Archive for October, 2010

Manure, local food and Asian carp

October 26, 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.

Manure clean-up effort lags in Minnesota
Thousands of small farms may still be allowing animal manure to contaminate waters across Minnesota, a decade after a state environmental program was created to help curtail the hazardous practice.

The cleanup effort, which had a deadline of Oct. 1, has languished because of funding shortages, oversight problems by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the inability to get more farmers to participate. MPCA officials said last week they don’t know how many farms still need fixing. Two years ago, the last time they checked, more than 3,000 farms in the state did. 

At stake is the health of many Minnesota lakes and streams, where manure from so-called animal feedlots can carry disease-causing bacteria that make waters unsafe for swimmers, anglers and others. Untreated waste can also kill fish, harm aquatic plants, and create a chain of environmental problems.
–The Star Tribune

Wisconsin DNR suspects manure in fish kill
Investigators with the state Department of Natural Resources and Dane County say it is likely that a fish kill in late September on the Sugar River was caused by manure runoff.

But Dave Wood, a DNR conservation warden, said investigators have not been able to pinpoint the origin of the manure. 

“We found out there was a lot of liquid manure being spread in the upper watershed then,” Wood said. The Dane County Land and Water Resources Department also worked on the investigation. 

The fish kill probably happened between Sept. 23 and Sept. 26 and killed more than 50 fish, including some trophy-sized brown trout. The stretch of river where the fish died is near Riley; the fish were found along a section of river running roughly from the intersections of highways P and S southeast to Highway PD.
–The Wisconsin State Journal

 Horner pledges to make water quality a priority
Calling conservation of natural resources a defining issue for Minnesotans, Independence Party candidate Tom Horner pledged to make restoring water quality a top priority if he is elected governor.

 Standing in warm autumn sunlight at St. Paul’s Como Park, Horner said his first goal is “reversing degradation to our lakes, streams and waterways and groundwater.”

With the state facing a projected $5.8 billion budget deficit, Horner acknowledged that he wouldn’t be able to significantly increase funding for natural resources in the next two years, but said, “Let’s not take any more money away.”

 He would borrow money through the sale of bonds to purchase conservation reserve easements along farm drainage ditches to protect water quality and offer low-interest loans to small cities to upgrade their sewage-treatment facilities.

To properly staff the front lines in protecting lakes from invasive species and pollution, Horner also pledged to hire a “full complement” of conservation officers. Currently, 10 percent of those jobs are vacant, he said. 

“That can’t be sacrificed to a budget deficit,” he said.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 Wal-Mart announces focus on local food
The local-and-sustainable food movement has spread to the nation’s largest retailer.

Wal-Mart Stores announced a program that focuses on sustainable agriculture among its suppliers as it tries to reduce its overall environmental impact.

The program is intended to put more locally grown food in Wal-Mart stores in the United States, invest in training and infrastructure for small and medium-size farmers, particularly in emerging markets, and begin to measure how efficiently large suppliers grow and get their produce into stores.

Advocates of environmentally sustainable farming said the announcement was significant because of Wal-Mart’s size and because it would give small farmers a chance at Wal-Mart’s business, but they questioned how “local” a $405 billion company with two million employees — more than the populations of Alaska, Wyoming and Vermont combined — could be.
–The New York Times

Asian carp may lead to re-engineering of Chicago waterways
The battle over closing Chicago-area outlets into Lake Michigan is not only about preventing Asian carp from decimating the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing industry, experts said. It has also prompted efforts to re-engineer a century-old waterway system that Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, has compared to “having left Michigan Avenue a dirt road while we built up a modern city around it.”

Michigan and four other states have filed suit in federal court demanding the closure of locks that connect rivers and channels to the lake.

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce has countered that Asian carp pose no imminent ecological threat and shutting the locks would mean billions in losses for tour boats, shipping and other industries.

Urban planners and environmental groups said there is another way to deal with the Asian carp threat: separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, which were joined a century ago by the man-made reversal of the Chicago River and the building of canals.

