Posts Tagged ‘phosphorus pollution’

Innovative Wisconsin phosphorus rules OK’d

July 30, 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.

 
EPA approves Wisconsin’s phosphorus rules
The Environmental Protection Agency approved a first-of-its-kind program to cut phosphorus levels in Wisconsin’s lakes, rivers and streams.

The goal is cleaner water, fewer weeds and algae blooms and better habitat for fish and other aquatic life.

The idea is to allow wastewater treatment plants and companies such as paper mills or dairies with pollution discharge permits to avoid or reduce pollution-control costs, which they would presumably pass on to customers, in favor of partnerships within watersheds aimed at stemming the flow of phosphorus.

Those partnerships could include grants for farmers to change their field and husbandry practices and help communities control runoff from streets.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sediment, carp threaten Pool 2
Read two articles by St. Paul Pioneer Press on threats facing the Mississippi River’s Pool 2, the stretch of river between St.

Paul and Hastings. The first of the related reports deals with the sediment filling the pool, and the second deals with Asian carp.

Minneapolis, St. Paul water use declines
During a summer as hot as this one, it may be difficult to believe that water use in Minneapolis and St. Paul has been declining steeply and steadily over a prolonged period.

Different measures are available for the two cities, but they both show the same strong trend over the past 15 to 30 years:

• In Minneapolis, consumption dropped 17.2 percent from 1998 through 2007, a time when the population was virtually unchanged. In August 2011, a dry month, the city used 31 percent less water than it did in August 2006, a wet month. And in 2011, Minneapolis residents and businesses used 378 million fewer gallons than they did the year before.

• In St. Paul, daily average water use dropped nearly 21 percent from 1980 through 2011. Peak use during that period was in the drought year of 1988.
–The Star Tribune

Cutting water use in Nebraska
Does talking about water conservation work?

It did recently in Lincoln, Neb.

Read a Lincoln Journal Star article about daily water use dropping by 10 million gallons the day after Mayor Chris Beutler urged residents to water their lawns less.

Hearing set on Shakopee sand mining
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency invites the public to an informational meeting Aug. 2 on the draft state air emissions permit for the proposed Great Plains Sands facility near Shakopee.

The meeting will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Scott County Conference Center, 205 Fourth Ave. W., in Shakopee. The meeting will start with an open house for informal discussion, followed by a formal presentation at 7:15 p.m., with time for questions and answers.

Great Plains Sands proposes to operate a mining facility to produce hydraulic fracturing sand, commonly called “frac sand” or “silica sand,” for use in the natural gas and oil industry. The facility would be located in Louisville and Sand Creek townships, along Highway 169, in Scott County, on the south side of the Twin Cities metro area.

The company would mine about 100 acres, use an additional 28 acres for processing and railcar loading, and leave 12 acres as setbacks and buffer areas. The site is zoned for rural industrial use and previous land uses include mining, hog farming, auto salvaging, and concrete mixing.

Scott County recently approved an interim-use permit for the proposed Great Plains Sands facility. The MPCA is the government unit responsible for the air emissions permit. The draft permit will be available for review and comment on the MPCA Public Notices webpage. The public comment period will run July 27 to Aug. 27.
–MPCA News Release

Audubon challenges Florida ag rules
The Florida Audubon Society took on the state’s largest sugar producers, challenging recently issued permits that allow the pollution control practices the companies use on 234,932 acres of farmland in the Everglades.

The permits were issued after the South Florida Water Management District approved the companies’ “best management practices,” procedures growers undertake to reduce pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste and other pollutants that flow off from their fields.

Audubon filed a petition with the district for an administrative law judge to intervene and deny the permits. The petition will be sent to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings to determine whether to appoint a judge.
–The Palm Beach Post

Chinese protest water pollution
Angry demonstrators entered a government office in the port city of Qidong, near Shanghai, and smashed computers and destroyed furniture to protest a waste discharge plant that they said would pollute the water supply.

