Posts Tagged ‘nitrogen pollution’

Water, science and the environment

September 17, 2012

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.

Hypoxia Task Force looks to reduce nitrogen
The drought has temporarily done this year what several state and federal programs have tried to do in terms of reducing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the fluctuating levels of hypoxia in the Gulf will surely rise next year if rains return to the Mississippi River basin.

The federal government’s Hypoxia Task Force met to continue its quest for long-term strategies for reducing nitrate loads in the Gulf by as much as 45%.

Success would appear frustratingly slow for the state-federal task force with numerous presentations Tuesday about the need to expand and coordinate water-quality monitoring, as well as better examine the value and economics of applying different practices on the land. Still, Chairwoman Nancy Stoner, EPA’s acting administrator for water quality, stressed gains have been made for the task force, now in its 15th year.

“We’re picking up a lot of momentum but it takes awhile to make the kinds of changes we’re talking about,” Stoner said. “It will take some time to see some results but the first thing to do is to agree upon the approaches and changes to be made,” Stoner said.
–The Progressive Farmer

Don’t miss our Oct. 4 lecture on nitrogen
Register now to attend a free, public lecture in St. Paul on the serious problem of nitrogen pollution of both water and air. Read q-and-a interview, conducted by Freshwater, with the lecturer, Purdue University agricultural economist Otto Doering.

Asian carp and the presidential race
President Obama has promised billions more dollars in aid and has cracked the whip on the US Army Corps of Engineers to finish a study on the great Great Lakes Asian carp.

Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama’s rival in the election, says the administration is moving too slowly. He has suggested that “America put a man on the moon” in less time than it’s taking to protect the Great Lakes from an invasion of the big fish migrating up the Mississippi River watershed, threatening to broach Lake Michigan at Chicago.

Sure, encroaching carp aren’t in the league with jobs or foreign policy when it comes to national priorities. But the political debate over what to do about the disruptive Asian carp population also isn’t just about the ecology and hydrology of the world’s biggest freshwater system. It’s also about the 64 electoral votes locked up in four Great Lakes battleground states: Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
–The Christian Science Monitor

Army Corps completes Asian carp survey
A study of 18 canals, ditches and other waterways that could link the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds found none was a likely pathway to the lakes for Asian carp, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Friday, Sept. 14.

The study was part of a broader search for ways to stop the movement of invasive species between the two basins. Of particular concern are bighead and silver carp — ravenous Asian fish that scientists say could out-compete native species for food.

Asian carp infested the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and are approaching a Chicago-area shipping canal through which they might be able to reach Lake Michigan. Under pressure from Congress and advocacy groups, the Army Corps promised to produce options for blocking their passage by the end of next year.
–The Associated Press

DNR restricts withdrawals from low streams
The ongoing drought is forcing the Department of Natural Resources to restrict water use around Minnesota.

More than a dozen industrial and recreational sites have been required to suspend pumping from state waterways.
Levels have sharply declined in rivers and other surface waters as the drought continues. DNR water permits allow a variety of customers to pump water, but those permits also require cutbacks if water levels get too low.

That’s happening now, and recently the DNR suspended numerous water pumping permits. Most are for golf courses or other recreational locations.

“Last week we sent out 16 letters. And there was one in Hubbard County, Blue Earth, one in Martin, several in Polk, to surface water users. And they were told then to stop pumping water as of last Thursday midnight,” said Julie Ekman, DNR water regulations unit supervisor.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Isaac fails to loosen drought’s grip
More than three quarters of the contiguous United States still faces abnormally dry conditions in spite of scattered relief from rains generated by tropical storm system Isaac. As seen on the U.S. Drought Monitor, exceptional drought — the worst category — persists in the very center of the nation from Nebraska south to Texas, east through Missouri and Arkansas to the Mississippi Valley. Much of Georgia is also in exceptional drought.

