Posts Tagged ‘Lake Minnetonka’

Mercury pollution; $$ for Great Lakes

December 25, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neither Thornton nor Zellers could be reached for comment.

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

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

Bioluminescencent bacteria measure pollution

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

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October 10, 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.

Read Facets articles on-line
Asian carp. The future of U.S. and world agriculture. A Gene Merriam column on conservation and crop insurance. Two new books on lakes. Don’t miss the latest issue of “Facets of Freshwater,” the Freshwater Society’s newsletter. Features, which you can read on-line here,  include:

  • A q-and-a interview with Tim Schlagenhaft, the Minnesota DNR’s point person in the campaign against Asian carp.
  • A column by Freshwater President Gene Merriam urging that the federal  Farm Bill be changed to make conservation compliance a requirement for  farmers getting subsidized crop insurance.
  • An article on MN FarmWise,  the farmer-to-farmer mentoring program that Freshwater and the National  Park Service are building to encourage farmers to employ proven  conservation practices to reduce soil erosion and runoff.
  • A preview of th Nov. 10 lecture that Fred Kirschenmann will deliver on water and the future of U.S. and world agriculture.

Read a web-only article on a University of Minnesota doctoral student’s research on how water moves within the many bays of Lake Minnetonka. The research holds potential to allow data from water-quality measurements taken at a few places in the lake to be extrapolated to the entire lake.

Farmer accused of killing pelican chicks
On May 17, Craig Staloch just snapped, his lawyer says.

Within the space of a few hours, he smashed thousands of American White pelican chicks and eggs — all of the offspring in one of the state’s largest colonies — even though a wildlife officer had told him the previous day that they were protected by federal law.

Making his first appearance in federal court, Staloch, a farmer from Faribault County, entered no plea to a criminal misdemeanor charge filed for what conservation officials say is one of the most extreme acts of wildlife destruction they’ve ever encountered.

“He flipped out,” said Staloch’s attorney, Jason Kohlmeyer. “He got frustrated and went to town.”

The birds had damaged about seven acres of land he was renting on the shores of Minnesota Lake, Staloch said after the hearing. Over the past three years they’ve cost him $20,000 in expenses and lost revenue, he said. When he asked for help, state wildlife specialists suggested a fence to protect his crops, Kohlmeyer said.

“But that’s not effective,” he said. “The damn birds fly.”
–The Star Tribune

Cormorant control bill introduced
 A new bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. John Kline and Collin Peterson would give states greater latitude to manage the size of migrating flocks of cormorants.

The birds are protected under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act but Kline and Peterson say an overpopulation of cormorants has caused damage in their districts, displacing other species and fouling the air and water with waste.

Under the current law, states must submit plans to control the population to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for approval. Under Kline and Peterson’s bill, governors would have authority to manage the bird populations, with that authority subject to review every five years.
–Minnesota Public Radio

DNR tries zebra mussel pesticide
 Favorable weather conditions allowed the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to treat a 10-acre section of Rose Lake on Oct. 6 for an isolated infestation of zebra mussels in the Otter Tail County lake.

The treatment, using copper sulfate, is the first of three pesticide treatments occurring this fall to kill a small population of juvenile zebra mussels discovered in the lake in late September. DNR biologists believe the invasive mussels were introduced when a boat lift was placed in the 1,200-acre lake this summer.

The DNR hired a licensed aquatic pesticide contractor to apply the treatment, which is commonly used to treat snails that cause swimmers itch. The DNR is paying $14,000 for the three treatments, which take about two hours to complete.

“We know copper sulfate will kill zebra mussels, but we won’t know for sure until next summer if the treatment was successful,” said Nathan Olson, DNR invasive species specialist. “We will be monitoring the site closely.”
–DNR News Release

Senjem to speak on non-point pollution
 Norm Senjem, who recently retired from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, where he directed the agency’s effort to measure and reduce the sediment and phosphorus flowing into Lake Pepin, will be the featured speaker Wednesday, Oct. 12, at
a Sip of Science. The happy-hour-style lecture series is sponsored by the National Center For Earth-Surface Dynamics at the University of Minnesota.

