Posts Tagged ‘pesticide’

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

California water deal mandates conservation

November 9, 2009

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

California mandates 20% cut in cities’ water use by 2020
Lawmakers capped months of discussions, weeks of tedious negotiations and years of chasing a water deal with approval of major legislation in a marathon session.

The package, which includes an $11.1-billion bond that must go before voters, would nudge California in new directions on water policy while giving something to each of the major factions that have warred over the state’s supplies.

The measure, likely to reach the governor’s desk early next week, would establish a statewide program that for the first time would measure if too much water is being pumped from underground aquifers. It mandates an overall 20% drop in the state’s per capita water use by 2020 and creates a new, politically appointed council to oversee management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the state’s water hub.
–The Los Angeles Times

 California agriculture avoids big water cuts
Cities across the state must slash water consumption by about 20 percent over the next decade under newly passed legislation aimed at reworking the aging policies and plumbing that determine water flow to 38 million Californians.

 But the California agriculture industry, which consumes an estimated three-quarters of the water used in the state, won’t have to change its practices much under the new rules. 

And that vexes many involved in the political wrangling over water in a state where global warming, population growth and crumbling infrastructure are forcing wrenching changes in the way natural resources are divvied up.
–The San Francisco Chronicle

 Pesticide concentrations drop in rivers, USGS finds
Concentrations of several major pesticides mostly declined or stayed the same in “Corn Belt” rivers and streams from 1996 to 2006, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. 

The declines in pesticide concentrations closely followed declines in their annual applications, indicating that reducing pesticide use is an effective and reliable strategy for reducing pesticide contamination in streams.

 Declines in concentrations of the agricultural herbicides cyanazine, alachlor and metolachlor show the effectiveness of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory actions as well as the influence of new pesticide products. In addition, declines from 2000 to 2006 in concentrations of the insecticide diazinon correspond to the EPA’s national phase-out of nonagricultural uses. The USGS works closely with the EPA, which uses USGS findings on pesticide trends to track the effectiveness of changes in pesticide regulations and use.

 Scientists studied 11 herbicides and insecticides frequently detected in the Corn Belt region, which generally includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio, as well as parts of adjoining states. This area has among the highest pesticide use in the nation — mostly herbicides used for weed control in corn and soybeans. As a result, these pesticides are widespread in the region’s streams and rivers, largely resulting from runoff from cropland and urban areas.

Elevated concentrations can affect aquatic organisms in streams as well as the quality of drinking water in some high-use areas where surface water is used for municipal supply. Four of the 11 pesticides evaluated for trends were among those most often found in previous USGS studies to occur at levels of potential concern for healthy aquatic life. Atrazine, the most frequently detected, is also regulated in drinking water.

 Although trends in concentration and use almost always closely corresponded, concentrations of atrazine and metolachlor each declined in one stream more rapidly than their estimated use. According to Skip Vecchia, senior author of the report on this analysis, “The steeper decline in these instances may be caused by agricultural management practices that have reduced pesticide transport, but data on management practices are not adequate to definitively answer the question. Overall, use is the most dominant factor driving changes in concentrations.” To view the full report, click here.
–USGS news release

 3.4 million acres taken out of conservation reserve
Surveying undulating grasslands that disappear into the western Kansas horizon, retired farmer Joe Govert pointed out parcel after parcel no longer enrolled in a federal program that pays property owners not to farm environmentally sensitive land.

 The arid, wind-swept ground stripped of topsoil by Dust Bowl storms has laid undisturbed beneath a protective cover of native grasses that took two decades to re-establish under the Conservation Reserve Program. But millions of those acres are being plowed again after the 2008 Farm Bill capped the program at 32 million acres. 

More than 3.4 million acres nationwide were taken out of the program in September when the owners’ contracts expired. Most of them were in Texas, Colorado and Kansas, but hundreds of thousands of acres also came out in Montana and the Dakotas.
–The Associated Press

Federal money for Minnesota water projects increases
Minnesota stands to get a nice boost in federal cash for water infrastructure projects under a newly signed appropriations bill.  

The 2010 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill, which was signed by President Barack Obama late last week, includes $2.1 billion for wastewater and $1.39 billion for drinking water projects throughout the country.

