Archive for December, 2012

Nutrient pollution; conservation; road salt

December 19, 2012

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.

EPA videos take on nutrient pollution
Nutrient pollution is one of the nation’s most widespread and costly environmental problems. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus from farm and lawn fertilizer, pet and livestock waste, roads and houses, faulty septic systems, and treated sewage can turn waters green with slime and pollute waters for swimming, boating, and fishing. To help raise awareness about this growing environmental problem, the Environmental Protection Agency has released a short video to illustrate the potential impacts of nutrient pollution on recreation. The Choice is Yours: Clean or Green Water can be viewed on EPA’s YouTube Channel. The new video complements another EPA YouTube video that provides a broad overview of nutrient pollution.
–EPA News Release

Merriam advocates conservation in Farm Bill
Read a recent Freshwater Society newsletter column by Gene Merriam on conservation in the Farm Bill. He urges Congress to adopt a Senate position that would make compliance with some conservation standards a requirement for farmers seeking subsidized crop insurance coverage.

Use salt sparingly to protect water
Excessive use of road salt – on streets, bridges, parking lots and sidewalks – is s significant cause of pollution of both ground and surface waters. And how cold is too cold for the salt to be effective?

Read a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency news release with tips for safe and effective use of road salt. Here’s a hint: The MPCA says use less than 4 pounds of salt to clear 1,000 square feet of pavement. That’s the equivalent of a heaping 12-ounce coffee mug of salt for an area that equals about seven average-sized parking spaces.

1,500 injection wells put toxins into the ground
Read an investigative report on federally approved injection wells that allow industries to pour waste products into the ground, sometimes contaminating drinking water aquifers. The report is the work of Pro Publica, a public interest journalism project.

Chesapeake Bay credit plan examined
Read an interesting article from the Southeast Farm Press on tradeoffs in pollution credit trading as it applies to agriculture.

Chicago River: A superhighway for invasives
Standing on the banks of the Chicago River, you realize that maybe the best thing about this filthy waterway is that it was reversed over a century ago so it flows away from Lake Michigan instead of into it.

Water isn’t even the first thing you notice where the river merges with a notoriously fouled little tributary, dubbed Bubbly Creek for the gases still belching from untold tons of cow carcasses dumped into it by the city’s old stockyards.

Floating on the surface is the crinkly corpse of a pink Mylar balloon that’s wrapped itself around a 40-ounce beer bottle. Nearby is a pumpkin stuck in the muck, orbited by an array of tampon applicators and plastic bottle caps. Just below a sewer pipe that excretes a septic stew when big rains hit, a boot floats sole-up next to a tennis shoe; if the pair were a match you’d fret they were attached to feet.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

UW research targets invasive smelt
University of Wisconsin scientists are studying how mixing the water in a lake could eliminate an invasive fish.

The technology works by moving large air bladders up and down the depth of a lake, mixing the water and raising its temperature to where it is intolerable for the fish, said Jake Vander Zanden, supervisor of the study.

The bladders are much like gigantic trampolines, Vander Zanden said. They’re about 25 feet across. Air is pumped in and out so it rises and falls.

The project is designed to eliminate invasive rainbow smelt from the small Crystal Lake in Vilas County, Wis. If successful, it may be applied to other lakes where smelt have invaded and decimated native populations of yellow perch, lake whitefish, northern cisco and commercially important walleye
–Great Lakes Echo

Hurricane’s legacy; Red River forum

December 10, 2012

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.

Planners worry Sandy’s lessons will be lost
One month after Superstorm Sandy hit the northeastern United States, causing tens of billions of dollars in damages to property and infrastructure and claiming the lives of more than 100 people, leading urban planners, academics and government scientists worry that the event will dim into memory and the havoc and devastation it created will be overshadowed by society’s attempt to return to normal.

Furthermore, they say, ignoring questions about how to reduce the region’s vulnerability to rising sea levels and more frequent, intense storms will ensure that in the decades to come, the region will continue to experience massive infrastructure collapse and possibly more fatalities.

“What can we do to take advantage of this horrible disaster, in which people lost their lives, millions of damages were done?” said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “How can we have this be something more than just another disaster? How can it have a legacy that does justice to the people that lost their lives? How can we have the next Sandy be something for which we are better prepared?”

Lubchenco provided the opening remarks at a New York City event focused on the potential engineering, ecological and public policy responses to the rising sea levels and more frequent, intense storms brought about by climate change.
–Scientific American

Public forum set on L. Winnipeg, Red River
On Thursday, Dec. 13, the Consulate General of Canada will sponsor a free, public forum in Minneapolis on threats facing Lake Winnipeg and the north-flowing Red River. The Freshwater Society is a co-sponsor of the forum.

The forum at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute is intended for scientists, teachers, students, policy-makers, public officials and anyone interested in learning about the health of the Red River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Watershed.

The forum, which will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Learn more and register to attend..

DNR updating threatened and endangered list
Between Jan. 29 and Feb. 7, the Minnesota DNR will conduct five public hearings – in Rochester, New Ulm, Bemidji, Duluth and Plymouth – on a proposed revision of the state’s list  of endangered and threatened species. Learn more.

Texas cities lock up groundwater supplies
Amid a persistent drought that has rattled Texans about water supplies, cities and investors are jockeying to purchase millions of gallons of underground water and pipe it to rapidly growing communities.

The Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency is among the latest to enter the fray, paying to secure water it isn’t expected to use for a decade or more.

