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December, 2009: About 190 countries are trying to craft a broader climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol that binds wealthy nations to emission targets between 2008 and 2012. The new deal is supposed to be completed in Copenhagen by December.

December, 2010: Possible new deadline for international climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol as leaders say the December, 2009 deadline can't be met. International leaders are scheduled to meet in Mexico City in December, 2010.

 

Environmental News

California Slow to Fix Tainted Drinking Water in Poor Towns

Unsafe drinking water in poor communities in California’s Central Valley has been a problem for years, but the state is slow to act, even though funds are available. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is threatening to cut off funds to California because the state has $455 million it hasn’t spent and is entitled to $260 million more. EPA says the state is the nation’s leader in unspent drinking water clean up funds. Los Angeles Times June 16, 2013

Maine experts advise against ditching meds in the trash; they wind up in drinking water

According to a survey by the state's environmental agency, small amounts of discarded drugs were found at three landfills in the state, confirming that pharmaceuticals thrown into household trash end up in water that drains through waste. Although most of Maine does not draw drinking water from rivers where landfill water is present, other states do. Lawmakers in Maine are trying to create a bill that would require drug manufacturers to develop and pay for a program to collect unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs from residents and dispose of them. Scientists and environmentalists have discovered that small amounts of pharmaceuticals end up in drinking water through human excretion in sewers or by pouring leftover medication down the drain. Research has revealed that pharmaceuticals sometimes harm fish and that human cells can fail to grow normally in the laboratory when exposed to trace concentrations of certain drugs. Red Orbit_ 2/8/10

NOAA reorganizes with eye toward assessing effects of climate change

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched a new climate service today, a reorganization effort aimed at improving long-range assessments of climate change, sea-level rise and severe weather. The effort is aimed at providing long-term forecasts to assist fisheries managers, farmers, state governments, renewable energy developers, water managers and others. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke likened the new climate shop to the 140-year-old National Weather Service, recounting how weather forecasting helped citizens prepare for the blizzard that slammed the mid-Atlantic region last weekend. The NOAA initiative would bring together existing climate science, currently spread through various branches at the agency. Thomas Karl, currently director of the National Climatic Data Center, would serve as transitional director of the climate service, which would also have six regional directors. New York Times_ 2/8/10

Pennsylvania plans Marcellus Shale formation hydraulic fracturing regulation to protect drinking water

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell on Thursday proposed new rules to strengthen state regulation of natural gas drilling to protect drinking water supplies and announced the hiring of 68 new inspectors. The measures reflect the Democratic governor's environmental concerns while still aiming to promote development of the massive Marcellus Shale formation. Marcellus is one of four major shale formations that could provide the United States with an abundant energy supply but whose exploitation could be inhibited by regulators. The regulations are designed to prevent the escape of drilling chemicals into domestic water supplies, following numerous local reports of contamination from a process called hydraulic fracturing. Reuters_ 1/28/10

December, 2009

Billion people's water at risk

Climate guru Al Gore warned UN climate talks on Monday that the record melting of glaciers worldwide could deprive more than a billion people of access to fresh water. A triple threat from crumbling ice sheets, disappearing glaciers and the shrinking Arctic ice cap are feeding global warming and will fuel rising sea levels, said a report co-sponsored by Gore. Adding to an avalanche of bad scientific news over the last two years, the former US vice-president also cited new research showing that the Arctic ice cap may have shrunk to record-low levels last year. AFP/Straits Times_ 12/15/09

North Pole summers could be ice free in 10 years: Catlin Arctic Survey team

The North Pole will turn into an open sea during summer within a decade, according to data released Wednesday by a team of explorers who trekked through the Arctic for three months. Findings by the Catlin Arctic Survey team, led by explorer Pen Hadow, show that most of the ice in the region is first-year ice that is only around 1.8 meters (six feet) deep and will melt next summer. The region has traditionally contained, thicker multiyear ice which does not melt as rapidly. "The area is now more likely to become open water each summer, bringing forward the potential date when the summer sea ice will be completely gone," said Professor Peter Wadhams, part of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge which analyzed the data. AP/UN Climate Change Conference_ 12/14/09

Global warming may require higher dams, rerouting water systems

With the world losing the battle against global warming so far, experts are warning that humans need to follow nature's example: Adapt or die. That means elevating buildings, making taller and stronger dams and seawalls, rerouting water systems, restricting certain developments, changing farming practices and ultimately moving people, plants and animals out of harm's way. Adapting to rising seas and higher temperatures is expected to be a big topic at the U.N. climate-change talks in Copenhagen next week, along with the projected cost — hundreds of billions of dollars, much of it going to countries that cannot afford it. AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 12/3/09

Massachusetts fines city of Gloucester after water contamination

The state has penalized the city of Gloucester $82,000 and ordered it to perform $8 million in upgrades after its public drinking water supply was contaminated this summer. A boil-water order was in place in most of Gloucester for 20 days after coliform bacteria contamination. The Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday blamed neglect of the city's water supply system and said one of its water treatment plants was plagued by lax oversight and malfunctions. The upgrades there must be done by July 1, when the plant is scheduled to reopen after a winter shutdown. AP/Boston Globe_ 12/3/09

Many Colorado water waivers revoked after 2008 salmonella outbreak from animal feces in town of Alamosa

Colorado has revoked waivers from as many as 72 public drinking-water systems and is now requiring chlorine treatment of most public supplies as part of the response to a salmonella-poisoning epidemic that ravaged Alamosa last year. A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment report released Wednesday confirmed earlier suspicions that a decrepit infrastructure allowed deadly bacteria from animals to invade Alamosa's 320,000-gallon Weber Reservoir. When asked what could have prevented the epidemic, state drinking-water program manager Ron Falco, the report's co-author, answered, "Chlorination." Alamosa was the worst waterborne-disease outbreak in the U.S. since 2004. In Alamosa, a city of 8,900, an estimated 1,300 people may have been ill, including 40 percent of its infants. State officials identified 442 cases of "probable salmonella infections," and one man died. Denver Post_ 11/19/09

