Posts Tagged ‘Bisphenol-A’

The Gulf spill; 3M chemicals; ‘moist soil’

August 23, 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.

Scientists challenge Gulf oil assessment
Academic scientists are challenging the Obama administration’s assertion that most of BP’s oil in the Gulf of Mexico is either gone or rapidly disappearing — with one group announcing the discovery of a 22-mile “plume” of oil that shows little sign of vanishing.

That plume was measured in late June and was described by scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. The biggest news was not the plume itself: For weeks, government and university scientists have said that oil from BP’s damaged well is still underwater.

 The news was what is happening — or not happening — to it.

The scientists said that when they studied it, they saw little evidence that the oil was being rapidly consumed by the gulf’s petroleum-eating microbes. The plume was in a deep, cold region where microbes tend to work slowly.
–The Washington Post

State seeks 3M pollution compensation
The 3M Co. should pay for environmental harm done by its chemicals, according to state officials.

 The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said that it is negotiating with 3M over compensation for damage done by perfluorochemicals that leaked into Washington County groundwater.

 The state attorney general’s office, acting as the agency’s lawyer, confirmed it is interviewing city officials in Washington County to gauge the public cost of the chemical leaks.

 Agency officials said they hope to have an agreement with 3M by the end of the year.

Usually, Mother Nature doesn’t have a way to strike back at polluters. Animals have no claim in most courts — no one can sue a polluter on behalf of wildlife injured by a chemical or oil spill.

But in a process called Natural Resources Damage Assessment, spelled out in the federal Superfund law, state agencies can ask polluters for repayment.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Funding denied for temporary wetlands
A new strategy to create waterfowl habitat in Minnesota was dealt a blow when the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council rejected funding for the project.

 The Department of Natural Resources was seeking $443,500 to design and implement moist-soil management units. The new strategy to improve the state’s sagging waterfowl populations was announced in January by DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten.

 The project involves intensively managing shallow impoundments. The impoundments are drained in the summer to allow the growth of plants and then flooded in the fall so ducks can forage on the plants’ seeds and insects.

 The impoundments mimic Minnesota’s most commonly drained natural wetlands, known as seasonal or “temporal” wetlands. Moist-soil units have been used widely and successfully in other states to attract and provide food for waterfowl.

“It looks like an expensive Band-Aid; that’s how most (council members) looked at it,” said Jim Cox, a council member and former president of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Septic pollution threatens Cape Cod ponds
Rising nitrogen levels are suffocating the vegetation and marine life in saltwater ponds and estuaries on Cape Cod, creating an environmental and infrastructure problem that, if left unchecked, will threaten the shellfishing industry, the tourist economy and the beaches that lure so many summer visitors. 

More than 60 ponds and estuaries on the cape and a few elsewhere in the region have been choked by algae and seaweed. The culprit is nitrogen, much of it leaching out of septic system wastewater that runs through sandy soil into the estuaries. Faced with a federal mandate to fix their polluted waterways, Cape Cod towns have spent years creating plans to clean up the wastewater, largely through sewers and clustered septic systems.

 So far, most of the efforts have been to no avail, stifled by disputes over science and over who should pay for such a sprawling and expensive public works project.
–The New York Times

Renewable energy featured at State Fair
Electricity from the sun and wind will be on display at the largest renewable energy exhibit ever held at the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair. 

Fairgoers will find out how solar energy and wind power can work for them in their daily lives. The exhibit, which includes displays inside and outside of the Eco Experience building, will feature solar-powered fans and water fountains, portable solar panels, solar-powered boats and a wind turbine sized for farm or business use. 

Many of the solar energy innovations on display at the Eco Experience are made in Minnesota. A new mirror film from 3M that concentrates sunlight on solar panels will be on display. The film helps capture more of the sun’s radiation, leading to lower solar energy costs. Silicon-Energy will display solar panels that will be manufactured on the Iron Range starting in spring 2011. Fairgoers can get a sneak peak of these panels in front of the Eco Experience building and along the Green Street display inside the building. 

