referring to as “The Great Wall of Louisiana” has been the most politically charged.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and angry parish presidents have hammered the Obama administration in past weeks over what they characterize as a glacial federal approval process for the state’s plan to construct 128 miles of sand berms, dredging up 102 million cubic yards of seabed in the process, to bolster the state’s barrier islands and absorb oil before it reaches sensitive coastal marshes. 

The Army Corps of Engineers gave final approval last week to a scaled-down version of the project after rejecting the state’s original proposal, which could have cost as much as $950 million and taken as long as nine months to build. 

But as Jindal and other politicians celebrate the partial victory, coastal researchers warn that the project can’t be built in time to help — even if it had been approved when first proposed last month. And scientists warn that it may have unforeseen consequences. 

The berm system could reroute the spill up the Mississippi Delta, and it would be unlikely to survive even a mild storm during the current hurricane season.
–The Los Angeles Times 

Media struggle to get close to oil spill
When the operators of Southern Seaplane in Belle Chasse, La., called the local Coast Guard-Federal Aviation Administration command center for permission to fly over restricted airspace in Gulf of Mexico, they made what they thought was a simple and routine request.

 A pilot wanted to take a photographer from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans to snap photographs of the oil slicks blackening the water. The response from a BP contractor who answered the phone late last month at the command center was swift and absolute: Permission denied.

 “We were questioned extensively. Who was on the aircraft? Who did they work for?” recalled Rhonda Panepinto, who owns Southern Seaplane with her husband, Lyle. “The minute we mentioned media, the answer was: ‘Not allowed.’ ”
–The New York Times 

State completes Lake Vermilion park deal
With Gov. Tim Pawlenty completing a land deal for a new Minnesota state park, visitors could make their first trips there yet this year. 

Pawlenty and U.S. Steel Executive Vice President John Goodish signed documents transferring about 3,000 acres in northeastern Minnesota to the state for Lake Vermilion State Park. 

The state paid U.S. Steel $18 million for the property on Lake Vermilion’s eastern shore and has an additional $2 million available to begin developing the park, a process that will take six or more years. 

That $20 million was set aside by the Legislature two years ago, but an additional $30 million or so for future development costs still must be approved. 

The event in the governor’s reception room culminates a process that began three years ago when Pawlenty announced plans for the park, the first major new one in Minnesota since Tettegouche in 1979.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

St. Paul brewery well flows again
St. Paul’s old Schmidt Brewery is once again selling water that has remained deep under the Earth’s surface for 35 millenia.

 For 50 cents a gallon, people can now draw water from the brewery’s 1,050-foot-deep well. The well was drilled in 1980, and its water was later gauged by a University of Minnesota geology professor to be about 35,000 years old.

A pair of vending machines on the West Seventh side of the building at 882 W. Seventh St. will dispense as many gallons as residents need.

 But if 50 cents is too much, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 19, the brewer’s old Rathskeller, or German drinking hall, will be open to the public. At that time, David Kreitzer, who represents the building’s owners, said he will start offering free water for several days, followed by half-price water for a number of weeks.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

MPCA, farmer agree to $45,000 pollution penalty
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has reached an agreement with feedlot owner Joe Varner that requires him to pay $45,000 for alleged water pollution violations at his cattle farm near Clarissa in Todd County. 

 MPCA and Todd County feedlot staff inspections during 2008-2009 revealed several violations, mostly relating to pollution discharges into area waterways.  According to inspection reports, Varner failed to correct identified pollution hazards which allowed manure-contaminated sediment and runoff to discharge into two road ditches, one of which leads directly to area streams and rivers.  These discharges were not reported and no attempt was made to recover them once they had left the property.  The feedlot also exceeded its county-permitted limit of 712 head of cattle, and failed to obtain a required national pollution discharge elimination system permit once the number of cattle exceeded 1,000 head.  

Of the $45,000 civil penalty, up to $15,000 may be abated if Varner proves he spent that amount to correct the pollution hazards that allowed the discharges from his property.  If this is not done to the satisfaction of the MPCA, then the final $15,000 will be due in March 2012.  Varner must also submit a list of all sites in Minnesota that contain cattle he owns, along with evidence that these sites are properly registered and permitted. 