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Leaders look to 2010 for international climate deal
The world's environment ministers have not given up hope of a climate change deal in Copenhagen next month but a binding deal may have to wait until the end of next year. That was certainly the message coming from the Danish capital overnight after a meeting of 40 climate-change negotiators. They had just been given a warning from the International Energy Agency that the cost of a delay in enacting a global climate deal would cost $US500 billion a year. The fear among analysts now is that Copenhagen will start to resemble the failed Doha world trade negotiations. A Doha deal remains elusive after eight years of talks. Australian ABC News_ 11/17/09

MIT research points to carbon in man-made ponds as catalyst for arsenic contamination in Bangladeshi drinking water

Civil & Environmental Engineering Researchers in MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering believe they have pinpointed a pathway by which arsenic may be contaminating the drinking water in Bangladesh, a phenomenon that has puzzled scientists, world health agencies and the Bangladeshi government for nearly 30 years. The research suggests that human alteration to the landscape, the construction of villages with ponds, and the adoption of irrigated agriculture are responsible for the current pattern of arsenic concentration underground. The findings also indicate that drinking-water wells drilled to a greater depth would likely provide clean water. Bangladesh is the seventh most populous country in the world, and tens of millions of its citizens have been exposed to arsenic in their water over the past several decades. As many as 3,000 Bangladeshis die from arsenic-induced cancer each year and today approximately 2 million people in the country live with arsenic poisoning, which manifests as skin lesions and neurological disorders, and causes cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and cancer. Allan H. Smith a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley, calls it “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history." News Release_ 11/16/09

Nuclear scars: Tainted water runs beneath Nevada desert

A sea of ancient water tainted by the Cold War is creeping deep under the volcanic peaks, dry lake beds and pinyon pine forests covering a vast tract of Nevada. Over 41 years, the federal government detonated 921 nuclear warheads underground at the Nevada Test Site, 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Each explosion deposited a toxic load of radioactivity into the ground and, in some cases, directly into aquifers. In a study for Nye County, where the nuclear test site lies, Thomas S. Buqo, a Nevada hydrogeologist, estimated that the underground tests polluted 1.6 trillion gallons of water. That is as much water as Nevada is allowed to withdraw from the Colorado River in 16 years -- enough to fill a lake 300 miles long, a mile wide and 25 feet deep. At today's prices, that water would be worth as much as $48 billion if it had not been fouled, Buqo said. Los Angeles Times_ 11/13/09

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory nuclear clean-up a long way from complete

The Energy Department is spending $328 million to clean up two separate areas of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory -- the agency's largest nuclear-weapons cleanup project in California. Livermore is one of two U.S. labs that designed nuclear weapons. At its large test range near Tracy, in Northern California, it blew up atomic triggers that used depleted uranium. In the process, Livermore released uranium, tritium, solvents and high explosive residues into the ground and groundwater, said Judy Steenhoven, deputy chief of environmental restoration at the lab. The contaminants, however, have not affected public water supplies. At the main site in Livermore, a plume of underground water contaminated with solvents, mainly trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, as well as tritium and chromium, has migrated several hundred feet past the site boundary to a residential neighborhood. This year, the Environmental Protection Agency fined the lab $165,000 for failing to control the contamination. The lab had shut down its water treatment system after a temporary interruption in funding, but even after Congress restored funds, the lab "demonstrated a lack of diligence," the EPA said. Meanwhile, the lab's testing range, known as Site 300, it took a court order for Livermore to cap private wells that drew from the contaminated plume, said Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, a watchdog group in Livermore. Los Angeles Times_ 11/13/09

Toxic waste trickles toward New Mexico's water sources

Reporting from Los Alamos, N.M. - More than 60 years after scientists assembled the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, lethal waste is seeping from mountain burial sites and moving toward aquifers, springs and streams that provide water to 250,000 residents of northern New Mexico. Isolated on a high plateau, the Los Alamos National Laboratory seemed an ideal place to store a bomb factory's deadly debris. But the heavily fractured mountains haven't contained the waste, some of which has trickled down hundreds of feet to the edge of the Rio Grande, one of the most important water sources in the Southwest. Los Angeles Times_ 11/1/09

U.S. Steel sprays contaminated wastewater at Gary, Indiana site

U.S. Steel announced Thursday it has been spraying contaminated wastewater collected from the bottom of its hazardous waste landfill into the air over the landfill for a week -- and will continue to do so through November. The landfill holds sediment dredged from the Grand Calumet River contaminated with mercury and possible cancer-causing pollutants, such as benzene, naphthalene and polychlorinated biphenyls. The 20-foot tall landfill is located within a quarter of a mile of residential neighborhoods. Dorreen Carey, director of the Gary Department of Environmental Affairs, questioned why the citizens haven't been told about the project before. STNG/WBBM_ 10/31/09

EPA says Idaho needs to do more cleanup on the Boise River

In 2008, Idaho environmental officials declared victory and removed the lower Boise River from the state's list of polluted waters. But this month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the state was wrong and returned the river to the list. The decision has added to the pressure for cities to upgrade their wastewater treatment plants to reduce phosphorus pollution. And it requires the state to develop a plan to clean up the stretch from Indian Creek to the Snake River, where the EPA says levels of phosphorus, nitrogen and chlorophyll are highest, and the quality of spawning habitat for cold-water fish such as trout is the worst. But Dan Steensen, an attorney for irrigation districts and farmers, and Liz Paul of Idaho Rivers United, said the EPA ruling distracts them from the cleanup effort already in progress. They serve together on the Boise River Watershed Council. Idaho Statesman_ 10/25/09

Maryland's waters still a toxic dumping ground?