Separation could also involve overhauling Chicago’s outdated wastewater-treatment system and reduce the city’s controversial diversion of two billion gallons of water a day out of Lake Michigan into the Chicago River.
–The Chicago News Cooperative

EPA plays catch-up on Florida pollution
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is supposed to enforce the nation’s rules on water pollution, has suffered a pair of black eyes from two recent court cases in Florida.

In both cases, the agency has been forced to agree it has done a poor job of stopping pollution in Florida. In both, the EPA has now pledged to impose tougher standards to clean up the mess. In both, industry officials and politicians are strongly objecting to the EPA’s crackdown because the fix will cost so much money.

“Had they been doing their job all along, we wouldn’t be in this boat,” said Paul Schweip, an attorney for Friends of the Everglades, one of the organizations that sued over pollution problems.

Both cases are causing the agency major headaches.
–The St. Petersburg Times

Seattle U. eliminates plastic water bottles
Out with plastic at Seattle University. In with stainless steel water bottles.

The university is the sixth in the nation — and the first in Washington state — to eliminate plastic water bottles from cafeterias, stores and vending machines. Instead, students are encouraged to purchase a reusable water bottle for $9.99.

SU installed more than 30 water fountains with bottle fillers around campus, preparing to eliminate disposable bottles as part of a “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign.

A portion of the proceeds from reusable water bottles will be donated to Engineers Without Borders.

“For every bottle sold, four Haitians will drink clean water for ten years from the water treatment systems bought and maintained by Engineers Without Borders,” SU officials wrote.
–The Seattle Post Intelligencer

Manitoba considers ‘grey water’ rules
Attic insulation. Check

Last night’s bathtub water in the toilet. Huh?

Yup, the province is on the cusp of updating the building code to include grey water collection systems that use bathtub and shower water in toilet systems instead of freshwater as clean as your drinking water.

“We do think it’s a pretty innovative way to reduce water consumption, to be easier on our municipal water infrastructure,” Labour Minister Jennifer Howard said in outlining changes to Manitoba’s new building and plumbing codes.

“Right now we flush our toilets with drinkable water. The same water that comes out of your tap to drink is the water we flush down the toilet. Lots of countries in the world have a different view of that. They have the ability to use, you do your dishes, you use that water to flush the toilet.”

Howard said the province will approve in-home grey water collection systems if they meet Canadian Standards Association requirements, which are expected to be released in December.
–The Winnipeg Free Press

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Farm tiling called major cause of hypoxia

October 12, 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.

Tile drainage main cause of hypoxia, research says
Tile drainage in the Mississippi Basin is one of the great advances of the 19th and 20th centuries, allowing highly productive agriculture in what was once land too wet to farm. In fact, installation of new tile systems continues every year, because it leads to increased crop yields. But a recent study shows that the most heavily tile-drained areas of North America are also the largest contributing source of nitrate to the Gulf of Mexico, leading to seasonal hypoxia. In the summer of 2010 this dead zone in the Gulf spanned over 7,000 square miles. 

Scientists from the University of Illinois and Cornell University compiled information on each county in the Mississippi River basin including crop acreage and yields, fertilizer inputs, atmospheric deposition, number of people, and livestock to calculate all nitrogen inputs and outputs from 1997 to 2006. For 153 watersheds in the basin, they also used measurements of nitrate concentration and flow in streams, which allowed them to develop a statistical model that explained 83 percent of the variation in springtime nitrate flow in the monitored streams. The greatest nitrate loss to streams corresponded to the highly productive, tile-drained cornbelt from southwest Minnesota across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. 

This area of the basin has extensive row cropping of fertilized corn and soybeans, a flat landscape with tile drainage, and channelized ditches and streams to facilitate drainage. 

“Farmers are not to blame,” said University of Illinois researcher Mark David. “They are using the same amount of nitrogen as they were 30 years ago and getting much higher corn yields, but we have created a very leaky agricultural system. This allows nitrate to move quickly from fields into ditches and on to the Gulf of Mexico. We need policies that reward farmers to help correct the problem.” 