Drought is the nation’s most costly natural disaster, far exceeding earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes and floods. FEMA has estimated that the annual average cost of drought in the United States ranges from $6 to $8 billion. (By comparison, the annual costs of flooding are in the $2 to $4 billion range.) Unlike flooding, drought does not come and go in a single episode. Rather, it often takes a long time for drought to begin to impact an area, and it can fester for months or even years.
–USGS News Release

Journal looks at conservation, climate change
A special research section of the September/October issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, “Conservation practices to mitigate the effects of climate change,” offers a compilation of works that cover the most current advances in the science of conservation practices that may alleviate some of the effects associated with a changing climate.

Follett et al. discuss the effects of climate change on soil carbon and nitrogen storage in the U.S. Great Plains. Chen et al. evaluate a selection of maize inbred lines for drought and heat stress tolerance under field conditions and identify several inbred lines that showed high tolerance to drought. Brown and Huggins quantify agricultural impacts on soil organic carbon sequestration for dryland cropping systems in different agroclimatic zones of the Pacific Northwest.
–SWCS Conservation NewsBriefs

DNR does follow-up searches for invasives
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources  biologists and divers searched lake bottoms immediately surrounding areas where zebra mussels were discovered last fall on boat lifts on Lake Irene in Douglas County and Rose Lake in Otter Tail County. The divers did not discover zebra mussels, but searches will continue later this fall when docks and boat lifts are pulled from the shores along these lakes.

“This is a good sign, but these are only preliminary inspections that will help us determine the overall outcome of our efforts,” said Nathan Olson, DNR invasive species specialist in Fergus Falls. “We have more field work to do this fall, sampling the waters for veligers and inspecting docks and boat lifts as folks remove them from these waters.”

Last fall, DNR biologists investigated two separate cases where localized zebra mussel populations were discovered on boat lifts. In one case, mussels were attached to rocks near the boat lift. Both boat lifts had been moved from infested waters to these lakes earlier in 2011.Due to the early detection of zebra mussels in these locations, the DNR immediately treated both areas with copper sulfate, a common chemical used to treat snails that cause swimmers itch. The treatments were conducted by a icensed aquatic pesticide contractor. The searches conducted recently were part of a follow-up plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the early detection and rapid response.
–DNR News Release

Canadian mining firm admits pollution
Canadian mining giant Teck Resources Ltd. has admitted in a U.S. court that effluent from its smelter in southeast British Columbia has polluted the Columbia River in Washington for more than a century.

Teck subsidiary Teck Metals made the admission of fact in a lawsuit brought by a group of U.S. Indian tribes over environmental damage caused by the effluent discharges dating back to 1896.

The agreement, reached on the eve of the trial initiated by the Colville Confederated Tribes, stipulates that some hazardous materials in the slag discharged from Teck’s smelter in Trail, B.C., ended up in the Upper Columbia River south of the border.
–The Canadian Press

Nitrogen; invasive species; water infrastructure

July 2, 2012

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.

Otto Doering to lecture on nitrogen pollution

Otto Doering

Save the date: Nitrogen pollution lecture set Oct. 4
Nitrogen. It makes up three-fourths of the air all around us. It cascades through our environment between land, water and the atmosphere. It is critical to agricultural production that feeds the world. And it is a byproduct of all the fossil fuels we consume.

In the United States, we put five times more nitrogen into the environment than is deposited or released naturally. That excess nitrogen causes a variety of environmental and health problems – pollution of ground and surface waters, smog, increased emissions of greenhouse gases.

On Oct. 4, 2012, the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences will present an important lecture by Purdue University professor Otto Doering on the problem of excess nitrogen. It is an issue that the National Academy of Engineering has called one of the “grand challenges” facing this country in the 21st Century.

Doering is a professor of agricultural economics and director of Purdue’s Climate Change Research Center. He led a team of scientists that last year produced a major report on the nitrogen problem for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board.

The 141-page report is titled “Reactive Nitrogen in the United States: An Analysis of Inputs, Flows, Consequences, and Management Options.”

His lecture will be titled “Excess nitrogen: A Confounding Problem for Energy Use, Food Production, the Water We Drink and the Air We Breathe.” Information on registering to attend the talk is coming soon to the Freshwater web site.

