Manganese mining, factory farms, Asian carp

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

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