The research is published in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality published by the American Society of Agronomists.
–Science Daily

 Ethanol plants violate air, water rules
The rush to produce more ethanol and strengthen Minnesota’s farm economy has come with an environmental price for communities hosting the huge plants.

 Five ethanol facilities have been cited in the past 12 months for widespread air and water quality violations. They have paid more than $2.8 million in penalties and corrective actions. Alarmed state pollution control officials are scrambling to help operators understand and comply with laws.

In the most recent penalty, Buffalo Lake Energy in Fairmont will pay $285,000. It’s a new plant that began production in June 2008 with a wastewater treatment system not permitted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
–The Star Tribune

Asian carp czar talks about battle plan
In an interview with National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel, John Goss, the Obama administration’s “Asian carp czar,” outlined his game plan for keeping the invasive carp out of the Great Lakes. One long-term solution might be a poison that would kill the carp, but not harm humans or other animals.

Scientists may experiment with toxins or genetic engineering, hoping they could alter the carp’s digestive system and/or reproductive system, Goss said.
–National Public Radio

Health Dept. warns consumers on water treatment sales
The Minnesota Department of Health is reminding Minnesota residents to beware of false claims, deceptive sales pitches, and scare tactics being used by some water treatment companies to sell expensive and unnecessary water treatment systems. High profile investigations of groundwater contamination in Washington County and elsewhere in the state have resulted in a noticeable increase in the number of complaints regarding such deceptive sales activities.

In some of the worst instances, the salesperson has implied or said that he is working with the city’s water utility or the state health department. In most cases, the systems are being sold for thousands of dollars more than they would cost if bought through a reputable water treatment company.

Even legitimate water treatment systems can be very expensive and if poorly operated or maintained may have limited effectiveness and, in some cases, make the water quality worse.

If you use city water, it should be safe to drink.
–Minnesota Health Department News Release

 Legislators eye lake development rules
Confusion over regulations critical to lakefront development has led two state senators to consider legislative changes to how Minnesota manages one of its most precious natural resources. 

Court decisions have become so convoluted that laws may need to be fixed, said state Sens. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, and Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji. “I have to ask if we’re being fair to Minnesotans,” Olson said. “The court decisions are very lacking in uniformity.”

 As a result of a recent state Supreme Court ruling, city residents are now forbidden from getting a zoning variance if they still have any “reasonable” existing use for their land. But for those living in unincorporated areas, the same Supreme Court all but guarantees the ability to win a variance. Mix in spotty enforcement with local politics and the result, elected officials, civil servants, landholders and advocates agree, is a morass.
–The Star Tribune 

Zebra  mussels found in Gull Lake
Zebra mussels have invaded Gull Lake, one of the Brainerd area’s more popular lakes.

“It’s really unfortunate,” said Dan Swanson, Department of Natural Resources invasive species specialist. “It’s a premier lake, used by a lot of people for fishing, boating, swimming and other recreation.”

The infestation is a blow to the Brainerd Lakes area and Gull Lake residents, who have tried to prevent the spread of zebra mussels. The impact to infested lakes varies, but the mussels filter vast amounts of water, which can affect water clarity, vegetation growth and thus possibly fisheries. 

“What will happen is unpredictable,” Swanson said.

 The discovery underscores the likelihood that zebra mussels will continue to spread throughout Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, despite efforts to educate boaters to drain their bilges and livewells when leaving lakes. In the past two years, the tiny mussels have been found in some of the state’s bigger and more heavily used lakes, including Mille Lacs, Minnetonka, Prior and Le Homme Dieu, and in parts of the Mississippi, St. Croix and Zumbro rivers.
–The Star Tribune

 State land purchases are controversial
Some northern Minnesota counties worry they’re losing their taxable lands. The state already owns millions of acres that counties can’t tax.

 Now, flush with cash from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, the state is buying up even more land.

 County leaders say it could squeeze their ability to provide services to residents.

 About 30 miles northwest of Bemidji, there’s a small, shallow lake that’s home to loons, eagles and a handful of cabin-dwellers. 

