Posts Tagged ‘drinking water’

Gulf oil spill; drinking water standards

May 3, 2010

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles where they originally were published.

Gulf oil spill shows limits of technology
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is pushing current oil cleanup technology to its limits, but also serving as a testing ground for futuristic decontamination methods. 

Some cutting-edge imaging techniques that let responders size up slicks better, as well as novel engineering solutions such as a deep-water oil containment dome could see use in the Gulf of Mexico in coming days and weeks, experts say. 

But other long-touted measures, such as oil-eating microbes, however, are not yet ready to fight large spills. 

As the Deepwater Horizon cleanup effort is demonstrating, many of the current methods of cleaning up oil spills are decidedly low-tech. 

At least 70 response vehicles have fanned out in the Gulf and are using conventional physical containment methods such as floating tubes called booms and skimmers that slurp up mixed oil and water from the sea surface.
–The Christian Science Monitor 

Fishing halted near oil slick
The government ordered a halt to fishing in areas affected by the ever-spreading oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, a ban that covers waters from Louisiana to Florida and hinders the livelihoods of untold numbers of fishermen. 

Citing public safety concerns, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration restricted fishing for at least 10 days in the affected waters, largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Pensacola Bay in Florida. Scientists were taking samples of water and seafood to ensure food safety. 

“We want to make sure that we can maintain the public confidence in the safety of the food supply and make sure that members of the public aren’t at risk,” said Roy Crabtree, the Southeast regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “We’ll continue to look at this and evaluate this.” 

Trawlers fishing for swordfish and tuna, and charter-boat operators, many of whom work out of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, are likely to feel the impact more than Louisiana fishermen, said Harlon Pearce, the chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board.
–The New York Times

 Minnesota Health Dept. seeks input on drinking water standards
The Minnesota Department of Health, which provides health-based guidance on chemicals detected in Minnesota’s drinking water, is undertaking  two efforts to improve standards regulating contamination:

 n  MDH is seeking to amend the Health Risk Limit (HRL) rule for contaminants found in groundwater (Minnesota Rules, Part 4717.7860) used for drinking purposes. The amendments will expand the HRL rule by adding guidance in the form of new HRL values for 14 additional groundwater contaminants.

The department  will host a public meeting on May 19, 2010, to solicit public comments on the draft amendments

n  MDH has established the Drinking Water Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) program,  funded by the Clean Water Fund. CEC is a proactive program to protect drinking water by identifying contaminants of emerging concern that have the potential to occur in Minnesota drinking water sources, investigating the potential for human exposure to these contaminants, and developing guidance values, as applicable.  

Contact the Health Department to learn more about the effort and find opportunities to participate in it.
–Minnesota Health Department news release

 Rains ease long California drought
April’s battery of storms pushed snow levels well above normal but not enough to definitively end California’s three-year drought

The amount of water locked in the Sierra snowpack, California’s largest source of water, is 143 percent of normal and double last year’s levels for the same period, according to the state’s final snow survey of the season conducted Friday near Lake Tahoe. 

“All around, the figures look really, really good,” said Don Strickland, spokesman for the state Department of Water Resources.
–The San Francisco Chronicle 

Catostrophic water main break affects Boston
Nearly 2 million residents of Greater Boston lost their supply of clean drinking water when a huge pipe abruptly burst, prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency and to impose a sweeping order for homeowners and businesses to boil the untreated water now flowing from their taps.

 Governor Deval Patrick said residents in Boston and 29 other communities east of Weston should boil water for at least a minute before drinking it to avoid the risk of getting sick. He also asked bottled water companies and the National Guard to help make clean water available to residents in the affected communities.
–The Boston Globe

Benson ethanol plant to pay air quality penalty
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced that Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co.  will pay a penalty consisting of $70,000 in cash and implement one or more Supplemental Environmental Projects costing at least $50,000 to resolve alleged violations of the company’s air quality permit at its ethanol production facility in Benson, Minn.

The violations, occurring in 2008 and 2009, centered on the company’s operation of a biomass gasification unit that went online in the spring of 2008.  The unit represented an advanced technology for the ethanol industry, in which wood products are heated to produce gas to fuel the facility’s boilers.

 There were significant problems with burning wood contaminated with lead and arsenic, most likely from wood that had been painted or treated with preservatives.  The company did not knowingly burn contaminated wood, but the MPCA alleged in the agreement that CVEC did not take proper precautions to ensure the wood supply was uncontaminated.  The company also failed to meet emission limits during stack performance tests for the waste heat boiler and a filter receiver, did not conduct required performance testing on other parts of its processes, and did not properly calculate and record total emissions as required during rolling 12-month periods.
–MPCA News Release 

L.A. County violates Clean Water Act
The County of Los Angeles violated the federal Clean Water Act when it discharged polluted water onto the world-famous Surfrider Beach at Malibu, according to a decision issued by the federal District Court in Los Angeles.

The court also found the county liable for illegally discharging polluted water into a marine coastal preserve in northern Los Angeles County, one of three dozen designated Areas of Special Biological Significance along the California coast. 

