Posts Tagged ‘manure pollution’

EPA criticized; moose decline continues

February 21, 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.

Industries criticize EPA standards for Florida
A coalition of national industry associations is warning Congress that U.S. EPA’s move to impose tougher water pollution limits in Florida could become a model for similar actions in other states and ultimately cost taxpayers and businesses billions of dollars at questionable environmental benefit.

EPA immediately fired back, rejecting the claim and noting that the numeric limits on nutrient pollution the agency imposed on Florida last year were required under a settlement agreement EPA struck with environmental groups.

The groups had filed suit alleging that federal regulators stood idly by for years as the state continuously failed to enforce the Clean Water Act, allowing phosphorus and nitrogen — components of fertilizer and byproducts of sewage and wastewater treatment — to saturate waterways, triggering soupy algae blooms that killed fish and sucked oxygen out of the water.

“While States are free to control nutrient pollution, and many are starting to, EPA has no plans to establish numeric nutrient criteria in any other states,” EPA said in a statement yesterday responding to the industry letter. “The establishment of numeric limits of nutrient pollution in Florida was due to specific legal challenges about the State of Florida’s implementation of the Clean Water Act.”
–The New York Times

Moose decline continues
Northeastern Minnesota’s moose population continues to decline, according to results of an aerial survey released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Survey results revealed lower moose numbers and the proportion of cows accompanied by calves continued a 14-year decline, dropping to a record low of 24 calves per 100 cows. The proportion of cows accompanied by twin calves was at the lowest level since 1999, which contributed to the record-low calf-to-cow ratio.

“These indices along with results from research using radio-collared moose all indicate that the population has been declining in recent years,” said Dr. Mark Lenarz, DNR forest wildlife group leader.

Moose numbers are estimated using an aerial survey of the northeastern Minnesota moose range.

Based on the survey, wildlife researchers estimate that there were 4,900 moose in northeastern Minnesota. Last year’s estimate was 5,500.

A study of radio-collared moose in northeastern Minnesota between 2002 and 2008 determined that nonhunting mortality was substantially higher than in moose populations outside of Minnesota.

The causes of moose mortality are not well understood. Of 150 adult moose radio-collared since 2002 in Minnesota, 114 have subsequently died, most from unknown causes thought to be diseases or parasites. Ten moose died as a result of highway vehicle accidents. Two were killed by trains. Nine deaths were clearly the result of wolf predation.
–Minnesota DNR News Release

U.S. House defeats anti-carp proposal
The U.S. House rejected a proposal to force the closure of Chicago-area shipping locks that could provide an opening to the Great Lakes for voracious Asian carp, a potential threat to native fish species and the region’s economy.

By a vote of 292-137, lawmakers defeated a budget bill amendment offered by Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan that would have denied funding to the Army Corps of Engineers to open the two navigational structures. Opponents argued successfully that the locks were vital to commerce and closing them wouldn’t necessarily prevent the unwanted carp from reaching Lake Michigan.

“It’s a great relief that we were able to defeat this amendment,” said Rep. Judy Biggert, an Illinois Republican. “Its passage would have been devastating to Chicago’s economy and cost thousands of jobs in our region. Worse, it would have been an empty gesture against the carp, doing more to kill jobs than slow down fish.”

Michigan and four other states — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania — are suing in federal court to close the locks and permanently sever the man-made link between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds to prevent invasive species from migrating between them.
–The Canadian Press

MPCA urges care in manure applications
As another winter of heavy snowfall gives way to warming temperatures, rapid melting and potential for flooding pose challenges for manure management among the more than 25,000 livestock farms in Minnesota.  Many smaller operations that spread solid manure during winter must ensure that it doesn’t run off with rapid snowmelt flowing to ditches, streams and other waters.

Manure-contaminated runoff not only threatens water quality, it reduces the value of manure as a crop nutrient.  “Manure applied to snow-covered or frozen soils during conditions of snow melt or rain on frozen soils can contribute the majority of the annual nutrient losses,” says Dennis Frame, University of Wisconsin-Extension.  “There is a high potential for manure runoff this year based on current field conditions and typical weather patterns.”

