Posts Tagged ‘hexavalent chromium’

October 24, 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.

Thousands of oceans just light years away
Water is everywhere on Earth, but nobody has ever been able to determine conclusively how it got here. Scientists know that the early Earth was far too hot to hold water or water vapor, but then, in relatively short geological time, the oceans appeared.

In a discovery that researchers say sheds important new light on that age-old question, a European team reported that it has found a very cold reservoir of water vapor in space that could explain where the water came from.

The region they discovered is at the outer reaches of a dusty disk surrounding a star 175 light-years away. The star and disk are in the early stages of forming planets, much as Earth was formed some 4.5 billion years ago.

The scientists’ conclusion from the new finding: Life-giving H2O was almost certainly delivered to Earth via comets and asteroids known to originate in these cold but water-filled zones, which were assumed to also be present when our solar system was forming.
–The Washington Post

Oct. 25 deadline for $500 clean-up contest
Do you want to reduce urban runoff and pollution that flow into lakes and rivers? Do you have a good idea for how you and your friends and neighbors could work together to clean up soil, grass clippings and leaves from streets and storm drains? And could you use $500?

Then we have a contest for you.

The Freshwater Society and InCommons are sponsoring a Work For Water “micro challenge” that will award two $500 prizes for the best short-term community projects to protect our waters from the pollution found in the leaves, grass and soil that wash into streets. Enter here.

In addition to the two statewide prizes, a grant from the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation, will provide two additional $500 prizes for the best ideas coming from entrants in the 14 counties the foundation serves in Central Minnesota.

Fred Kirschenmann photo

Fred Kirschenmann

Lecture on water and ag set Nov. 10
Don’t miss the Nov. 10 free public lecture on water and the future of agriculture by Fred Kirschenmann, a national leader in the organic food and farming movement.

His lecture, sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, is the sixth in a series. It will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, in the theater of the Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus. Seating is limited. Please register to reserve your place.

There are lots of ways to describe Kirschenmann: philosopher, farmer, author and advocate. Since 2000, he has been the director or a distinguished fellow at Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He also is president of the board of directors of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. He wrote Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher, published in 2010 by the University Press of Kentucky. This year, he was honored by the James Beard Foundation for “lifelong work on sustainable food and farming systems.”

View video of past lectures in the Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources.

DNA evidence puts Asian carp in Twin Cities
Water samples from the Mississippi River downstream from the Ford Dam in Minneapolis have tested positive for genetic material from silver carp, indicating the invasive Asian species may be present in the Twin Cities stretch of the river, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Known as environmental DNA (eDNA) testing, the results are a chemical indication that some silver carp are in the river, but they do not provide any information on the possible number of fish present, their size or whether they are breeding.

The Mississippi River eDNA testing was conducted in September by the National Park Service and the DNR after similar testing in June indicated the presence of silver carp in the St. Croix River.

The DNR will immediately hire a commercial fisherman to begin netting and searching for Asian carp below the Ford Dam, also known as Lock and Dam 1. No Asian carp were discovered this summer in the St. Croix River after a nine-day search by DNR biologists and a commercial fisherman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean some fish aren’t present.

“The eDNA tests are very sensitive, but they can only tell us that DNA is present in the water,” said Tim Schlagenhaft, Mississippi River biologist. “In other states where DNA testing has resulted in positive samples, the fish have proven very difficult to subsequently capture, and we expect this to the case in the Mississippi River if the fish are in present in low numbers.”

In the most recent round of Mississippi River eDNA testing, 14 of 49 samples were positive for silver carp.

Read Pioneer Press and Star Tribune reports on the new test results. Read a q-and-a interview with Schlagenhaft published in the October Freshwater Society newsletter.
–DNR News Release

Drainage blamed for Minnesota R. flow increase
A comprehensive new study pinpoints agriculture — specifically, half a century of artificial field drainage — as the primary force behind the massive runoff of sediment that is adding pollution to the Mississippi River and threatening the future of Lake Pepin.

The study, presented at a conference in St. Paul, identifies with new precision the sources of sediment that is slowly filling in Lake Pepin, one of the state’s recreational jewels, and coursing down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, where it contributes to a massive “dead zone” that cannot sustain aquatic life.

Scientists said it’s the latest in a growing body of evidence indicating that transformation of the land from prairie and wetlands to corn and soybeans — not, as some have argued, more rain and natural erosion — has accelerated the rate of sedimentation.

