Posts Tagged ‘manganese’

Beer, Asian carp, manganese and nutria

November 29, 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.

Want a beer with that climate talk?
Mark Seeley, a University of Minnesota climatologist and meteorologist, will give a free public lecture — “Weather vs. Climate: A Minnesota Perspective” – Wednesday, Dec. 8, as part of  a new science happy hour series from the university’s  National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics.

The happy hour lecture series is called “A SIP OF SCIENCE.”   It will be held at 5:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month at the Aster Cafe, 125 SE Main St. at St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis.

 The series — free and open to the public – combines food, beer and learning in a happy hour forum that offers the opportunity to talk with researchers about their current work, its implications and its fascinations.

Seeley will touch on such questions as: Are summers in Minnesota really getting more hot and humid? Are we experiencing more frequent thunderstorms than we used to? If so, what does it all mean? How do we put our day-to-day weather experiences into the context of a changing Minnesota Climate?

U.N. climate negotiators gather in Cancun
To hear climate change negotiators describe it, this week’s U.N. global warming summit in Cancun, Mexico, is shaping up like a confab of homebuilders.

 Delegates say they are “laying foundations,” setting up “frameworks” and installing the “building blocks” for a future treaty.

They might also need a bomb shelter. Analysts say a blast is ready to detonate, and it’s called the Kyoto Protocol.

 “It is one of those issues that could blow up in a toxic way,” one British climate diplomat told ClimateWire.

 As negotiators from 192 countries descend on the Latin American city, best known for its sandy, white beaches and spring break nightlife, many delegates still carry the bitterness of last year’s contentious climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the same time, participants insist, they spent much of 2010 trying to repair the rifts and are ready to get to work.
–The New York Times

 Manganese rule relaxation rejected
Minnesota will keep, for now, an existing rule imposing limits on manganese in drinking water.

The Minnesota Department of Health was proposing to weaken the rule, but reversed course after receiving public comments.

 One of those comments came from Paula Maccabee at the environmental group Water Legacy.

“We’re very pleased that the Minnesota Health Department has listened to Water Legacy and other citizens of Minnesota, and is keeping in place Minnesota rules that protect children and elderly persons,” Maccabe said. “We think that’s a very positive step.”

 About 30 individuals and public interest groups protested, pointing to a health effects study published in September.

 At small dose, manganese is good for us, but in larger amounts it can harm the nervous system. The Health Department was planning to adopt a looser federal standard, until it could study the problem thoroughly.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Half of household water could be re-used
About 50% of the water used inside U.S. homes can be reused to irrigate landscapes and flush toilets, according to a greywater report released by the Oakland-based Pacific Institute. The Overview of Greywater Reuse examined the application of greywater systems worldwide to determine how the wastewater generated from sinks, baths, showers and clothes washers could be reused to reduce demand for more costly, high-quality drinking water.

 “In California, there are a lot of reasons why we’re looking for new and innovative water sources, including the legal restrictions that are coming to bear on our ability to move water around the state,” said Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate at the Oakland-based research institute. “Climactic changes are occurring…. We are looking at a future with less of a natural reservoir in our snow in the Sierras and less water available from the Colorado River system.”
–The Los Angeles Times

Coming to a fur coat near you: Invasive nutria
What’s trendy this holiday season? Invasive species. In New York City, New Orleanians gathered to show off one of their worst—and now, most fashionable—at an event called Nutria Palooza, part of designer Cree McCree’s Righteous Fur campaign. She won a grant from the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program to bring the fur of this semi-aquatic rodent back into vogue, and all the way to Brooklyn.

 Nutria are native to South America. Introduced to Louisiana in the 30s to bolster its fur trade, they’ve become a force that, like a small hurricane, is eating away at the state’s already vanishing coast. While Louisiana’s native counterpart, muskrats, prefer the tips of plants, nutria are larger basal-stem lovers that dig up and kill their forage. As a result, “eat-outs”—patches of open water caused by the rodents—can be seen from the air, amounting to over 8,000 acres of habitat damage in the Barataria-Terrebonne Basin (or even land loss, if the tides wash rootless sediment away). An estimated 20 million nutria swim rampant in this 4.2 million acre estuary between the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers.

 A decade ago, Louisiana spent $2 million trying to convince its citizens that this swamp rat was delectable, but, however nutritious, its meat hasn’t caught on. Now the state’s Nutria Control Program offers a $5 bounty for every tail, and this year proved the program’s most successful: Over 400,000 nutria were culled. But most of those carcasses simply sank, unused, into the brackish. So if you’re going to sport fur, why not consider nutria an option?
–Audubon Magazine

 Invasive medusahead grass threatens rangeland
Burmese pythons in Florida, zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, feral pigs and other mammals in Hawaii: These are just a few of the dozens of stories about animals introduced — accidentally or deliberately — in the U.S. that have ended up playing havoc on regional ecologies and economies.