If possible, farmers should refrain from spreading manure during periods of rapid snow melt.  Frame offers manure-handling suggestions in article.  The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency also has a fact sheet available titled, “Managing manure and land application during adverse weather conditions.”
–Minnesota Pollution Control Agency news release

Indiana bill aims at manure transport
Indiana could be in deep trouble.

The Indiana House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee had a hearing Feb. 8 concerning House Bill 1134. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Tom Saunders, R-Lewisville, and aims “to amend the Indiana Code concerning agriculture and animals.”

More specifically, the bill targets interstate manure transport into Indiana.

Richmond, Ind., Environmental Activist Barbara Sha Cox said it is crucial for eastern Indiana counties to take a stand.

“This should be of special interest to those in Richmond who drink water from the reservoir and everyone in the counties who have private wells,” Cox said in an Indiana Living Green press release. “As it stands now, they can dump piles of manure near waterways with no runoff protection.”

According to the press release, Ohio has been shipping and dumping excess manure into Indiana border counties

Congressman seeks to halt Chesapeake Bay plan
Money for a far-reaching pollution control plan for Chesapeake Bay would be stripped from this year’s federal budget under a proposed amendment to an important House spending bill.

The amendment, filed by Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, takes aim at an Environmental Protection Agency program to reduce the flow of several major pollutants into the bay by roughly a quarter by 2025. Called a “pollution diet” by federal regulators, the plan was deemed necessary after the E.P.A. determined that states were moving too slowly to curb polluted runoff from farms and cities into the bay.

In an interview, Mr. Goodlatte called the E.P.A. plan a “power grab” that exceeded its authority under the Clean Water Act and said that the agency had failed to calculate the program’s impact on jobs and the region’s economy. He argued that under the new regulations, towns and cities would be required to spend millions of dollars to upgrade their stormwater runoff systems.
–The New York Times

Macalester College tries bottled water ban
MacCares, the Macalester Conservation and Renewable Energy Society, in conjunction with the Sustainability Office and the Social Responsibility Committee, is launching what organizers call the “full-scale test run” of a policy they eventually hope the college will implement permanently: ending the sale of bottled water on campus.

The test run was to  start on Feb. 21, and last until Mar. 13. The ban will mean that no bottled water will be sold at the Grille, the Highlander and the vending machines in the Leonard Center.

“The idea is to have a big educational campaign to make sure that people on campus understand some of the issues with bottled water and tapped water,” said Brianna Besch ’13, a member of MacCares who is helping to lead the initiative and Bottled Water Awareness Month.

The trial discontinuation is the result of concerns raised regarding the environmental and social effects of bottled water, including the waste it generates, the lack of oversight over its quality, and the commodification of what the United Nations has declared a human right. “You’re paying a lot more for something that you can almost get for free,” said Besch. “A lot of people think bottled water is healthier, but it actually has much more lax standards for quality. . . then you’ve got the waste component. It takes seventeen million barrels of oil per year to produce and transport bottled water [in the United States].”
–Mac Weekly
 

11% budget cut proposed for MPCA
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says even with an 11 percent reduction in funding, it will be able to make progress on key issues under Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal.

MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said the MPCA is also moving to streamline its permitting process. If federal cuts add significantly to state cuts, it will be harder to fulfill the agency’s mission, he said.

He says the agency will be able to absorb the reduction through normal turnover and early retirements, even as the PCA works to streamline its permitting processes.

The agency will give priority to new projects and expansions that create jobs, he said, and that means existing businesses may operate longer under expired permits — but they have to maintain the same conditions as required in their old permit.
–Minnesota Public Radio

DNR submits 25-year plan for parks and trails
Minnesota finally has a strategic blueprint for how best to spend more than $1 billion in state sales tax money during the next quarter-century to build what advocates hope will be a world-class system of parks and trails.

The state Department of Natural Resources gave its 25-year plan to the Legislature, a key step in helping future lawmakers direct those Legacy Amendment dollars to specific parks and trails projects.

The plan, sought by legislators and developed over 18 months with help from the Citizens League and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Changing Landscapes, doesn’t offer specific project recommendations.

Rather, it lays out a broad set of guidelines, developed in response to insights from more than 1,000 parks and trails enthusiasts and also stemming from the most detailed inventory of local, regional and state parks facilities ever put together in the state.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Great Lakes funding keeps shrinking
The Obama administration’s much-trumpeted Great Lakes restoration plan continues to shrink in the face of federal budget woes.

