Posts Tagged ‘greenhouse gas’

Lake Pepin EDCs, aging sewers and invasive carp

November 23, 2009

Lawmakers question MPCA on Lake Pepin
A pair of Minnesota lawmakers expressed frustration with a developing plan to evaluate pollution problems in Lake Pepin, a widening of the Mississippi River between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The comments came at a joint meeting of House and Senate environment and natural resources committees.

 The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is several years into an assessment of lake pollutants, a precursor to an effort to clean up the water body.

State Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, and state Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, questioned whether the agency’s current evaluation is too narrow, and doesn’t include such emerging issues as endocrine disruptors, chemicals that cause biological changes in fish and other creatures.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Aging U.S. sewer systems often pollute
It was drizzling lightly in late October when the midnight shift started at the Owls Head Water Pollution Control Plant, where much of Brooklyn’s sewage is treated.

 A few miles away, people were walking home without umbrellas from late dinners. But at Owls Head, a swimming pool’s worth of sewage and wastewater was soon rushing in every second. Warning horns began to blare. A little after 1 a.m., with a harder rain falling, Owls Head reached its capacity and workers started shutting the intake gates. 

That caused a rising tide throughout Brooklyn’s sewers, and untreated feces and industrial waste started spilling from emergency relief valves into the Upper New York Bay and Gowanus Canal.
–The New York Times (From the Times’ Toxic Waters series)

Invasive Asian carp may have reached Great Lakes
The decade-old battle to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes might be over.

 New research shows the fish likely have made it past the $9 million electric fish barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, a source familiar with the situation told the Journal Sentinel.

 The barrier is considered the last chance to stop the super-sized fish that can upend entire ecosystems, and recent environmental DNA tests showed that the carp had advanced to within a mile of the barrier.

 That research backed the federal government into a desperate situation because the barrier must be turned off within a couple of weeks for regular maintenance. The plan is to spend some $1.5 million to temporarily poison the canal so the maintenance work can be done.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Lake Vermillion park negotiations on hold
Already a long shot, Minnesota’s efforts to add another state park on the east side of Lake Vermilion could get squeezed even further when the state Legislature resumes in February. 

Talks between U.S. Steel Corp. and the state Department of Natural Resources have been on hold for months, with no detectable movement. Meanwhile, U.S. Steel is proceeding with plans to develop housing on the 3,000-acre site along the picturesque northeastern Minnesota lake. 

But any lingering hopes of a breakthrough are dampened by several developments. 

DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten said the agency and the company are “standing down” until after the agency completes an environmental review of U.S. Steel’s proposed Keetac mine expansion project near Keewatin, Minn. He said both sides consider that process a distraction and want to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 South Florida puts sweeping limit on lawn watering
Recognizing the need to conserve water and increase protection for South Florida’s water resources, the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board has unanimously approved sweeping year-round water conservation measures that place permanent limits on landscape irrigation throughout the region. 

The rule limits irrigation of existing landscapes to two days per week, with some exceptions. 

The Year-Round Landscape Irrigation Rule is designed to curb water use in South Florida, which is the highest in the state at an estimated 179 gallons per person per day. Outdoor irrigation uses up to half of all drinkable water produced within the region. Up to 50 percent of the water applied to lawns is lost to evaporation and runoff with no benefit to the landscape, according to the district.
–Environment News Service

Wisconsin mine offers window on Minnesota dispute
A closed Wisconsin mine is playing a prominent role in the ongoing debate over mining for metals like copper and nickel, a debate that’s currently raging in Northern Minnesota. 

Depending on whom you talk to, the Flambeau mine near Ladysmith, Wisconsin, is either a perfect example how metals like copper can be mined without harming the environment, or it’s a sad example of regulators ignoring serious problems.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Huge S.D. dairy cited for manure
A gigantic dairy operation near Minnesota’s western border is violating manure storage law and suspected of allowing pollutants to enter public waterways.