Minnesota’s penalties on invasives double
Civil fines for people violating Minnesota’s aquatic invasive species (AIS) laws doubled on July 1, when new, tougher laws took effect.

Minnesota law prohibits the possession or transport of any AIS in the state. AIS include zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas.

Last month, DNR officials announced that the AIS violation rate among Minnesota boaters and anglers is at an unacceptable rate of 20 percent.

“The larger fines should help people realize that this is a serious problem, and we need everyone to do their part to prevent the spread of AIS,” explained Maj. Phil Meier, DNR Enforcement operations manager.

For example, failure to remove a drain plug while transporting a watercraft will mean a $100 fine, instead of a $50 penalty. The fine for unlawfully possessing and transporting prohibited AIS will increase from $250 to $500.
–DNR News Release

EPA water infrastructure $$ at risk 
A House subcommittee approved a 53% cut to the federal program that makes low-cost loans to cities to build infrastructure to prevent water pollution. Next it will go to the full House for a vote.

U.S. cities lose one-fifth of their water to leaks and suffer 1.2 trillion gallons of wastewater spills each year, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office.

It is clear we need to repair our water systems, but the financial burden is huge: more than $600 billion by 2019, found an EPA report.

The cause of much of the wastewater spills is storm water overflows, said the Congressional Budget Office . Many cities in the Northeast and Great Lakes region collect storm water to clean it in wastewater treatment centers. Unfortunately, these systems frequently overflow, and so untreated sewage and storm water runoff are expelled into surrounding water bodies. These events happen up to 75,000 times a year, says the EPA.
–Forbes

Zebra mussel worries close boat ramps
Boater access to two more Minnesota lakes is being tightened in hopes of preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Seven Lakeview Township accesses on Lake Melissa and Lake Sallie south of Detroit Lakes have been closed for boat launching and removal, though they remain open for swimming and other uses.

The lakes aren’t being closed to the public, however. Each lake has one state access that isn’t affected by the closures, said Dave Knopf, township chairman.

“It will make it a lot easier monitoring people coming and going from just one access,” Knopf said. “Otherwise it would be impossible to monitor those two lakes.”
–The Star Tribune

Army Corps ordered to speed up Asian carp plan
Congress passed a measure ordering the Army Corps of Engineers to speed up its efforts to devise a plan to keep voracious Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

The measure — tucked inside the highway spending and student loan compromise approved by both the U.S. House and Senate — gives the Corps 18 months to come up with a plan for blocking Asian carp at 18 points where they could pass into the Great Lakes. Within three months, Congress wants a progress report.

The Corps would be expected to look into means of separating the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes where feasible to stop the spread of Asian carp, especially around Chicago — where an electronic barrier has been used to keep the invasive species from reaching Lake Michigan.
–The Detroit Free Press

Supreme Court to hear beach pollution case
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Los Angeles County’s appeal of a lower court decision requiring the county to clean up polluted runoff that flows to the ocean through two urban waterways.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year sided with environmental groups in finding the county and its flood control district responsible for tainted water released into the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Santa Monica Baykeeper sued the county in 2008 in an effort to get the agency to treat or divert the water before it reaches the beach.

Water quality experts have long identified storm runoff — the toxic soup of bacteria, pesticides, fertilizer and trash that is swept to the sea when it rains — as the leading source of water pollution at Southern California beaches and a cause of swimmer illness.
–The Los Angeles Times

MPCA seek comment on Nicollet County dairy 
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency  invites the public to comment on an Environmental Assessment Worksheet prepared for a proposed 3,000-cow dairy northwest of St. Peter in south-central Minnesota.

Comments must be in writing and accepted by 4:30 p.m. on July 25. The MPCA is the state agency responsible for regulating feedlots in Minnesota. High Island Dairy LLC, owned by Davis Family Dairies LLC, proposes to build a total confinement barn in Lake Prairie Township of Nicollet County to house 3,000 dairy cows.

The barn would be located off 348th Street in the township, about two-thirds of a mile southwest of County Road 8. The dairy would use a process called “anaerobic digestion” to break down its manure and wastewater along with wastewater and sludge from the Le Sueur Cheese Co. This process would also create methane gas to use as energy at the site.