The MPCA regulates the collection, transportation, storage, processing and disposal of animal manure.  It also provides outreach and training for feedlot operators. 
–MPCA news release 

EPA takes action against Iowa feedlots
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has taken a series of civil enforcement actions against three beef feedlot operations in Iowa for violations of the Clean Water Act, as part of a continuing enforcement emphasis aimed at ending harmful discharges of pollutants from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) into the region’s rivers and streams.

 “In some instances, we are finding harmful bacteria such as E.coli in wastewater discharged by feedlots at levels that are exponentially higher than the levels at which EPA permits municipal wastewater treatment systems to discharge their treated wastewater,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. “This is just one measure of the harm that can come when feedlots fail to operate within the law.”

 Runoff from CAFOs may contain such pollutants as pathogens and sediment, as well as nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous, all of which can harm aquatic life and impact water quality.
–EPA Region 7 News Release 

Cottage Grove eyes reuse of tainted water  
Cottage Grove will hold off on instituting new restrictions on midday lawn watering until city leaders meet with state officials about finding a way to reuse millions of gallons of water being pumped out of south Washington County’s aquifers as part of 3M’s efforts to clean up contaminated groundwater. 

Under pressure from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to lower the city’s per capita water usage, public works officials proposed a ban on residential irrigation between noon and 4 p.m. for properties on the city’s water system, as well as an amendment to the city’s water conservation ordinance that would have allowed the public works director to impose emergency regulations in extreme conditions. 

But city council members said the amount of water saved by tacking the midday restriction on top of the city’s existing odd-even watering regulations would have been a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of gallons of water being pumped, treated and dumped into the Mississippi River during 3M cleanup efforts.
–The South Washington County Bulletin 

Army Corps to restore islands in Mississippi
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, awarded a $3.4 million contract to J.F. Brennan Co., Inc. of La Crosse, Wis., to restore islands in the Mississippi River.The project is an effort to restore lost and diminished fish and wildlife habitat in Pool 8 by restoring islands that have eroded or completely disappeared. Island loss allows more wave action in the backwaters, which can uproot plants and keep sediment suspended. Suspended sediment increases turbidity levels in the water, which reduces the amount of sunlight that penetrates the water and enables plant growth.
Phases I and II of the Pool 8 Islands habitat restoration project included building Horseshoe and Boomerang islands near Brownsville, Minn., and an island complex near Stoddard, Wis. The first stage of phase III was completed in 2006 in an area downstream of Stoddard. Stage 2 was completed in the fall 2009 and involved the construction of 12 islands in the Raft Channel area below Brownsville.Stage 3A will involve the construction of five large and three smaller islands near the raft channel area. Material to build the islands will be dredged from the vicinity of the islands and from Schnicks Bay. Most of the construction under this contract will be completed this year with three additional islands to be built in 2010.
–Army Corps of Engineers news release Climate scientists cite harassment
A few years ago, Ben Santer, a climate scientist with Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, answered a 10 p.m. doorbell ring at his home. After opening the door, he found a dead rat on his doorstep and a man in yellow Hummer speeding away while “shouting curses at me.” 

Santer shared this story last week before a congressional committee examining the increasing harassment of climate scientists, and the state of climate science. 

After the online posting in November of 1,073 stolen e-mails from climate scientists, including some from Santer, the threats took a more ominous turn,” Santer told members of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, chaired by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. Skeptics of climate change have dubbed the e-mail incident “Climategate.” 

“The nature of these e-mail threats has been of more concern,” Santer said. “I’ve worried about the security and safety of my family.”
–The Contra Costa Times

 Group promotes safer, homemade cleansers
What do you get when you mix baking soda, olive oil and borax, with a little white wine on the side?

 A green cleaning party.