South Dakota’s largest dairy, Veblen East, and its neighbor Veblen West have been operating since the summer with too much manure in their huge lagoons, or ponds. Permits require that the ponds have at least two feet of space at the top so that manure won’t overflow when it’s windy or rainy.
–The Star Tribune

Nevada solar project abandons groundwater plan
A solar developer caught in the crossfire of the West’s water wars is waving the white flag.

Solar Millenium, a German developer, had proposed using as much as 1.3 billion gallons of water a year to cool a massive solar-power plant complex it wants to build in a desert valley 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

 That divided the residents of Amargosa Valley, some of whom feared the solar farm would suck dry their aquifer. Others worried about the impact of the $3 billion project on the endangered pupfish, a tiny blue-gray fish that survives only in a few aquamarine desert pools fed by the valley’s aquifer.

Now Solar Millennium says it will instead dry-cool the twin solar farms, which would result in a 90 percent drop in water consumption.
–The New York Times

 EPA must set Florida water pollution limits
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must come forward with a set of numeric limits on freshwater pollution by Oct. 15, 2010, under a consent decree approved by a federal judge in Tallahassee. 

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled from the bench that a Jan. 14 consent decree penned between the EPA and environmental groups including the Florida Wildlife Federation was both reasonable and valid. 

The ruling, which was made after nearly three hours of testimony, was a defeat for a coalition of critics including agricultural interests, power companies, fertilizer manufacturers, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services.
–The Orlando Sentinel 

The mystery of  Bangladesh’s arsenic-tainted water
It was a twisted cycle: In the 1970s, Bangladeshis used surface ponds or rivers to collect rainwater for drinking. But thanks to garbage dumping and sewage, that water became a breeding ground for disease. So UNICEF sought to fix the problem—the agency helped residents drill simple wells that drew water from a shallow aquifer. But this remedy became a tragedy. Bangladesh’s groundwater was laced with arsenic. Now, in a study in Nature Geoscience, a team from MIT has answered one of the outstanding pieces of the Bangladesh puzzle: Just how all that arsenic got into the water in the first place. 

Bangladesh occupies the flood-prone delta of the river Ganges [New Scientist], and that river brought the arsenic to the region’s sediments. But why doesn’t it just stay in the sediments once it’s there? Back in 2002, another MIT team began to answer the question by showing that microbes digest organic carbon in the soil in such a way that frees up the arsenic, but they couldn’t say where that carbon itself came from until Rebecca Neumann and colleagues figured it out this year: man-made ponds left behind by excavations.
–Discover Magazine 

 

EPA funds study of storing CO2 in aquifers
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded an $897,225 grant to the University of Illinois for a three-year research project to find out the environmental impact of injecting carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from a source such as a coal-fired electric generating power plant into Illinois’ deep underground water reservoirs for long-term storage. 

Researchers will use field work and modeling to determine the effects of CO2 sequestration on ground water aquifers.  The plan is to see whether CO2 injection could cause changes in reservoir pressure and possibly result in salt water migrating from deeper ground water and contaminating fresh water near the surface. 

Although underground injection of CO2 for such things as enhanced oil and gas recovery is a long-standing practice, CO2 injection specifically for geologic sequestration involves different technical issues and potentially larger volumes of CO2 than in the past.
–EPA News Release

 Health Dept. studies new threats to water
Using money from the sales tax increase approved by voters last year, the Minnesota Department of Health has begun a new Drinking Water Emerging Contaminants project. The Legislature last spring appropriated $1.3 million over two years for the project. 

Health Department staff will evaluate chemicals that are potential threats to drinking water, but do not have health-based guidance values. These chemicals may include substances that have not yet been detected in groundwater, but are present in surface water or soil and have the potential to contaminate drinking water. Evaluations may also be done for chemicals that have recently been found to be more toxic than previously known. 

The department has created a web page to describe the program.
 –Minnesota Health Department

 What to do about endocrine disruptors
Nearly a year ago, toxicologist Linda Birnbaum was named director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program. She sat down with Environmental Health News journalist Jane Kay in San Francisco to answer questions about the environmental health risks we face today.