Balm Lake also has a mile-long stretch of undeveloped shoreline, and the DNR wants to buy it. The agency wants to purchase more than 150 acres to protect the sensitive lake from further development.

The DNR would use money from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was established after Minnesota voters approved the Legacy Amendment in 2008. 

Last month, Beltrami County leaders objected to the purchase because it removes land from their tax base.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Water Resources Conference set Oct. 19-20
Civil and environmental engineering solutions to wastewater issues, surface water contaminants and aquatic management will be among the topics of the Oct. 19-20 Minnesota Water Resources Conference.

 The conference is sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center and College of Continuing Education at the Saint Paul RiverCentre, 175 West Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul.

 Larry B. Barber, a chief geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Central Region Office in Boulder, Colo., will kick off the conference with a talk on the “Effect of Biologically Active Consumer Product Chemicals on Aquatic Ecosystems” at 8:20 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19.

 Conference topics include emerging contaminants in lakes, rivers and groundwater; technologies such as Minnesota’s Light Detection and Ranging high-resolution mapping project; and best practices in the design and application of filtration, drainage and wastewater systems. 

For registration details, visit wrc.umn.edu or call (612) 625-2900.
–University of Minnesota News Release

 Pollution leaching from old Hubbard County landfill
Under a benign-looking lush green hill in Hubbard County lurks a growing toxic concern.

The 9-acre former Pickett Landfill, which borders the Heartland Trail and is west of County Road 4, is about to become a household word once again. It now is a massive area of groundwater contamination that stretches from 204th Street on the north, then south and east of Ferndale Loop. It once held 93,269 cubic yards of municipal solid waste.

 It opened in 1973 and closed in 1987. Since then state pollution control officials have been monitoring the site for methane gas migration and ground water quality.

 Now, leaching chemicals have reached the point of concentration where public notification is necessary and mandated by law.

Those notices will go out to affected property owners soon.
–The Park Rapids Enterprise

 Climate:  No progress since Copenhagen
With wounds still raw from the chaotic United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen last December, negotiators are making final preparations for next month’s meeting in Cancún, Mexico, in a surly mood and with little hope for progress.

 There is no chance of completing a binding global treaty to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases, few if any heads of state are planning to attend, and there are no major new initiatives on the agenda.

 Copenhagen was crippled by an excess of expectation. Cancún is suffering from the opposite.

 Delegates in Tianjin, China, at the last formal meeting before the Cancún conference opens Nov. 29, are hung up over the same issues that caused the collapse of the Copenhagen meeting. Even some of the baby steps in the weak agreement that emerged from last year’s meeting, a slender document known as the Copenhagen Accord, have been reopened, to the dismay of officials who thought they had been settled.
–The New York Times

 Swackhamer to lecture on water
Nationally recognized freshwater expert and environmental chemist Deborah Swackhamer will deliver the University of Minnesota’s annual Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholars Lecture at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4. The lecture will be at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Cowles Auditorium, 301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis.

 Swackhamer’s lecture, “Drop by Drop: Everyday Solutions to Toxic Water,” will address the threats facing our freshwater resources and the achievements we’ve made in turning the tide toward sustainability.

From the loss of natural buffers and filters such as wetlands, to the introduction of endocrines and industry and consumer-induced toxins, the planet’s rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater reserves are under increasing stress. The good news is that concern for our finite water supply is beginning to take center stage in town halls and legislative chambers. Swackhamer will also offer an update on Minnesota’s 25-year plan for a sustainable water future.
–University of Minnesota News Release

Higher rivers suggest global warming
Rainfall is intensifying, rivers are rising and water flow into the ocean is increasing rapidly, a new UC Irvine study shows — a possible “warning sign” of higher sea levels and global warming.

 Satellite and surface measurements over 13 years revealed an 18 percent increase in the flow of water from rivers and melting polar ice sheets into the world’s oceans, according to the study, likely one of the first of its kind, to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 “Those are all key indications of what we call water-cycle acceleration,” said Jay Famiglietti, a UC Irvine Earth System Science professor and lead investigator on the study. “That is a very important and anticipated outcome of climate change.”