 Dubbed the 21st-century equivalent of a Tupperware party by Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), an environmental and health organization, the parties are a way for women to gather and create green, safe and cheap cleaning products.
–The Star Tribune

Lights pollute the night sky
Time was, the stars in the sky epitomized the very concept of countlessness. “Innumerable as the stars of night,” wrote Milton. If the poet’s contemporaries had tried enumerate the twinkling beacons above, they might have been able to make out 5,000 or more with the naked eye on a clear, moonless night. Today, a stargazing city-dweller would be lucky to identify a few dozen distinct points of light overhead, even under optimal meteorological conditions. And just one in three Americans can see the Milky Way from where they live. 

What happened to the stars? They got polluted. Polluted by light.

It’s not the stars themselves that have vanished, but rather the inky-black backdrop against which they used to be visible. Artificial light, cast upward from our cities and roads, has washed out the natural darkness. It has obscured the obscura. It has made the night false.
–The Washington Post

 Drainage information sessions set
Agricultural producers, ditch and tile contractors, watershed professionals, elected officials and citizens are invited to learn about farm drainage technology that has the ability to save groundwater, reduce runoff to local waterways, improve tile drain water quality and potentially increase crop yields.

 The technique – known as drainage management or conservation drainage – involves the installation of mechanisms in farm drainage tiles that allow water to be drained quickly from fields before spring tillage and then allow water to be held in the soil during the growing season. 

Three information sessions – from 7 to 8:30 p.m. — will be held:

  •   Wednesday, June 16, LeSueur County Environmental Services Center, 515 S. Maple Ave., LeCenter.
  •  Tuesday, June 22, Arlington Community Center, 204 Shamrock Drive, Arlington.
  •  Wednesday, June 23, Redwood Falls Community Center, 901 East Cook St., Redwood Falls.

 All the sessions are free. For information, contact Scott Sparlin at yasure@lycos.com or 507-276-2280.

 

Murray Stein, a clean water crusader, dies

June 7, 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.

Murray Stein, anti-pollution crusader, dies at 92
Murray Stein, who for more than 20 years led the federal government’s fight against water pollution and did much to overcome the prevailing attitude that the nation’s waterways could serve as sewers, died May 24 at his home in Falls Church, Va. He was 92.

 His daughter Judith Sloane confirmed his death.

 Mr. Stein, who retired in 1976, was something of a diplomat without portfolio, traveling from state to state with the difficult mission of seeking compliance through steps that avoided penalties or court action. His technique was to preside over hearings at which local officials and corporate executives were confronted with evidence of pollution and then invited or cajoled into adopting remedial programs. 

It was not easy. Most polluters were reluctant to cooperate, much less spend millions of dollars to remediate. State officials often challenged the constitutional right of the federal government to intervene. 

Mr. Stein usually dealt with resistance through soft-spoken amiability. His standard lines were: “We’re dealing with facts subject to scientific measurement. Once we get agreement on the facts, the solutions will present themselves.”
–The New York Times

 Coast Guard warns of long fight against oil spill
The Coast Guard commander in charge of the federal response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico warned that even if the flow of crude was stopped by summer, it could take well into autumn — and maybe much longer— to deal with the slick spreading relentlessly across the gulf. 

The assessment came as the sheer volume of oil gushing from the out-of-control well forced BP to temporarily halt its attempts to close all four vents on a capping device designed to capture the oil. Even with three vents still open, the cap was capturing so much oil — more than 10,000 barrels a day, an improvement over any previous containment attempt — that the company did not have adequate equipment at hand to process any more. 

The well, like a raging undersea beast, has continued to stymie BP and government officials. One technician, amazed at the power of the oil gushing from its depths, called it “one hell of a well.”
–The New York Times

Great Lakes water levels decline
After a winter of next-to-no snow, water levels all across the Great Lakes are down this spring, something government and business experts say could have an impact on the environment and the economy.

The Canadian Hydrographic Service issued a warning earlier that water levels were at potentially dangerous levels on the lakes system, which stretches from Lake Superior in northwestern Ontario to Montreal.

 Water levels in Lake Superior, the largest of the lakes, are at their lowest in more than a century, according to officials on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported this month that in April, the biggest of the Great Lakes lost about three centimetres during a time when spring runoff usually swells the lake by as much as eight centimetres. 