The agency isn’t alone. The rush to secure water rights across Central Texas means millions are being paid each year for unpumped water. “If you’re a city, you still have to make sure industry will keep coming to town. It’s a matter of economic life or death to you. You have to make decisions, and the easy answers are gone,” said Robert Cullick, a consultant on water and public infrastructure projects.

James Earp, assistant city manager for the city of Kyle, said that if the city’s population grows as expected, Kyle’s current water portfolio couldn’t support any new residents by about 2026. That was a driving force in its support for securing groundwater rights.
–The Austin American-Statesman

Los Angeles storm water before high court
The Supreme Court gave a skeptical hearing to a Los Angeles lawyer who sought to absolve the county’s flood control district of responsibility for polluted storm water that flows into the Pacific Ocean.

“Doesn’t common sense suggest” the flood control district is responsible? asked Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “The storm sewer system in Los Angeles hasn’t been shut down, right? You don’t question that there was an actual discharge [of pollutants]. What is it monitoring if not discharges … for which you’re responsible?”

The justices tried to sort out a complicated regulatory dispute over the highly polluted water that flows down the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers in the days after a heavy rainstorm. They sounded split on how to rule, however.

They could free Los Angeles County from any liability on the grounds that its two monitoring stations in the rivers do not point to the source of the pollution. The county made just that argument. Or they could send the case back to a judge in California to hold further hearings aimed at pinpointing who is to blame for the polluted runoff.
–The Los Angeles Times

Clean Water Council report is available

December 7, 2012

The Minnesota Clean Water Council, which advises the governor and the Legislature on water policy and water spending, has released a preliminary copy of its biennial report to the Legislature. It includes a list of the $185 million in water projects the council recommends be funded over the next two year through the sales tax increase that voters approved in a 2008 constitutional amendment. Read the report.

Orthodox patriarch pushes green agenda

December 5, 2012

Is polluting our water and air just foolish, or is it sinful?

Read a New York Times Science Times article about Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of  Constantinople, a spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians. He calls biodiversity “the work of divine wisdom.” And, yes, he calls for repentance for “our sinfulness” in failing to protect our planet.

Minnesota seeks environmental opinions, dreams

December 3, 2012

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.

Environmental Congress seeks public input
Did you miss your chance to give state officials your opinions on Minnesota’s land and waters as they exist now, and the vision you have for the kind of environment you want your children and grandchildren to enjoy?

Nope, you didn’t miss it. You can still make your thinking known – in three more public meetings or in an on-line survey.

The Minnesota Environment Congress, an effort ordered by Gov. Mark Dayton and organized by the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, drew big crowds last week to public meetings in Rochester, Bloomington and Duluth. Three more public meetings are scheduled:

 Monday, Dec. 10, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at Worthington High School.

 Wednesday, Dec. 12, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the Atwood Memorial Center at St. Cloud State University.

 Friday, Dec. 14, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. in the Comstock Memorial Union at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

All the meetings are open to the public. For more information, go to the Environmental Congress website. Read the Minnesota Environment and Energy Report Card discussed at the public meetings. If you cannot attend one of the meetings, give your views on the environment in the on-line survey.

Dec. 13 forum set on Red River and L. Winnipeg
On Thursday, Dec. 13, the Consulate General of Canada in Minnesota will sponsor a free, public forum in Minneapolis on the threats facing the north-flowing Red River, Lake Winnipeg and all the waters flowing into them. The Freshwater Society is a co-sponsor of the forum.

The forum at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute is intended for scientists, teachers, students, policy-makers, public officials and anyone interested in learning about the health of the Red River Basin.

The forum, which will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., is free and open to the public, but registration is  required. Learn more and register. Get directions to the Humphrey Institute.

Miami-Dade seeks to avoid clean-water suit 
Six months into negotiations with federal regulators over Miami-Dade’s aging sewer system, the county has come up with a $1.5 billion, 15-year plan to rebuild pipes, pumps and sewage treatment plants that in some cases are almost 100 years old.

County leaders devised the proposal in an attempt to fend off a federal lawsuit, and potentially millions of dollars in fines, for not abiding by the federal Clean Water Act.

The county also has proposed replacing or repairing a good portion of the 7,500 miles of sewer lines that regularly rupture and spill millions of gallons of raw waste into local waterways and Biscayne Bay.

Before any work is to begin, the Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency — which put the county on notice in May — must accept the county’s terms. The plan, referred to as a consent decree, also must be endorsed by a majority of county commissioners. That could come as soon as late January or early February.
–The Miami Herald

EPA revises bacteria standards
The Environmental Protection Agency on Nov. 26 revised its recommended water quality criteria for recreational waters, setting out measures to protect against gastrointestinal illness from fecal contamination.

The agency said the criteria, if adopted by states into their water quality standards, would promote rapid water testing, encourage early alerts to beach-goers, and protect against pollution after particularly heavy rainfalls. It covers all waters, including marine, estuarine, Great Lakes, and inland waters that are designated for primary contact recreation.

The new criteria replace criteria established in 1986 (21 DEN A-1, 2/2/12). The revised criteria set out two sets of concentration thresholds for fecal bacteria–enterococci and e-coli–measured as the geometric mean of colony-forming units, or cfu, in monitored water quality samples.

The agency said either set of concentration thresholds would protect the public from exposure to harmful levels of fecal bacteria and associated illness, while swimming, surfing, and engaging in other water contact activities.
–Bloomberg