Senjem will speak at 5:30 p.m. at the Aster Café, 125 SE Main Street, Minneapolis.

A news release from the National Center For Earth-Surface Dynamics says Senjem will argue that voluntary measures are no longer enough to address non-point pollution in Minnesota.

Mineral leases delayed 6 months
 Minnesota officials unexpectedly postponed prospecting for copper and other minerals on private lands near Ely, giving cabin owners and local residents six months to try to change state law allowing the exploration.

Even though the state has the power to sell the leases that would permit drilling, road building and other activities because it controls the mineral rights to those properties, Gov. Mark Dayton said that with the state on the brink of a new era of mining it’s critical to “get it right.”

“Those minerals are not going to go anywhere,” he said. A delay, he said, will allow the state “to regain the public trust.”
About 75 people attended the special meeting by the state’s executive council, made up of Dayton and the state’s other top elected officials. Property owners who have been fighting the sale since April were granted a last chance to persuade the council to reject or at least postpone the 50-year leases on their land. They said they wanted the opportunity to go to the Legislature to change a century-old law that they said is skewed in favor of the mining companies.

“That law was made by and for the mining companies,” said Ron Brodigan, who had mineral leases sold on about 120 of the 200 acres he owns near Isabella.
–The Star Tribune

DNR seeks local input in managing groundwater
 The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is trying to improve the way it manages the state’s underground water supply.
Cities, industries and farms are all using more water. State scientists have found evidence that pumping too much water from underground is damaging lakes, streams and wetlands, particularly during summer, said Andrew Streitz, a hydrologist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

“We’re a water rich state, and I think for the first time we’re bumping up against limits to what we thought of as a limitless resource,” said Streitz, who studies the interaction between groundwater and surface water.

To help preserve a precious natural resource, the DNR plans to test a new water management model that would give local officials a greater role in conserving water.
–Minnesota Public Radio

BWCA lottery ends
 Visitors to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness no longer will have to deal with a lottery to get a permit to enter the 1-million-acre preserve in northern Minnesota.

The U.S. Forest Service is dropping the long-used lottery system next year, and will offer permits on a first-come, first-served basis instead.

“Because of current technology and improvements to our reservation system, the lottery is no longer necessary,” Jim Sanders, Superior National Forest supervisor, said in a letter to BWCA visitors.

The agency had used a lottery from Dec. 1 to Jan. 15 to help distribute permits, especially for high-demand entry points and dates. About 9,000 people applied for permits during the lottery period. When it ended, permits were distributed on a first-come basis.

“There’s so very few dates where there isn’t some availability, and very few entry points with that high level of demand, that it just doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of anyone to keep the lottery,” said Kris Reichenbach, a Superior National Forest spokeswoman.
–The Star Tribune

Court rules for mountaintop mining
 A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Obama administration overstepped its authority in tightening oversight of permits used by coal companies in a process known as mountaintop removal mining.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that the federal Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority under the Clean Water Act when it issued tougher environmental guidelines related to fill material dumped into streams after the tops of mountains are blasted off to extract underlying coal seams. The National Mining Association sued the EPA last year and argued that the agency couldn’t issue the new guidance without formal rulemaking.

The dispute is one of several in which the mining industry has argued that more stringent environmental regulations are hampering the ability of coal companies to operate and maintain mining jobs. The judge has yet to hear arguments on the second part of the mining association’s lawsuit which involves the specific water-quality guidelines used by the EPA.

Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the mining association, said that more than 70 mining permits in Appalachia that had been on hold will be freed up as a result of the judge’s decision.
–The Wall Street Journal

MPCA renews groundwater testing
 Responding to recent monitoring results that showed increased perfluorochemical (PFC) levels in the groundwater at the 3M Woodbury dump site, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has conducted a new round of sampling of private wells in residential areas of Cottage Grove and Woodbury near the site.