The Corps said that was only the fourth time Lake Superior declined in April in the past 110 years and was the lowest level since 1907. The levels are also low in lakes Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario — as much as 25 centimetres lower in some places.
–CTV News

 Even low levels of urbanization affect aquatic organisms
The number of native fish and aquatic insects, especially those that are pollution-sensitive, declines in urban and suburban streams at low levels of development — levels often considered protective for stream communities, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey. 

“When the area of driveways, parking lots, streets and other impervious cover reaches 10 percent of a watershed area, many types of pollution sensitive aquatic insects decline by as much as one third, compared to streams in undeveloped forested watersheds,” said Tom Cuffney, USGS biologist. “We learned that there is no ‘safe zone,’ meaning that even minimal or early stages of development can negatively affect aquatic life in urban streams.” 

As a watershed becomes developed, the amount of pavement, sidewalks and other types of urban land cover increases. During storms, water is rapidly transported over these urban surfaces to streams. The rapid rise and fall of stream flow and changes in temperature can be detrimental to fish and aquatic insects. Stormwater from urban development can also contain fertilizers and insecticides used along roads and on lawns, parks and golf courses.
–USGS News Release

Drug factories spill pharmaceuticals into streams
Pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities can be a significant source of pharmaceuticals to surface waters, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey conducted in cooperation with the State of New York.

Outflow from two wastewater treatment plants in New York that receive more than 20 percent of their wastewater from pharmaceutical facilities had concentrations of pharmaceuticals that were 10 to 1000 times higher than outflows from 24 plants nationwide that do not receive wastewater from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

“This is the first study in the U.S. to identify pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities as a significant source of pharmaceuticals to the environment,” said Matthew C. Larsen, USGS Associate Director for Water. “The USGS is working with water utilities to evaluate alternative water treatment technologies with the goal of reducing the release of pharmaceuticals and other emerging contaminants to the environment.”

While pharmaceutical concentrations were significantly lower in receiving streams, measurable concentrations were detected as far as 20 miles downstream.

By contrast, outflow from the wastewater treatment plants that do not receive wastewater from pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities had concentrations that rarely exceeded one ppb.

This scientific paper is published in Environmental Science and Technology. The paper, an accompanying USGS data report, and related information are available online.
–USGS News Release

States, environmentalists differ over Chesapeake progress
Leaders of the District, Maryland and Virginia claimed major progress toward meeting pollution reduction deadlines for the Chesapeake Bay next year, even as environmentalists questioned those assertions and said that if leaders are wrong, the federal government must step in and levy penalties against the jurisdictions. 

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and District Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) gathered in Baltimore, along with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) and EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe in the first meeting of the so-called Chesapeake Executive Council since McDonnell took office in January and since a settlement last month of a lawsuit brought against the EPA by bay advocates. They say that settlement requires the EPA to hold states strictly to their 2011 deadlines for improvements to the bay, which include reducing nitrogen, phosphorous and other pollutants, planting cover crops to prevent erosion and cleaning up leaky septic systems.
–The Washington Post

Chicago Mayor Daley to EPA: Go swim in the Potomac
Mayor Richard Daley was primed and ready to tee off when asked about the Obama administration’s suggestion that the notoriously murky Chicago River be made safe enough for swimming.

“Go swim in the Potomac,” Daley said at a City Hall news conference about police issues. “We’re trying to make this river every day cleanable, more cleanable.”

Daley recited a rogue’s gallery of rivers that he said also deserve federal scrutiny while responding to a letter the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed with the state Pollution Control Board saying the Chicago River should be clean enough for “recreation in and on the water.” The Tribune first reported the letter Wednesday.

Daley defended the city’s ongoing efforts to improve the river’s water quality, pointing out it now draws people with fishing rods where there used to be only industrial runoff.
–The Chicago Tribune 

California debates toxic pesticide use
State regulators are set to approve the use of a highly toxic pesticide that would replace a soil fumigant that is being phased out because of the damage it does to the ozone layer. 