Factories and power plants discharged more than 2 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Maryland waterways, according to a new report by Environment Maryland. And three-fourths of that wound up in Baltimore's Curtis Bay, ranking it among the top 50 waterways nationally for toxic discharges. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the group notes, the Susquehanna River ranked in the top 20 nationally for receiving toxic discharges, with industries reporting more than 2.6 million pounds released into the water body that supplies half the bay's fresh water. And at the other end of the bay, Virginia's James River received the 6th largest amount of toxic chemicals linked with developmental problems in children. Toxic discharges are far higher in other parts of the country, the group's report reveals, with the Ohio, New and Mississippi rivers on the receiving end of the most pollution. And the amounts industry reports discharging have been greatly reduced overall, since they first began reporting such releases two decades ago. Baltimore Sun_ 10/22/09

read the full report

Conservationists rip water policy, quit state panel
Members of four influential conservation groups abruptly resigned from a Massachusetts state waterway advisory panel yesterday, alleging that a new state policy undercuts environmental protection of rivers so greatly that some could run bone dry.  Members of the Conservation Law Foundation, Charles River Watershed Association, Ipswich River Watershed Association, and Clean Water Action sent a joint resignation letter to Governor Deval Patrick saying the policy “removes any environmental consideration’’ from decisions about how much water is safe to remove from a river basin for industry, agriculture, or household use. Boston Globe_10/15/09

EPA issues final aircraft drinking water rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a final rule to ensure that safe and reliable drinking water is provided to aircraft passengers and crew. The rule provides multiple-barrier requirements for coliform sampling, best management practices, corrective action, public notification, monitoring and operator training. It will better protect the public from illnesses caused by microbiological contamination. The rule applies to the aircraft’s onboard water system only. The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating the airport watering points that include the water cabinets, carts, trucks, and hoses from which aircraft board water. EPA and the states are responsible for regulating the public water systems that supply drinking water to the airport watering points. The rule only addresses aircraft within U.S. jurisdiction; however, EPA supported an international effort led by the World Health Organization to develop international guidelines for aircraft drinking water. News Release_ 10/6/09

EPA holds up coal-mining permits: clean water is issue
Mining companies accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday of ignoring America's need for affordable energy and hurting workers in a poor region of the country by delaying permits for proposed surface, or "mountaintop," mines in Appalachia.  The decision that all 79 pending permits must undergo additional evaluation by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, because they pose a potential hazard to water, threatens job security in parts of Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio that depend heavily on coal mining, the miners said.  But environmental groups welcomed the decision and called on the Obama administration to reverse rules that allow surface mines and to enforce clean air and water legislation.  The issue pits coal miners, who argue it is more economical to dig into mountainsides than sink underground shafts, against environmentalists, who accuse the companies of dumping waste and polluting rivers and streams.  Reuters_9/30/09

New York issues rules on gas drilling on vital watershed

After months of deliberations, state environmental regulators on Wednesday released long-awaited rules governing natural gas production in upstate New York, including provisions to oversee drilling operations near New York City’s water supplies. The regulations, in a report requested last year by Gov. David A. Paterson, do not ban drilling near the watersheds, as many environmental advocates had urged. But the report sets strict rules on where wells can be drilled and requires companies to disclose the chemicals they use.  The prospect of gas drilling in upstate New York has stirred strong opposition from a coalition of environmental groups, city politicians and residents, who fear that expansive operations of this sort could contaminate the city’s drinking water. But it has gained firm supporters upstate who say the economic benefits of a new gas boom far outweigh any potential risks, especially given the weakness of the economy.  NY Times_9/30/09

EPA looks at regulating 104 chemicals in tap water
U.S. EPA has found 104 chemicals that might require regulations to keep them out of tap water -- the longest list of potential contaminants ever compiled by the agency.  A 1996 law requires EPA to evaluate possible tap-water pollutants every five years and make regulatory determinations for at least five of them.  The new list -- the agency's third -- includes pesticides, commercial chemicals, disinfection byproducts and, for the first time, pharmaceuticals.  New York Times_9/23/09

Study: Gender-bending fish widespread in U.S.

A survey of fish in rivers and streams around the country shows that a large percentage of male bass have acquired feminine characteristics. And while they can't be sure of the cause, scientists say they suspect industrial and pharmaceutical chemicals are the culprit. In regions of the southeast, 70 to 90 percent of the fish were found to be intersex. Only in Alaska's Yukon River in were fish completely free of the condition. Laboratory tests indicate several potential causes, including certain chemicals, especially a group loosely called "estrogenic compounds." These mimic the behavior of natural sex hormones — estrogens — in the body. These can come from pharmaceuticals like birth control pills, or agricultural runoff loaded with pesticides, as well as an ingredient in plastic. David Norris is an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado says there's some evidence that this gender-bending may hamper the ability of fish to reproduce. But there's no evidence that these fish are unsafe to eat. NPR_ 9/16/09

Chloride found at levels that can harm aquatic life in Northern U.S. urban streams; Winter deicing a major source

Levels of chloride, a component of salt, are elevated in many urban streams and groundwater across the northern U.S., according to a new government study. Chloride levels above the recommended federal criteria set to protect aquatic life were found in more than 40 percent of urban streams tested. The study was released today by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Elevated chloride can inhibit plant growth, impair reproduction, and reduce the diversity of organisms in streams. The effect of chloride on drinking-water wells was lower. Scientists found chloride levels greater than federal standards set for human consumption in fewer than 2 percent of drinking-water wells sampled in the USGS study. Use of salt for deicing roads and parking lots in the winter is a major source of chloride. Other sources include wastewater treatment, septic systems, and farming operations. News Release_ 9/16/09

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Showerheads harbor a bounty of germs, but only those with weakened immune system should worry: Study

New research suggests that ordinary showerheads are awash in germs, particularly a type that can cause lung disease in people whose immunity to illness is compromised. But study co-author Leah M. Feazel, a researcher at the University of Colorado's department of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, said while the new findings do raise questions, it's not clear if showerheads are any more germ-friendly than other places around the house, such as faucets, counters and toilets. The unique thing about showerheads is that the germs could be inhaled. People are unlikely to inhale other kinds of household germs that fit into the category known as biofilms, with the exception of those produced by humidifiers, according to the study. The findings were published in this week's online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Health Day/U.S. News and World Report_ 9/14/09

New York Times investigation: U.S. clean water laws are neglected, at a cost in suffering