Testing results indicate none of the wells tested had levels of PFCs that exceed state drinking-water standards. However, the MPCA continues to work with 3M to determine the reason for the increase and determine if changes in the site cleanup plans are necessary.

MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said the agency moved quickly to sample private wells to determine whether the water from the wells is meeting state drinking-water standards for PFCs.

“We contacted homeowners for permission and fast-tracked the sampling and lab analysis. This week we called residents back to let them know that the wells that were tested were below the health-based drinking-water levels for PFCs,” Aasen said.
–MPCA News Release

TPT to cover Great Lakes conference
Twin Cities Public Television will provide live and delayed coverage of a major U.S.-Canada conference on the future of the Great Lakes. The conference will be held in Detroit, Oct. 12 through 14.For information on the conference and scheduling details, go to www.tpt.org/greatlakes.

UN conference focuses on water
 Successful water projects can serve as templates around the world and help to stimulate the adoption of green economies, a conference run by the United Nations inter-agency group focused on water issues has heard.

The three-day UN-Water conference in Zaragoza, Spain, discussed examples of successful water projects as well as how to adequate manage the world’s limited water resources.

Experts predict that the amount of water needed by humans could exceed the amount available by as much as 40 per cent by 2030, making water management a priority in the sustainability agenda. Water is also closely linked to the green economy because it is interwoven with sustainable development issues such as health, food security, energy and poverty.

The conference served as a preparation process for next year’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development,
known as Rio+20.
–United Nations News Release

Fluoride debate resurfaces
Consumers hearing that some U.S. communities will no longer add fluoride to their drinking water, such as Florida’s Pinellas County, may wonder whether this cavity fighter is safe.

The short answer: Most health professionals say yes, as long as people don’t ingest too much of it.

Studies in the 1930s found tooth decay was less severe in areas with more fluoride in drinking water, prompting U.S. communities to add it to their water.

Yet the Obama administration is moving to lower its recommended amount in drinking water as newer research shows high levels can cause tooth and bone damage.

The National Academies’ National Research Council found in 2006 that children are at risk of losing enamel and developing pits and brown stains on their teeth if the fluoride in their water exceeds the maximum level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It said this “severe fluorosis” can cause tooth decay.
–USA Today

Report urges upgrading U.S. water system
Want to create nearly 1.9 million American jobs and add $265 billion to the economy? Upgrade our water and wastewater infrastructure. That’s the message of a new report released by Green For  All, in partnership with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute and the Pacific Institute. The Rockefeller Foundation generously provided funding for the project.

Every year, sewage overflows dump 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage into our water systems – enough to cover the entire state of Pennsylvania with waste one-inch deep. But investment in our nation’s infrastructure to handle stormwater and wastewater has lagged, falling by one-third since its 1975 peak.

The report, Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment, looks at an investment of $188.4 billion in water infrastructure – the amount the EPA indicates would be required to manage stormwater and preserve water quality. That investment would inject a quarter of a trillion dollars into the economy, create nearly 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs in related sectors and result in 568,000 additional jobs from increased spending.
–Green For  All News Release

Environmentalists wary of Great Lakes pact
U.S. and Canadian negotiators are putting the finishing touches on the bi-national Great Lakes water quality agreement even as conservation groups continue to grumble that they are being kept in the dark about the details of a document designed to help both countries manage the world’s largest freshwater system.

The agreement was first passed in the early 1970s in response to outrage over chronic pollution problems facing the lakes, and it was subsequently updated in the ’70s and ’80s. Now the governments are getting set to release a 21st century version of the plan after acknowledging two years ago that new problems such as invasive species and fresh chemical contaminants were not adequately addressed in the existing agreement.

The governments have been soliciting public input, but the problem for a big coalition of conservation groups is the public has not been allowed to see details of the draft plan.