 Planetary warming includes higher ocean temperatures, which increase evaporation; higher air temperatures drive more evaporation as well, Famiglietti said.

 That means more fuel for monsoons, hurricanes and storms over land.
–The Orange County Register

 White House to get solar panels
Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced plans to install solar panels on the White House roof, kicking off a three-day federal symposium focused on targeting sustainability efforts throughout the federal government.

 “Around the world, the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy,” Chu told an audience of federal employees. “It should also be a symbol of America’s commitment to a clean energy future.” 

The Department of Energy aims to install solar panels and a solar hot water heater by the end of next spring as part of a demonstration project showcasing the availability and reliability of the country’s solar technologies. In a press release, DOE officials emphasized the growing industry and the availability of tax credits for those who install panels.

The news comes less than a month after environmentalist Bill McKibben led a rally demanding that President Obama install solar panels and presenting White House officials with a solar panel from former President Carter’s White House.
–The New York Times

 Research: Genetically modified corn benefits non-GMO crop
Transgenic corn’s resistance to pests has benefitted even non-transgenic corn, a new study led by scientists from the University of Minnesota shows.

The study, published in the Oct. 8 edition of the journal Science, found that widespread planting of genetically modified Bt corn throughout the Upper Midwest has suppressed populations of the European corn borer, historically one of corn’s primary pests. This areawide suppression has dramatically reduced the estimated $1 billion in annual losses caused by the European corn borer, even on non-genetically modified corn. Bt corn, introduced in 1996, is so named because it has been bred to produce a toxin from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kills insect pests.

Corn borer moths cannot distinguish between Bt and non-Bt corn, so females lay eggs in both kinds of fields, said the study’s chief author, University of Minnesota entomology professor William Hutchison. Once eggs hatch in Bt corn, young borer larvae feed and die within 24 to 48 hours. Because it is effective at controlling corn borers and other pests, Bt corn has been adopted on about 63 percent of all U.S. corn acres.
-University of Minnesota News Release

L.A. archdiocese pursues sustainability
God created earth and said, “Let there be light.”

 The Archdiocese of Los Angeles created an enviro-friendly committee that says, let’s make sure that light comes from energy-efficient bulbs.

 Hoping to lead its 5 million parishioners toward conservation, the archdiocese this week announced it wants all of its 288 churches to go as green as, well St. Jude’s robe.

“The foundation of our approach to the environment is Gospel-based,” said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese. “The question for us is, `How do the commandments to love God and neighbor find expression in our relationship to the environment?”‘

The newly formed Creation Sustainability Ministry, a committee of community members and environmentalists, has been charged with guiding parishes into sustainability.
–The Los Angeles Daily News

Tennessee gov. opposes mountain-top mining
For the first time a state government has submitted a petition to the federal government to set aside state-owned mountain ridgelines as unsuitable for coal surface mining.

 Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and the state of Tennessee filed a petition with the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, asking that the agency initiate a study and public dialogue on the suitability of state-owned lands in the Northern Cumberland Plateau for surface mining, also called mountaintop removal mining.

 Much of the 500 miles of ridgeline covered by the petition is part of Tennessee’s 2007 Connecting the Cumberlands conservation initiative and is located in Anderson, Campbell, Morgan and Scott counties.

 “These lands are managed by the state of Tennessee for hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing and other outdoor recreational activities,” said Governor Bredesen. “This petition asks the federal government to help us prevent mining on these ridgelines to protect their important cultural, recreational and scientific resources.”
–Environmental News Service

 EPA issues drinking water sustainability plan
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has issued a new Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy as part of its efforts to promote sustainable infrastructure within the water sector.

 The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy emphasizes the need to build on existing efforts to promote sustainable water infrastructure, working with states and water systems to employ robust, comprehensive planning processes to deliver projects that are cost effective over their life cycle, resource efficient, and consistent with community sustainability goals. The policy encourages communities to develop sustainable systems that employ effective utility management practices to build and maintain the level of technical, financial, and managerial capacity necessary to ensure long-term sustainability. 