“It’s the weight of the evidence,” said Peter Wilcock, a geography professor from Johns Hopkins University.
He was not involved the study but attended the University of Minnesota’s annual Water Resources Center conference, where it was presented.
–The Star Tribune

DNR questions Christmas Lake gate
A new electronic gate — installed at a cost of $30,000 — is ready to drop its arm across the public boat ramp on Christmas Lake in Shorewood, if the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources approves its use in an experiment aimed at stopping the spread of zebra mussels.

“The next boating season is just seven months away. So there is no let up on the urgency,” said Joe Shneider, president of the Christmas Lake homeowners association.

Residents around Christmas Lake, as well as Lotus Lake and Lake Minnewashta in Chanhassen, want to work with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to require all boats launching at the lakes to first pass inspections for aquatic invasive species. But the plan would require boaters to travel to a centralized inspection point before entering the lakes, and the DNR says there’s no legal way to compel them.

As a first-of-its-kind grass-roots attempt to let boats launch into a lake only after an inspection — and to close ramps outside of inspection hours — the proposal is being watched by lake associations around the state and by anglers, some of whom oppose more ramp controls.
–The Star Tribune

Opinion: EPA chief rips Republican critics
Read a Los Angeles Times op-ed commentary in which Lisa Jackson accuses Congressional Republicans of trying to cripple regulation of air and water pollution. She writes:

“Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation’s environmental laws… Using the economy as cover, and repeating unfounded claims that “regulations kill jobs,”  they have pushed through an unprecedented rollback of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and our nation’s waste-disposal laws, all of which have successfully protected our families for decades. We all remember “too big to fail”; this pseudo jobs plan to protect polluters might well be called “too dirty to fail.”

Opinion: Farm Bill should retain conservation
Read a Des Moines Register editorial on the federal Farm Bill. It calls on Congress to maintain some spending for conservation programs, and to make conservation compliance a requirement for subsidized crop insurance. Freshwater Society President Gene Merriam makes the same argument about crop insurance in Freshwater’s current newsletter.

Legacy money eyed for a stadium
A Republican leader says some of his colleagues in the Minnesota Legislature are considering a plan that would rely on a portion of the state’s Legacy funds to pay for a new Vikings Stadium.

It’s an option they say must be considered as Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers continue to discuss how to pay for a stadium. Other options include ticket taxes, a sports memorabilia tax, slot machines at the state’s horse tracks or a new casino in downtown Minneapolis.

But critics say voters didn’t intend to use that money for professional sports stadiums when they approved a higher sales tax in 2008.

“I certainly think that taking a look at the Legacy money to fund a stadium is something that should be on the table,” said Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, an assistant Majority Leader in the Minnesota House.

There isn’t an organized effort by legislative leaders to tap the Legacy funds yet, Daudt said. But there is increasing talk among members and GOP staff that this may be the only way that the Republican-controlled House and Senate pass a Vikings stadium bill.

Daudt said the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund could generate about $50 million annually to finance the stadium. He said that would be enough to pay both the state’s and Ramsey County’s share but is unsure if that would be the plan.

“You certainly can’t argue that the Minnesota Vikings and these sports teams in the state of Minnesota aren’t a part of the state’s heritage and certainly part of the state’s legacy,” Daudt said
–Minnesota Public Radio

‘Wonder fish’ to environmental pariah
The Asian carp infesting the major rivers of America didn’t sneak into the country in the ballast of ocean freighters, as so many invasive species have. They didn’t slowly invade through freighter locks and into the Great Lakes, as the sea lamprey did.

Decades ago, federal and state officials purposefully imported carp, which they believed were “the wonder fish.”

The carp were imported because officials were eager to find a safer way than chemicals to control weeds, algae, sewage and parasites. Grass carp eat as much as three times their body weight in weeds each day, replacing the toxic chemicals commonly used for weed control.

But during the past four decades, not only have the Asian carp escaped into the wild, they also have expanded their reign to rivers and lakes across America — as state and federal officials have stood idly by.
–The Cleveland Plain Dealer

China faces groundwater pollution
More than half of the groundwater monitored in 182 Chinese cities by the Ministry of Land and Resources was classified as bad, meaning the health of individuals could be harmed, the China Daily reported, citing a report by the ministry.