It was conceived as a 10-year, $5 billion program to do things like clean up toxic messes, restore wetlands, stem the influx of invasive species and promote native fisheries. But the funding has shrunk from $475 million in 2010 to $225 million this year if the House Appropriations Committee has its way.

That figure, included in the committee’s continuing resolution to wrap up the current year’s budget, was $75 million lower than the $300 million President Barack Obama had requested for this year. The Senate has yet to weigh in.

Obama released his 2012 budget, which includes $350 million for the restoration program next year.

Conservation groups said all the uncertainty is making it difficult to execute a comprehensive plan to restore the world’s largest freshwater system. “There are long-term projects that require some certainty of funding levels from year to year,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “It’s put people in limbo, projects in limbo and research in limbo, just awaiting congressional action.”
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Research: Human actions yield more rain, snow
An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere, climate scientists reported in a new study.

In the first major paper of its kind, the researchers used elaborate computer programs that simulate the climate to analyze whether the rise in severe rainstorms, heavy snowfalls and similar events could be explained by natural variability in the atmosphere. They found that it could not, and that the increase made sense only when the computers factored in the effects of greenhouse gases released by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels.

As reflected in previous studies, the likelihood of extreme precipitation on any given day rose by about 7 percent over the last half of the 20th century, at least for the land areas of the Northern Hemisphere for which sufficient figures are available to do an analysis.

The principal finding of the new study is “that this 7 percent is well outside the bounds of natural variability,” said Francis W. Zwiers, a Canadian climate scientist who took part in the research. The paper is being published in the journal Nature.
–The New York Times

Rising sea levels could hurt 180 U.S. cities
Rising seas spurred by climate change could threaten 180 U.S. coastal cities by 2100, a new study says, with Miami, New Orleans and Virginia Beach among those most severely affected.

Previous studies have looked at where rising waters might go by the end of this century, assuming various levels of sea level rise, but this latest research focused on municipalities in the contiguous 48 states with population of 50,000 or more.

Cities along the southern Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico will likely be hardest hit if global sea levels rise, as projected, by about 3 feet (1 meter) by 2100, researchers reported in the journal Climate Change Letters.

Sea level rise is expected to be one result of global warming as ice on land melts and flows toward the world’s oceans.
–Reuters

Manure: The huge new pollution challenge

March 1, 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.

Manure: The new pollution challenge
Nearly 40 years after the first Earth Day, this is irony: The United States has reduced the manmade pollutants that left its waterways dead, discolored and occasionally flammable.

But now, it has managed to smother the same waters with the most natural stuff in the world.

Animal manure, a byproduct as old as agriculture, has become an unlikely modern pollution problem, scientists and environmentalists say. The country simply has more dung than it can handle: Crowded together at a new breed of megafarms, livestock produce three times as much waste as people, more than can be recycled as fertilizer for nearby fields.
–The Washington Post

Court rulings hamstring EPA enforcement
Thousands of the nation’s largest water polluters are outside the Clean Water Act’s reach because the Supreme Court has left uncertain which waterways are protected by that law, according to interviews with regulators.

As a result, some businesses are declaring that the law no longer applies to them. And pollution rates are rising.

Companies that have spilled oil, carcinogens and dangerous bacteria into lakes, rivers and other waters are not being prosecuted, according to Environmental Protection Agency regulators working on those cases, who estimate that more than 1,500 major pollution investigations have been discontinued or shelved in the last four years.
–The New York Times

 Dairy lobby gains influence in Wisconsin
As the number of factory farms has grown in Wisconsin, so has the power of the Dairy Business Association, a lobbying group that has gained unprecedented influence over the permitting and regulation of the giant farms — in some cases, crafting the law itself. 

Correspondence and memos obtained through the state’s open records law show the association is heavily involved not only in shaping policy but also has intervened in the state’s handling of individual permit applications. 

The DBA is the most powerful advocate on behalf of the state’s biggest dairies, those with 700 or more cows, requiring them to get pollution permits from the state Department of Natural Resources. Each of the farms produces millions of gallons of liquid manure that is stored in large lagoons and spread on fields. In some cases, waste has run into nearby streams or polluted nearby wells. 

