Posts Tagged ‘air pollution’

Lubber lecture, conservation conference set

February 21, 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.

Don’t forget: Two Freshwater events coming up
Mindy Lubber, an international leader in efforts by investors to lead and pressure multinational companies to adopt environmentally sustainable business practices, will deliver a free, public lecture March 1 in St. Paul.

Mindy Lubber

Mindy Lubber

The lecture, “Investing in Sustainability: Building Water Stewardship Into the Bottom Line,” is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.

Register to attend. Learn about the lecture series and view video of previous speakers. Lubber is president of Ceres, a 22-year-old Boston-based nonprofit that works with companies like Coca-Cola, Levi Strauss and IBM to encourage the firms to make their products and processes more water- efficient and less vulnerable to climate change.

Lubber, a former regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, will speak at 7 p.m.  in the theater of the Student Center on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus.

Dave White, NRCS chief

Dave White

And on March 29, the Freshwater Society will sponsor a conference on precision conservation.

Precision conservation is the science and philosophy of placing conservation practices at spots on the landscape where runoff, erosion and pollution are disproportionately severe and the potential for improving water quality and soil loss is disproportionately great.

Dave White, chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will deliver the luncheon keynote address. Learn more and register to attend.

Peter Gleick admits deceit in climate leak
A prominent environmental researcher, activist and blogger from California admitted that he had deceitfully obtained and distributed confidential internal materials from the Heartland Institute, a libertarian group based in Chicago devoted in part to questioning the reality of global warming.

Peter H. Gleick, founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, wrote in a statement published on The Huffington Post that he had posed as someone else to get the materials, which include fund-raising and strategy documents intended only for the board and top executives of the group.

Dr. Gleick distributed the documents to several well-known bloggers and activists who support the work of mainstream climate scientists and who have denounced the Heartland Institute as a center of climate change denial.

The document release, which lit up the Internet, was cast by some bloggers as the work of a whistle-blowing Heartland employee or ex-employee who had access to internal papers, when it was in fact orchestrated by Dr. Gleick, a Yale- and Berkeley-trained scientist and environmental activist who says that he was frustrated with Heartland’s anti-climate-change programs.

Dr. Gleick denied authorship of the most explosive of the documents, a supposed strategy paper that laid out the institute’s efforts to raise money to question climate change and get schools to adjust their science curricula to include alternative theories of global warming. The Institute asserted that document, which is in a different format and type style from the rest of the Heartland materials, was a fake, but implicitly acknowledged that others were legitimate and vowed to legally pursue those who stole and published them.

In his statement, Dr. Gleick said he had received the dubious strategy paper anonymously in the mail this year. He said he did not know the source of the document but said he tried to confirm the validity of the document because the disclosures in them would serve to undercut the institute’s mission.

“In an effort to do so,” he wrote, “and in a serious lapse of my own professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name.”
–The New York Times

Pricing alternative zebra mussel strategies 
There’s one way to slow – really slow – the spread of invasive zebra mussels in their steady campaign to populate all of Minnesota’s waters.

The simple plan, which some have off-handedly suggested: require boat inspections at every launch. Cost: $2,300 per boat owner, on average.

Oh. Guess that won’t happen.  That sobering price tag is one of several such figures contained in a new Department of Natural Resources report examining what it would actually cost to combat the little enemy mollusks.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Snuffbox mussel is endangered 
 A small mussel that’s found in the St. Croix River and few other places has been declared endangered by the federal government.

The snuffbox mussel has disappeared from 62 percent of the streams where it was historically found. The survival of this native mussel — which can live for decades — is threatened by loss and degradation of habitat, due in part to pollution and sedimentation. Non-native zebra mussels are also a threat.

The National Park Service is raising snuffbox mussels and releasing them in the gorge area of Mississippi River Pool 2 in St. Paul, where water conditions have improved in recent years.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Obama proposes cut in EPA aid to states
 President Obama proposed a fiscal year 2013 budget containing $8.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, a $105 million decrease from fiscal 2012 achieved through cuts to state wastewater treatment and drinking water funds.

The proposed 1.2 percent decrease in EPA funding would mostly come from reduced funding for the clean water and drinking water state revolving funds, which provide capitalization grants to states for loans for water infrastructure. The president’s budget also would reduce funding for superfund cleanup efforts and eliminate a clean diesel grant program and replace it with a combination of rebates and grants. The budget proposal contains increased funding for priority programs, including a large increase for state and tribal air quality and water pollution programs.

While overall assistance to states would decline, EPA’s operating budget would increase under the budget proposal from $3.57 billion in fiscal 2012 to $3.74 billion in fiscal 2013. The proposal would increase funding for targeted water infrastructure and Chesapeake Bay restoration, while maintaining funding levels for leaking underground storage tanks programs and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
–Bloomberg

Bill seeks further permitting changes 
A House committee approved a bill to streamline the environmental review and permitting process. The bill picks up where last year’s streamlining law left off. It would allow project proposers to hire a consultant who can actually draft permits, a job currently in the hands of the Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources.

But Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, said the state still would have final authority. “No matter what you do in regards to filing your application, the PCA and DNR still have to approve,” Fabian said.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Texas research downplays ‘fracking’ threat 
The concern that hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to extract natural gas is contaminating groundwater is overstated, claims a new report.

Researchers reviewing the available data in the US found nothing to suggest “fracking” had a unique problem. Rather, they suggest the contamination events that do arise are just as likely to afflict other types of oil and gas drilling operations.