Fairgoers can also see solar-powered boats built by junior high, high school and college students for the annual Solar Boat Regatta sponsored by the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society.
–Minnesota Pollution Control Agency News Release

 Canada to declare bisphenol A is toxic 
After a lengthy delay, the federal government said it is close to making good on its two-year old promise to designate bisphenol A as toxic under Canadian law.

The Conservatives made a big splash in April 2008 when two senior cabinet ministers hosted a news conference to announce Canada would become the first country in the world to ban plastic bottles after concluding the estrogen-mimicking chemical was toxic. The first step was to place BPA on the list of toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. 

The ban went ahead, but the toxic designation has yet to happen. Environment Canada now says it will be a done deal within eight to 10 weeks — more than a year after considering a formal notice of objection filed by the American Chemistry Council. 

The group, which maintains BPA is safe, filed the objection on July 15, 2009, asking the government to set up a board of review to reconsider the toxic designation.
–The Vancouver Sun

 Cruise ships dump wastes off Canada
Waters off British Columbia are the “toilet bowl of North America” as dozens of cruise ships heading to and from Alaska dump sewage in Canadian waters, environmentalists say.

 American regulations have been tightened in the last decade forcing cruise ships to follow stringent sewage treatment rules before disposing of waste in Alaska or Washington State.

 But the vessels have another option: they can unload sewage and grey water —waste water from showers, sinks and laundry — into B.C. waters where rules are “lax.”

 “Cruise ship companies are taking advantage of Canada’s weaker laws on sewage discharge to save money. It is bizarre that B.C. residents should bear the burden of cruise ship pollution from well-heeled tourists,” said Beatrice Olivastri, chief executive chief executive officer of the Friends of the Earth (FOE) Canada.
–The Vancouver Sun

Cost of Michigan oil spill mounts
Enbridge Inc.’s struggles mounted as its U.S. affiliate said the oil spill that fouled a Michigan river system could cost as much as $400 million and regulators slapped it with a $2.4 million fine for a deadly 2007 explosion in Minnesota.

 Enbridge Energy Partners, the Houston-based operator of the U.S. part of the company’s massive pipeline system, said total charges for the July 26 pipeline rupture near Marshall, Mich., could be $300 million to $400 million, excluding any fines or penalties. 

The cost would include charges for emergency response, environmental remediation, pipeline repairs, claims by third parties and lost revenue, Enbridge said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. 

After insurance recoveries, the charges could be $35 million to $45 million, said Enbridge, whose ruptured pipeline spilled 19,500 barrels of heavy Canadian crude into the Kalamazoo River system.
–Reuters 

$12 million available for water projects
The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources is seeking grant applications from local government units for projects that will protect and restore Minnesota’s streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater. Eligible local government units include cities, counties, soil and water conservation districts, watershed districts, and metropolitan watershed management organizations. The deadline to apply is Sept. 15. 

BWSR has $12 million available for these projects. Funding for the competitive grants is provided by the Clean Water Fund (from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment). Most of the funded projects also will leverage local or federal dollars.   

“Local conservation professionals throughout the state have experience in identifying areas that are contributing to water quality issues and implementing solutions,” said John Jaschke, BWSR Executive Director. “Minnesotans who are interested in learning more about how they can help protect and restore water quality should contact a local conservation agency in their area.” 

Jaschke added that BWSR reviews and approves water management plans for the local government units that are eligible for these grants. In order to receive funding, projects must implement priority activities that are identified in a state approved and locally adopted local water management plan. 
–BWSR News Release

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Water use down; ethanol plants penalized

November 2, 2009

U.S. water use is declining, according to a new report. After a long delay, the EPA orders tests on suspected endocrine disruptors.  Two Minnesota ethanol plants will pay penalties for pollution. And states are paying little heed to predictions of rising sea levels. Scan a digest of these articles and more, then follow the links to read the articles where they originally were published. 