After digestion, the manure solids would be separated from the waste stream and used as bedding for the cows. The liquid manure, along with solids not needed for bedding, would be stored in a covered earthen basin on site until it is applied as fertilizer to cropland every year after harvest.

The dairy would generate 32.85 million gallons of manure a year. The on-site basin would have 15 months of storage capacity for manure and wastewater produced at the proposed facility as well as for the waste from the cheese factory.

Copies of the High Island Dairy worksheet are available on the MPCA Environmental Assessment Worksheets and Environmental Impact Statements webpage. The proposed dairy requires a water appropriation permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as it would use 45 million gallons of water a year. It also requires a conditional use permit from Nicollet County. –MPCA News Release

Lubber to lecture on sustainability’s bottom line

January 23, 2012

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.

Leader on corporate sustainability to lecture

Mindy Lubber

Mindy Lubber, an international leader in efforts by investors to lead and pressure multinational companies to adopt environmentally sustainable business practices, will deliver a free, public lecture March 1 in St. Paul.

The lecture, “Investing in Sustainability: Building Water Stewardship Into the Bottom Line,” is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences. Register to attend. Learn about the lecture series and view video of previous speakers.

Lubber is president of Ceres, a 22-year-old Boston-based nonprofit that works with companies like Coca-Cola, Levi Strauss and IBM to encourage the firms to make their products and processes more water- efficient and less vulnerable to climate change. As part of that work, Lubber directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, an alliance of 100 institutional investors who manage $10 trillion in assets.

Lubber’s lecture will focus on the risks businesses and their shareholders face as a result of a population-driven demand for increased water use colliding with a fixed global supply, aggravated by more pronounced droughts and flooding resulting from climate change. She will offer specific examples of companies that are changing their business models to become more sustainable.

Conservation Minnesota analyzes spending
So how did environmental programs fare in the budget deals that ended the shutdown of Minnesota government last summer?

Not so well, according to a new 23-page analysis prepared by Conservation Minnesota, the latest in a series of such reviews the group has conducted since 2002.

The 2008 Legacy Amendment  specified that revenue from the sales tax increase approved by voters for the environment, clean water and arts and culture “must supplement traditional sources of funding for those purposes and may not be used as a substitute.” The Conservation Minnesota analysis does not directly answer the legal question whether that provision was violated during last year’s budget deals, but the title of the analysis is pointed: “If it Looks Like a Duck…”

The executive summary of the analysis states: “There are increasingly frequent instances where the Legislature has used Legacy funds to backfill budget cuts, raising concerns that the intended benefits of Legacy funds may erode over time.”

State, feds sign ag pollution agreement
 The State of Minnesota, the federal Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Jan. 17 signed an agreement to develop a new program to encourage farmers to meet still-to-be-defined standards for preventing erosion and pollutant runoff from their fields and feedlots.

Under the program, farmers who take part and meet the standards would receive a guarantee that they would not later be subject to more stringent standards for up to 10 years.

The agreement was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.

Read about the agreement in the Star Tribune, the Pioneer Press, Minnesota Public Radio, a Dayton news release, a USDA news release. And read a Minnesota Environmental Partnership news release questioning the agreement and the concept of providing farmers safe harbor from future regulation.  Read a recent report to the EPA from the agency’s Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee that recommends the EPA encourage such “certainty” agreements. Read the memorandum of understanding signed by Dayton.

Report details nitrogen pollution of air, water
Read a new article on nitrogen escaping into the air and water. The research paper, titled Excess Nitrogen in the U.S. Environment: Trends, Risks, and Solutions, was published by the Ecological Society of America.

  •  Key findings include:  Forty to 60 percent of the world’s population depends on crops grown with synthetic nitrogen.
  • About half of the nitrogen used in agriculture escapes into the environment.
  • More than 1.5 million Americans drink water that exceeds, or comes close to exceeding, health standards.
  • Nitrogen pollution warms the climate through nitrous oxide emissions, but cools it by promoting the growth of hardwood trees, which sequester carbon dioxide. On balance, the cooling effect is greater.
  • U.S. use of nitrogen fertilizer increased rapidly in the 1960s and ‘70s, then slowed. Since 1978, nitrogen fertilizer use has increased by about six-tenths of a percent annually. During that yields of corn, a major user of nitrogen, have increased 1.9 percent per year.