State officials have received thousands of comments, largely from organized e-mail campaigns, in opposition to a proposal to allow the use of methyl iodide. The comment period runs through June 29. 

If approved, the pesticide would likely be used mostly on the strawberry fields around Salinas and Watsonville, and Southern California regions around Oxnard and Santa Maria. It is a fumigant that is usually injected into the soil before strawberries, nursery plants and nut trees are planted. 

“Because of methyl iodide’s high volatility and water solubility, broad use of this chemical in agriculture will guarantee substantial releases to air, surface waters and groundwater, and will result in exposures to many people,” dozens of scientists wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before the chemical was approved by the federal government in 2007.
–The Contra Costa Times

MPCA offers chemical disposal tips
Americans generate 1.6 million tons of waste each year from common household products. These products can include paint, grease and rust removers, mold and mildew removers, oven cleaners and many more. Leftovers of these products, often referred to as household hazardous waste (HHW), may contain corrosive, toxic, flammable or reactive ingredients.

 Improper disposal of household hazardous waste can include pouring them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or in some cases putting them in the trash. Improper disposal of these materials can pollute the environment.

 The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency  web site has tips for preventing water pollution when you dispose of such chemicals.

Manganese mining, factory farms, Asian carp

June 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.

EPA seeks comment on manganese mine project
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is inviting residents of Crow Wing County and surrounding areas to comment on a proposal to inject water underground to test the feasibility of mining a big manganese deposit at Emily, MN,  near Brainerd.

The EPA has proposed issuing an injection well permit to Cooperative Mineral Resources of Brainerd that would allow the firm to test a plan to inject high-pressure groundwater into the manganese and then extract the ore through wells. The water would be filtered and returned to the ground.

Public comments on the proposal will be accepted by the EPA through June 25. An EPA fact sheet on the project is available at http://www.epa.gov/reg5oh2o/uic/uicpub.htm.  Documents also can be examined at the Outing Volunteer Library, 6300 Woods Bay Drive Northeast, Outing, MN.

 Comments may be directed to Leslie Patterson, permit writer, Underground Injection Control Branch, EPA Region 5 (WU-16J), 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604-3590, or to patterson.leslie@epa.gov.

 A recent Associated Press article on the manganese mining proposal  is available on the WCCO-Television website.

 ‘Economist’ special report focuses on water
When the word water appears in print these days, crisis is rarely far behind. Water, it is said, is the new oil: a resource long squandered, now growing expensive and soon to be overwhelmed by insatiable demand. Aquifers are falling, glaciers vanishing, reservoirs drying up and rivers no longer flowing to the sea. Climate change threatens to make the problems worse. Everyone must use less water if famine, pestilence and mass migration are not to sweep the globe. As it is, wars are about to break out between countries squabbling over dams and rivers. If the apocalypse is still a little way off, it is only because the four horsemen and their steeds have stopped to search for something to drink.

The language is often overblown, and the remedies sometimes ill conceived, but the basic message is not wrong. Water is indeed scarce in many places, and will grow scarcer. Bringing supply and demand into equilibrium will be painful, and political disputes may increase in number and intensify in their capacity to cause trouble. To carry on with present practices would indeed be to invite disaster.

Why? The difficulties start with the sheer number of people using the stuff. When, 60 years ago, the world’s population was about 2.5 billion, worries about water supply affected relatively few people. Both drought and hunger existed, as they have throughout history, but most people could be fed without irrigated farming. Then the green revolution, in an inspired combination of new crop breeds, fertilisers and water, made possible a huge rise in the population. The number of people on Earth rose to 6 billion in 2000, nearly 7 billion today, and is heading for 9 billion in 2050. The area under irrigation has doubled and the amount of water drawn for farming has tripled. The proportion of people living in countries chronically short of water, which stood at 8% (500m) at the turn of the 21st century, is set to rise to 45% (4 billion) by 2050. And already 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night, partly for lack of water to grow food.
–A special report on water in The Economist

EPA agrees to seek more feedlot data
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will gather information about factory farms to determine whether more should be regulated as part of a settlement with environmental groups concerned about water pollution.