Minnesota’s take is about $35.7 million for wastewater and $23.6 million for drinking water, which is roughly three times as much as Minnesota’s federal funding allocation was just a few years ago, noted DeAnn Stish, executive director of the Minnesota Utility Contractors Association.
–Finance and Commerce

 Malibu to phase out septic tanks
The great sewer wars of Malibu have finally drawn to a close. Sewers won.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board agreed late Thursday to ban septic systems in central and eastern Malibu, a move that would end years of fierce debate over the wastewater devices still commonly used in one of Southern California’s most picturesque and exclusive coastal communities.

New septic systems will not be permitted in Malibu and owners of existing systems will have to halt wastewater discharges within a decade.
–The Los Angeles Times

County donates land to settle water pollution case
Mower County  has agreed to donate 33.1 acres of land to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources instead of paying a $31,000 penalty for alleged stormwater violations during a ditch repair project.

 The deal completes what County Coordinator Craig Oscarson described as a three-way swap.

“It’s just like all the stars aligned,” he said. “The DNR wanted it. We didn’t want it, because by keeping it we had to maintain it.”

 The agreement is between the county, the project’s contractor, Freeborn Construction Inc. of Albert Lea, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

 The fine pertains to an incident that occurred between 2005 and 2006 when the county repaired Judicial Ditch 1 in Bennington Township.
–Austin Daily Herald

Missouri research explores algae-to-fuel
Backers of algae-based biofuels tout the simplicity of their feedstock. Sunlight and water are all that’s needed to convert carbon dioxide into fuel.

 Now, some scientists are testing the notion that sunlight might be optional.

 Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology are planning to grow algae for fuel in abandoned mines using light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.
–The New York Times

 Climate plan proposes turning Sahara into a forest
Some talk of hoisting mirrors into space to reflect sunlight, while others want to cloud the high atmosphere with millions of tonnes of shiny sulphur dust. Now, scientists could have dreamed up the most ambitious geoengineering plan to deal with climate change yet: converting the parched Sahara desert to a lush forest. The scale of the ambition is matched only by the promised rewards – the scientists behind the plan say it could “end global warming.” 

The scheme has been thought up by Leonard Ornstein, a cell biologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, together with Igor Aleinov and David Rind, climate modelers at NASA. The trio have outlined their plan in a new paper published in the Journal of Climatic Change, and they modestly conclude it “probably provides the best, near-term route to complete control of greenhouse gas induced global warming”.

Under the scheme, planted fields of fast-growing trees such as eucalyptus would cover the deserts of the Sahara and Australian outback, watered by seawater treated by a string of coastal desalination plants and channelled through a vast irrigation network. The new blanket of tree cover would bring its own weather system and rainfall, while soaking up carbon dioxide from the world’s atmosphere. The team’s calculations suggest the forested deserts could draw down around 8bn tonnes of carbon a year, about the same as emitted from fossil fuels and deforestation today. Sounds expensive? The researchers say it could be more economic than planned global investment in carbon capture and storage technology.
–The Guardian

 Minnesota scrap dealers agree to limit air pollution
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 has issued administrative consent orders to three Minnesota scrap metal recycling companies – Leroy Iron and Metal Division of Behr Iron, Alter Trading Corp. and Timm’s Auto Salvage.

The companies agreed to comply with EPA regulations designed to protect the stratospheric ozone layer at their scrap metal recycling facilities.  The Leroy plant is at 2275 Dale Ave., Leroy;  the Alter plant is at 801 Barge Channel Road, St. Paul; and the Timm’s plant is at 936 W. 12th St., St. Charles. 

The companies have agreed, among other things, to recover ozone-depleting refrigerants from each appliance and motor vehicle air conditioner that they accept or to verify that the refrigerants have been recovered according to EPA regulations.  The companies will keep logs of the details of refrigerant recovery. 

Chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants and certain substitute refrigerants deplete the stratospheric, or “good,” ozone layer allowing dangerous amounts of cancer-causing ultraviolet rays from the sun to strike the earth.  Production of some of these chemicals was stopped in 1995, and federal law strictly controls their use and handling.
–EPA new release