U.S. water use declines, USGS says
The United States is using less water than during the peak years of 1975 and 1980, according to water use estimates for 2005. Despite a 30 percent population increase during the past 25 years, overall water use has remained fairly stable according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.

Assistant Secretary of the Interior Anne Castle announced the report, Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005, as part of her keynote speech today at the Atlantic Water Summit in the National Press Club.

The report shows that in 2005 Americans used 410 billion gallons per day, slightly less than in 2000. The declines are attributed to the increased use of more efficient irrigation systems and alternative technologies at power plants. Water withdrawals for public supply have increased steadily since 1950–when USGS began the series of five-year trend reports–along with the population that depends on these supplies.

“The importance of this type of data to the American public cannot be exaggerated,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. “The Department of the Interior provides the nation with the best source of information about national and regional trends in water withdrawals. This information is invaluable in ensuring future water supplies and finding new technologies and efficiencies to conserve water.”

Nearly half (49 percent) of the 410 billion gallons per day used by Americans was for producing electricity at thermoelectric power plants. Irrigation accounted for 31 percent and public supply 11 percent of the total. The remaining 9 percent of the water was for self-supplied industrial, livestock, aquaculture, mining and rural domestic uses.
–U.S. Department of the Interior news release

 $475 million approved to restore Great Lakes
Congress approved President Barack Obama’s plan to spend $475 million next year on programs to restore the Great Lakes, the first installment in what is expected to be a multiyear restoration plan.

 Obama hatched a plan during the campaign to spend $5 billion on the lakes over the next 10 years, and the idea has won wide support with conservationists, industry and both political parties.

 “This is a great day for the Great Lakes and the millions of people who depend on them for their jobs and way of life,” Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association and co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said in a statement.

 The new funding will essentially double the amount of federal dollars now flowing into the lakes.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 Chisago County power plant draws water worries
At first blush, a proposal for a large power plant in rural Chisago County would seem to have a lot going for it, including apparent need and general support from clean-energy interests.

 But that doesn’t mean LS Power’s natural gas-fired project is racing along. Far from it. Many county residents, skeptical of the company’s assertions and irked by what they consider a secretive approach, don’t like it one bit.

 “Whether they are for it or against it, people in this area have a right to know what this is about,” said Joyce Marienfeld, a member of an opposition group called Friends of the Sunrise River. “This has been real slippery — just not right.” 

County residents have been on edge since earlier this year when the East Coast power plant builder offered what residents viewed as a vague proposal to build a 780-megawatt power plant on a 40-acre site northwest of Lindstrom, 30 miles north of St. Paul. The plant, expected to cost $300 million to $500 million, would use low-polluting natural gas to supplement the state’s growing wind industry by operating when wind power isn’t available or during periods of peak demand. 

The Legislature quickly approved tax breaks similar to those given to other plants, provided local governments follow suit. If that happens, the project would be free to seek various air and water permits and Public Utilities Commission approval. 

Critics soon objected, especially over plans to use 2 million gallons of groundwater a day and to discharge that water into the nearby Sunrise River, which empties into the nationally protected St. Croix River.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 After long delay, EPA orders endocrine tests
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued the first test orders for pesticide chemicals to be screened for their potential effects on the endocrine system. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interact with and disrupt the hormones produced or secreted by human and animal endocrine systems, which regulate growth, metabolism and reproduction.

“After years of delay, EPA is aggressively moving forward by ordering the testing of a number of pesticide chemicals for hormone effects,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances. “These new data will be carefully evaluated to help identify potential hormone disruptor chemicals.”

On Oct. 21, EPA made available the battery of scientific assays and test guidelines for conducting the assays, as well as a schedule for issuing test orders to manufacturers for 67 chemicals during the next four months.

Testing, conducted through the agency’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, will eventually expand to cover all pesticide chemicals.