 Download the Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy (PDF).
–EPA News Release 

 Red River flood-relief levee welcomes ducks
The fields of soybeans, corn and sugar beets in the Red River valley are crisscrossed by a network of ditches built and rebuilt by farmers and the government to speed spring runoff and plant crops early. 

Early planting makes for a better harvest, but rapid spring runoff increases flooding for cities downstream.

“The trick is to strike that balance,” said Jon Roeschlien, administrator for Bois de Sioux watershed district. “How do we balance [agricultural] drainage and flood protection?”

Roeschlien, who oversaw construction of what’s called the North Ottawa project, thinks he has the answer. 

The permanent levee completed last year surrounds three square miles of farmland about 20 miles south of Breckenridge. Essentially, it’s a shallow man-made lake holds all of the spring runoff from 75 square miles upstream. Gates can release the water slowly after the spring flood passes. 

Roeschlin said the $19 million project in the southern Red River valley is a bargain, given the flood damage it eliminates downstream. It also will create much needed wildlife habitat.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Dubuque launches water sustainability pilot
IBM and the City of Dubuque, Iowa, announced the launch of the Smarter Sustainable Dubuque Water Pilot Study.

  Dubuque is in the process of installing smart water meters throughout the city.  Initially 300 volunteer citizens in Dubuque have joined the program to understand water consumption and conservation.  Over the next several months, data will be collected and analyzed, providing information and insight on consumption trends and patterns that will enable both the volunteers and city management to conserve water and lower costs.

The study’s goal is to demonstrate how informed and engaged citizens can help make their city sustainable. By providing citizens and city officials with an integrated view of water consumption, the project will encourage behavior changes resulting in conservation, cost reduction and leak repair. 

Dubuque has implemented a city-wide water meter upgrade project and has worked with local manufacturer A.Y. McDonald to integrate a device called an Unmeasured Flow Reducer. This locally manufactured device is designed to augment the water meter in providing the most accurate measurement possible during low-flow use. The new system will allow consumers to identify waste and consider corrective measures which will translate into better water utilization and energy savings.
–IBM and City of Dubuque News Release

 

Report: World’s rivers in crisis

October 4, 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.

Report: Water supply in doubt for 80% of world
The world’s rivers, the single largest renewable water resource for humans and a crucible of aquatic biodiversity, are in a crisis of ominous proportions, according to a new global analysis.

 The report, published in the journal Nature, is the first to simultaneously account for the effects of such things as pollution, dam building, agricultural runoff, the conversion of wetlands and the introduction of exotic species on the health of the world’s rivers.

The resulting portrait of the global riverine environment, according to the scientists who conducted the analysis, is grim. It reveals that nearly 80 percent of the world’s human population lives in areas where river waters are highly threatened posing a major threat to human water security and resulting in aquatic environments where thousands of species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction.
–U.S. News & World Report

 Clean Water Council proposes $173 million for water
The Clean Water Council, which advises the Minnesota governor and Legislature on water policy, is seeking public comment on draft recommendations for spending $173 million over the next two years. That is up $21 million from the current budget cycle.

The recommendations propose broad categories of spending for the Clean Water Fund money the state will receive from the sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008. 

Under the recommendations: 

  • Thirty-nine percent of the money would be spend on protecting surface waters from diffuse pollution that comes from many sources and on restoring waters already damaged by that kind of pollution.
  •  Twenty percent would be spent on protecting and restoring waters damaged, or in danger of damage, from large single-source polluters, such as sewage treatment plants, industries and large feedlots.
  • Thirteen percent would be spent protecting and restoring watersheds, the land areas drained by surface waters.
  • Twelve percent would be spent on testing lakes and streams for pollution.
  • Eight percent each for drinking water protection and water research.

 The Clean Water Council comment period ends Oct. 14. To comment, contact Celine Lyman at celine.lyman@state.mn.us.