Almost four decades ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to force polluters to disclose the toxins they dump into waterways and to give regulators the power to fine or jail offenders. States have passed pollution statutes of their own. But in recent years, violations of the Clean Water Act have risen steadily across the nation, an extensive review of water pollution records by The New York Times found. In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses. However, the vast majority of those polluters have escaped punishment. State officials have repeatedly ignored obvious illegal dumping, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which can prosecute polluters when states fail to act, has often declined to intervene. New York Times_ 9/13/09


New ship's ballast water rules; Coast Guard aims to halt spread of invasive aquatic species

The Coast Guard issued proposed standards for ballast water treatment Thursday that had been long awaited by environmental groups, legislators and others concerned about the impact of invasive aquatic species transported via ballast water in ships. There currently is no federal requirement to treat ballast water in order to kill living organisms. The proposed Coast Guard regulations, open for a 90-day public comment period, would mimic the International Maritime Organization's standards for an initial phase and then become essentially 1,000 times stricter for a second phase, as measured in numbers of live organisms per cubic meter of ballast water. California has a standard 1,000 times stricter than the IMO, as does New York for new vessels launching in 2013. But Coast Guard and industry officials said it was not clear whether it would be technologically possible to meet the stricter standards. The regulations, published in the Federal Register on Friday, include feasibility studies and the chance to revise the standards. Washington Post_ 8/30/09

Opinion

Misleading water numbers; The problem is in the denominator

Good public policy requires good data and science, but those who work to influence policy decisions in their favor are skewing the data with bad mathematics.

Often, the generation and use of bad numbers comes down to "denominator problem." Numbers are often represented as a percentage or fraction or ratio of something: for example, a new "high efficiency" toilet uses around 20% (or 1.2 gallons divided by 6 gallons) of the water used by an old, pre-1994 toilet. Or the average American uses around 1500 gallons of water each day (calculated by dividing the freshwater used for everything nationwide by the total number of Americans).  But the choice of the denominator has a huge influence over the end result, and there are a growing number of examples where the choice is made for political purposes, to come up with a result more favorable to a particular political position.
City Brights_8/26/09

EPA: Chemicals found in Wyoming drinking water might be from natural gas drilling

Federal environment officials investigating drinking water contamination near the ranching town of Pavillion, Wyo., have found that at least three water wells contain a chemical used in the natural gas drilling process of hydraulic fracturing. Scientists also found traces of other contaminants, including oil, gas or metals, in 11 of 39 wells tested there since March. The study, which is being conducted under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program, is the first time the EPA has undertaken its own water analysis in response to complaints of contamination in drilling areas, and it could be pivotal in the national debate over the role of natural gas in America’s energy policy. ProPublica/Scientific American_ 8/26/09

Debating how much weed killer is safe in your water glass

For decades, farmers, lawn care workers and professional green thumbs have relied on the popular weed killer atrazine to protect their crops, golf courses and manicured lawns. But atrazine often washes into water supplies and has become among the most common contaminants in American reservoirs and other sources of drinking water. Now, new research suggests that atrazine may be dangerous at lower concentrations than previously thought. Recent studies suggest that, even at concentrations meeting current federal standards, the chemical may be associated with birth defects, low birth weights and menstrual problems. An investigation by The New York Times has found that in some towns, atrazine concentrations in drinking water have spiked, sometimes for longer than a month. But the reports produced by local water systems for residents often fail to reflect those higher concentrations. New York Times_ 8/22/09

California moves toward stringent chromium 6 standard for drinking water
California took the first step Thursday toward setting a drinking water standard for chromium 6 that could force cities and water districts to undertake costly treatment.

Also known as hexavalent chromium, the heavy metal is one of a number of industrial contaminants in the San Fernando Valley aquifer, a source of drinking water for Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale.  Released by the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the goal will be used to set a state standard for chromium 6. But that process will probably take several more years and "it's possible the eventual standard would be higher," said Sam Delson, deputy director for external and legislative affairs.  It would be the first drinking water standard for chromium 6 in the country.  About 18% of the public drinking water sources in California have chromium 6 levels above 1 part per billion. The proposed public health goal is 0.06 part per billion. Los Angeles Times_8/21/09

Water pollution starts at home

Pesticides and fertilizers from homes are a major and overlooked source of water pollution, according to new research from the University of California, Davis. Previous estimates may have underestimated water pollution from homes by up to 50%, the study says. Previous research models underestimated home water pollution because they relied on data only from the rainy season, which measured pollution washed into municipal storm drains after rainfall. But these newer models tracked pollutants during both the rainy and dry seasons, and found that activities such as garden watering or car washing washes a significant amount of pollutants into storm drains, and that the concentration of pesticides is higher during the dry season.  USA Today_8/20/09

Company must pay $600,000 for ground water pollution
20-year investigation results in settlement

Regional water pollution authorities fined Ametek, Inc. $600,000 and threatened to nearly double the penalty if the company doesn't meet deadlines leading up to treatment of a contaminated groundwater plume in El Cajon near Sand Diego, Calif.  In February, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board had proposed a fine of $2.3 million — one of the agency's largest ever — against Ametek Inc. It said Ametek failed to deal with trichloroethene and other toxins that leaked under the company's former plant on Greenfield Drive. The board has pushed for mapping and treatment of the chemicals for more than 20 years but has been delayed by legal challenges, bureaucracy and earlier efforts to win compliance without penalties.  By early 2011, Ametek needs to finish mapping the underground waste flow and propose a remedy strategy. Eventually, the company is supposed to meet soil and groundwater cleanup levels set by the water board.  SignOnSanDiego.com_8/13/09

Illinois takes step to protect water quality
 A new Illinois law aims to reduce the amount of drugs and chemicals flushed down drains and into drinking supplies.  The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is required to establish a program giving people places to drop off unused medications, personal-care products, batteries, auto fluid, mercury thermometers and other general household waste rather than pouring it into toilets or down the drain.  Chicago Tribune_8/5/09

EPA takes public comment as it re-evaluates its decision not to regulate perchlorate