For more information about the screening program, go to: http://www.epa.gov/endo
–EPA news release

Federal study of bisphenol A planned
The National Institutes of Health will devote $30 million to study the safety of bisphenol A, or BPA, an estrogen-like chemical used in many plastics, including sippy cups and the linings of metal cans.

Almost half of that money comes from the economic stimulus bill, says Robin Mackar, spokeswoman for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Although a growing number of scientists and consumers are concerned about BPA — which has been detected in the urine of more than 90% of Americans — government agencies have been divided about whether it poses a threat.

According to the NIEHS, animals studies link BPA with infertility, weight gain, behavioral changes, early onset puberty, prostate and breast cancer and diabetes. New research will focus on low-dose exposures to BPA and effects on behavior, obesity, diabetes, reproductive disorders, asthma, cardiovascular diseases and various cancers. Researchers will also see if the effects of BPA exposure can be passed from parents to their children.
–USA Today

States disregard threat of rising sea levels
As early as the 1980s, scientists warned that rising seas could submerge vast portions of Florida’s coast.

How have local and state governments responded? Build, baby, build.

A new study of development trends along the Atlantic Coast shows Florida has opened more vulnerable areas to construction than any other state. Three-quarters of its low-lying Atlantic coastline has already been, or will be, developed.

 Despite mounting evidence of sea level rise, other states plan to follow Florida’s lead — though to lesser degrees — eventually pushing homes, condos and other buildings onto nearly two-thirds of coastal land less than a meter above the Atlantic. By 2100, many scientists predict a rise near or beyond a meter.
–The Miami Herald

Ethanol plant gets $150,000 penalty for water pollution
An ethanol producer in south-central Minnesota has been nicked for $150,000 for discharging polluted wastewater into a lake, violating the federal Clean Water Act.

In sentencing in federal court in St. Paul, Corn Plus of Winnebago, Minn., was fined $100,000 and ordered to make a $50,000 community service payment to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to benefit the Rice Creek Watershed. 

Judge Jeanne Graham also required Corn Plus to implement an environmental compliance plan and a code of conduct as well as retain a full-time environmental health and safety manager.
–The Star Tribune

Second ethanol plant agrees to air and water penalties
Bushmills Ethanol Inc. will pay a civil penalty totaling $425,000 for a variety of alleged violations at the company’s ethanol production facility in Atwater.  A portion of the penalty includes supplementary environmental projects, valued at $175,000, which will be completed by the company during the next four years.

 The violations, which occurred from 2006 to 2009, were discovered during Minnesota Pollution Control Agency staff inspections of the facility and through review of operational records the company is required to submit to the MPCA under its environmental permits.

 Numerous violations were identified, including producing ethanol above the facility’s permitted limit, failure to inspect and maintain production and pollution-control equipment, recordkeeping and reporting violations, and exceeding permitted wastewater discharge limits.

 The company agreed to the penalty in mid-October.
–MPCA news release

 Judge blocks Las Vegas water pipeline
A Nevada judge’s sternly worded ruling blasting a water giveaway as “arbitrary” with “oppressive” consequences has tossed a huge roadblock in the way of a controversial pipeline opposed by Utah ranchers and farmers.

The ruling by Judge Norman Robinson of Nevada’s 7th Judicial District reverses water right applications granted by the state engineer to the Southern Nevada Water Authority for Cave, Delamar and Dry Lake valleys. 

Those valleys are in the same geographical region as Snake Valley, which straddles the Utah and Nevada border and are integral to the water authority’s plan to build a $3.5 billion, 285-mile pipeline to convey water to Las Vegas. 

The judge said the state engineer’s decision to grant those water rights “results in an oppressive consequence for the basins affected, with the state engineer simply hoping for the best … ,” adding that the engineer “abused his discretion” because there was no evidence cited over the availability of water for future use.
-The Deseret News

 Impact statement issued for copper-nickel mine
A proposed open-pit copper-nickel mine and processing plant on Minnesota’s Iron Range would increase sulfate levels in several northeastern rivers, a long-awaited environmental review concluded.