Despite the volume of waste, an investigation by the Wisconsin State Journal found inspections by the DNR have been spotty, with some farms being checked only once during the five-year life of their permit.
–The Wisconsin State Journal 

EPA criticizes Polymet mine proposal
The Environmental Protection Agency says the proposed Polymet copper-nickel mine proposed for northeastern Minnesota should not go ahead as currently planned. 

The EPA listed more than two-dozen so-called inadequacies in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ draft environmental impact statement, or EIS. 

The DNR’s Steve Colvin says the criticisms come in part because of a difference in approach by the two levels of government. 

“In the federal process, you’re expecting the information in the EIS to be more detailed, very close to what you need to make a permit decision, whereas in the state process you’re not at that permitting level of detail,” Colvin said. 

The EPA warned of possible impacts to water quality and wetlands, increased emissions of mercury into the Lake Superior watershed, and what it called “inadequate financial assurance for performance.”
–Minnesota Public Radio

Climate change panel seeks review of procedures
Because of recent criticism of its work, the Nobel Prize-winning international panel studying global warming is seeking independent outside review for how it makes major reports, the panel said. 

Critics have found a few unsettling errors — including incorrect projections of retreats in Himalayan glaciers — in the thousands of pages of the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

Scientists say the problems, ranging from typos in key dates to sloppy sourcing, are minor and have nothing to do with the major conclusions about man-made global warming and how it will harm people and ecosystems. But researchers acknowledge that they have been slow to respond to criticisms in the past three months. And those criticisms seem to have resonated in poll results and news media coverage that have put climate scientists on the defensive. 

“The IPCC clearly has suffered a loss in public confidence,” Stanford University climate scientist Chris Field, a chairman of one of the IPCC’s four main research groups, told the Associated Press on Saturday. “And one of the things that I think the world deserves is a clear understanding of what aspects the IPCC does well and what aspects of the IPCC can be improved.”
The Washington Post

Minnesota budget fix taps boating fees
There’s no doubt Minnesota’s budget is in crisis. But now the state’s 860,000 boaters might help close that $1.2 billion deficit.

 Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s supplemental budget calls for $1.2 million to be taken from the state’s Water Recreation Account — funds generated by boat registration and other boater fees — and put in the general fund.

 The diversion apparently is unprecedented.
–The Star Tribune

 Obama Great Lakes plan lauded, questioned
The Obama Administration’s Great Lakes restoration plan is getting favorable marks in the upper midwest, but many details, including most of the funding, remain to be worked out.

 The five year action plan spells out specific targets and goals the Obama Administration wants to reach while spending more than $2 billion over five years on its Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

 The plan takes on challenges including invasive species, long-term pollution and wildlife restoration.

 Tom Landwehr with the Nature Conservancy in Minnesota says the plan lays out a coordinated approach to restoring a huge swath of U.S. territory.

“There are so many…entities that have some role in management regulation of the Great Lakes, that it’s absolutely imperitive that there be some kind of coordinating plans to go forward,” Landwehr said.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 USGS scientists take aim at Asian carp
Scientists are stepping up the quest for new poisons and other tools that could prevent Asian carp from gaining a foothold in the Great Lakes, Obama administration officials told a congressional panel. 

U.S. Geological Survey experts are looking at short- and long-term methods of reining in the invasive fish amid rising fears they may have eluded electrical barriers on Chicago waterways and are poised to colonize Lake Michigan, said Leon Carl, the agency’s Midwest executive. 

“The pressure is on our scientists,” Carl said, adding that money provided under the Obama administration’s $78.5 million carp control plan would help researchers make progress. “I think we’re going to do some really exciting research.” 

Nancy Sutley, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the studies and other proposals in the government plan have good prospects to succeed — despite complaints from many in the region that the strategy is inadequate because it doesn’t close shipping locks that could open a carp pathway to the lake.
–BusinessWeek

 Groundwater use threatens Anoka County lakes
Anoka County lake levels would drastically drop and many wetlands and streams would dry up if a Metropolitan Council study’s predictions come to fruition.

Rainfall is the short-term culprit in lakes, streams and wetlands drying up, but the long-term threat is the over-pumping of groundwater, said Jamie Schurbon, a water resource specialist for the Anoka Conservation District.