In reaction, the local government Web site said that plans for the discharge plant, which was to be part of a paper manufacturing plant, had been abandoned.

China’s authorities face a mounting pattern of protests against pollution, and in particular, against industrial plants that locals can single out during the planning stage or in the early days of construction.
–The New York Times

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Silver carp, zebra mussels, ag ‘certainty’

March 5, 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.

First silver carp caught in Minnesota
A silver carp and a bighead carp were caught in a seine net by commercial fishermen in the Mississippi River near Winona, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Silver and bighead carp, members of the Asian carp family, are nonnative species that can cause serious ecological problems as they spread into new waters.

The silver carp caught March 1 weighed about 8 pounds. It represents the farthest upstream discovery to date of the species, known for its tendency to leap from the water when startled.

“A silver carp discovery this far upstream is discouraging, but not surprising,” said Tim Schlagenhaft of the DNR’s Mississippi River Team at Lake City. “This is further evidence that Asian carp continue to move upstream in the Mississippi River.”

No established populations of bighead or silver carp are known in Minnesota. However, individual Asian carp have been caught by commercial fishermen in recent years. Three silver carp (two in pool 8 near La Crosse, one in pool 9) were caught between 2008 and 2011. One bighead carp was caught in the St. Croix River in 1996 and one in 2011. Between 2003-2009, six bighead carp were caught in the Mississippi River between Lake Pepin and the Iowa border.
–DNR News Release

Ag ‘certainty’ candidates sought
Candidates are being sought to serve on an advisory committee to help develop the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program. The new program is the result of a January 17 agreement by Governor Mark Dayton and federal officials, with the goal of enhancing Minnesota’s water quality by accelerating adoption of on-farm water quality practices.

The committee, being formed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, will provide recommendations to MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson regarding the development of the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification, as well as its particular features and focus. The committee will be convened and staffed by MDA, and will serve at Commissioner Frederickson’s discretion.

Committee composition will be established by Commissioner Frederickson, with membership from the following:

  • Two farmers or ranchers.
  •  Two representatives of general farm organizations.
  •  Three representatives of commodity or livestock organizations.
  • One representative of agriculture-related business.
  • One representative of crop consultants or advisors.
  • Two representatives of environmental organizations.
  • Two representatives of conservation organizations.
  • Two representatives of local government units.

In addition, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Department of Natural Resources, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the University of Minnesota Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will be invited to provide technical support.
–MPCA News Release

Legacy $$ sought for zebra mussel fight 
Zebra mussels are a form of biological pollution spreading rapidly across Minnesota lakes. So does that make the fight to combat them worthy of Legacy Fund money?

Some residents of lakeshore communities in the west metro think so, and they’re mobilizing to persuade lawmakers to direct some of the $90 million raised each year for the Clean Water Legacy Fund toward zebra mussels, arguing that they’re the most urgent environmental problem facing the state’s lakes.

“We see this as the threat of our time, and prevention needs to happen,” said Terrie Christian, president of the Association of Medicine Lake Area Citizens in Plymouth. “If we wait until afterwards, it’s going to cost the state and all citizens a lot more, and our lakes are going to be wrecked.”

For Christian and other lake advocates, the invasive fingernail-sized mussels are just as detrimental to clean water as too much silt or fertilizer or other pollutants. They’ve infested about 30 lakes across the state, including heavily trafficked Lake Minnetonka.

Once introduced in a lake or stream, the mussel populations explode and cannot be stopped because they have no natural predators. For now, the best solution to slowing their spread is to inspect and, if necessary, decontaminate all boats that leave infested waters, a daunting and costly proposition.
 –The Star Tribune

Wisconsin wetlands bill signed 
Following months of controversy, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law making it easier for developers to build on wetlands throughout the state.

Under the new law, developers proposing a project on wetlands either would have to create new wetlands equal to the amount they destroy or pay the Department of Natural Resources to protect other wetlands throughout the state.