More than four years in the making, the draft environmental impact statement provides an overview of Polymet Mining’s proposed NorthMet mine and processing project, analyzes its possible effects and outlines how it would operate under federal and state rules.

 Polymet wants to operate the state’s first copper mine, but environmental groups have pushed back, noting widespread pollution at such mines elsewhere in the world. The company, however, contends safeguards built into the sulfide mining process would minimize or eliminate those problems.

 Company officials, backed by northern legislators, have long touted the $600 million project’s benefits to the economically depressed region, saying it would create about 400 jobs over 20 years. It also could lead the way for other such projects in the region.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Solar power has a powerful thirst
The West’s water wars are likely to intensify with Pacific Gas and Electric’s announcement on Monday that it would buy 500 megawatts of electricity from two solar power plant projects to be built in the California desert.

The Genesis Solar Energy Project would consume an estimated 536 million gallons of water a year, while the Mojave Solar Project would pump 705 million gallons annually for power-plant cooling, according to applications filed with the California Energy Commission.

 With 35 big solar farm projects undergoing licensing or planned for arid regions of California alone, water is emerging as a contentious issue. 

The Genesis and Mojave projects will use solar trough technology that deploys long rows of parabolic mirrors to heat a fluid to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine. The steam must be condensed back into water and cooled for re-use.
–The New York Times

Curly leaf pondweed: nice beat, easy to dance to

May 11, 2009

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of the best regional, national and international articles about water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to their original sources.

Iowa plans $455 million pollution fight
Iowa is about to launch its biggest assault ever on river and lake pollution – a $455 million campaign.

After decades of struggling to address serious pollution problems, the state now has an unprecedented pool of state and federal money to solve some of its worst water-quality problems, said Charles Corell, the water chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

One of the biggest impacts: improved sewage treatment and septic systems in the 500 towns and rural subdivisions that don’t have any.
–The Des Moines Register

 

What, exactly, do invasive species sound like to you?
A new initiative at UW-Madison is using music to raise public awareness about aquatic invasive species in the state.

“Research shows music can influence how we respond to messages, affecting memory, emotion, attitudes, and even behavior,” says Bret Shaw, assistant professor of life sciences communication at UW-Madison and environmental communication specialist for UW-Extension.
–UW-Madison News

Polar bears won’t force climate crackdown
The federal bureaucracy that safeguards endangered species isn’t equipped to tackle climate change, Interior Department officials said — declining to protect Alaskan polar bears by cracking down on polluters in the Lower 48.

The decision, announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, was the Obama administration’s first word on an emerging environmental question.
–The Washington Post

 

Environmental video provokes controversy
The thick-lined drawings of the Earth, a factory and a house, meant to convey the cycle of human consumption, are straightforward and child-friendly. So are the pictures of dark puffs of factory smoke and an outlined skull and crossbones, representing polluting chemicals floating in the air.

Which is one reason “The Story of Stuff,” a 20-minute video about the effects of human consumption, has become a sleeper hit in classrooms across the nation.
–The New York Times

Scott County pro-active on water quality
Scott County contacted Jay and Laureen Picha on Jan. 29 and invited them to a little sit-down. It was about the creek that runs across their 167 acres between Shakopee and Jordan.

It seems that at times, too much water is racing down it too fast, carrying sediment and perhaps pollution into Sand Creek, and then into the Minnesota River, which is not so pure to begin with.
–The Star Tribune

 

EPA announces proposed budget
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed $10.5 billion budget would create jobs and protect the environment, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

The EPA allocated $3.9 billion to maintain and improve outdated water infrastructure and keep wastewater and drinking water clean and safe, she said. The money would support building and renovating an estimated 1,000 clean water and 700 drinking water infrastructure projects, and repair and upgrade older drinking water and wastewater pipes.