But invasive species also extend to plant life. Residents of the South are well acquainted with kudzu, the fast-growing and disruptive vine originally intended as livestock feed and for erosion control. Purple loosestrife arrived in New England back in the 1800s as an ornamental plant, but now threatens to clog and dry out great areas of America’s wetlands — while reportedly costing communities across the country about $45 million a year in control efforts.

Here’s yet another invasive plant species, and a particularly nasty one, to add to the list: Medusahead, aka medusa’s head. It’s a Mediterranean grass accidentally brought to the Western U.S. in the 1880s. Researchers at Oregon State University and the Agricultural Research Service have a new report warning that Medusahead is threatening to crowd out native grasslands in the West — to the detriment of both wildlife and livestock.
–Daily Finance

Asian carp heads back to Asia
An Illinois fish processor is sending 44,000 pounds of Asian carp back to Asia as food. A small startup in Pearl, Ill., the Big River Fish Company is just one group that sees Asian carp not as a voracious, invasive species, but as a business opportunity.

 Asian carp can be huge — up to 100 pounds — and they have been feasting on native fish in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers for years. Originally introduced to the United States in the 1970s to eat algae, the carp now threaten the Great Lakes.

But those attempting to market the fish say the tasty white meat is destined for culinary greatness, and some fishermen see the carp as the next frontier in commercial fish production.
–National Public Radio

Putting the (farmed) perch back in fish fries
Three Milwaukee entrepreneurs have launched an experiment in an abandoned crane factory to try to reestablish a fish native to Lake Michigan: perch. The fish was once a stable of the traditional Friday fish fry. But in the 1980s, the perch population in Lake Michigan plunged and by 1996 commercial fishing was banned.
–National Public Radio

Half of household water could be re-used
About 50% of the water used inside U.S. homes can be reused to irrigate landscapes and flush toilets, according to a greywater report released by the Oakland-based Pacific Institute. The Overview of Greywater Reuse examined the application of greywater systems worldwide to determine how the wastewater generated from sinks, baths, showers and clothes washers could be reused to reduce demand for more costly, high-quality drinking water.

 “In California, there are a lot of reasons why we’re looking for new and innovative water sources, including the legal restrictions that are coming to bear on our ability to move water around the state,” said Juliet Christian-Smith, senior research associate at the Oakland-based research institute. “Climactic changes are occurring…. We are looking at a future with less of a natural reservoir in our snow in the Sierras and less water available from the Colorado River system.”
–The Los Angeles Times

Drinking water emergency called in California town
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for San Bernardino County, where the water supply for the city of Barstow was found to be contaminated with a toxic chemical used to make explosives and rocket fuel.

A day earlier, Golden State Water Co. warned residents of the desert town that their drinking water contained high levels of percchlorate,  a contaminant often associated with defense and aerospace activities.

Perchlorate, a type of salt derived from perchloric acid, has been found in drinking water in at least 35 states. It can interfere with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. The thyroid, which releases hormones, helps with proper development in children and helps regulate metabolism. 

According to the governor’s declaration, more than 40,000 customers were without their normal supply of drinking water, and several restaurants, hotels and other businesses had to close because of the contamination.
–The Los Angeles Times

 Invasive lionfish threatened Florida ecosystem
Crawling through turquoise murk on the ocean floor near Tea Table Key, Rob Pillus glances at a half dozen lobsters that twirl their antennae in the fast-moving current. Mr. Pillus, an avid spear fisherman, would normally stuff the crustaceans into his mesh bag for dinner, but today he is after more exotic quarry: an invasive species called the lionfish that threatens to wreak havoc on this ecologically sensitive marine system.

 Within a few minutes Mr. Pillus spots a lionfish and its extravagant zebra-striped fins on a bridge pylon. He steadies his homemade spear and skewers the fish, slicing off its venomous fins before putting it in his bag. He gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up and keeps moving.
–The New York Times

 Rep. McCollum calls for triclosan ban
U.S. Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota and two congressional colleagues are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to ban the chemical triclosan, a common ingredient in antibacterial soaps, shampoos, household cleaners and even such products as socks and toys. They’ve asked for a full review of triclosan to be submitted to Congress by April. The co-sponsors are Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York and Raul Grijalva of Arizona.

Dr. David Wallinga, director of the food and health program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, says that for years the scientific community has expressed concern over triclosan contributing to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, so-called “superbugs.”

“Bacteria – bugs around us – are actually quite smart, and exposing them to antibacterials or antimicrobial chemicals helps to make them smarter. So putting an antibacterial or antimicrobial like Triclosan out there in the environment and our waterways unnecessarily is just not a good idea at all.”
–public news service

Comments sought on Lake Vermillion park plan
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invites anyone with an interest in Lake Vermilion and Soudan Underground Mine state parks to attend one of two open houses in December to comment on the parks’ draft master plan.