The report says that current strategies exist within the “current agricultural system, that – if practiced —  could reduce nitrogen losses from agriculture by 30 to 50 percent.

Report: There is good news on acid rain
 Measurable improvements in air quality and visibility, human health, and water quality in many acid-sensitive lakes and streams, have been achieved through emissions reductions from electric generating power plants and resulting decreases in acid rain. These are some of the key findings in a report to Congress by the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, a cooperative federal program.

The report shows that since the establishment of the Acid Rain Program, under Title IV of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, there have been substantial reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from power plants that use fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil, which are known to be the primary causes of acid rain. As of 2009, emissions of SO2 and NOx declined by about two-thirds relative to levels in the 1990s. These emissions levels declined even further in 2010, according to recent data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Because emission reductions result in fewer fine particles and lower ozone concentrations in the air, in 2010 there were thousands fewer premature human deaths, hospital admissions, and emergency room visits annually leading to estimated human health benefits valued at $170 to $430 billion per year.
–USGS News Release

USDA promotes pollution credit trading 
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a funding opportunity that will bring states, USDA and other stakeholders together to enhance the effectiveness of water quality credit trading. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing up to $10 million in Conservation Innovation Grants for these projects, with up to $5 million focused on water quality credit trading in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Proposals for projects are due March 2, 2012.

“For the first time USDA has offered funding specifically for water quality trading. We want to help states and other partners develop robust and meaningful markets,” Vilsack said. “Our goal is to demonstrate that markets are a cost-effective way to improve water quality in places like the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and agricultural producers are critical to the function of these markets.”

Water quality credit trading is a market-based approach to lowering the costs of reducing pollution, and has the potential to engage more farmers and ranchers in water quality improvement efforts through the implementation of more conservation practices on agricultural lands. Through water quality credit trading, a producer who implements conservation practices to reduce water quality pollutants can also benefit by generating water quality market credits that could be sold in an open market, which would reduce the costs of implementing and maintaining the conservation practices.
–PoliticalNews

Dayton urges $$ for Lutsen snow-making 
The bonding proposal announced by Gov. Mark Dayton includes $3.6 million to build a water pipeline from Lake Superior to the Lutsen Mountains ski resort. Lutsen Mountains currently pumps water from the Poplar River, a designated trout stream, to make snow for skiing.

Despite low water levels, the DNR issued Lutsen a permit last fall to pump 150 million gallons per year. In exchange, the agency told the ski area to find another water source by 2014.

The governor’s proposal would provide water to the ski resort, a golf course, resorts and private homes.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Obama wants more time to mull pipeline
The Obama administration refused to authorize the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying a congressionally imposed deadline left too little time to evaluate routes that would avoid an aquifer in Nebraska.

In rejecting the permit, however, the State Department said Canadian pipeline company TransCanada Corp. can reapply to build the link between oil sands in Alberta and Gulf Coast refineries. TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said the company was disappointed but will reapply after mapping another route around the Ogallala aquifer, a source for drinking and irrigation water, later this year.

The pipeline has been an election year lightning rod across the political spectrum. Republican and industry leaders are painting the pipeline as creating jobs and boosting U.S. energy security. Environmentalists and many Democrats argue that the pipeline would promote a particularly polluting form of crude oil and could threaten water supplies.
–The Houston Chronicle

California suit focuses on sucker fish 
A federal plan to preserve more than 9,000 acres of river habitat so that the threatened Santa Ana sucker fish can fulfill its complex life cycle has run into stiff resistance from critics who say it jeopardizes development and water supplies in the Inland Empire.

Two cities and 10 water districts have sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in U.S. District Court over the agency’s decision to preserve the habitat. They say that it imposes restrictions on water conservation, groundwater recharge and flood control operations that affect water supplies for 1 million residents, and that it threatens plans to sell Santa Ana River water to thirsty communities elsewhere.