 It’s not just the economy, stupid.
Minnesota Public Radio and the St. Paul Pioneer Press recently provided significant looks at Minnesota’s three major candidates for governor and their positions on major environmental issues. The issues include: alternative energy and nuclear power, sulfide mining in northeastern Minnesota and agricultural pollution. To check out MPR reporter Stephanie Hemphill’s interviews, click here. To read Pioneer Press reporter Dennis Lien’s report, click here. 

EPA says Illinois soft on factory farms
Illinois is failing to crack down on water pollution from large confined-animal farms, the Obama administration announced in a stinging rebuke that gave the state a month to figure out how to fix its troubled permitting and enforcement programs. 

Responding to a petition from environmental groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said its nearly yearlong investigation found widespread problems with the Illinois EPA’s oversight of confined-animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. Many of the cattle, hog and chicken operations produce manure in amounts comparable to the waste generated by small towns. 

Federal investigators accused Illinois of failing to lock many farms into permits that limit water pollution. The state also has been slow to respond to citizen complaints or take formal enforcement action against big feedlots and dairies that violate federal and state environmental laws, the U.S. EPA said. 

As large “factory farms” have spread across the nation, they have prompted scores of complaints about manure odors and raised concerns about massive waste lagoons contaminating groundwater. The U.S. EPA’s 41-page report reflects President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to get tough with confined-animal operations, which steadily have replaced smaller family farms.
–ChicagoBreakingNews.com 

Fairmont ethanol plant to pay $285,000 penalty
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced that Buffalo Lake Energy LLC has agreed to pay a $285,000 penalty to resolve alleged violations of the company’s state-issued environmental permits at its ethanol production facility in Fairmont. 

The agreement covers violations that occurred since the facility began production in June 2008.  On numerous occasions the company’s operations violated the conditions of both its air quality and water quality permits. 

The most significant source of the water quality violations was that the company built and operated a different wastewater treatment system than was permitted by the MPCA.  The system did not perform adequately to ensure that pollutants discharged from the facility met the permit’s effluent limits.  The facility discharged wastewater to Center Creek which violated its permitted limits for toxicity, a measure of potential harm to aquatic organisms.
–MPCA News Release 

EPA agrees to 30-delay in Florida rules
Federal environmental regulators have agreed to a one-month delay before forcing Florida to adopt controversial water pollution standards that critics contend could cost the state billions. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection had planned to impose the rules on Oct. 15, but agreed to push them back to review a gush of public comments, said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida. 

Nelson had written EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging a postponement. 

In a news release, he said he supported tougher standards but was concerned by the potential costs and validity of the science. 

The proposed rules, which would place strict numeric limits on nitrogen and phosphorus in Florida lakes, rivers and streams, have been opposed by a coalition of water management agencies, utilities, industry, business and farming groups.
–The Miami Herald 

Toxic runoff found near BWCA
Pollution problems near the Boundary Waters are raising concerns about future Minnesota mining projects.

 Environmental groups have found high concentrations of metals leaching into streams and wetlands from two long-closed sources: one old test mine and one abandoned mine. The pollution runs off waste rock excavated decades ago and piled at the sites.

Alerted by a resident near Ely, Friends of the Boundary Waters collected samples of the seeping water at one of the sites this summer. 

An independent lab analysis confirmed that it contained arsenic, copper, nickel and iron at concentrations hundreds of times higher than state water quality standards allow for chronic exposure.
–The Star Tribune

MPG of U.S. cars barely budges in 25 years
As the U.S. seeks to reduce oil consumption, not all the news is bad: For years, automakers have been selling Americans cars with ever more efficient engines. In fact, a car purchased today is able to extract nearly twice as much power from a gallon of gas as its counterpart did 25 years ago.

The trouble is that over the same period, cars have become bigger and more powerful. As a result, the average mileage of the cars and light trucks on the road in the United States has barely budged since 1985.

