Fracking, conservation and Asian carp

The Freshwater Society blog 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.

Does fracking contaminate water?
Read a good q-and-a discussion of allegations that hydraulic fracturing of deep rock formations by gas and oil drilling operations contaminates groundwater. The review in the journal Nature focuses on a site in Wyoming where the EPA last year said it found evidence of contamination. Read a Bloomberg article on a recent EPA report concluding that its latest round of tests on Wyoming wells showed results consistent with previous findings that fracking probably caused groundwater contamination. Read the EPA report released Oct. 10.

Minnesota DNR calls for water conservation
Drought conditions are straining Minnesota’s water resources. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging everyone to adopt water conservation measures.

“Water is essential to our economy, our natural resources, and our quality of life,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “We are in the second year of a drought, and it is time for all of us to take water conservation more seriously.”

DNR is asking agricultural, commercial and industrial water users to stop outdoor irrigation and to implement conservation measures. Everyone who holds a DNR permit for water appropriation should review and abide by their permit conditions and begin conserving water as soon as possible.

“The drought conditions are sobering and call for a collaborative response,” Landwehr said. “At a time that per capita water consumption is decreasing nationwide, Minnesota’s water use per resident is actually increasing. We will need to work together to meet these challenges.”

Public water suppliers have been contacted by the DNR and reminded to implement appropriate conservation measures contained in their water supply plans. These could include water audits, leak detection, and promoting water conservation to their customers.
–DNR News Release

Howard Buffett calls for conservation compliance 
Farmer-philanthropist Howard Buffett said that stronger government action is needed to encourage farmers into compliance with better fertilizer, tillage and other conservation and environmental practices.

“We have a whole culture based on yield,” said Buffett, 55, who owns farmland in his native Nebraska, Illinois and Arizona as well as South Africa. One of several issues that caused a stalemate in this year’s farm bill discussions in Congress was over making conservation compliance a requirement for eligibility for federal crop insurance.

“Government has the biggest club, and if it doesn’t use it, there will be less good conservation practices,” Buffett said. Buffett, son of Omaha financier Warren Buffett, has emerged as a force in world agriculture through his foundation, which finances experimental work in Africa and other countries.
–The Des Moines Register

DNA suggests Carp have passed barrier to L. Michigan 
Even as Michigan lawmakers lambaste the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for not moving fast enough to develop a permanent plan to stop Asian carp from swimming up the Chicago canal system and into Lake Michigan, genetic evidence that the fish are on the march continues to grow.

Tthe Army Corps announced it would send fishing crews onto the North Shore Channel of the Chicago River. The agency also will fish for Asian carp on a six-mile stretch of river in downtown Chicago.

The announcement was triggered after three separate sampling trips on the waterway showed DNA evidence of silver carp, which can be shed from a live fish from things such as mucus and feces.

The agency also announced that 17 of 57 samples taken on just one trip last month on the Chicago River near downtown tested positive for silver carp. Crews will be on the river  with electro-fishing boats and other sampling tools to chase the elusive fish.

The Army Corps maintains that a positive sample does not necessarily mean the presence of live fish. Officials note it could get in the water by some other means, such as barge bilge water, bird droppings or even the toilet flush of someone who happened to eat Asian carp for lunch.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

EPA funds Lake Superior mercury research
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $1.4 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to the Minnesota Department of Health to reduce mercury exposure risk for women and children who live along Lake Superior’s north shore. Excessive blood mercury levels have been documented in infants in this area. The funding will be used to improve health screening and to develop more effective fish consumption advisories.

The Grand Portage Chippewa Tribe and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinics in Grand Portage and Grand Marais, Minn., will participate in the project. Physicians affiliated with the clinics will survey consenting female patients of childbearing age about fish consumption and test blood mercury levels. Patients will also be counseled to promote safe fish consumption choices.

The work supported by the grant will build on an earlier EPA-funded study which was completed last year by MDH. In that study, 1,465 newborns in the Lake Superior Basin – including 139 infants from Wisconsin and 200 from Michigan – were tested for mercury in their blood. The study found that 8 percent of the infants had mercury levels higher than those recommended as safe by EPA.
–EPA News Release

UM seeks ‘greener’ lawns
Advocates of sustainability have often demonized lawn care for squandering water, adding fertilizers and herbicides to the environment, and increasing our carbon footprint through gas-powered mowing. But a new research project from the University of Minnesota could make both environmentalists and homeowners happier in the future.

Funded by a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the 5-year project is part of a national research effort aimed at improving specialty crops. Researchers will be investigating ways to develop turf grasses that require less water and mowing, and that stay green without extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers.
–The Line

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