This lawsuit is the first to enforce California’s prohibition on polluted discharges to designated Areas of Special Biological Significance.
–Environment News Service


UN: Pollution is leading cause of death

March 29, 2010

Each Week the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of important regional , national and international articles about water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

 Polluted water is leading cause of death, U.N. says
More people die from polluted water every year than from all forms of violence, including war, the U.N. said in a report that highlights the need for clean drinking water.

 The report, launched to coincide with World Water Day, said an estimated 2 billion tons of waste water — including fertilizer run-off, sewage and industrial waste — is being discharged daily. That waste fuels the spread of disease and damages ecosystems.

 ”Sick Water” — the report from the U.N. Environment Program — said that 3.7 percent of all deaths are attributed to water-related diseases, translating into millions of deaths. More than half of the world’s hospital beds are filled by people suffering from water-related illnesses, it said.
–The Associated Press

 EPA announces drinking water changes
The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would overhaul drinking water regulations so that officials could police dozens of contaminants simultaneously and tighten rules on the chemicals used by industries.

 The new policies, which are still being drawn up, will probably force some local water systems to use more effective cleaning technologies, but may raise water rates.

 “There are a range of chemicals that have become more prevalent in our products, our water and our bodies in the last 50 years,” the E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson said in a speech.
–The New York Times

Endocrine disruptor BPA detected in sea water
Scientists have reported widespread global contamination of sea sand and sea water with the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA) and said that the BPA probably originated from a surprising source: Hard plastic trash discarded in the oceans and the epoxy plastic paint used to seal the hulls of ships. 

“We were quite surprised to find that polycarbonate plastic biodegrades in the environment,” said Katsuhiko Saido, Ph.D. He reported on the discovery March 23 at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, being held in San Francisco. 

Saido and Hideto Sato, Ph.D., and colleagues are with Nihon University, Chiba, Japan. “Polycarbonates are very hard plastics, so hard they are used to make screwdriver handles, shatter-proof eyeglass lenses, and other very durable products. This finding challenges the wide public belief that hard plastics remain unchanged in the environment for decades or centuries.
–Science Daily

 EPA forcing cities to levy storm water fees
New environmental regulations are prompting cities to impose fees on property owners for the cost of managing storm water runoff, the leading cause of water pollution in most of the nation.

The Environmental Protection Agency has started issuing a series of limits on storm water pollution that will require local governments to spend large amounts of money on water quality and soon start slowly reshaping America’s roads, housing developments and even the traditional lawn.

The EPA for the first time is placing specific limits on how much storm water pollution can flow into the nation’s streams, rivers, lakes and bays. Federal courts have ruled that the Clean Water Act requires more stringent regulations.
–USA Today 

California at odds over tracking groundwater use
A state report says California should start tracking how much water is being pumped from underground aquifers to get a better measurement of what some officials consider unreliable supplies.

Each year, California gets at least one-third of its water supply from the ground. A bill passed by the Legislature last year set up a largely voluntary program to monitor groundwater basins, but the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommends measuring how much is being pumped out as well.

Both cities and farmers have resisted attempts at groundwater permitting because they consider it a freely available resource.

The legislative analyst says groundwater is a shared public asset and suggests California follow models in other Western states that require active measurement of groundwater pumping.
–The San Jose Mercury News

Quenching the Middle East’s thirst
Historically, water unavailability has been a key concern across the Middle East and Africa. Many countries in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have renewable water resources per capita less than 1000 m3/year; the level that defines water scarcity.

 Furthermore, the geographic distribution of these limited water resources is highly uneven. Over 80% of the region is desert and receives little or no rainfall. Water supply provisions under such conditions have always been a key policy issue with social, economic and environmental ramifications. In the past it has been erratic rainfall and prolonged drought periods, widely believed to be manifestations of climate change, which have added a new dimension to the problem. This is particularly the case with Syria, Jordan, Israel and Algeria, which are facing severe water shortages.

While supplies are constrained, the demand for freshwater over the years has continued to increase at a rapid pace. This increase in demand is a result of several interplaying forces. Across MENA, the agricultural sector is the prime consumer of water. In some countries, it accounts for over 80% of the total annual water withdrawals. Agricultural subsidies, improving irrigation and pumping technologies and the discovery of fossil groundwater reserves have helped expansion of agricultural activity.
–Water World

Turtle Lake, Wis., cheese plant fined for pollution
Lake Country Dairy, Inc., which owns and operates a cheese production facility in Turtle Lake, has agreed to pay $150,000 to settle state claims under Wisconsin’s water pollution laws. The judgment resolves charges that Lake Country Dairy failed to properly manage its discharges of wastewater into the Village of Turtle Lake wastewater treatment plant since 2006.

Wisconsin law requires manufacturers such as Lake Country Dairy, Inc. to pre-treat wastewater resulting in discharges that do not contain pollutants at levels that contribute to a violation of the local water treatment plant’s permit and do not have a pH below 5.0 unless the treatment plant is specifically designed to handle acidic waste.

The complaint charges that Lake Country Dairy operated in violation of state water pollution statutes since 2006 by causing violations of the Village of Turtle Lake’s treatment plant permit on at least 13 occasions, and that it discharged wastewater with a pH below 5.0 on at least 15 occasions.
–The Barron News-Shield