“What we are going to sign today is a great example of how government can be a true partner to economics development instead of a barrier,” Walker said. “There is a balance out there. I want clean air, clean water and clean land. The two can go hand in hand.”

Walker said the balance could be achieved because the bill still allows development and expansion of wetlands under the new agreement with DNR, while at the same time eliminating government barriers to economic development in the state.
 –The Badger Herald

St. Croix bridge bill passed 
Decades of debate over the proposed St. Croix River crossing ended with a five-minute vote in the U.S. House, which approved the plan overwhelmingly and sent it to President Obama for his signature.

The 339-80 vote easily surpassed the two-thirds needed to fast-track the project, a move made necessary after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton gave Congress a March 15 deadline before reallocating state funding.

“This is it!” said Rep. Michele Bachmann, who carried the bill in the House. “After decades of bureaucratic holdups and frivolous lawsuits from radical environmentalists, the people of the St. Croix River Valley will finally have their bridge.”

A unanimous Senate approved the same measure last month, belying the discord that underlies the $690 million project. Congressional action was needed to exempt the bridge from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a landmark law from the 1960s sponsored by former U.S. Sen. and Vice President Walter Mondale. Mondale lobbied against the bridge, calling it “a brutal assault on one of the most magnificent rivers in America.”
–The Star Tribune

Guilty verdict in zebra mussel case
George Wynn, the 54-year-old Fargo man believed to have caused the zebra mussel infestation of Rose Lake near Vergas, was convicted for transferring water equipment with invasive species attached.

Wynn’s case is one of the first of its kind in Minnesota after a 2011 law change that allows the state to prosecute people who transfer invasives on any kind of water equipment, not just boats and trailers. Wynn’s offending piece of water equipment was a boat lift, which is believed to have been moved from the mussel-infested Lake Lizzie to Rose Lake.

Wynn’s charges, however, stem from his moving of the lift from Rose Lake to a different area without cleaning the lift, which was clearly covered in mussels by that time. Wynn faced fines and fees of $500, as well as a restitution charge of an additional $500.

He was also placed on probation for a year. Assistant County Attorney Heather Brandborg said that $500 was all the DNR requested in restitution costs, and The Journal could not reach DNR representatives who could comment further role on the department’s costs in the case. However, the DNR reported in October 2011 that costs of treating the lake could run about $14,000.
–The Fergus Falls Journal

Farmer-led council works to protect Whitewater
Farmers in the Whitewater Watershed are taking the lead in water quality improvement through the Farmer-Led Council of the Whitewater River Watershed.

The council is the first of its kind in Minnesota. It’s modeled on similar efforts in Iowa where farmers gather to determine what they need to do to clean up impaired streams in their watershed.

Jim Frederick of Lewiston chairs the council. He’s involved because he wants to leave an environmental legacy and wants the land to be in better shape when he’s done farming than when he began.

Improving the land ties with improving water quality. The Whitewater River and its tributaries are impaired for nitrates, fecal coliform and turbidity, which is a measure of the water’s clarity.
–AgriNews

USGS tracks phosphorous through groundwater 
Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey have, for the first time, demonstrated how aquifer composition can affect how excessive levels of phosphorous (an essential nutrient contained in fertilizers) can be carried from fertilized agricultural fields via groundwater to streams and waterways.

This finding will allow for more informed management of agriculture, ecosystem, and human water needs.

“Until now, studies of phosphorus transport to streams have been focused on surface-water pathways because it was previously assumed that phosphorus does not dissolve into soil water and is not mobilized to groundwater,” explained USGS researcher Joseph Domagalski. “Farmers and resource managers can use the study information to better manage the application of fertilizer on agricultural fields and minimize phosphorus contamination in downstream water bodies.”
–USGS News Release

 

USGS report documents nitrate pollution

September 24, 2010

Pollution of both surface and ground waters by two major contaminants – nitrogen and phosphorus – has failed to improve or has gotten worse since the early 1990s, a major new study by the U.S. Geological Survey reports.