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comment on its re-evaluation of the scientific information on perchlorate in drinking wate, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said Wednesday. Under the previous administration, EPA made a preliminary decision not to regulate perchlorate. Administrator Jackson directed EPA staff to review that decision and, as part of that review, the agency is putting special emphasis on evaluating the impact of perchlorate on infants and young children. “It is critically important to protect sensitive populations, particularly infants and young children, from perchlorate in drinking water,” Jackso said in a news release. “As we re-evaluate the science around perchlorate, we will seek public input before making a regulatory determination based on the best science." Perchlorate is both a naturally occurring and man-made chemical. Perchlorate is used in the manufacture of fireworks, flares and solid rocket propellant. News Release_ 8/5/09

Rural well water linked to Parkinson’s; California study implicates farm pesticides

Rural residents who drink water from private wells are much more likely to have Parkinson’s disease, a finding that bolsters theories that farm pesticides may be partially to blame, according to a new study. The risk to people in California's Central Valley was 90 percent higher for those who had private wells near fields sprayed with certain insecticides. People with the incurable neurological disease “were more likely to have consumed private well water, and had consumed it on average 4.3 years longer,” UCLA scientists reported. Unlike municipal water supplies, private wells are largely unregulated and are not monitored for contaminants. Environmental Health News_ 8/5/09

Natural Resources Defense Council 2009 water quality survey reports beach closings and advisories hit 4th highest level in 19-year history of the project

NRDC's annual survey of water quality and public notification at U.S. beaches finds that pollution caused the number of beach closings and advisories to hit their fourth-highest level in the 19-year history of the report. The number of 2008 closing and advisory days at ocean, bay and Great Lakes beaches topped 20,000 for the fourth consecutive year, confirming that our nation's beaches continue to suffer from serious water pollution that puts swimmers at risk. Aging and poorly designed sewage and stormwater systems hold much of the blame for beachwater pollution. Even in the relatively dry 2008 beach season, stormwater runoff contributed to two-thirds of the closing/advisory days in which a contamination source was reported. Unknown sources of pollution caused nearly 13,000 closing and advisory days. News Release_ 7/29/09

Full report, map and individual states

New Tucson, Arizona law requires rainwater harvesting

A new city rainwater harvesting ordinance for commercial property will go into effect June 1, 2010. Among the features it will require are depressed elevated planters and tree wells, curb slits and contoured pavement so water can flow into the plant areas by gravity, low-water-use, and mainly native vegetation. The new rainwater ordinance requires that 50 percent of the annual water for plants come from active or passive rainwater management. An irrigation system to supply water to plants during dry periods is also required under the new ordinance, but it must provide precise watering geared to each plant's needs and based on conditions. Arizona Daily Star_ 7/10/09

New Jersey poised to relax protection for water
New Jersey environmental regulators have proposed rolling back a 5-year-old restriction on the levels of phosphorus dumped into the state's rivers and streams by sewage plants, angering clean-water advocates who say the proposal threatens a retreat from hard-won freshwater initiatives.  The change involves a regulation adopted by the state Department of Environmental Protection in 2004, imposing tough numerical phosphorus standards -- measured at the point where sewage plants discharge into streams -- that have forced costly upgrades at some plants.  Star Ledger_6/26/09

'Green' fireworks may brighten eco-friendly future 4th of July displays

A new generation of "green" fireworks is quietly making its way toward the sky. That's "green" as in environmentally friendly. Fireworks, flares and other so-called "pyrotechnics" traditionally have included potassium perchlorate as the oxidizer, a material that provides the oxygen that fireworks need to burn. Perchlorate, however, is an environmental pollutant. Studies have shown that perchlorate from community fireworks displays conducted over lakes, for instance, can lead to perchlorate contamination of the water. Researchers, however, have developed new pyrotechnic formulas that replace perchlorate with nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose that burn cleaner and produce less smoke, according to an article in ACS's weekly newsmagazine, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN). Some of these fireworks have already been used at circuses, rock concerts and other events, but none have been used at large outdoor displays. The problem: cost. Physorg.com_ 6/22/09

Globe simmered in May

The Earth's temperature in May was the fourth-warmest May on record, with a reading almost 1 degree warmer than the long-term average, according to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, N.C. For the year to date, the NCDC says the world's temperature was tied with 2003 for the sixth-warmest January-May period on record. In the USA, the May 2009 temperature for the contiguous 48 states was above the long-term average by 1.4 degrees, according to the NCDC. El Nino, a periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that affects weather patterns around the world, could be developing. The Climate Prediction Center's most recent update notes that "current observations and dynamical model forecasts indicate conditions are favorable for a transition from ENSO-neutral conditions to El Nino conditions during June-August 2009." One of the most intense El Ninos in history was in 1998, which was also the year that the Earth recorded its warmest temperature on record. USA Today_ 6/19/09

New U.S. report highlights climate change water problems

Climate change and population growth are straining water supplies even in places where people historically haven't worried much about the resource. Cities from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast are pushing conservation plans much like the ones being introduced across California to deal with a prolonged drought. Concerns about the scarcity of drinkable water are underscored in a 190-page report issued yesterday by the Obama administration, which highlighted the difficulty of maintaining the nation's water supplies amid global warming. “Everywhere you look, you have some kind of water problem,” said Bradley Udall, director of the University of Colorado's Western Water Assessment and an author of the report. “I don't think (the public) gets the idea that we are in a new era of limits with many natural resources, water being only one. We are going to learn what a gallon means." The new assessment, a synthesis of various studies, is the federal government's first region-by-region look at the nation's vulnerability to climate change in almost a decade. It was compiled by leaders of science agencies, universities and research institutes as part of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. San Diego Union Tribune_ 6/17/09

To download a pdf of the report, click here

Arsenic and fluoride levels too high in Newdale, Idaho drinking water

Newdale is facing drinking water quality issues because of excessive arsenic and fluoride levels in the water supply, and that has become the focus of attention in the city. Although the levels of the two substances have been relatively constant in testing over the past several years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has raised the standard for arsenic and both substances are above their allowable levels for drinking water. To correct the problem, the Department of Environmental Quality has offered the city a $1.2 million loan for 20 years at 1.75 percent interest. In addition, the department would agree to forgive $600,000 of the loan. Standard Journal_ 6/12/09