The claims were made at the annual AAAS conference in Vancouver, Canada. Charles “Chip” Groat, associate director of Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, led the study. “The bottom line conclusion of our study is that in the states we investigated, we found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing itself, the practice of fracturing the rocks, had contaminated shallow groundwater,” he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.
–BBC News

Taconite plant to pay air pollution penalty
Northshore Mining Co. has agreed to pay a $240,175 penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) for air-quality violations that the MPCA says occurred at the company’s taconite-processing plant in Silver Bay. The violations were for emissions of excessive amounts of very fine dust that is unhealthy to breathe. Northshore is also taking steps to prevent future violations, including emission-control improvements at its large taconite pellet storage yard.

Between November 2010 and May 2011, ambient air quality monitors located between the taconite pellet storage yard and the Silver Bay marina measured violations of permit limits for particulate matter, or dust, smaller than 10 microns (PM10) in width, or about one-fourth the diameter of a human hair. Dust deposits were also documented at the Silver Bay marina. PM10-size dust is one of the federal and state governments’ health-based standards that help determine the levels where exposure can compromise human health.
–MPCA News Release

Sustainability pioneer sentenced to prison
A pioneer of the sustainable business movement, Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in connection with asbestos-related deaths at his former company, Eternit AG.

A court in Turin, Italy, ruled that Schmidheiny and lead Eternit shareholder Jean-Louis Marie Ghislain de Cartier were partially responsible for hundreds of deaths and illnesses caused by asbestos in Eternit factories. They were also sentenced to pay damages, which reportedly could reach past 250 million euros ($330 million), to be determined in a separate civil proceeding to victims’ relatives and to a number of local authorities.

Schmidheiny announced in 1978 that Eternit would stop making products with asbestos, when he became president of its board of directors. Half of production was asbestos-free by 1984, and the company last used asbestos minerals a decade later, according to Eternit AG’s website. The company closed its Italian facilities in 1986, six years before Italy banned asbestos.

Schmidheiny is also the founder of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which provides a forum for 200 member companies with combined revenue of more than $7 trillion “to develop innovative tools that change the status quo,” according to the website of the Geneva-based group. He founded the council after Maurice Strong, then secretary general of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, appointed Schmidheiny as his principal advisor on business and industry “to represent the voice of business” at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
–Bloomburg

China faces water quality, quantity woes
China faces a tougher situation in water resources in the future as demand increases amid the country’s rapid industrialization and urbanization, an official said at a press conference. Hu Siyi, vice minister of water resources, said water shortages, serious river pollution and the deteriorating aquatic ecology are “quite outstanding” and may threaten the country’s sustainable growth. With a population of 1.3 billion people, China now consumes more than 600 billion cubic meters of water a year, or about three-quarters of its exploitable water resources, Hu said.

“Because of the grave situation, we must put in place the strictest water resources management system,” he said. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, the average per capita of water resources is only 2,100 cubic meters annually, or about 28 percent of the world’s average level.
–ChinaDaily

Mercury pollution; $$ for Great Lakes

December 25, 2011

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.

Mercury pollution worse near cities
Atmospheric deposition of mercury is about four-times higher in lakes near several major U.S. cities compared to lakes in remote areas, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Atmospheric deposition is the predominant pathway for mercury to reach sensitive ecosystems, where it can accumulate in fish and harm wildlife and humans. Coal-fired power plants and industries are among the primary sources of mercury emissions.

Mercury emissions can travel far in the atmosphere, and the relative importance of local, regional, or international mercury emissions to natural waters is generally unknown.

This is the first study to quantify the relation between mercury fallout and distance from major urban centers. The study included lakes nearby, and remote from Boston, Mass., Albany, N.Y., Montreal, Canada, New Haven, Conn., Tampa and Orlando, Fla., Chicago, Ill., Minneapolis, Minn., Denver, Colo., Salt Lake City, Utah, and Portland, Ore.

To better understand geographic patterns of mercury deposition, the USGS analyzed sediment cores from 12 lakes with undeveloped watersheds near to (less than 30 miles) and remote from (more than 90 miles) several major urban areas in the United States. Mercury deposition in the near-urban lakes greatly exceeds amounts found in remote lakes.

The full report can be found in the journal Environmental Pollution.
–USGS News Release

Congress Oks $300 million for Great Lakes
Congress is pressing ahead with a scaled-back version of the ongoing Obama administration’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

A coalition of conservation groups welcomed the news that both the House and Senate had approved $300 million in the upcoming budget for the program that is focusing on cleaning up toxic hot spots, halting the onslaught of invasive species and restoring sensitive areas such as wetlands. The budget bill is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama in the coming days.

The $300 million for the program’s third year is about the same amount of federal money dedicated to the program this year, but well under the $475 million that was approved in the first year of what was designed to be a 10-year, $5 billion restoration plan for the world’s largest freshwater system.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

EPA issues air pollution rules on mercury
The Environmental Protection Agency released far-reaching air pollution regulations, 21 years after they were first mandated by Congress and six days after they were signed by the agency.

The rules require coal- and oil-fired power plants to lower emissions of 84 different toxic chemicals to levels no higher than those emitted by the cleanest 12% of plants. Companies have three years to achieve the standards, and EPA has made clear a fourth year and perhaps even more time are also available to them.

“We’re delighted,” says Janice Nolen of the American Lung Association. “After waiting 21 years, it looks like we may actually have a rule that will help to save 11,000 lives a year and reduce exposure all across the country to a bunch of really toxic substances.”

The EPA rules govern multiple toxics, including mercury, arsenic, nickel, selenium and cyanide.

Power plants are responsible for half of the mercury and more than 75% of the acid gas emissions in the United States, the EPA says. The EPA estimates that about half the nation’s power plants already have pollution control technologies in place. This rule will “level the playing field” in the agency’s words, by ensuring that the rest, about 40% of all coal-fired plants, take similar steps.
–USA Today

Mankato Free Press looks at Minnesota River
The Mankato Free Press recently published a five-part series on water quality in the Minnesota River. Take a look at the fine work by reporter Tim Krohn. It is called “From Amber Waves to Muddy Waters.”