“Automakers have been improving efficiency for years,” said John DeCicco, a University of Michigan senior lecturer who studies the issue. “But those gains haven’t gone into fuel economy. They’ve gone into giving consumers cars with greater size and muscle.”
–The Washington Post

China plans $62 billion water project
It might be the most ambitious construction project in China since the Great Wall.

The Chinese government is planning to reroute the nation’s water supply, bringing water from the flood plains of the south and the snowcapped mountains of the west to the parched capital of Beijing. First envisioned by Mao Tse-tung in the 1950s and now coming to fruition, the South-North Water Diversion — as it is inelegantly known in English — has a price tag of more than $62 billion, twice as expensive as the famous Three Gorges Dam. It is expected to take decades to complete.

“This is on a par with the Great Wall, a project essential for the survival of China,” said Wang Shushan, who heads the project in Henan province, where much of the construction is now taking place. “It is a must-do project. We can’t afford to wait.”
–The Los Angeles Times

 New York plans novel sewer improvement
New York City wants to catch and store rainwater temporarily in new roof systems to stop heavy storms sending sewage spilling into city waterways. 

The catchment systems would consist of “blue” roofs that have a series of drainage pools and “green” or grass- or ivy-covered roofs, under a plan unveiled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

Bloomberg estimates the city could save $2.4 billion over 20 years if the state allows it to use this kind of green technology instead of relying on so-called grey infrastructure, such as storage tanks and tunnels.
–Reuters 

Day of reckoning coming for Colorado River
A once-unthinkable day is looming on the Colorado River.

 Barring a sudden end to the Southwest’s 11-year drought, the distribution of the river’s dwindling bounty is likely to be reordered as early as next year because the flow of water cannot keep pace with the region’s demands.

 For the first time, federal estimates issued in August indicate that Lake Mead, the heart of the lower Colorado basin’s water system — irrigating lettuce, onions and wheat in reclaimed corners of the Sonoran Desert, and lawns and golf courses from Las Vegas to Los Angeles — could drop below a crucial demarcation line of 1,075 feet.

 If it does, that will set in motion a temporary distribution plan approved in 2007 by the seven states with claims to the river and by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada would be reduced.
–The New York Times

MPCA seeks comments on Medicine Lake pollution
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is seeking feedback on a draft water quality improvement report for Medicine Lake in the city of Plymouth. The MPCA has identified the lake as an impaired water body because it contains excess phosphorus, a nutrient that contributes to algae overgrowth and disruption of swimming, fishing and other forms of recreation.  Comments on the report are being accepted through Nov. 3, 2010.

 The MPCA found that about half of phosphorus pollution in Medicine Lake comes from stormwater. Phosphorus levels in stormwater rise when leaves, grass clippings and fertilizers are allowed to wash into storm sewers. In developed areas such as the land surrounding Medicine Lake, water flowing off paved surfaces diverts phosphorus-containing organic material directly into streams and lakes.

 The MPCA report, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, quantifies pollutant levels, identifies sources of pollution and proposes ways to bring water quality back to an acceptable level. The draft Medicine Lake TMDL report may be viewed on the MPCA web site. For more information or to submit comments, contact Brooke Asleson at Brooke.Asleson@state.mn.us or 651-757-2205.  Written questions and comments can be sent to Asleson at MPCA, 520 Lafayette Rd., St. Paul, MN 55155.
–MPCA News Release

San Diego sues neighbor over groundwater
San Diego city officials are challenging plans by the neighboring Sweetwater Authority to tap more groundwater over fears the project will deplete and degrade an important regional aquifer.

 The city has sued the Chula Vista-based water agency in Superior Court over access to groundwater — an increasingly valuable resource amid declining imports from Northern California and the Colorado River.

The two sides have been in “active settlement negotiations” for several months, said Michelle Ouellette, a partner at Best Best & Krieger, Sweetwater’s law firm. The agency provides water to 186,000 customers in National City, Bonita and Chula Vista.

 Sweetwater declined to file a legal response to the city’s lawsuit and agreed to settlement talks, Ouellette said. She said the California Environmental Quality Act “requires both sides to make good-faith efforts to settle the case.”
–The San Diego Union-Tribune