Report cannot link water at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune to diseases

It may be impossible to know whether contaminants in drinking water at Camp Lejeune through the mid-1980s harmed the health of people who lived and worked on the Marine base or were born to mothers who did, according to a report released by the National Research Council today. The report, commissioned by the U.S. Navy at the direction of Congress, surveyed studies that have been done on the effects of two chemical solvents and other chemicals, including benzene, that made their way into two major water wells on the base. As many as a million people may have used the water for drinking, bathing, cleaning or swimming from the 1950s, when the chemicals likely first reached the water, until 1985, when the Marine Corps closed the wells. Since the contamination was discovered, 1,548 claims seeking $33.9 billion in compensation have been filed with the Navy's Judge Advocate General's office. None has been paid. The study released today is one of two the Navy was waiting for to determine whether exposure to the water could be linked definitively to birth defects, childhood leukemia and adult illnesses such as liver damage and breast cancer. News & Observer_ 6/13/09

The Dry Garden: L.A. offers rebate for ripping out your lawn

Fast on the heels of the new watering ordinances that took effect June 1, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has begun a cash-for-grass program. Single-family homes served by the DWP will be eligible to receive $1 for every square foot of turf that they replace with less thirsty alternatives. The agency won’t be buying dead lawn, warns DWP spokeswoman Jane Galbraith. If you are lucky enough to live where the lawn is already dead, the water company takes the view that nature has already done the right thing for you.  But if you have 200 to 2,000 square feet of lawn that is doing little more than consuming water, then the DWP is willing to pay you to get rid of it.  So instead of waiting for an inevitable ticket, homeowners can receive a rebate. The hardship is minimal: Cap the sprinklers, dig out the lawn and replace it with something smarter. L. A. Times_6/10/09

Erin Brockovich: Midland, Texas water sullied

Environmental investigator Erin Brockovich said water supplying a residential area of Midland, Texas, is contaminated with hexavalent chromium, knowns as chromium-6, the same substance she famously uncovered in the drinking water of Hinkley, California. Julia Roberts made Brockovich famous nine years ago with her Academy award-winning portrayal in the film named after Brockovich. "I never thought I'd see another Hinkley, California," Brockovich told CBS News in Midland, “but I’m afraid I might be wrong." For now, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality has told residents its priority is to identify the contaminated sites and provide clean water for people with chromium-6 contamination. CBS_ 6/10/09

West Virginia Marine battles over contaminated Camp Lejeune drinking water

Jerry Ensminger, a crew-cut career U.S. Marine now retired and living outside White Lake, West Virginia, is one of a handful of leaders in a nationwide fight to get the Corps to release information about contaminated drinking water that circulated through Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for decades before poisoned wells were closed in the mid-1980s. In 1997, a federal agency that studied the contamination and its possible effects issued a report that said adults who drank, bathed in and cleaned with the tainted water faced almost no increased risk of cancer or other illness. Last month, Ensminger and his cohorts claimed a victory when the agency retracted that report. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry also acknowledged for the first time that the water contained benzene, a known carcinogen. And it is working on a modeling project expected to show that tainted water flowed to the spigots of many more people than the Marine Corps originally reported and for much longer. By some estimates, 1 million people -- Marines and their dependents along with civilians who lived and worked on the base -- are thought to have been exposed to a stew of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, neurological disorders and other illnesses. The contamination likely started within a few years of when Camp Lejeune was established in 1942, according to the toxic substances agency. McClatchy/Charleston, West Virginia, Gazette_ 6/9/09

Energy Industry fights drilling rules;Ground water at issue

The oil-and-gas industry is gearing up for a battle over the regulation of a high-tech drilling technique that has opened up huge new fields for drilling, but that environmentalists fear could contaminate ground water. On Thursday, a congressional subcommittee held a hearing on the practice, known as hydraulic fracturing, and two Democratic lawmakers said they would introduce legislation that would regulate it at the federal level for the first time. Environmental groups and members of Congress are also pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the impact of fracturing on drinking-water resources.  Hydraulic fracturing -- known within the industry as "hydro-fracking," or simply "fracking" -- involves the injection of millions of gallons of water and chemicals into oil or natural-gas wells at high pressure. The process cracks open rock formations thousands of feet underground, allowing trapped hydrocarbons to flow to the surface. Environmental groups worry that chemicals used in the process -- which can include benzene, hydrochloric acid and other potentially harmful substances -- could contaminate drinking-water reservoirs on the surface or underground. Those concerns have increased as drilling has spread to more heavily populated areas such as Fort Worth, Texas; Shreveport, La.; and parts of Pennsylvania and New York. Wall Street Journal_6/5/09

Face-off over 'fracking': Water battle brews in Congress

Environmentalists and the natural gas industry are getting ready for a battle in Congress over something known as "hydraulic fracturing." "Fracking," as the industry calls it, involves injecting a million gallons or more of water and chemicals deep underground to pry out gas that's locked away in tight spaces. Environmentalists want the federal government to regulate the practice because, in some cases, fracking may be harming nearby water wells. The industry says regulation should be left up to the states. In 2005, the industry successfully lobbied for an exemption for fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act. That leaves regulation up to the states, which don't have the kind of resources the EPA does. But the natural gas industry argues that more regulation will push up prices. Hydraulic fracturing is, in part, responsible for the low natural gas prices consumers are paying now. NPR_ 5/27/09

Private well water should be tested annually to protect children

Private well water should be tested yearly, and in some cases more often, according to new guidance offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, took a lead role in working with the AAP to develop these recommendations and draft a new AAP policy statement about the things parents should do if their children drink well water. The recommendations call for annual well testing, especially for nitrate and microorganisms such as coliform bacteria, which can indicate that sewage has contaminated the well. The recommendations point out circumstances when additional testing should occur, including testing when there is a new infant in the house or if the well is subjected to structural damage. RedOrbit_ 5/26/09