The new study, released Thursday, Sept. 23,  contained compelling evidence about the widespread nitrate contamination of shallow aquifers, the source of water for many people who rely on private wells.  

The study, which examined results from multiple tests of streams and groundwater between 1992 and 2004, found:

  •   Nitrate concentrations in 7 percent of about 2,400 private wells across the country exceeded the national health standard for drinking water.
  •  In agricultural areas, water from more than 20 percent of the shallow private wells tested exceeded the health standard.
  •  In deeper wells used for public water supply systems, about 3 percent of the water tested exceeded the limit.
  • In streams in agricultural and urban areas, levels of nitrogen and phosphorus were two to 10 times greater than Environmental Protection Agency criteria set for protecting the health of plants and other organisms.

Elevated levels of nitrate can be caused by fertilizers, runoff from feedlots and septic systems. High levels of nitrate in drinking water are especially harmful for infants, causing a condition known as methemoglobinemia or “blue baby syndrome.”

Phosphorus from fertilizers and naturally occurring organic sources feeds nuisance algae growth. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus contribute to oxygen-deprived “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico and other waters.

The USGS report, titled Elevated Nitrogen and Phosphorus Still Widespread in Much of the Nation’s Streams and Groundwater, is available at www.usgs.gov.

In a news release announcing the report’s release, Mathew C. Larsen, the USGS associate director for water, said: “Despite major federal, state and local efforts and expenditures to control sources and movement of nutrients within our nation’s watersheds, national-scale progress was not evident in this assessment, which is based on thousands of measurements and hundreds of studies across the country from the 1990s and early 2000s.”

In Minnesota, a random test of water quality in about 700 private wells in the mid-90s by the state Health Department, found that 5.8 percent exceeded the health standard for nitrate.

 In Dakota County, where the county aggressively samples water from private wells, about one in every four wells violates the health standard for nitrate, according to Jill Trescott, the county’s supervisor for groundwater protection.

 “It’s definitely worse in the rural parts of the county, particularly in the east and the south,” Trescott said. And she added: “It’s the older wells we see problems with.” Newer wells, drilled since about 1989, are much less likely to exceed the nitrate standard because wells since then have been drilled deeper, she said.

USDA: Progress on erosion; more needed

June 21, 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.

 USDA: Progress on pollution and erosion; more needs to be done
A new U.S. Department of Agriculture report says farmers in the Upper Mississippi River Basin have made good progress in reducing sediment, nutrient, and pesticide losses from farm fields through conservation practices. But more work is needed to reduce nonpoint agricultural sources of pollution to acceptable levels, according to the draft report.

The report’s executive summary states:

  • Use of soil erosion control practices is widespread, with most acres receiving some form of erosion control treatment. Nevertheless, about 15 percent of the cultivated cropland acres still have excessive sediment loss from fields and require additional erosion control practices.
  •  Complete and consistent use of nutrient management (proper rate, form, timing, and method of application) is generally lacking throughout the region. About 62 percent of the cultivated cropland acres require additional nutrient management to reduce the loss of nitrogen or phosphorus from fields. 
  • The most critical conservation concern in the region is loss of nitrogen through leaching. About 51 percent of cropped acres require additional nutrient management to address excessive levels of nitrogen loss in subsurface flow pathways, including tile drainage systems. About 36 percent of cropped acres need treatment only for nitrogen loss in subsurface flow. 
  • About 15 percent of the acres are critically under-treated in terms of conservation practices. 
  • Nutrient loss from fields is within acceptable limits when soil erosion control practices are paired with management of rate, form, timing, and method of nutrient application that maximizes the availability of nutrients for crop growth while minimizing environmental losses. A suite of practices that includes both soil erosion control and consistent nutrient management is required to simultaneously address soil erosion and nitrogen leaching loss. 
  • Treatment of erosion alone can exacerbate the nitrogen leaching problem because reducing surface water increases infiltration and, therefore, movement of soluble nitrogen into subsurface flow pathways. Soil erosion control practices are effective in reducing the loss of nitrogen in surface runoff, but for some acres the re-routing of surface water runoff to subsurface flow along with incomplete nutrient management results in a small net increase in total nitrogen loss from the field. 