 The draft master plan, which covers both state parks, includes statements about the types of activities (e.g., hiking, camping, boating) that will be offered, how natural and cultural resources will be protected and interpreted, and suggested locations for major facilities within the parks.

The open houses will be: 

  • Tuesday, Dec. 7, from 5 to 8 p.m., Silverwood Regional Park, 2500 W. County Road E., Fridley.
  • Thursday, Dec. 9, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Tower Civic Center, 402 Pine St., Tower.

 For an electronic copy of the plan, more information, and a public input questionnaire about the parks’ draft master plan, call the DNR at  651-296-6157, or toll-free 888-646-6367, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
–DNR News Release

Water security as a national and global issue
The U.S. Geological Survey has issued a new and interesting fact sheet on the importance fresh water plays in national and global security.

 It describes how conflicts over water can occur and can be exacerbated by population increase and economic growth.
–U.S. Geological Survey

 

Drug collections; a documentary reviewed

September 20, 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.

Special drug collections set Saturday, Sept. 25
Dozens of police departments and county sheriffs in Minnesota and Wisconsin are taking part in a special effort to collect unused and out-of-date prescription and nonprescription drugs on Saturday, Sept. 25.

 The collection effort was organized by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and it is aimed at preventing accidental poisonings of children, keeping drugs out of toilets and drains — where they pollute lakes and rivers — and out of garbage cans — where the drugs sometimes fall into the hands of drug abusers. Drugs collected on Saturday will be incinerated. 

Six counties in or near the Twin Cities metro area – Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington and Sherburne – are among more than 3,400 groups nationwide that are taking part in the collections, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Many western Wisconsin police and sheriff’s agencies also are taking part. In some cases, you may need to live in the county conducting the collection to be allowed to drop off drugs there. 

To find a collection near you, go to the DEA web site. Taking drugs to a collection, such as these, is the best option for disposal. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has guidelines for disposal when a collection is not available. 

U of M suspends opening of film on ag pollution
Two weeks ago, the University of Minnesota abruptly put on hold the scheduled release of a documentary film about pollution of the Mississippi River by agricultural nutrients and other contaminants. The documentary was partly funded by a $349,000 state grant. Here are reports on the university action by: the Star Tribune; the Pioneer Press; Minnesota Public Radio; the Twin Cities Daily Planet online publication, which first reported the university’s sudden postponement of a premiere of the film; and an official statement from the university’s Bell Museum, which was responsible for production of the film. 

Can barley bales beat algae?
Stillwater residents who live around McKusick Lake are using a novel—and natural—way to get rid of the algae that’s clouding their lake: a bale of barley.

 Residents pooled their money earlier this year to buy a 700-pound bale of barley straw, divide it up and sink it in the lake.

 So far, so good, said Bruce Werre, who lives on the lake and has been spearheading the barley drive.

“Let’s put it this way: The algae has not reared its ugly head again,” Werre said. “I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m optimistic enough to have quadrupled our order for next year.” 

A major algae bloom in May after several rainstorms and a heat wave led Werre and about 10 other members of the McKusick Lake Water Association to spend $300 on the project.

“It was the weekend of the fishing opener. I left on May 14, and the lake was beautiful,” Werre said. “I came back on May 18, and the lake was covered—completely covered. We just needed to do something. This was something that we could do as far as boots on the ground and feet in the water to try and combat the algae.” 

Studies have shown that decomposing barley straw releases an enzyme that inhibits new algae growth, said Erik Anderson, a water resource specialist with the Washington Conservation District. In 2002 and 2003, the district released barley straw to combat algae growth in Gellums Bay of Big Marine Lake, but it didn’t work and hasn’t been used since, he said.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Research: Manganese in water affects IQ
An IQ comparison shows that Canadian regulations on manganese in drinking water should be updated to protect children, Quebec researchers say. 

The average IQ of children whose tap water was in the upper 20 per cent of manganese concentration was six points below children whose water contained little or no manganese, the researchers found.

The study looked at 362 children aged six to 13. The amount of manganese from tap water and food was estimated, based on the results of a questionnaire. 

Manganese is a naturally occurring metal found in groundwater. It is an essential nutrient, but in excessive amounts, it can damage the nervous system. It occurs in naturally high levels in several parts of Quebec, New Brunswick and other regions, researchers say. 

Their study, published in the online issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, focused on manganese levels in drinking water in eight communities along the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec City.
–CBC News 

Xcel plans to remove Granite Falls dam
Local residents expressed concerns at a town hall meeting in Granite Falls as Xcel Energy presented a plan to remove the Minnesota Falls Dam located three miles downstream from the city.