As head of the federal institute examining environmental health, Birnbaum and her staff are taking on many controversial topics, including Bisphenol A and new flame retardants in consumer products. She talks about those issues and explains how scientists are trying to figure out what role chemicals and contaminants may play in breast cancer and other diseases and disorders.
–Scientific American

 California water bond laden with pork
Lawmakers want voters to borrow $11 billion next year to keep California supplied with clean water, but more than $1 billion of the money is earmarked for projects that have little or nothing to do with quenching the state’s thirst.

The bond proposal includes funding for bike paths, museums, visitor centers, tree planting, economic development and the purchase of property from land speculators and oil companies — all in the districts of lawmakers whose key votes helped it pass the Legislature.
–The Los Angeles Times

Greenhouse gases; drugs in the water

April 20, 2009

 

Each week, the Freshwater Society posts links to some of the best regional, national and international coverage of water and the environment. Follow the links to the publications where the articles originally appeared, and let us know your reaction to the research and policy issues they report.

EPA designates greenhouse gases as pollutants
The Environmental Protection Agency formally declared carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases to be pollutants that endanger public health and welfare, setting in motion a process that will lead to the regulation of the gases for the first time in the United States.

The E.P.A. said the science supporting the proposed endangerment finding was “compelling and overwhelming.” The ruling initiates a 60-day comment period before any proposals for regulations governing emissions of heat-trapping gases are published.
–The New York Times

Tons of drugs released into U.S. waters
U.S. manufacturers, including major drugmakers, have legally released at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways that often provide drinking water , according to an Associated Press investigation.

Hundreds of active pharmaceutical ingredients are used in a variety of manufacturing, including drugmaking. For example, lithium is used to make ceramics and treat bipolar disorder. Nitroglycerin is a heart drug and is also used in explosives. Copper shows up in pipes and contraceptives.
–The Associated Press

Lake Vermilion state park in jeopardy
In 2007, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced his initiative to buy 2,500 acres of land along Lake Vermilion in northeastern Minnesota. At the time, he said securing the land would make the park one of the nicest parks in the nation.

“We hope through this proposal that we’ll be able to give everyone in Minnesota and up at the lake or up north experience through this next state park,” Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty expressed confidence that the state would purchase the land from owner U.S. Steel, saying at one point that the deal won’t fall apart.

But now, Pawlenty appears to have all but given up on the park.
–Minnesota Public Radio

EPA demands endocrine tests on pesticides
The Environmental Protection Agency for the first time will require pesticide manufacturers to test 67 chemicals contained in their products to determine whether they disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates animals’ and humans’ growth, metabolism and reproduction, the agency said.

Researchers have raised concerns that chemicals released into the environment interfere with animals’ hormone systems, citing problems such as male fish in the Potomac River that are bearing eggs. Known as endocrine disruptors, the chemicals may affect the hormones that humans and animals produce or secrete.
–The Washington Post

UM report documents ethanol’s water use
While recycling and other advancements have reduced water use in Minnesota’s corn-ethanol plants by a third of the levels of just a few years ago, increased reliance on irrigated corn has pushed water consumption to alarming levels in the desert Southwest and parts of California.

A University of Minnesota report notes that Minnesota’s 17 ethanol plants currently average about 3.5 gallons of water for each gallon of ethanol produced. This is down from about 10 gallons per gallon of ethanol just a decade earlier.

However, over-all water consumption rates rise quickly when ethanol is produced from corn that is irrigated, as it is on 207,000 acres in Minnesota or 3 percent of the state’s 7.8 million acres planted to corn.
–Minnpost.com

Lawmakers target Mississippi River management plan
The Mississippi River Critical Area Program guides development along a 72-mile stretch of the river through the Twin Cities metropolitan area, striving to balance environmental protection with local land-use preferences.

But some interests argue that the three-decade-old executive order needs an update.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Prior Lake mussel discovery spurs Minnetonka inspections
Lake Minnetonka boaters will feel new pressure this year to guard against spreading exotic water life following the recent discovery of zebra mussels in Prior Lake — the first metro-area lake to be infested by the unwanted shell creatures.