Anti-carp precautions urged
A combination sound/bubble or electric barrier would be installed at the Ford dam in the Twin Cities as part of a suite of options endorsed to limit the spread of Asian carp and other invasive creatures into Minnesota rivers and lakes.

In a short meeting at the state Capitol, a panel of state, federal and city officials gave its blessing to an action plan prepared over the past couple of months by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Besides installing the barrier to stop or hamper the invasive fish from moving up the Mississippi River, the plan seeks federal authorization to close locks at the Ford dam or just upstream at Upper St. Anthony Falls if Asian carp are found nearby. There also would be studies on whether to install other barriers, including a permanent one at St. Anthony Falls and a sound/bubble barrier at the mouth of the St. Croix River.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Wolves coming off ‘threatened’ list
Minnesota’s gray wolves will be removed from the federal government’s threatened species list and returned to state management in January.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Dec. 21, 2011, that it will publish a final de-listing rule in the Federal Register on Dec. 28. After a 30-day period, the Minnesota DNR will re-assume management of the gray wolf.

As it did after previous de-listing rules in 2007 and 2009, DNR will again manage the state’s wolf population by state statute, rule and provisions of a wolf management plan.

Minnesota has a population of about 3,000 gray wolves, the largest population in the lower 48 states. This is roughly twice the number required in the federal government’s wolf recovery plan.

The state wolf plan is designed to protect wolves and monitor their population while giving owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation. It splits the state into two management zones with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf’s core range.

The plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota.
–DNR News Release

Joe Beattie honored by SWCD group
Hastings High School teacher Joe Beattie received the distinguished Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award from the Soil and Water Conservation District state convention for incorporating soil and water conservation education programs into his classes. Beattie teaches 11th- and 12th-grade biology courses at Hastings High School.

“Joe has students learn by being outdoors rather than just in the classroom,” said Laura Jester, Watershed Conservationist with the SWCD. “He constantly has his students performing actual restoration, identification and collection activities of our natural environment. These valuable real-world activities are helping shape and develop future conservationist and environmental leaders.”
–The Hastings Star Gazette

Zebra mussels spreading in L. Minnetonka
Minnehaha Creek Watershed District researchers have found that zebra mussels have become more prominent on the east side of Lake Minnetonka and are spreading to western areas of the lake. These findings, based on data collected from June through September 2011, complete the first year of a three-year study to monitor and measure zebra mussels’ spread throughout the lake.

“The expansion and increased density of zebra mussels are concerning,” said MCWD Water Quality Technician Kelly Dooley. “In just a year, this invasive species has spread to nearly all of Lake Minnetonka’s eastern bays and is moving west. We have been working closely with the DNR and our community partners in efforts to prevent their spread. But we need the public’s continued help to prevent the spread of zebra mussels so we can save Minnesota lakes – one of the state’s most valuable assets.”

Once established, zebra mussels spread rapidly, litter beaches with their sharp shells, damage boats and equipment, and alter the food chain of local lakes, rivers and streams.
The three-year study being conducted by the MCWD, with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Blue Water Science, began after zebra mussels were first detected in Wayzata Bay in 2010. Early in 2011, the MCWD placed two monitoring devices at each of 32 sites from Grays Bay to Halsted Bay to measure the spread of this invasive species. The findings will help create a more accurate map of where the invasive species are located in the lake.

Learn more at the MCWD web site.
–Minnehaha Creek Watershed District news release

LCCMR director Susan Thornton fired
The head of a Minnesota state office that helps direct how lottery proceeds are spent for special environmental and natural resources projects was fired,  prompting questions about the legality of the firing and accusations that House Republicans orchestrated it for political purposes.

Susan Thornton, director of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources since 2008, was called into House Speaker Kurt Zellers’ office and told she was being terminated Jan. 2 so the commission could go in a different direction, according to several commission members and DFL legislators.

Neither Thornton nor Zellers could be reached for comment.

The commissioners and some DFL legislators said they were shocked to hear of the firing. They said the commission, which hired Thornton, had expressed no concerns about her work performance and retains authority over that position.

“If the commission is the only entity that can hire her, it’s the only entity that can fire her,” said Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, a legislative member of the commission.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Bioluminescencent bacteria measure pollution

Read a fascinating New York Times article on marine biologist Edith Widder’s use of glow-in-the-dark bacteria to measure pollution in river sediment.

Ethanol plant faces pollution penalty

November 28, 2011

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.

Corn Plus ethanol plant penalized – again
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has announced that Corn Plus will pay a $310,000 civil penalty to resolve violations of the air-quality permit issued to the company’s ethanol-production facility in Winnebago.

The violations, occurring from 2008 to 2010, were discovered through on-site inspections by MPCA enforcement staff and through analysis of monitoring data the company is required to submit under its air quality permit.

A staff inspection in August 2009 found violations of Minnesota laws and rules as well as permit conditions. The inspection confirmed that some of the violations were not previously reported to the MPCA as required by the facility’s permit. MPCA staff requested more monitoring records and discovered many repeated data patterns that indicated Corn Plus had falsified up to a year’s worth of monitoring data, primarily relating to operations of the facility’s air-emissions-control equipment.

In March 2011, staff from the MPCA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency interviewed the facility’s environmental manager and requested more monitoring records. The facility was issued a grand jury subpoena at that time by the EPA. After reviewing the records, EPA and MPCA staff identified more potentially false data from 2010.

Last month, Corn Plus was charged by the EPA with a felony for falsifying information about its pollution-control equipment. These actions follow an $891,000 settlement with the MPCA in January 2010, and another criminal charge from the EPA in late 2009 for water-quality violations.
–MPCA News Release

New UN report cites degraded land and water resources
Widespread degradation and deepening scarcity of land and water resources have placed a number of key food production systems around the globe at risk, posing a profound challenge to the task of feeding a world population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, according to a new FAO report..