The full draft report is available here.

Wisconsin poised to adopt phosphorus limits
Wisconsin farmers would face phosphorus run-off limits for the first time and wastewater treatment plants would have to follow tighter discharge standards on the oxygen-depleting nutrient under a sweeping rules package state environmental officials are poised to adopt.

The rules represent more than a decade’s worth of work by the Department of Natural Resources to curtail phosphorus pollution in state waters. They address a wide range of pollution sources, from farm fields to wastewater plants to developers. The Natural Resources Board, which sets DNR policy, is scheduled to vote on them.

Bruce Baker, the head of the DNR’s Water Division, said phosphorus regulation has been one of the agency’s weak points since the early 1980s. Now research has advanced enough to provide a scientific basis for new standards, he said.
–The Associated Press  

North-flowing phosphorus threatens Lake Winnipeg
A commercial fishing industry that has prospered for 120 years on Lake Winnipeg, the world’s 10th largest freshwater lake, is threatened by pollution, much of it flowing north in the Red River from Minnesota and North Dakota. 

The main culprit is phosphorus from both human-made and natural sources, and scientists say there are no easy solutions to the problem. State and international borders make it more complicated as farmers, fishermen and scientists alike try to save the lake.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Half a world away from the Gulf, oil spills are commonplace
BODO, Nigeria — Big oil spills are no longer news in this vast, tropical land. The Niger Delta, where the wealth underground is out of all proportion with the poverty on the surface, has endured the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every year for 50 years by some estimates. The oil pours out nearly every week, and some swamps are long since lifeless.

Perhaps no place on earth has been as battered by oil, experts say, leaving residents here astonished at the nonstop attention paid to the gusher half a world away in the Gulf of Mexico. It was only a few weeks ago, they say, that a burst pipe belonging to Royal Dutch Shell in the mangroves was finally shut after flowing for two months: now nothing living moves in a black-and-brown world once teeming with shrimp and crab.
–The New York Times  

EPA’s proposed Florida water standards draw fire
The Hillsboro Canal slices through the sugarcane fields south of Lake Okeechobee and heads east through the houses and strip malls of Parkland, Boca Roton and Deerfield Beach. Empty plastic bottles, candy wrappers and other trash litter the banks. An occasional wading bird pokes for food in the black water.

The canal is among hundreds of streams, canals, lakes and rivers that face tough and controversial new pollution standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The rules are intended primarily to keep algae from choking the springs, lakes and rivers of North and Central Florida, but the EPA has included all the state’s waterways, with special criteria for South Florida’s canals.

Environmental groups, who sued to force EPA to impose the limits, say the restrictions are necessary to protect water bodies from fertilizer and other pollutants washing off lawns, farms and industrial operations.

Dozens of powerful opponents have lined up against the proposal, with paper, citrus and power companies expressing concern about costs. The Florida Department of Agriculture estimates it would cost more than $1 billion a year to implement.
–The Sun-Sentinel

Colorado River water runs a deficit
Colorado River water consumed yearly for agriculture and by the 30 million Westerners who rely on it now exceeds the total annual flow.

A growing awareness of that limited flow is leading to increased scrutiny of urban development — especially projects that require diverting more water to the east side of the Continental Divide.

“We’re no longer in a surplus situation,” said Bill McDonald, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s deputy commissioner for policy and budget. “The teeter-totter has tipped.”

Federal data show that the average annual use of Colorado River water (15.4 million acre-feet) has surpassed the average annual supply (14.5 million acre-feet) in the river.
–The Denver Post

California not ready to say drought is ended
Late spring storms smothered the Sierra in snow. The state’s biggest reservoir is nearly full. Precipitation across much of California has been above average. By standard measures, California’s three-year drought is over.