Groundwater at 57.2 percent of the 4,110 monitoring stations in 182 cities was classified as bad last year, the newspaper reported. The quality of groundwater in most northern and eastern parts of China was worse last year than it was in 2009, according to the report. The ministry’s report didn’t identify locations, according to the newspaper.

Household sewage, industrial pollution, and the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides has caused further deterioration of groundwater, the newspaper reported, citing Ma Chaode, former director of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s fresh-water program in China.

EPA approves strict Oregon standards
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved Oregon’s new standards for toxic water pollution, the strictest in the United States.

The new standards, approved by the EPA’s Seattle office, are designed to protect tribal members and others who eat large amounts of contaminated fish.

Oregon’s current water quality standards are built on an assumption that people eat 17.5 grams of fish a day, about a cracker’s worth and typical of most states. The proposed standard boosts that to 175 grams a day, just shy of an 8-ounce meal.

The change dramatically tightens Oregon’s human health criteria for a host of pollutants, including mercury, flame retardants, PCBs, dioxins, plasticizers and pesticides.

That could boost cost for industry such as paper mills and for municipal sewage treatment plants, increasing sewer rates.
–The Portland Oregonian

Cost rises for ‘Erin Brockovich’ clean-up
PG&E Corp. said that replacing underground drinking water in Hinkley, Calif., that was contaminated by utility operations decades ago will cost much more than the $54 million the company had set aside for the project.

The town’s underground drinking water supply was contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing chemical, after PG&E’s utility used the substance at its natural gas pumping station there to control algae and protect metal equipment from rust.
The groundwater problem in Hinkley was made famous by the film “Erin Brockovich.”

Last week, the state agency overseeing the cleanup of Hinkley’s contaminated groundwater ordered PG&E to provide a new, permanent source of drinking water to Hinkley residents. Rather than continue to supply bottled water to residents, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board for the Lahontan Region told PG&E it would have to provide a permanent water replacement system for all properties served by wells that are near an underground plume of hexavalent chromium and that have been “impacted” by the plume.
–Fox Business

EPA recommends chromium tests

December 26, 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.

EPA suggests water systems test for ‘Erin Brockovich’ chemical
The Environmental Protection Agency is suggesting that water utilities nationwide test their drinking water for hexavalent chromium, a probable carcinogen, after an independent survey found the chemical in tap water drawn from 31 cities.

The EPA said it is issuing guidance to the utilities explaining how to test for the chemical but is not requiring tests at this time. The agency said it will also give technical help to the 31 cities identified in the survey – including Washington and Bethesda – so they can set up a monitoring and sampling procedure for hexavalent chromium, a chemical made famous by the film “Erin Brockovich.”

Testing for hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6, is technically challenging. Many laboratories that handle standard tests for water companies are not equipped to perform the more sophisticated tests.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson met with 10 senators representing some of the 31 communities to discuss the findings of the survey, which was conducted by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization.

There is no federal limit for the amount of hexavalent chromium that can be in drinking water. The EPA is reviewing emerging science on the question to determine if the chemical’s presence in drinking water poses a clear threat to public health and whether a limit should be set. That work is expected to be completed by summer.

(The Environmental Working Group analysis did not sample water from any Minnesota cities.)
–The Washington Post

Wisconsin to relax ballast-water rules
Wisconsin officials announced that ballast water regulations they adopted in February are too strict and should be relaxed.

The Department of Natural Resources says the technology simply isn’t available to comply with the strict ballast-water filtration regulations developed last year and imposed by the state in February.

Instead, the DNR is proposing to scale back regulations to those suggested by the International Maritime Organization.

The current state standards require filtration or killing of organisms 100 times smaller than the IMO standards. The rule change would put Wisconsin at the same filtration regulation level as Minnesota.
–The Duluth News Tribune

Where will the next water pollution disaster hit?
When an estimated 184 million gallons (697 million liters) of industrial waste spilled into Hungary’s Marcal River in early October, arsenic and mercury threatened to taint water supplies and degrade rivers, both at the site and for hundreds of miles downstream. In some ways, Hungary’s toxic mud disaster was a wake-up call, shining a spotlight on potential water pollution hotspots around the globe.

Where might disaster strike next?

Only a tiny fraction of the ore miners exhume contains gold, copper, lead, zinc, or the other metals they’re after. The rest is waste, or tailings, full of large quantities of metals and minerals ranging from benign to very toxic. These fine-grained wastes are often held in tailings ponds that can cover many square miles.