Environmental groups led by the Center for Biological Diversity, CalTrout, the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society responded by filing petitions to intervene in the case on behalf of the federal agency. A hearing on the case has been scheduled for February.
–The Los Angeles Times

Conservation Stewardship deadline extended
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White announced that the cut-off date for the current Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) ranking period has been extended to January 27, 2012. Producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship are eligible for CSP payments.

“We want to make sure that people who want to be considered for CSP during this first ranking period have the time they need to complete their applications,” White said. “CSP is a very popular program and I encourage interested producers to apply at their local NRCS office as soon as they can.”

CSP is offered in all 50 states, tribal lands and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-ups. Administered by NRCS, CSP provides many conservation benefits including improved water and soil quality, enhanced wildlife habitat and conservation activities that address the effects of climate change.
–AgWeb.com

Report: Ag research needs sustainability focus

July 6, 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.

Research Council urges focus on agricultural sustainability 
Government policies and agricultural research are too focused on increasing crop production and should be directed toward softening the impact of farming on the land and water, researchers say.

Farms have increased production by 158 percent over the past 60 years, but that has come with a cost to water quality and water supplies, and agriculture also is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

 “Our finding was that there is too much emphasis on productivity, mainly of industrial ingredients,” said one of the 15 members of the study panel, Cornelia Flora, a sociologist at Iowa State University who specializes in agricultural and rural issues.

The report said that most public agricultural research funding is targeted toward improving farm productivity and reducing costs. Just one-third goes toward other aspects of farming practices, such as the environmental impact. Federal and state research programs “should aggressively fund” studies of farming systems that making farming “robust and resilient over time,” the report said.

The researchers also said that federal farm subsidies encourage farmers to maximize yields and plant the same crops year after year and that more study is needed to determine what impact alternative policies could have on farming practices.
–The Des Moines Register

 Sulfide mining review under way again
Four months after an environmental analysis of a proposed copper-nickel mining project in northeastern Minnesota was slammed by a federal agency, a revamped study is finally moving ahead.

Anxious environmentalists and many concerned residents hope this one turns out to be a lot more comprehensive.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction, and we are really counting on it being a thorough analysis,” said Betsy Daub, policy director for the advocacy group Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “It’s what Minnesota’s waters deserve.”

At issue is whether a type of mining proposed by PolyMet Mining, which has led to widespread pollution elsewhere, can be done safely near one of Minnesota’s most vulnerable areas — the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a vast system of federally protected and interconnected lakes and rivers. 

Nearby, two other ambitious sulfide-mining proposals also are in the works, offering the prospect of more intensive activity near the wilderness border.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Arsenic in groundwater epidemic in Bangladesh
Hanufa Bibi stoops in a worn sari and mismatched flip-flops to work the hand pump on her backyard well. Spurts of clear water wash grains of rice from her hands, but she can never get them clean.

Thick black warts tattoo her palms and fingers, the result of drinking arsenic-laced well water for years. It’s a legacy that new research has linked to 1 in 5 deaths among those exposed in Bangladesh — an impoverished country where up to half of its 150 million people have guzzled tainted groundwater.

 The World Health Organization has called it “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history,” as countless new wells continue to be dug here daily without testing the water for toxins.

 “The magnitude of the arsenic problem is 50 times worse than Chernobyl,” said Richard Wilson, president of the nonprofit Arsenic Foundation and a physics professor emeritus at Harvard University who was not involved in the study.
–The Associated Press

EPA proposes crackdown on nitrogen pollution
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed tough pollution caps for the Chesapeake Bay, requiring Maryland and other mid-Atlantic states to do more to clean up the troubled estuary than previously thought necessary.

The pollution limits proposed by the EPA would force the six states and the District of Columbia to roughly double the pace at which they’ve been removing nitrogen, one of the two nutrients fouling the bay. Maryland, for instance, would have to curtail nitrogen by 15 percent over the next seven years — a regimen likely to require costly upgrades to sewage treatment plants, expensive retrofits of storm drains in urban and suburban areas, and major new curbs on runoff of fertilizer and chicken manure from Eastern Shore farms.

EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said the draft pollution-reduction targets would not be easy for the states to achieve. But they represent federal scientists’ best estimates of what’s needed to restore fish-sustaining oxygen to the waters of North America’s largest estuary. Dead zones form every summer in the Chesapeake from algae blooms that are fed by sewage plants, farm and urban and suburban runoff and air pollution.
–The Baltimore Sun 

FDA inches toward regulating drugs fed to livestock
Federal food regulators took a tentative step toward banning a common use of penicillin and tetracycline in the water and feed given cattle, chickens and pigs in hopes of slowing the growing scourge of killer bacteria.

 But the Food and Drug Administration has tried without success for more than three decades to ban such uses. In the past, Congress has stepped in at the urging of agricultural interests and stopped the agency from acting.

 In the battle between public health and agriculture, the guys with the cowboy hats generally win.

The F.D.A. released a policy document stating that agricultural uses of antibiotics should be limited to assuring animal health, and that veterinarians should be involved in the drugs’ uses.
–The New York Times

Turn in a polluter – on line
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently launched its new online Complaint Tracker system. Citizens with environmental complaints can now fill out an online form available via the MPCA web site and click to send it directly to a MPCA inspector. 

 The MPCA receives about 1,000 environmental complaints from citizens each year. Complaints range from seeing a neighbor illegally dumping garbage to spotting a puzzling oily sheen on a lake. 

 “The MPCA relies on citizens to notify us of potential environmental problems, whether it’s someone dumping a mystery substance into a river or someone running a business without appropriate environmental safeguards and permits,” said Katie Koelfgen, supervisor, MPCA Air Quality Compliance and Enforcement Unit. “Speed and efficiency are important when it comes to protecting the environment. Once the MPCA knows about the problem and investigates, we’re able to take action quickly before further environmental damage is done. ” 

 While citizens can still rely on the phone to report a complaint, the new online system eliminates the need for messages, phone tag or repeated phone calls for more information. MPCA inspectors find the Complaint Tracker system to be user-friendly and efficient, allowing them to follow up on complaints more quickly. The phone numbers for complaints are 651-296-6300 or 1-800-657-3864.
–MPCA news release

DNR sampling well water in Benton County
Water samples from about 100 wells in Benton County are being collected and analyzed for general and trace chemistry during the next two months by hydrogeologists from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The data is being collected for the Benton County Geologic Atlas, a cooperative effort involving staff from the Minnesota Geological Survey, DNR Waters Division and Benton County. Samples are also being tested to learn how long the water has been underground.

 DNR Waters staff will be contacting Benton county residents to request permission for well sampling, which involves collecting a water sample and measuring the depth to water in each well. The selection of wells for sampling will be based on geology, location, well depth and well construction. Water sampled will come from wells drawing water from aquifers at varying depths. Owners of wells that are sampled will receive a report of the laboratory results for their well.
–DNR News Release

No federal permit required for U.P. mine
A member of Congress says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided that Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. doesn’t need a federal permit to build a nickel and copper mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak, whose district includes the section of Marquette County where the mine would be located, announced the decision. The Associated Press left messages seeking comment with EPA’s regional office in Chicago. 

The federal permit was the last regulatory hurdle for Kennecott Eagle, which already has state permits to build and operate the mine.

 Opponents of the project contend the mine would pollute groundwater and rivers in the remote area near Lake Superior. Kennecott says it will protect the environment.
–The Associated Press 

Penn State climate scientist cleared of misconduct
An American scientist accused of manipulating research findings on climate science was cleared of that charge by his university, the latest in a string of reports to find little substance in the allegations known as Climategate.

 An investigative panel at Pennsylvania State University, weighing the question of whether the scientist, Michael E. Mann, had “seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities,” declared that he had not.

 Dr. Mann said he was gratified by the findings, the second report from Penn State to clear him. An earlier report had exonerated him of related charges that he suppressed or falsified data, destroyed e-mail and misused confidential information.
–The New York Times