The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture (SOLAW) notes that while the last 50 years witnessed a notable increase in food production, “in too many places, achievements have been associated with management practices that have degraded the land and water systems upon which food production depends.”

Today a number of those systems “face the risk of progressive breakdown of their productive capacity under a combination of excessive demographic pressure and unsustainable agriculture use and practices,” the report says.

No region is immune: systems at risk can be found around the globe, from the highlands of the Andes to the steppes of Central Asia, from Australia’s Murray-Darling river basin to the central United States.
—Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN news release

Photo contest seeks signs of winter
Calling all Photographers…. Check out Freshwater Society’s Facebook page and submit your best photo of the first signs of winter! Winning photos will be published in the 2013 Weatherguide Environment Calendar! The deadline for submission is Dec. 31.

Dec. 6 book-signing by Darby Nelson
Darby Nelson, a Freshwater Society board member, will talk about  and read excerpts from his new book, For Love of Lakes,  in a book-signing event at 6 p.m.  Tuesday, Dec. 6, in the Student Center Theater on the University of  Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus.

Read a Freshwater article about the book and link to the introduction Nelson wrote for it.

Minnehaha Creek district eyes expanded role
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is about to make what it says is one of its most important—and potentially expensive—decisions in recent memory.

Citing internal study and consensus that invasive species are the No. 1 threat to the watershed’s long-term vitality and health, the district is considering taking a lead role in the fight to prevent the spread of aquatic hitchhikers—something that has historically been the Department of Natural Resource’s responsibility.

“We would like to see the DNR take a very strong, very active role in this, but we don’t feel the state has the resources to protect our resources—nor do they have the staff,” said Eric Evenson, the MCWD’s top administrator.
 –Minnetonka Patch

Rare isotope tracks ancient aquifer
The Nubian Aquifer, the font of fabled oases in Egypt and Libya, stretches languidly across 770,000 square miles of northern Africa, a pointillist collection of underground pools of water migrating, ever so slowly, through rock and sand toward the Mediterranean Sea.

The aquifer is one of the world’s oldest. But its workings — how it flows and how quickly surface water replenishes it — have been hard to understand, in part because the tools available to study it have provided, at best, a blurry image. Now, to solve some of the puzzles, physicists at the Department of Energy’s Argonne  National Laboratory in Illinois have turned to one of the rarest particles on earth: an elusive radioactive isotope usually ricocheting around in the atmosphere at hundreds of miles an hour.
The New York Times

Budget collapse leaves winners, losers
Count pheasant hunters as among those likely disappointed that Congress is plowing under that new farm bill. Biofuel producers, on the other hand, may be happy to see the bill go.

Those groups were among the winners and losers in the hastily crafted bill that the House and Senate agriculture committees had planned to stuff in a deficit-reduction plan that a congressional supercommittee was charged with writing. The supercommittee gave up trying to agree on the plan, leaving the agriculture committees in Congress to start over on the farm legislation.

The agriculture committee leaders did all their work on the bill behind closed doors and never released an actual text of the legislation.

But Pheasants Forever, an advocacy group, successfully lobbied the lawmakers for provisions that would have steered conservation funding to landowners who preserved grassy areas as habitat for the game bird.

The ethanol industry was dismayed to find out that the bill, according to a summary that leaked out, would have blocked the Agriculture Department from subsidizing the installation of service station pumps that can dispense higher blends of the biofuel. The legislation also contained no money for subsidizing farmers who provided crop residues and other new feedstocks for making biofuels.
–The Des Moines Register

Septic systems threaten Cape Cod waters
When the tide rolls out, the beaches on the west coast of Cape Cod often turn a shade of lime green, with splotches of a slimy substance that locals say resembles black mayonnaise and smells like rotten eggs.

In the warmer months, a film of algae spreads through the harbor in Cataumet and the opaque waters turn a copper color, veiling the little life left on the seabed.

“There can be so much algae in the water that they look like huge lily pads, like you can walk across them on the water,’’ said Scott Zeien, owner of Kingman Yacht Center, who has been swimming and sailing off this Bourne village since he was a child. “It’s really gross. It looks like a bad day on the Mississippi River – not a place anyone would want to swim.’’

The problem, a growing body of evidence suggests, stems from the dramatic rise in development on the Cape and the lack of sufficient waste-disposal systems. The remnants of sewage from septic tanks of the more than 200,000 full-time Cape residents is seeping into the ground water and polluting estuaries, bays, and other bodies of water from Bourne to Orleans.
–The Boston Globe

Add hairy crazy ant to the list of invasives
America is under siege — not by a foreign power, but by invasive species slowly working their way across the nation, leaving a sometimes-devastated and often-changed landscape in their wake.

Just as Dutch elm disease from Asia removed an iconic tree from the American landscape beginning in the 1940s, the emerald ash borer may conquer the ash tree in coming years. West Nile virus from Africa killed 57 Americans last year. And work crews often encounter giant Burmese pythons in South Florida.

The latest addition to the list of non-native creepy-crawlies is the hairy crazy ant. The tiny foragers are believed to have come from South America. They first got to the Caribbean in the late 19th century and are working their way through Florida and the Southeast. First discovered nine years ago in Texas by exterminator Tom Rasberry, the ants are now also in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, says Jim Fredericks, director of technical services for the National Pest Management Association in Fairfax, Va.
–USA Today

Zebra mussels; felony pollution charge

October 3, 2011

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.

DNR to try pesticide on zebra mussels
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will take the unusual step of treating a western Minnesota lake with a pesticide in hopes of killing a localized infestation of zebra mussels.

But the vice president of an area lakes association isn’t impressed, fearing that action is too little and too late to save the lake from the small invasive mollusks.