Unfortunately the dams holding tailing ponds aren’t always examples of high-level engineering and, in some countries, may be made by simply bulldozing the tailings themselves into an embankment, explains geologist Johnnie Moore, of the University of Montana.

“There is the potential for huge amounts of [toxic waste] to move into a river system whenever any of those things break, and in fact it does happen,” he said.

(Part of a National Geographic series on global water issues.)
–National Geographic News

Beet processor to pay $50,000 in water case
American Crystal Sugar Company has agreed to a $50,000 civil penalty and promised to complete actions requested by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to settle alleged violations of state environmental protection and reporting regulations at its facility in East Grand Forks, Minn.

Some of the alleged violations occurred  in May 2009 when runoff from company land application sites entered Grand Marais creek, resulting in complaints about odors and discoloration.  This occurred after the company applied industrial by-products to farm fields at excessive levels and too close to waterways during the 2008 cropping season.  In addition, the company, once notified of the complaint, failed to take necessary actions to minimize pollution to Grand Marais Creek.  The creek is currently on the Minnesota’s list of impaired waters for high sediment and pH levels, and low levels of dissolved oxygen.

The MPCA also alleges that the company used testing results from a non-certified laboratory, failed to report all monitoring results and failed to maintain quality assurance procedures adequate to ensure compliance with testing requirements. The company also failed to adequately control vegetation in a wastewater treatment pond.

In addition to agreeing to the $50,000 civil penalty, American Crystal agreed to submit plans and update procedures to ensure future compliance. The company has already completed many of the required actions and paid the penalty.
–MPCA News Release

Outdoor Heritage fund stakeholders forum set Jan. 6
The Dedicated Fund Working Group, sponsored by the Izaak Walton League and other Minnesota conservation groups, will host a forum Jan. 6 that will examine how the state is spending new revenue from the sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008.

The forum is free, but seating is limited and the organizers request pre-registration.  Dave Zentner of the Izaak Walton League chairs the working group.

The meeting will be held at the Earle Brown Center in Brooklyn Park from 1 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 6, one day before the Department of Natural Resources holds its annual Roundtable at the same site.

Register by emailing Noreen Tyler at before Jan. 1 to reserve a spot. View the agenda for the forum.

About $250 million a year is being generated by the tax increase. One-third of that is designated to protect, enhance and restore water quality in lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater. One-third is designated to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests and habitat for fish, game and wildlife.

EPA, Texas clash over greenhouse gas limits
The feud between Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency reached a new level, with federal officials saying that they will take over the granting of permits for new power plants and refineries in the state because Texas refuses to regulate its emissions of greenhouse gases.

The showdown centers on Texas’ opposition to the Obama administration’s program to rein in heat-trapping emissions, which has become a symbol of a broader struggle by industry and some Republican politicians to thwart such regulatory efforts.

Texas and several other states are fighting the mandates in court, and Republican leaders who will take over the House of Representatives next year have made no secret of their opposition, arguing that mandating cuts in industrial emissions will harm the economy.
–The New York Times

The carbon dioxide record at the heart of climate debate
MAUNA LOA OBSERVATORY, Hawaii — Two gray machines sit inside a pair of utilitarian buildings here, sniffing the fresh breezes that blow across thousands of miles of ocean.

They make no noise. But once an hour, they spit out a number, and for decades, it has been rising relentlessly.

The first machine of this type was installed on Mauna Loa in the 1950s at the behest of Charles David Keeling, a scientist from San Diego. His resulting discovery, of the increasing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, transformed the scientific understanding of humanity’s relationship with the earth. A graph of his findings is inscribed on a wall in Washington as one of the great achievements of modern science.

Yet, five years after Dr. Keeling’s death, his discovery is a focus not of celebration but of conflict. It has become the touchstone of a worldwide political debate over global warming.
–The New York Times

Group threatens suit over gray wolves
A wildlife conservation group put the government on notice that it would sue to restore wolves across the United States, far beyond a range now limited mostly to Alaska, the Rockies and the Great Lakes.

The move by the Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, Arizona, marks the latest twist in a long and heated battle over federal protections for wolf populations first established in 1978.