Officials plan a 30 percent increase in inspections of boats to look for ride-along aquatic life at public boat launches on Lake Minnetonka.
–The Star Tribune

Idaho requires fee to fight invasives
Under a new Idaho law, all motorized and non-motorized watercraft more than 10 feet long will be required to display an Idaho Invasive Species Fund sticker. They are expected to be available by the end of April.

The sticker prices are $10 for motorized boats registered in Idaho, $20 for other motorized vessels, and $5 for a nonmotorized vessel. Discounts for nonmotorized commercial fleets are available.
–The Idaho Statesman

Los Angeles raises water rates to spur conservation
Los Angeles businesses, landlords and residents will pay more for water starting June 1 if they don’t cut back at least 15 percent on usage under a plan approved by the Los Angeles City Council.

The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power plan is aimed at sending water customers price incentives to encourage conservation.

The region is in the midst of a three-year drought, exacerbated by dwindling water allocations from the DWP’s Owens Valley aqueduct, the State Water Project and the Colorado River. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the region’s wholesale water supplier, announced it was cutting its allocations by about 10 percent, effective July 1.
–Los Angeles Business Journal

Bird deaths may result from salmonella, DNR says
Minnesota residents have found an increasing number of dead birds at feeders over the last couple of weeks. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, a strain of salmonella may be to blame.

The bacteria that causes heavy mortality in birds is transmitted through the bird’s droppings.  The largest mortality seems to be in red polls and pine siskins. Two red polls that died recently in northern Minnesota were sent to the DNR pathology lab and tested positive for salmonella.
–Minnesota DNR

China faces water crisis
Over the past year getting clean water has been a struggle for many in China. In February one of the most severe droughts to hit China in a half-century affected some 5 million people and 2.5 million livestock in the provinces of Hebei and Henan, near Beijing. Farther south in Yancheng, Jiangsu, 300 kilometers from Shanghai, more than 200,000 people were cut off from clean water for three days when a chemical factory dumped carbolic acid into a river. Just before the Olympics last June, the coastal city of Qingdao, site of the sailing events, saw an explosion of algae in nearby waters that may have been caused by pollution.
–BusinessWeek

High Plains Aquifer down 9% since pumping began
The High Plains Aquifer, the sea of fresh water under the Great Plains, is about 9 percent smaller since irrigators and cities started tapping it in about 1950, according to a new report.

The total amount of drainable water in the aquifer in 2007 was about 2.9 billion acre-feet, a decline of about 270 million acre-feet since before development, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a report .

An acre-foot of water is equivalent to the volume of water that would cover one acre to a depth of 1 foot.
–The Omaha World-Herald


Florida suit seeks to force EPA water quality review
An environmental group has filed a lawsuit accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of letting Florida flout federal clean water requirements.

Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network of Florida, said Monday the group is seeking a court order for EPA to conduct an independent review of a state list of water bodies and decide which ones need stricter pollution limits.
–The Associated Press

Ag groups seek to overturn pesticide ruling
Twenty-two agricultural organizations asked that the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rehear a landmark pesticide case, even as the Environmental Protection Agency, a party to the case, declined to do so. A January opinion on National Cotton Council of America v U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from a three-judge panel was the first U.S. court ruling that pesticide discharge is a point source of pollution subject to additional regulation and permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The agriculture groups submitted their request in a friend of the court brief, arguing the decision ignored the definition in CWA of “point source” and that point sources are regulated only where they convey pollutants to navigable waters, not where they convey things that may at some later point result in water pollution.
–Wisconsin AgConnection

Dairy industry seeks to cut cows’ greenhouse gases
The U.S. dairy industry wants to engineer the “cow of the future” to pass less gas, a project aimed at cutting the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, industry leaders said.

The cow project aims to reduce intestinal methane, the single largest component of the dairy industry’s carbon footprint, said Thomas P. Gallagher, chief executive officer of the U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management Inc.’s Innovation Center in Rosemont, Ill.
–The Associated Press