“For whatever reason, they want it to appear that things are under control,” said Terry Kalil, vice president of the Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations. “Things are not under control. The DNR strategy is a failed one.”

She accused the agency of responding slowly to a legislative directive last spring to train water-related equipment operators about invasive species matters and of applying an “unproven” chemical that’s likely to be ineffective.

The DNR suspects that juvenile mussels found recently on a boat lift pulled from Rose Lake were brought to the lake weeks ago when the lift was installed there. Kalil said the lift came from already infested waters.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Ethanol plant faces felony pollution charge
Corn Plus, a major ethanol cooperative in southern Minnesota, was charged with reporting that its pollution control equipment was working properly in late January when company officials knew it was not.

The alleged felony offense took place Jan. 27, less than a week after the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Corn Plus a grant of $128,658 from its Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels.

The alleged offense also took place while the company was on probation for a previous environmental law violation.
Corn Plus, which produces 49 million gallons of ethanol a year 35 miles south of Mankato in Winnebago, pleaded guilty two years ago to a misdemeanor for negligently discharging polluted water into Rice Lake. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeanne Graham placed the company on three years’ probation in October 2009 and ordered it to pay a $100,000 fine, plus a $50,000 “community service payment” to a critical habitat program run through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Corn Plus also paid $861,000 to settle a dispute with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last year over alleged water quality violations that took place from 2006 to 2008. It paid a $200,000 civil penalty and agreed to spend at least $691,000 on plant improvements designed to protect the environment.

According to the latest charge filed in federal court in Minneapolis, Corn Plus falsely certified that it was complying with its permit requirements knowing that its pollution control equipment was allowing excessive discharges into the air, a violation of the Clean Air Act.
–The Star Tribune

E-mails released on oil sands pipeline
With the Obama administration about to decide whether to green-light a controversial pipeline to take crude oil from Canada’s oil sands to the United States Gulf Coast, e-mails released paint a picture of a sometimes warm and collaborative relationship between lobbyists for the company building the billion-dollar pipeline and officials in the State Department, the agency that has final say over the pipeline.

Environmental groups said the e-mails were disturbing and evidence of “complicity” between TransCanada, the pipeline company, and American officials tasked with evaluating the pipeline’s environmental impact.

The e-mails, the second batch to be released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, show a senior State Department official at the United States Embassy in Ottawa procuring invitations to Fourth of July parties for TransCanada officials, sharing information with the company about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s meetings and cheering on TransCanada in its quest to gain approval of the giant pipeline, which could carry 700,000 barrels a day.
–The New York Times

Think like a kindergartener; save the planet
Read Freshwater programs director Peggy Knapp’s account of helping some kindergarteners save the Earth by cleaning up leaves and organic debris that, otherwise, would go into lakes and streams. You can do similar great work – and win $500 – by entering the Work For Water challenge sponsored by Freshwater and InCommons. The entry deadline is Oct. 11.
 

Hitting the water wall
Read Jonathan Foley’s take on whether the world is running out of water. Foley, the director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, says it’s not the quantity of water we should be concerned about. Rather, it is all the things that humans do to water that worry him. Writing in “momentum,” the institute’s newsletter, Foley says we need to adopt a mind-set that “respects the limits and fragility of our water supply.”

Groups urge continued conservation $$
A national coalition of 56 policy and advocacy organizations is urging Congress to preserve funding for essential U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs and to take additional steps to enhance soil, water quality and wildlife on agricultural land. The coalition outlined a set of key principles that lawmakers should observe as they write the Conservation Title of the 2012 farm bill and seek ways to trim the federal deficit.

The 56 coalition members are asking Congress to:

• Put a high priority on funding critical conservation programs at the current baseline level of $6.5 billion a year.
• Strengthen and enforce provisions that require farmers to implement basic conservation practices in return for farm subsidies and extend them to insurance subsidies.
• Target conservation dollars where the opportunities for conservation and environmental outcomes are greatest.
• Streamline existing programs by reducing unnecessary administrative burdens and ramp up their effectiveness by linking payments to performance and focusing more on whole-farm and whole-ranch conservation systems.
• Ensure that all segments of the farming community – women, minorities and beginning farmers – have access to funding and technical assistance.

USDA’s conservation programs are the main tools for implementing best management practices that help crop and livestock producers conserve our soil resources and avoid deposition of nutrient and sediment into our rivers and lakes. Agricultural conservation is also the primary means to protect vital habitat and endangered and threatened species on the privately held land that constitutes the majority of our nation’s land base.
–Environmental Working Group News Release

Soy growers propose subsidy, conservation cuts
With the congressional supercommittee pushing ahead with work on a plan to slash the deficit, farm groups are struggling to come up with ways to spend the farm subsidies that don’t get cut. The American Soybean Association is the latest to come forward with a proposal.

The soybean growers are calling for abolishing the existing direct payments and creating a new revenue-protection program called Risk Management for America’s Farmers. The plan is similar in principal to one proposed by the National Corn Growers Association. Payments would be triggered by losses in an individual producer’s revenue. The corn growers plan is pegged to area losses.

The soy growers’ plan also calls for abolishing the existing revenue-based subsidy program, ACRE, and SURE, the permanent disaster assistance system.

The soybean growers also are calling for making cuts in conservation programs as well as farm subsidies, but farmers are getting pushback on that idea from environmental organizations.
–The Des Moines Register

Asian carp found in Iowa lakes
State environmental officials say invasive carp species have been found in a Clay County lake.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources say bighead carp and silver carp were found in Elk Lake by commercial fisherman hired to remove rough fish, such as common carp, from the northern Iowa lake.

Officials with the DNR say the invasive fish likely traveled past barriers on the Little Sioux River and into the lake because of flooding on the Missouri River. They say the fish have invaded the Missouri River recently and likely traveled from the river into the Little Sioux and over dams that would have normally prevented their passage.

