Posts Tagged ‘otto doering’

Water, science and the environment

September 10, 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.

Register now to attend Oct. 4 lecture on nitrogen pollution
Food production – the vast gains achieved over the last century, and the still-greater gains needed to feed a growing world population — is dependent on the availability of nitrogen in a chemical form that food grains and other plants can readily use.

Sources of reactive nitrogen

Millions of metric tons of reactive nitrogen entering the U.S. environment each year. Source: Reactive Nitrogen in the United States…A report to the EPA Science Advisory Board.

Paradoxically, the synthetic manufacture and application of nitrogen fertilizer causes significant water and air pollution. Burning fossil fuels releases the same form of nitrogen and causes the same problems for the environment and human health.

A 2011 report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said:

“Excess reactive nitrogen compounds in the environment are associated with many large-scale environmental concerns, including eutrophication of surface waters, toxic algae blooms, hypoxia, acid rain, nitrogen saturation in forests, and global warming. In addition, reactive nitrogen is associated with harmful human health effects caused by air pollution and drinking water contamination.”

On Thursday, Oct. 4, the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences will sponsor a free public lecture on the excess nitrogen issue.

Otto Doering, a Purdue University agricultural economist who chaired the committee of scientists that wrote the 2011 report to the EPA’s Science Advisory Committee, will deliver the lecture. His talk is titled Excess nitrogen: A Confounding Problem for Energy Use, Food Production, the Water We Drink and the Air We Breathe.

Register to attend the lecture. Read a q-and-a interview that Freshwater conducted with Doering. Read a PDF of the 140-page report from the EPA committee he led.

Save the dates: Public meetings on the environment set
Between Nov. 27 and Dec. 14, the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board will hold six meetings around the state to seek comment from citizens on the environment, environmental review and the state’s economy.

In an executive order last November, Gov. Mark Dayton directed the EQB to “evaluate and make recommendations for improved environmental governance and coordination.” Dayton also directed the EQB to prepare an “environmental and energy report card” examining the state’s performance and progress on protecting air, water and land.

In February, the EQB is planning to host an Environmental Congress that will examine that report card and recommend future policy.

As part of that whole process, the EQB has scheduled public-comment sessions in Rochester, Bloomington, Duluth, Worthington, St. Cloud and Moorhead. Learn more about the process and get the schedule of the meetings.

Plant life returns to fire-ravaged area of BWCA
A year ago the Pagami Creek fire roared across a trail to the canoe landing at Isabella Lake, an entry point on the southern edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, as 40 mph wind gusts drove the blaze an unprecedented 10 miles in one day.

Last summer’s fire scorched 145 square miles of forest, mostly in the Boundary Waters area. In the fall, the burn area was filled with charcoal-black trees and soil, but tiny blades of grass had started to poke through the ash.

Today, the trees still stand like black pipes, their exposed roots clawing the ground. But the forest floor is lush and colorful, with moose maple and wild sarsaparilla.

Despite a striking amount of new growth, forest managers have major concerns, among them a huge loss of organic matter and the presence of invasive plants that already are taking root.
–Minnesota Public Radio

An iconic valley, a historic dam, a looming vote
It is one of the oldest environmental battles in the United States, and it involves one of the country’s most famous national parks, one of its most liberal cities, leaders of Silicon Valley and a perennial source of conflict in California: water.

In 1913, Congress approved the construction of a dam and an eight-mile-long reservoir, called Hetch Hetchy, in the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park to supply cheap water to San Francisco.

But the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which submerged a valley that many have likened to Yosemite Valley in its grandeur and is credited with giving birth to the modern environmental movement, has lost none of its power to arouse strong emotions.
In November, San Francisco will vote on a measure that could ultimately lead to the draining and restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley — and force the city to look elsewhere for most of its water.
–The New York Times

U.S., Canada renew Great Lakes pact
The U.S. and Canada renewed a 40-year-old Great Lakes environmental pact, pledging stepped-up efforts to reduce pollution, cleanse contaminated sites and prevent exotic species invasions.

The updated Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement binds both nations to continue a cleanup and restoration initiative begun when the freshwater seas were a symbol of ecological decay. Many of their beaches were littered with foul algae blooms and dead fish. The Cuyahoga River, which flows into Lake Erie in Cleveland, was so choked with oil and chemicals that flames erupted on its surface in 1969.

The pact calls for further action on problems that inspired the original agreement three years after the embarrassing river fire and a second version in 1987. It pledges to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity” of the five lakes and the portion of the St. Lawrence River on the U.S.-Canadian border.
–The Associated Press

California groups sue to stop Mojave project
Four environmental groups filed a lawsuit  against San Bernardino County and an Orange County water district to challenge a controversial groundwater mining project in the Mojave Desert.

The crux of the lawsuit is the question of which agency should serve as lead on the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, which would pump 16 billion gallons of groundwater per year from ancient aquifers.

The Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club San Gorgonio chapter and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society contend the county should have led the environmental review of the project, not the Santa Margarita Water District in Mission Viejo, which has signed on as a future buyer of the water from Cadiz Inc.
–The Riverside Press-Enterprise

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


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