That fight has centered recently in the Northern Rocky Mountains, where wolves have recovered so well that Montana, Idaho and Wyoming want the Obama administration to remove them from the Endangered Species List.

Rather than remove protections, or focus on protecting them only in certain regions, the Center said it was long overdue for the federal government to develop a national plan.

A trout stream reborn
PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. — The Rio Blanco tumbles out of a range of 12,000-foot mountains in the San Juan National Forest into a picture-perfect valley that’s reminiscent of a miniature Yosemite. In its upper reaches, the Blanco runs in a whitewater cascade, where native cutthroat trout thrive. In the valley, on the meadowland of El Rancho Pinoso, a privately owned ranch that rents out cabins and provides fly-fishing access, the water slows and deepens, providing an excellent habitat for introduced rainbows that frequently exceed 20 inches.

But it wasn’t always that way. The Rio Blanco has had a little assistance from a hydrologist named Dave Rosgen.

“When I first visited El Rancho Pinoso in 1987, it seemed like the valley was one big gravel bar,” Rosgen said. “The Blanco was anywhere from 350 to 500 feet wide and just inches deep, when the river bed should be 50 or 60 feet wide. You had a system that had no hope to be anything but a very poor fishery; with a little help, the stream could provide great fish habitat, and give visitors a chance to feel good.”

Rosgen began doing stream restoration in the late 1960s, when he worked in the  United States Forest Service. There, he witnessed the destruction of streams by the erosion resulting from clear cutting practices.
–The New York Times

Albertine Kimble – A guardian of the marshes
A daughter of Plaquemines Parish, her camouflage outfit the color of the forest, checks the oil. She checks the steering, the coolant, the gas. She makes sure that everything is tied down or stored away, so that nothing loose will fly into the fanlike propeller at the rear of her airboat.

“Maintenance,” she says. “Maintenance.”

Then off she roars, a singular woman named Albertine Marie Kimble, guiding her airboat across the grass and into the precious marsh waters, where she is most at home. An honor guard of green-winged teal ducks rises to greet her, the only resident of this southeastern Louisiana spot called Carlisle.

“Wow!” she shouts. “Whee-e-e-e!”

The BP oil spill of 2010 has come and gone, mostly. The cleanup armies have been reduced to platoons, the oil company’s public-relations blitz has lost its apologetic urgency, and you have to know where to look to find any remnants of the catastrophe. But Albertine Kimble, protector of these waters, is still here; she has neither forgotten nor forgiven.
–The New York Times

USDA seeks conservation projects to fund
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking proposals for new conservation projects that support comprehensive efforts under way to improve the water quality and overall health of the Mississippi River from North-Central Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Mississippi River is one of America’s most valuable water resources,” said U.S. Ag Secretary Vilsack. “Through the cumulative actions of conservation-minded farmers, we can continue to provide our nation with the food, fiber and fuel we rely on, while at the same time ensuring cleaner waters than we’ve seen in decades.”

As part of its Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, USDA is providing up to $40 million in financial assistance for new partnership projects in 43 priority watersheds in 13 states. USDA will use a competitive process to distribute the available funding through existing conservation programs such as the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program.
–USDA News Release

U.S., Mexico agree to raise L. Mead’s level
The United States and Mexico have struck a deal that could raise the level of Lake Mead by about 3 feet and open the spigot on future cross-border Colorado River agreements.

Under the accord, Mexico will be allowed to store up to 260,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead while it repairs canals and pipelines damaged in a 7.2 magnitude quake that struck Mexicali on April 4.

The extra water could raise the surface of Lake Mead by 3 feet or more, enough perhaps to stave off federally mandated shortages on the Colorado River for another year. Under such a declaration, the amount of water that Nevada and Arizona could take from the system would be reduced.
–The Las Vegas Review-Journal

Chesapeake Bay coastal areas are sinking
First, the good news: Sea levels around the Chesapeake Bay are not rising as quickly as other places in the world – actually, they are moving about half as fast as the global average.

Now, the bad news: Coastal lands around the Bay are sinking more rapidly than elsewhere around the planet, especially in Hampton Roads.

It is this sinking phenomenon, called subsidence, that makes Hampton Roads one of the spots in the United States most vulnerable to rising sea levels and to events such as flooding, tidal surges and storms. Only New Orleans is more susceptible.

Such are the findings of a study released Monday by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, a branch of the College of William and Mary.
–The Virginian-Pilot