DNR personnel also caught two bighead carp in East Lake Okoboji last month while conducting routine sampling.
–Iowa DNR News Release

‘Earmark’ ban ends U.S. wolf trapping
A lack of money will end a federal program that has quietly trapped and killed thousands of wolves in northern Minnesota in the past 33 years, officials said.

The program had targeted wolves near where livestock and pets were being killed and had the approval of farmers, conservation leaders, wolf lovers, natural resource officials and politicians of both parties, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

But a moratorium on earmarks in Washington means there’s no money for the program after fiscal 2011 ended, the newspaper said.

In the past, congressional members from Minnesota and Wisconsin had routinely used earmarks get funding for the program.
“We’ve got too many wolves causing too many problems now,” Dale Lueck, treasurer of the Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association, said.
–UPI

New York ballast water rules draw fire
New York state is poised to implement new rules that could have a major impact on the global shipping industry. Invasive species sometimes move from place to place in “ballast water” — that’s the water ships suck in and discharge to level their loads. Officials in New York want all that ballast water treated to kill any “living pollution” before it reaches their harbors. But the treatment technology is expensive and untested. Because the state serves as a gateway to the Great Lakes and ports in New Jersey, other states and countries are disputing the new rules.
–National Public Radio

Nevada groundwater pumping criticized
Every spring will run dry in the vast valley just west of Nevada’s only national park if the Southern Nevada Water Authority is allowed to pump all the groundwater it wants and pipe it to Las Vegas.

That was the dire warning delivered by an attorney for a new and perhaps unexpected voice of opposition to the pipeline project: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The aquifer will shrink. The land will subside,” said Las Vegas attorney Paul Hejmanowski , speaking on behalf of the Mormon church as a state hearing opened in Carson City on the authority’s massive pipeline plans. “You can monitor it, you can quantify it, and in the end, you can lament it. But you can’t fix it.”

The authority is seeking state permission to tap up to 126,000 acre-feet of groundwater a year from Spring Valley in White Pine County and Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys in Lincoln County. Most of the water — 19 applications totaling more than 91,000 acre-feet — is being sought in Spring Valley, just west of Great Basin National Park.
–The Las Vegas Review-Journal

USGS reports groundwater use in the West 
Groundwater pumping, which has been increasing since the 1940s, now accounts for about one third of the estimated annual flow from the aquifers of the eastern Great Basin. In parts of this region, groundwater pumping exceeds the rate of natural discharge, leading to land subsidence and declines in water levels and spring flow.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists recently published a report examining groundwater recharge (replenishment) and discharge for the eastern Great Basin. The study examined 110,000 square miles across Utah, Nevada, California and Idaho, and the report covers groundwater conditions from Death Valley in the southwest to Cache Valley in the northeast.

“Groundwater resources are not only a critical part of present water supplies in this area, but are likely to increase in importance in the future because the region is facing population growth and limited surface water supplies,” said Kevin Dennehy, coordinator for the USGS Groundwater Resources Program.
–USGS News Release

Deloitte announces pro bono sustainability effort
Deloitte announced it is providing pro bono services to help develop a public online tool that allows companies to more easily identify and collaborate with businesses, relevant governments, Non-Governmental Organizations and communities to advance sustainable water management on a location-specific basis.

Specifically, Deloitte is teaming with the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF), the Pacific Institute and the German International Development Agency (GIZ) in developing the CEO Water Mandate (which is part of the United Nations Global Compact) Water Action Hub (the Hub).

Deloitte’s contribution to IBLF, valued at up to $500,000, will allow organizations to access a publicly available online water-focused capacity building platform that can serve as a clearinghouse for emerging corporate water accounting methods, tools, and stewardship practices.

The Hub will feature a mapping function that visually places each facility and/or organizations within watershed maps to help organizations better understand stakeholders and initiatives in their watersheds of interest. Watershed maps are designed to allow companies to build upon their use of other online analytical mapping and water risk characterization tools such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD’s) Global Water Tool and the World Resource Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct project.
–PR Newswire

The Minnesota R.; zebra mussels; climate change

August 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.

Minnesota R. clean-up still a work in progress
The Minnesota River is flowing high and fast — and as dark as chocolate milk — boosted by rains, runoff and soil erosion.

 It’s been nearly 18 years since former Gov. Arne Carlson stood on the banks of the river — long the most polluted in the state — and vowed to make it clean enough to fish and swim in within 10 years.

That didn’t happen — call it a work in progress. 

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent for everything from new sewage treatment plants to wetland and grassland restorations. 

Though it’s hard to tell by looking at it, the river likely is a bit cleaner than it was when Carlson challenged the state to clean up what had become — and some would say still is — a giant drainage ditch.
–The Star Tribune

Zebra mussels found in Lake Minnetonka
Zebra mussels have invaded Lake Minnetonka, a breach of the state’s defenses against invasive species that threatens to dramatically change the character of Minnesota’s 10th-largest lake within just a few years. 

Department of Natural Resources biologists confirmed that a small number of mussels are attached to rocks along the shore, and their size suggests that a reproducing population has been in the lake for at least a year. 

In places where they’ve become established, the fingernail-sized mussels proliferate by the millions, consume food needed by fish, clog water intake pipes, ruin fish spawning beds and litter beaches and shallow areas with razor-sharp shells.
–The Star Tribune

 Climate change ‘unmistakable,’ agency says
“Global warming is undeniable,” and it’s happening fast, a new U.S. government report says.

 An in-depth analysis of ten climate indicators all point to a marked warming over the past three decades, with the most recent decade being the hottest on record, according to the latest of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual “State of the Climate” reports.  Reliable global climate record-keeping began in the 1880s.

 The report focused on climate changes measured in 2009 in the context of newly available data on long-term developments.