To address climate change, the agency’s proposal budgets $17 million in the greenhouse gas emissions inventory for new analytical tools, upgraded testing capabilities and coordination with other agencies on research and green initiatives.
–United Press International

World’s second-largest fish is a snowbird
How do you lose the world’s second-largest fish?

It had been happening for decades to researchers studying the basking shark, a plankton-eating species that can grow to be 35 feet long — only the whale shark is bigger. Basking sharks were easy to spot in summer and fall. Many cruised near the surface off New England, filtering water through an impossibly wide mouth.

But then, in winter, the sharks vanished from these waters, and scientists couldn’t find them anywhere else. One guess was that they sank to the bottom and hibernated, waiting out a food shortage. But nobody knew for sure: The basking shark became a reminder of the unsolved mysteries of the oceans.
–The Washington Post

Residents, cities oppose Mississippi regulation
Many cities and residents along the Mississippi River, from Hastings to Dayton, fear they will have less control over their property and development along the river under a pair of bills moving toward passage at the State Capitol.

At least six cities — Lilydale, Mendota, Coon Rapids, Champlin, Anoka and Ramsey — have adopted resolutions or sent letters to legislators opposing the bills. Most of the resolutions say the bills ignore property-owner rights and could give the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) more control over local zoning.
–The Star Tribune

 

New York governor nixes bottled water
Citing financial and environmental reasons, Gov. David A. Patterson signed an executive order directing state agencies to phase out the purchase and use of bottled water at government workplaces.

As a result, the state will gradually stop buying single-serve water bottles and larger, cooler-sized water bottles. Each executive agency will have to provide alternative sources, like fountains and dispensers for tap water.

In June 2007, San Francisco’s mayor, Gavid Newsom, prohibited spending city money on single-serving bottled water.
–The New York Times

 

Maine considers tax on bottled water
Dozens of Poland Spring employees and business representatives who support the company descended on the Maine State House to show their opposition to a proposed penny-a-gallon tax on bottled water.  It’s being promoted as a way to generate revenue from a shared natural resource in difficult economic times.  But opponents warn it could open a Pandora’s Box by creating a precedent the state cannot afford.

The penny-a-gallon tax would only apply to water bottlers in Maine who extract more than a million gallons of ground water in a year.  And Poland Spring says, for all intents and purposes, that’s Poland Spring alone.  The tax would cost the company about $7 million a year.  And it would not apply to Poland Spring’s chief competitors, Aquafina and Dasani, which which get their water out of state and which would continue to sell in Maine.
–Maine Public Broadcasting Network

 

Bisphenol-A banned in kids’ cups
Sippy cups and baby bottles containing a chemical suspected of being harmful will be banned in Minnesota starting next Jan. 1.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a bill into law that prohibits the sale of bottles and cups that contain Bisphenol-A (BPA), which is found in many plastics and in canned food coatings.

BPA is so widespread that most people have traces of it in their bodies, but even though the new law regards it as a health threat, scientists haven’t definitively determined whether that’s the case.
–The Star Tribune

 

Climate threatens tiny pikas
The Fish and Wildlife Service is beginning a yearlong review to determine whether the pika, an 8-inch-long mountain animal that looks like a rabbit with round ears, should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. It would be the first mammal from the lower 48 states to be considered for protection as a result of changes resulting from global warming. Pikas live on rocky slopes in the West and cannot bear temperatures above 78 degrees for more than a short time. In a 2007 petition, the Center for Biological Diversity said rising temperatures had already caused “dramatic losses” of pika populations at lower elevations.
–The New York Times

 

USGS research focuses on mercury in Pacific
The U.S. Geological Survey has taken a big step toward answering long-standing questions about mercury in the oceans, with the release of a landmark study pointing to the role of human activities in releasing the contaminant and changing the makeup of the North Pacific.

The study opened the door to several key remaining questions, including whether different oceans absorb mercury differently and whether more of the metal in the water leads to increased levels of methylmercury — mercury’s highly toxic form — in marine life.
–The New York Times