 More than 100 years old, the dam was constructed in 1905 to provide hydroelectric power but has not been used to generate electricity since 1961. In the 1930s the dam provided chilled water to an Xcel Energy coal-fired power plant, but since the plant’s closure Xcel officials said the deteriorating structure serves no purpose and has been nothing but a potential liability to the company.

 The decision to remove the dam does not come without controversy. Several businesses upstream from the river, such as Granite Falls Energy and the Granite Falls Golf Course, use water intake structures on the river that would be affected if water levels drop as a result of the dam removal.

“Water levels will go down if the dam is removed,” Tom MacDonald, an engineer with Barr Engineering, who was hired by Xcel Energy to analyze the dam, said. “Granite Falls Energy will be impacted the most.”
–The Independent

Wisconsin citizens monitor mussels
ROME, Wis. — On a recent September evening, 17 people gingerly waded into the cool, fast-flowing waters of the Bark River outside this Jefferson County village and commenced a search for some of Wisconsin’s rarest and most threatened creatures.

 There, not far from the village’s backyards and within sight of a barnyard or two, they started finding as exotic a menagerie as one might imagine finding in the most remote rainforest. Fat muckets and elktoes. Threeridges and pigtoes. Pocketbooks and ellipses and black sandshells. 

These delightfully named river denizens are all freshwater mussels, or what most know as clams. The health of their populations in the state’s rivers are an excellent indication of the health of our waters, according to Lisie Kitchell, a DNR conservation biologist whose speciality is mussels. 

Now, a new citizen monitoring program is sending Wisconsin residents into their neighborhood rivers and streams to provide the first new information on the state’s mussels since data was last gathered in the 1970s.
–The Wisconsin State Journal 

Groundwater pollutants blames on ‘fracking’
Water testing by a private environmental engineering firm has discovered toxic chemicals in wells in a township in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.

Victoria Switzer, a resident of the northeastern Pennsylvania township of Dimock, revealed the results of the water tests from her well this week at an Environmental Protection Agency hearing on hydraulic fracturing in Binghamton, New York.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a controversial process used to extract natural gas from deep underground. Critics say chemicals used in the process can be injected into groundwater.
–CNN

 U.S. military to cut water, energy use
Defense Department officials plan to reduce the military’s water and fossil fuels consumption by more than 20 percent in the next decade under an Obama administration plan to make government agencies better stewards of the environment.

 The department’s priorities for this year and next are to invest in fixed installations, enhance buildings and ensure sustainability concepts in doctrine and policy, Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, wrote in the department’s portion of the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan.

 White House officials released the plan Sept. 9. It includes a roadmap submitted from each department outlining how they will reduce their impact on the environment while meeting mission goals. The plan is the result of an executive order by President Barack Obama.
–Defense Department News Release

Opinion: Restoring Lake Pepin is a priority
The little fishing boat launched as usual from Hansen’s Harbor for a late-summer excursion on Lake Pepin, the Mississippi River’s broad-shouldered bend through the lush bluffs of southeast Minnesota and western Wisconsin. But just beyond the shoreline riprap, a troubling sight came into focus. 

Something resembling a giant, fluorescent mat of Astroturf carpeted the waves ahead. The same green gunk coated other swaths of the sailboat-studded lake — bringing back memories of the 1988 blue-green algae bloom that caused foul-smelling scum and localized fish kills. 

A closer look at the oatmeal-like growth, along with calls to the Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of natural resources, quickly allayed fears that blue-green algae was back. The swaths on the lake this summer are a relatively benign type of aquatic plant called duckweed that may have been swept downriver by this summer’s heavy rainfall.

While the duckweed diagnosis isn’t cause for alarm, its startling appearance should serve as a reminder that Pepin remains an impaired water body whose very existence is at risk.
–The Star Tribune

‘Green’ products come with tradeoffs
Some longtime users were furious.

 “My dishes were dirtier than before they were washed,” one wrote last week in the review section of the Web site for the Cascade line of dishwasher detergents. “It was horrible, and I won’t buy it again.”

 “This is the worst product ever made for use as a dishwashing detergent!” another consumer wrote.

 Like every other major detergent for automatic dishwashers, Proctor & Gamble’s Cascade line recently underwent a makeover. Responding to laws that went into effect in 17 states in July, the nation’s detergent makers reformulated their products to reduce what had been the crucial ingredient, phosphates, to just a trace.

 While phosphates help prevent dishes from spotting in the wash cycle, they have long ended up in lakes and reservoirs, stimulating algae growth that deprives other plants and fish of oxygen. 

Yet now, with the content reduced, many consumers are finding the new formulas as appealing as low-flow showers, underscoring the tradeoffs that people often face today in a more environmentally conscious marketplace.
–The New York Times