 For instance, surface air temperatures recorded from more than 7,000 weather stations around the world over the past few decades confirm an “unmistakable upward trend,” the study says.

 And for the first time, scientists put data from climate indicators—such as ocean temperature and sea-ice cover—together in one place. Their consistency “jumps off the page at you,” report co-author Derek Arndt said.
–National Geographic News

Minnesota’s air is much cleaner
Inhale. Exhale.

 That lungful of clean air was brought to you by the reformed polluters of Minnesota. 

They have slashed pollution by more than 50 percent since 1970. Smokestack industries have cut emissions by almost two-thirds. The biggest polluters — drivers — have cut pollution by 77 percent. 

Put another way, air pollution per capita in America has dropped almost two-thirds. 

“This is like the bald eagle coming back,” said Bob Moffitt, spokesman for the American Lung Association in Minnesota. “I think we should be celebrating.”
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

UN declares access to safe water a human right
 Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights, the General Assembly declared, voicing deep concern that almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water. 

The 192-member Assembly also called on United Nations Member States and international organizations to offer funding, technology and other resources to help poorer countries scale up their efforts to provide clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for everyone. 

The Assembly resolution received 122 votes in favor and zero votes against, while 41 countries, including the United States, abstained from voting. 

The text of the resolution expresses deep concern that an estimated 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and a total of more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Studies also indicate about 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year and 443 million school days are lost because of water- and sanitation-related diseases.
–United Nations News Release

 A.G. wants action on Asian carp in Mississippi River
One week after filing suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson suggested a similar approach to hold off their advance into the Upper Mississippi River. 

Swanson, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and other conservationists held a news conference along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis to highlight the problems of invasive Asian carp moving into Minnesota waters. 

“They are a major threat to our life in Minnesota,” said Klobuchar, noting how the voracious creatures have taken over other ecosystems and could devastate the state’s $2.7 billion fishing industry. 

Asian carp were brought to the United States four decades ago to control algae and other problems in southern fish farms. They escaped into the wild and have expanded their reach, moving up the Missouri River to South Dakota and the Mississippi to the southern Minnesota border area. 

Last month, a 19-pound Asian carp was caught in a Chicago-area waterway beyond an electrical barrier in the Illinois River designed to stop the fish from entering Lake Michigan and ultimately Lake Superior. Swanson and attorneys general from four other states filed suit against the Corps and the Illinois agency overseeing the waterway, seeking immediate action to keep the carp out of the lakes and long-term measures to separate the Illinois River from Lake Michigan.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Researchers find massive undersea river
Researchers working in the Black Sea have found currents of water 350 times greater than the River Thames flowing along the sea bed, carving out channels much like a river on the land. 

The undersea river, which is up to 115ft deep in places, even has rapids and waterfalls much like its terrestrial equivalents. 

If found on land, scientists estimate it would be the world’s sixth largest river in terms of the amount of water flowing through it. 

The discovery could help explain how life manages to survive in the deep ocean far out to sea away from the nutrient rich waters that are found close to land, as the rivers carry sediment and nutrients with them.
–The Telegraph

 FDA considers genetically modified salmon
It may not be the 500-pound “Frankenfish” some researchers were talking about 10 years ago, but a Massachusetts company says it is on the verge of receiving federal approval to market a quick-growing Atlantic salmon that’s been genetically modified with help from a Pacific Chinook salmon. 

Although genetically engineered crops such as corn and soybeans have been part of the American diet for several years, if the Food and Drug Administration approves the salmon, it will be the first transgenic animal headed for the dinner table.
–The Washington Post 

Research: Ag advances slow greenhouse gases
Advances in conventional agriculture have dramatically slowed the flow of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, in part by allowing farmers to grow more food to meet world demand without plowing up vast tracts of land, a study by three Stanford University researchers has found. 

The study, which has been embraced by many agricultural groups but criticized by some environmentalists, found that improvements in technology, plant varieties and other advances enabled farmers to grow more without a big increase in greenhouse gas releases. Much of the credit goes to eliminating the need to plow more land to plant additional crops. 

The study’s authors said they aren’t claiming modern, high-production agriculture is without problems, including the potential for soil degradation through intense cultivation and fertilizer runoff that can contaminate fresh water. 

“In this one way that we’ve looked at, which is the climate impact, its pretty obviously been a good thing,” said Steven Davis, a geologist at the Carnegie Institution at Stanford who worked on the study. “There’s very clearly other negative impacts of modern agriculture.”
–The Associated Press 

The sooty downside of Chinese economic boom
China, the world’s most prodigious emitter of greenhouse gas, continues to suffer the downsides of unbridled economic growth despite a raft of new environmental initiatives.

 The quality of air in Chinese cities is increasingly tainted by coal-burning power plants, grit from construction sites and exhaust from millions of new cars squeezing onto crowded roads, according to a government study issued this week. Other newly released figures show a jump in industrial accidents and an epidemic of pollution in waterways. 

The report’s most unexpected findings pointed to an increase in inhalable particulates in cities like Beijing, where officials have struggled to improve air quality by shutting down noxious factories and tightening auto emission standards. Despite such efforts, including an ambitious program aimed at reducing the use of coal for home heating, the average concentration of particulates in the capital’s air violated the World Health Organization’s standards more than 80 percent of the time during the last quarter of 2008.
–The New York Times 

Prince Charles urges sustainable lifestyle
Prince Charles urged Britain to tackle “possibly the greatest challenge humanity has faced” by creating a more sustainable future. 

The heir to the throne, 61, wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper that too often people saw “becoming more sustainable” as a threat to their quality of life or a risk to the economy. 

But he insisted that small, simple measures could be taken that would make the journey fun and more positive, as he launched a new initiative called Start. 