The EPA reached the settlement with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Waterkeeper Alliance.

 The groups filed a federal lawsuit in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in early 2009, claiming the EPA gave too much discretion to farm operators in determining which farms needed permits to discharge waste into waterways.

 The settlement requires the EPA to gather information about factory farms that don’t have discharge permits and determine whether they should be regulated.
–The Associated Press

Poisoning turns up no carp
With no carp found during the most recent poisoning of the Little Calumet River near Chicago, Illinois barge and tour boat owners say it is a sign that the much-feared carp are not the imminent threat Michigan and other states claim.

They questioned the validity of the DNA testing that led to the poisoning and said it’s proof that the existing electrical barriers are sufficient to hold back the carp.

 “There is no justification for contemplating a temporary or permanent lock closure and a shutdown of waterways in the region,” said the American Waterways Operators, a coalition that represents barge owners. 

Michigan’s persistent call for lock closures through the courts is “a knee-jerk reaction that we can ill afford at a time when jobs are in great demand.” 

The latest findings may make it politically more difficult to push for the permanent separation of the Chicago canals from the Great Lakes, a massive and expensive undertaking that would take years and disrupt current patterns of commerce on the rivers near Chicago.
–The Detroit Free Press

Health Department releases drinking water data
Results of regular monitoring reveal little evidence of serious contamination problems in Minnesota’s 964 community water supply systems, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Minnesota’s public water supply systems are tested on a regular basis for bacteria, nitrate and other inorganic chemicals, radiological elements, and up to 118 different industrial chemicals and pesticides. The MDH annual report is based on the results of monitoring under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act for the past year.

Finding included:

  • No systems exceeded current federal or state standards for pesticides or industrial contaminants.
  • Detectable levels of coliform bacteria were found in 13 community water systems, including 5 municipal systems. While not all coliform bacteria cause illness, they provide an indicator of possible contamination in the system. Municipal systems that tested positive for bacterial contamination were Bovey, Brainerd, Marble, Perley, and Trommald.
  •  While several cities in Minnesota continue to wrestle with arsenic in their groundwater, the vast majority of municipal drinking water systems in the state report few problems. By the end of 2009, 10 community water systems, including six unicipal systems, exceeded the standard for arsenic. The affected municipal systems are Buffalo Lake, Dilworth, Dumont, Lowry, Norcross, and Wendall.
  • Ten community water systems exceeded the standard for radium 226 & 228 at the end of 2009. The affected municipal systems are Anoka, Brook Park, Claremont, East Bethel, Hinckley, Lewiston, Medford, and Rushford Village. No restrictions were placed on water consumption in those communities, although residents were notified of the situation.  

Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan said she was pleased with the results of the testing. The 2009 report and those from previous years are available online at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/water/com/dwar/report09.html.
–Health Department news release

Carbon trading hits snags in Europe
Carbon trading was meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union by making polluting more expensive for heavy industries, encouraging them to invest in cleaner technology. But even supporters admit that the system, also known as cap and trade, is falling far short of that goal. 

Critics decry it as just another form of financial profiteering with little environmental benefit.

Carbon traders, for example, have been arrested for tax fraud; evidence has emerged of lucrative projects that may do nothing to curb climate change; and steel and cement companies have booked huge profits selling surplus permits they received for free. 

Two disparate groups — one representing businesses, the other European regulators — are recommending potentially complementary steps to revive the system. Their goal also is to promote its adoption in such countries as the United States and Australia, where efforts have stalled amid economic concerns.
–The New York Times

 Irrigation taxes arsenic-free water in Bangladesh
An estimated 60 million people in Bangladesh are exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic in their drinking water, dramatically raising their risk for cancer and other serious diseases, according to the World Health Organization.

Because most of the contaminated water is near the surface, many people in Bangladesh have installed deep wells to tap into groundwater that’s relatively free of arsenic.

 In recent years, farmers have begun using the deep, uncontaminated aquifers for irrigation – a practice that could compromise access to clean drinking water across the country, according to a report in the May 27 issue of journal Science.
–webnewswire.com