Government leaders say it has to be that way.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Montana settles clean-water suit
 A federal judge has approved a far-reaching settlement giving Montana until 2014 to clean up polluted streams and lakes in 28 watersheds across the state, capping nearly 15 years of legal battles, officials said.

The deal covers more than 17,000 miles of rivers and streams and 461,000 surface acres of lakes, requiring them to meet water-quality standards set for uses such as drinking, swimming and fishing, under the federal Clean Water Act.

The settlement, signed by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, addresses hundreds of types of pollutants, including hazardous chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and heavy metals such as mercury.

The deal stems from a 1997 lawsuit that said the Environmental Protection Agency and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality had violated the Clean Water Act by permitting contaminants to be released into the state’s already degraded waters.

In 2003, Molloy sided with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and other environmental groups, ordering Montana to develop pollution control plans for many waterways by 2012.
–Reuters

Turning poop into power
 Maryland chicken farms produce a substantial amount of phosphorous-rich chicken manure, which contributes to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. One solution to the problem: Turn the poop into power.

A new grant program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will bring $850,000 to Eastern Shore chicken farmers to install technologically advanced systems to convert waste into green energy.

“We’re trying to create a network of people who have experience (with) these technologies to provide assistance to farmers,” said Amanda Bassow, director of the Chesapeake Program at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which is administering the USDA grant.

Disposal of chicken farm waste is a pressing issue in the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay where, according the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, 26 percent of the phosphorus load entering the bay comes from animal waste.
–Capital News Service

DNR hiring conservation officers
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is accepting applications until Oct. 14 for the position of conservation officer.

The DNR’s Division of Enforcement anticipates hiring up to 26 conservation officers for academies to be held in the spring of 2012 and fall of 2012.

Conservation officers provide public safety, and resource and recreation protection response to all field operations for which the DNR Division of Enforcement is held responsible.

Applicants must possess a valid Minnesota Peace Officer’s License, or be eligible to be licensed by the Minnesota Peace Officers Standards and Training Board prior to the time conditional offers are made; or complete basic police training and be certified as a full-time peace officer in a state or federal law enforcement agency with which Minnesota has reciprocity, and pass the POST Board reciprocity exam by the time conditional job offers are made.
–Minnesota DNR News Release

Hole reported in Arctic ozone
 Intense cold in the upper atmosphere of the Arctic last winter activated ozone-depleting chemicals and produced the first significant ozone hole ever recorded over the high northern regions, scientists reported in the journal Nature.

While the extent of the ozone depletion is considered temporary, and well below the depletion that occurs seasonally over the Antarctic, atmospheric scientists described it as a striking example of how sudden anomalies can occur as a result of human activity that occurred years ago. At its maximum extent in February, the northern ozone hole reached southward into Russia and Mongolia.

Emissions of chlorinated fluorocarbons, or CFCs, once found in aerosol sprays, and other ozone-depleting substances like the soil fumigant methyl bromide produced the first ozone hole over the Antarctic, which was identified in 1985. Emissions of those compounds were banned under the Montreal Protocol, which has been signed by 191 countries.
–The New York Times

Engineering Planet Earth?
 With political action on curbing greenhouse gases stalled, a bipartisan panel of scientists, former government officials and national security experts is recommending that the government begin researching a radical fix: directly manipulating the Earth’s climate to lower the temperature.

Members said they hoped that such extreme engineering techniques, which include scattering particles in the air to mimic the cooling effect of volcanoes or stationing orbiting mirrors in space to reflect sunlight, would never be needed.

But in its report, the panel said it is time to begin researching and testing such ideas in case “the climate system reaches a ‘tipping point’ and swift remedial action is required.”

The 18-member panel was convened by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a research organization based in Washington founded by four senators — Democrats and Republicans — to offer policy advice to the government. In interviews, some of the panel members said they hoped that the mere discussion of such drastic steps would jolt the public and policy makers into meaningful action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which they called the highest priority.