Scientists urge global action to preserve worldwide water supplies

Melting glaciers, weakening monsoon rains, less mountain snowpack and other effects of a warmer climate will lead to significant disruptions in the supply of water to highly populated regions of the world, especially near the Himalayas in Asia and the Sierra Nevada Mountains of the western United States, according to an international group of scientists who met for three days at the University of California, San Diego. More than two dozen international water experts participated in the “Ice, Snow, and Water: Impacts of Climate Change on California and Himalayan Asia” workshop. Imperial Valley News_ 5/17/09

South Florida water managers OK $536 million Everglades land buy

The deal, orchestrated by Gov. Charlie Crist, would provide 73,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. farmland to use for restoring water flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. It would include a 10-year option to buy an additional 107,000 acres from U.S. Sugar. Crist in June first announced a $1.75 billion bid to buy all of U.S. Sugar's land, Clewiston sugar mill and other company facilities, but he twice scaled-down the plan because of the state's economic woes. South Florida Sun-Sentinel_ 5/13/09

Nonstick chemical pollutes water at notable levels

A new study finds evidence that people may be exposed through drinking water to a persistent nonstick chemical at levels approaching those that trigger adverse effects in laboratory animals. The fluorine-based nonstick chemical, PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid, was developed by DuPont more than 50 years ago and used to launch the company’s Teflon line of nonstick products. The chemical appeared in roughly two-thirds of some 30 public water systems sampled by New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection between 2006 and 2008, researchers report online and in an upcoming issue of Environmental Science & Technology. In five of the New Jersey water systems sampled, PFOA concentrations exceeded a safety limit developed by the researchers — sometimes by a factor of two or three. ScienceNews_ 5/12/09

Well water may increase risk of bladder cancer

Sun exposure, smoking and the source of water used for drinking may each play a role in whether someone develops and dies from bladder cancer, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that well water consumption was linked to a higher incidence of bladder cancer in women and death from the disease in men and women alike. They speculated that this might be from pesticides leeching into unmonitored wells. The study was to be presented this week in Chicago at the annual scientific meeting of the American Urological Association. Health Day News_ 4/27/09

Important world rivers losing water

The Colorado River, the Yellow River in northern China, the Ganges in India and the Niger in West Africa are losing water, in some cases because of the effects of climate change, a new study finds. The study examined stream flow in 925 of Earth's largest rivers, and found significant change in about one third of them over the past 50 years. These rivers, all key sources of water for the regions they flow through, were found to be funneling less water through their channels. The study's lead author is Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. It was funded by the National Science Foundation and detailed in the May 15 issue of the Journal of Climate. LiveScience.com_ 4/21/09

Even 'green' energy is thirsty

At the Aspen Institute high in the Colorado Rockies, a four-day conference on the energy problems that come from global warming, brought together more than 100 climate experts to wrestle with a number of climate dilemmas ... including the fact that alternative energy is, as they put it, "so thirsty." Even wind and solar energy, while they may appear to need little water, said panel members, are often managed in a way that relies on water-based back-up energy sources when there's no wind or sun. ABC News_ 4/19/09

Associated Press investigation:

Millions of pounds of drugs released into U.S. waters

U.S. manufacturers, including major drugmakers, have legally released at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways that often provide drinking water — contamination the federal government has consistently overlooked, according to an Associated Press investigation. Researchers have found that even extremely diluted concentrations of drugs harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species. AP/Yahoo_ 4/19/09

Study: Ethanol production vs. water consumption

Producing ethanol in Midwestern states uses far less water during processing than western states where more irrigation is needed, according to a University of Minnesota study released Wednesday. The study, which appeared in the April 15 edition of Environmental Science and Technology, found in Iowa, the nation’s largest corn ethanol producer, uses about six liters of water to make one liter of ethanol.  California, the nation’s 13th largest ethanol producer, needed 2,100 liters of water to produce one gallon of ethanol — making it the worst state in water efficiency. With the results of this study, lead author and bioproducts and biosystems engineering professor Sangwon Suh said policy makers can consider the water costs of producing ethanol in different areas of the U.S. as they look to expand the industry.MNdaily.com_4/16/09

In California's Central Valley, distressed residents start four-day trek demanding water

Thousands of farmworkers and their supporters marched along a dusty highway Tuesday through a region hard hit by drought to demand more Delta water. Beginning in Mendota, an agricultural hamlet where the water shortage is acutely felt and the unemployment rate is estimated at 40 percent, the scene was reminiscent of a civil-rights protest as politicians, farmworkers and comedian Paul Rodriguez railed against environmental rules they said were depriving them of water. Their ire was directed mostly at Delta smelt, a 3-inch fish whose precipitous decline has triggered tougher environmental protection rules. Contra Costa Times/San Jose Mercury-News_ 4/14/09

Water monitor eyes farm runoff in Gulf of Mexico
A clean water expert at Auburn University hopes a new project that enlists middle and high school students will help reduce farm runoff that is a growing pollution threat to the Gulf of Mexico.  Bill Deutsch said colleagues in Veracruz, Mexico, are partners in the three-year effort to monitor water flowing into the Gulf.  Deutsch said his federally funded, $300,000 project will also help livestock producers in Alabama and in Veracruz develop management practices that can limit Gulf pollution, such as buffer zones and other methods of keeping livestock contaminants away from streams. He said the project, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is also "trying to get 'uplanders,' including livestock farmers, teachers and citizen water monitors, more aware of how nutrients come to the Gulf from great distances, and that land-use management makes a big difference." Newsvine.com_4/10/09

Water well checkup

Spring is a good season to have an annual water well checkup before the peak water use season begins, according to the National Ground Water Association (NGWA).  NGWA further recommends you test your water whenever there is a change in taste, odor, or appearance, or when the system is serviced.Further checks include a flow test to determine system output, along with a check of the water level before and during pumping (if possible), pump motor performance (check amp load, grounding, and line voltage), pressure tank and pressure switch contact, and general water quality. Boundary County Digest_4/9/09