Charles said he was recycling bath water to use on the garden and turning old curtain material into “fashionable bags.”
Agence France-Presse

 BPA found on cash register receipts
A warning before you take your receipt at the grocery store, fast food restaurants or pharmacy.

A new study by the Environmental Working Group found they could put your health at risk.

Researchers say their findings show, BPA was found on 40 percent of receipts. The chemical levels were higher than those in canned foods, baby bottles and infant formula.
The study revealed, BPA was detected on at least one of several receipts from a number of popular stores, restaurants and the  U.S. House of Representatives cafeteria, according to the private Washington-based research group.

BPA, a plastic hardener linked to breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems, reacts with dye to form black print on receipts handled by millions of people daily.
–The Los Angeles Times

Kayaking the urban Los Angeles River
Environmental activist George Wolfe has always believed the best way to know a river is to kayak it. So when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently designated the entire Los Angeles River a “traditional navigable waterway,” he organized an expedition. 

Toting a waterproof first-aid kit and a sack of binoculars, Wolfe led seven people clad in T-shirts, shorts, sun hats and life vests to a lush, eight-mile stretch of river bottom near Griffith Park known as the Glendale Narrows. 

Awaiting them downstream were quiet pools draining into noisy chutes, strewn with shoes, clothing, shopping carts, tires and plastic bottles, and shaded by cottonwood trees, cane forests and cattails. Plastic grocery bags snared in tree limbs rustled in the breeze. The river was running warm, greenish and, as one of the kayakers put it, “smelly as old socks.”
–The Los Angeles Times 

White Bear homeowners fund study of lake level
Engineers will take a fresh look at the causes and evaluate possible solutions to record low water levels that have strangled White Bear Lake the past two summers.

The White Bear Lake Conservation District accepted a $5,000 White Bear Lake Homeowners Association grant to commission phase one of a Water Level Augmentation Study. The first phase will evaluate and interpret a comprehensive 1998 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources study on historic White Bear Lake water levels and associated groundwater pumping.

“It was not our intention to reinvent the wheel and study what the state has already studied,” said Homeowners Association President Mike Crary. “This will simply get more facts and get a better understanding of what the DNR study was saying.”

Crary said low water levels are driving lake home values down, which leads to decreased city tax revenue. There are approximately 500 homes on White Bear Lake and about 100 currently have no access to water, he said.
–The White Bear Press

L.A. weakens water conservation law
In June 2009, an ordinance limiting lawn and garden watering with sprinklers to two days a week took effect in Los Angeles. Citywide water consumption dropped by more than 20%. 

Yet, 13 months later, the ordinance that pushed Los Angeles to the fore of the Western water conservation movement is about to be gutted, having become collateral damage in a roiling brawl over rate hikes and green energy between the City Council and the mayor’s office. 

On July 6, the City Council sent the utility a neutered version of the lawn ordinance that would allow watering an extra day a week. Browbeaten Department of Water and Power commissioners quietly rubber-stamped it. What is being passed off as a tweak looks more like a death knell for one of the best collective environmental efforts made by the citizens of Los Angeles.
–The Los Angeles Times 

U of M helps form atrazine remediation venture
An atrazine remediation technology based on the research of University of Minnesota biochemist Lawrence Wackett and microbiologist Michael Sadowsky will serve as the basis for a start-up company launched by two recent College of Science and Engineering graduates, Joe Mullenbach and Alex Johansson. 

NewWater, the start-up created by Mullenbach and Johansson, will offer a biocatalyst-based drinking water filtration technology that can reduce atrazine concentrations in water to acceptable levels. 

Atrazine is a selective herbicide that is widely used by farmers in the United States to control broadleaf weeds and grasses. More than half of U.S. corn acreage, for example, is treated with atrazine. First registered for use in 1959, the Environmental Protection Agency has long required water systems to test and treat for atrazine. In recent years the safety of atrazine has been the subject of much debate among scientists, and the EPA recently initiated a new scientific evaluation to determine whether current regulations need to be strengthened.

The university granted NewWater the use of three university patents, and the university holds an equity stake in the company. In NewWater’s technology, enzymes developed by Wackett and Sadowsky will serve as a catalyst to initiate bacterial metabolism of atrazine, decomposing it into harmless by-products. The process does not produce a water waste stream, and it can treat to much lower levels of atrazine than can be achieved with the current solution, activated carbon.
–University of Minnesota News Release 

San Diego to test gray water for drinking
The San Diego City Council awarded a $6.6 million contract to build a test facility that will treat wastewater and turn it into safe drinking water. 

The contract went to global engineering firm Camp Dresser and McKee to design, test and operate the small-scale plant in order to deem whether a similar system should be used on a greater scale. 

The council voted 6-2 in support of the project — an ideological shift from discussions over the past two decades about turning wastewater into drinking water.

Opponents of the treatment process in the past derided it as “toilet to tap.” However, there was not a single member of the public who spoke out against it at the council meeting. 

Rather, nearly a dozen speakers representing groups ranging from the Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation to the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and the San Diego Building Industry Association came to show their support.
–The San Diego Union-Tribune 

Jordan River fit for baptisms, Israel says
Israel insisted that a site on the Jordan river reputed to be the spot where Jesus was baptised is “fit for baptism,” rejecting a claim water pollution has reached dangerous levels. 

Bacteriological tests at Qasr al-Yehud “prove that the Jordan River water in the area is fit for baptism,” the military office in charge of administration of the occupied West Bank said in a statement. 

“It should be noted that the test showed 88 fecal coliform bacteria per 100 millilitres of water whereas the relevant health ministry standard is 1,000 fecal coliform bacteria per 100 millilitres of water,” the statement said. 

But Friends of the Earth Middle East reiterated its call for baptisms to be banned at the lower Jordan River and dismissed the result of the test, pointing out that other tests have shown pollution levels to be far higher.
–AFP News Service