The idea of engineering the planet is “fundamentally shocking,” David Keith, an energy expert at Harvard and the University of Calgary and a member of the panel, said. “It should be shocking.”
–The New York Times

Canada to test chemical safety
The Conservative government is set to target a new batch of chemicals used in common consumer products — including toothpaste and body wash — to determine if they’re safe for people and the environment.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Environment Minister Peter Kent announced the renewal of the government’s Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) with a boost of more than $500 million over the next five years.

Substances commonly used in plastic containers, clothing, cleaning products, electronics and batteries are among the chemicals to be reviewed to determine whether they need better regulation or other action, including being banned.

During the first phase of the plan, the federal government banned bisphenol A in baby bottles — an international first that began with a listing of toxicity of the hormone-disrupting chemical.
–The Montreal Gazette

The Minnesota R.; zebra mussels; climate change

August 2, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minnesota’s air is much cleaner
Inhale. Exhale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

‘Lake Minnetonka’s Future’ to be aired

April 27, 2009

“Lake Minnetonka’s Future,” a public television documentary produced in 2003-04 with assistance from the Freshwater Society, will be re-broadcast at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 30, on public television stations throughout Minnesota.

The program examines the relationship between water quality and phosphorus fertilizers and water running into the lake from homes. The 30-minute broadcast will be shown on the digital MN Channel operated by all the public stations.

It’s official. Lake Minnetonka ice-out declared

April 14, 2009

Ice-out on Lake Minnetonka was declared at 6:42 p.m. Monday, April 13. See the Freshwater Society web site for a calendar of previous ice-out dates.

Ice-out update

April 13, 2009

No ice-out date for Lake Minnetonka has yet been declared. As of early afternoon on Monday, April 13, there was still significant ice between Big Island and Linwood Road in Deephaven.

No ice-out declared yet

April 8, 2009

The official ice-out on Lake Minnetonka has not yet been declared by the Freshwater Society, although the West Arm of the lake and St. Albans Bay were clear, as of Wednesday afternoon, April 8.

Ice-out on Lake Minnetonka

March 30, 2009

Check the Freshwater Society website here for ice-out 2009 information, when declared

To see a calendar of previous ice-out dates on Lake Minnetonka, 1855-2008, as compiled by the Freshwater Society, click here

Every year at the first sign of spring, our thoughts immediately turn to warmer weather. In Minnesota, shorts, T-shirts and sandals are often in evidence as soon as the thermometer edges past 60 degrees. But spring hasn’t sprung until the ice and snow, the hard physical evidence of winter, disappear. As the weather warms, residents of northern climes the world across keep an eye on the lakes and streams that surround them, wondering when, exactly, that ice will clear.

Since 1968, the Freshwater Society has kept close records of the day the ice yields to warmer temperatures on Lake Minnetonka. Freshwater founder Richard G. Gray, Sr., described the standard for determining ice-out in a 2003 column: The ice is considered to be “out” when it is possible to travel from any one shore to any other shore through any passage on the lake.

Ice-out on Lake Minnetonka generally spurs a fair amount of local competition, with various pools of local residents competing to be the most accurate prognosticator. Prior to 1968, methods for determining whether the ice was out were non-standard. They included various boat routes through the lake, as well as the old practice of parking a derelict car or truck on the lake and seeing how long it lasted before falling through.

In addition to declaring the ice-out every year since 1968, Gray has compiled a list of all recorded ice-out dates on Lake Minnetonka, dating back to 1855. Since then, the average ice-out date has been April 15th, although interestingly enough, the ice has never given way on that exact date. The earliest recorded ice-out, measured by noted naturalist Dr. Thomas Roberts, was March 11, 1878, and the latest recorded date was May 8, 1856.

Ice-out dates on Lake Minnetonka are still missing for the years 1861 through 1876 and 1879 through 1886. Anyone with information regarding ice-out dates for Lake Minnetonka, or any other body of water in Minnesota, for those years, should send the data to the Freshwater Society, c/o Richard G. Gray, Sr., 2500 Shadywood Road, Excelsior, MN 55331.