A Metropolitan Council study predicts that groundwater pumping will lead to greater drops in surface water depths in Anoka County than in other areas of the Twin Cities. Depths in many areas of the county could drop one to five feet by 2030 and three to 10 feet by 2050.

“We’re building to that point where if everything is as it is indicated now, we’re going to have to make some really hard decisions at a local level about growth and development,” Schurbon said.
–The Coon Rapids Herald

Funding for trails becomes an issue
Minnesota lawmakers clearly like state hiking and biking trails. After all, they’ve authorized almost 2,600 miles of them.

 But with only half of those trails developed so far, it’s just as clear they haven’t been as eager to pay for them. 

That inaction has produced a $440 million funding gap — the difference between the price tags of what they’ve authorized and the money they’ve directed to them. Under a recent scenario that anticipates $20 million in trails-related bonding each two-year budget cycle, it will take until 2044 just to develop the ones already in the pipeline. 

“There’s a significant backlog,” conceded Forrest Boe, deputy director of the Parks and Trails Division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  “That says a couple of things. Some of them will have to wait a while. The Legislature is taking a look at that, and they need to decide whether to make greater investments to speed up the process or to continue as they have.”
–St. Paul Pioneer Press

 Counties, Chamber oppose MPCA landfill rules
Lobbyists at the Capitol are kicking back against new permitting and financial assurance rules for landfills that were recently released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA). And some state legislators are likewise questioning whether the rules reflect the original legislative intent of the law that spawned the new rules. 

Business and municipal interests such as the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Minnesota Counties are concerned that new draft rules released by PCA on Nov. 30 could ultimately close landfills in the state. 

Mike Robertson, a lobbyist for the Chamber, testified in front of the House Environment Policy and Oversight Committee that a coalition of 40 counties and private landfill operators are worried that new permitting rules and financial assurance requirements (designed to ensure that operators could pay for any environmental clean-up needed at a later date) for existing and new landfills would put many such operations out of business.
–Politics in Minnesota 

Wisconsin considers permit process changes
Two proposed general permits covering livestock operations of different sizes will be the topic of public hearings statewide in March and April, and a public comment period through April 23. According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, the state is proposing to issue standardized water protection permits known as ‘general permits’ instead of writing the permits individually as a way to free up time for compliance and inspections of large-scale livestock operations.

“Wisconsin has among the most rigorous permitting standards in the nation right now, and our proposed general permits have the same requirements,” says Gordon Stevenson, who leads the Department of Natural Resources runoff management section. “But we are the last state to use individual permits for large-scale livestock operations.”

Stevenson says since the requirements for many of these large operations are the same, there is limited need for DNR staff to draft each permit individually. Switching to standardized general permits would allow DNR staff to spend more time in the field inspecting those livestock operations to make sure they are following requirements for manure storage, handling, spreading, and other activities.
–Wisconsin Ag Connection

North Dakota pesticide use up 30 percent in 4 years
Acres treated with pesticides across the state set a new record in 2008 by jumping more than 10 million acres, according to a recently released study. 

Conducted by North Dakota State University in collaboration with the state’s agricultural statistics office, “Pesticide Use and Pest Management Practices in North Dakota 2008” revealed that pesticide-treated acres jumped nearly 30 percent, from 22.5 million acres in 2004 to 32.6 million acres in 2008, the highest recorded figure since the study began in 1978. 

Between 1978 and 2004, pesticide-treated acres fluctuated between 16 million and 22.5 million acres. 

“With this study we try to demonstrate a reduction of pesticide use because we want to use more biological management practices, so when you see a big increase like this you really wonder,” said Marcia McMullen, a plant pathologist at NDSU who helped with the study.
–The Minot Daily News

 Guelph, Ont., to study grey water use
The city has received more than $70,000 in funding to study the feasibility of recycling grey water for residential toilet flushing.

 The funding comes from the Green Municipal Fund, administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

 “Canada-wide we’re the only community with this type of grey water recycling program, so it’s really quite exciting,” Wayne Galliher, the city’s water conservation project manager, said. 

A pilot project to test whether reusing grey water is feasible began about a year ago. Fourteen homes have reuse systems installed, and the city would like another 16 homeowners to sign on.
–guelphmercury.com