“From a hydrologic standpoint, for most of California, it is gone,” said state hydrologist Maury Roos, who has monitored the ups and downs of the state’s water for 50 years.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t lifting his drought declaration. Los Angeles isn’t ending its watering restrictions and Southern California’s major water wholesaler isn’t reversing delivery cuts. Despite months of rain and snow and rising levels in the state’s major reservoirs, water managers aren’t ready to celebrate or make the drought’s end official.
–The Los Angeles Times 

 Faucet snails afflict Crow Wing River
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will designate the Crow Wing River in Hubbard, Wadena, Todd, Cass and Morrison counties as “infested waters” later this month because the faucet snail (Bithynia tentaculata) has been found there. The snail is linked to waterfowl deaths at Lake Winnibigoshish and the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota. 

The faucet snail was first noticed in nearby Upper and Lower Twin lakes and the Shell River in Wadena County last fall. The Twin lakes and the Shell River are connected to the Crow Wing River, so the recent detection of the faucet snails is not a surprise.

New regulations will take effect along the river to help stop movement of the faucet snail to other waters. Once designated “infested water,” state law prohibits the transport of water from the Crow Wing River without a permit.  It also prohibits anglers or commercial bait harvesters from harvesting bait from these waters without a permit.
–Minnesota DNR news release

Ethanol producer eyes 1,700-mile pipeline
Poet, the world’s largest producer of ethanol, and Oklahoma-based Magellan Midstream Partners LP want to build the nation’s first pipeline to transport corn ethanol from the Midwest to the East Coast.

Both companies say the project would create more than 50,000 construction jobs during the installation of the ethanol pipeline, which could be complete as soon as 2014.

About 1,100 permanent jobs would be generated by the joint venture following completion of the pipeline, which could position the United States as an exporter of ethanol.

Stretching from South Dakota to New Jersey, the proposed 1,700-mile, $3.5 billion project would extend into southern Minnesota and snake through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey before terminating in Linden, N.J.
–Finance & Commerce 

EPA questions Monsanto dam in Idaho
Federal regulators are concerned that a dam built by Monsanto Co. earlier this year to trap phosphate mine runoff may be stopping more than just pollution.

They say the dam has also halted millions of gallons of water in Sheep Creek that would otherwise help fill the Blackfoot River.

The Environmental Protection Agency now wants the maker of Roundup herbicide to begin a costly treatment to remove selenium and heavy metals, then discharge clean water downstream, instead of capturing it in a 50-million-gallon lake behind the dam and using it for dust control on its mining roads.

The situation shows the predicament that companies like St. Louis-based Monsanto and the government face in Idaho’s rich-but-polluted phosphate mining country not far from Yellowtone National Park: They must work to contain naturally occurring poisons unearthed during a century of digging, while protecting water supplies in an agricultural state hit hard by drought over the last decade.
–The Associated Press

U.S.-Canada panel warns of threats to groundwater
 The Great Lakes Science Advisory Board issued a bi-national assessment of threats to groundwater in the Great Lakes basin.

The report, prepared for the International Joint Commission, notes groundwater in the Great Lakes basin is similar in volume to Lake Michigan and provides a source of drinking water for millions of basin residents.

“Yet this major component of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem receives inadequate attention in policies designed to protect Great Lakes water quality,” officials said. A PDF of the full report is available.
–UPI.com

 St. Paul to get new water meters
That dusty, aging water meter in your basement? It’s getting replaced.

St. Paul Regional Water Services is embarking on a nearly $20 million program to replace every water meter in St. Paul, Maplewood, West St. Paul, Mendota Heights, Falcon Heights and Lauderdale. That’s 94,000 meters in all, over the next three years, beginning this fall.

The new meters will be high-tech compared with the current devices. They will allow workers to remotely check water use by driving past meter locations but never actually going onto private property.

Important details, such as when a work crew will come into your basement to do the work, and how much your rates will go up as a result, have yet to be determined. The water agency is still sorting through bids on the project, and its top executive will propose an annual budget and water rates next month.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press