Perchlorate found in U.S. baby formula: report

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) non-profit group said Friday researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 15 brands of baby milk contained perchlorate, an oxidizer in solid fuels used in explosives, fireworks, road flares and rocket motors, the EWG said. The CDC scientists submitted a report of their study on perchlorate in baby formula to the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology in October last year and it was published last month. According to the EWG, perchlorate is found in drinking water in more than half the 50 US states and mixing tainted baby formula with the contaminated water "could boost the resulting mixture?s toxin content above the level the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers safe." A study conducted in 2006 by the CDC found that exposure to perchlorate at levels "considerably below" the level considered safe by the EPA altered thyroid hormone levels in women, the EWG said, calling for new limits to be set for perchlorate in drinking water. Under president George W. Bush, the EPA last year determined that regulating perchlorate levels in drinking water would not result in "a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction." AFP_ 4/4/09

An Antarctic ice shelf has disappeared: scientists

One Antarctic ice shelf has quickly vanished, another is disappearing and glaciers are melting faster than anyone thought due to climate change, U.S. and British government researchers reported on Friday. Climate change is to blame, according to the report from the U.S. Geological Survey and the British Antarctic Survey. In another report published in the journal Geophysical Letters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that ice is melting much more rapidly than expected in the Arctic as well, based on new computer analyses and recent ice measurements. Reuters_ 4/3/09

read full report 

U.S. court upholds power plant cooling water rule
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can compare costs with benefits to determine the technology that must be used at power plant water-cooling structures, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a setback for those seeking greater protection for aquatic life.  The justices overturned a ruling by a U.S. appeals court in New York that the federal clean water law does not permit the EPA to consider the cost-benefit relationship in deciding the best technology available to minimize adverse environmental impact.  Reuters_4/1/09

March, 2009

Colorado rainwater collection bill clears House

Rural residents of the state could use a limited amount of water collected from their rooftops under a bill that won preliminary approval in the Colorado House on Thursday. The measure, SB80, allows for the collection of rainwater from up to 3,000 square feet of roof, but only from a residence that is not connected to a domestic water system that serves more than three single-family homes. "For over 100 years, the state engineer would tell you that it's against the law to capture rainwater in rain barrels," said Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan. Under the bill, property owners who want to collect rainwater must get a permit from the engineer's office, and pay a fee for it. Pueblo Chieftan_ 3/27/09

Water worries shape energy decisions

In Colorado, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a utility that provides power to mostly rural areas, agreed to conduct a major study to see if it might meet growing energy needs through energy efficiency and not a big, new coal-fired power plant, as it had proposed for southeast Colorado. One reason for the move was a challenge by Environment Colorado, an advocacy organization, about the amount of water a new plant would require. Changes like these are happening with increasing frequency, particularly in the arid West, as mounting concerns about water begin to shape local energy decisions. In some cases, power companies are pulling back from plans to build traditional power plants that require steady streams of water to operate. In others, renewable-energy projects such as wind farms or solar arrays are gaining momentum because their water needs are minimal.  Wall Street Journal_3/25/09

Agreement returns water to Washington river

After nearly eight decades as more or less a creek, the North Fork of the Skokomish River - a branch of the Hood Canal tributary all but wiped out by the construction of the Cushman Hydroelectric Project in the 1920s - has water flowing through it once more.  An historic settlement agreement reached early this year by the Skokomish Tribe; Tacoma Power, which owns the hydroelectric project; and numerous state and federal agencies gives the tribe a $12.6 million cash payment; 7.25 percent of the value of electricity produced by the No. 2 powerhouse; and hundreds of acres of land, including Camp Cushman and Saltwater Park.  For the tribe, the settlement ends decades of fighting against a dam that destroyed a river that once supplied much of its economic livelihood and cultural heritage.  For Tacoma Power, it removes the cloud of a $5.8 billion legal claim, and it means the utility can continue generating relatively low-cost electricity from a pair of dams that officials once suggested might simply be abandoned.  Seattlepi_3/27/09

Big cut seen in Florida's US Sugar Corp land deal
Florida is cutting back its land purchase deal with U.S. Sugar Corp as budget shortfalls force it to downsize efforts deemed vital by environmentalists to restore the endangered Everglades wetland, local media reported Thursday.  A preliminary deal struck in June called for the state to spend $1.75 billion to buy up all of U.S. Sugar's land, one of the nation's largest privately held agricultural firms.

Under a revised deal, unveiled in November, state officials said the price tag had been cut to $1.34 billion but still involved buying 181,000 acres of land considered critical to the Everglades revival. Blaming the state's economic problems, the Miami Herald reports the state would now purchase no more than about 75,000 acres of U.S. Sugar's land for a total price of roughly $500 million.  Reuters_3/27/09

$334.8 billion needed for U.S. water infrastructure: EPA

A survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates utilities will need to invest an estimated $334.8 billion over the next 20 years to deal with an aging water infrastructure. The Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment is conducted every four years and is used to help the EPA determine the distribution formula for Drinking Water State Revolving Fund grants. The latest survey reflects data collected in 2007 from states and will be used to assess grants for fiscal years 2010 through 2013. The assessment documents anticipated costs for repairs and replacement of transmission and distribution pipes, storage and treatment equipment, and projects that are necessary to deliver safe supplies of drinking water. News Release_ 3/26/09

download the full 2007 Drinking Water Needs Survey and Assessment

Plan to restore San Joaquin River approved
In one of the boldest river restorations in the Western United States, a 63-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River in California will be transformed from a dusty ditch into a fish-friendly waterway under legislation approved Wednesday that ends a decades-long dispute between farmers and environmentalists.  The $400 million project, approved by Congress as part of a landmark wilderness bill, will increase the amount of water released from the Friant Dam near Fresno into the San Joaquin River. The flows are intended to resurrect the river's salmon fishery, decimated in the years following the dam's construction in 1942.  SFGate_3/26/09

Safe drinking water top environmental concern for Americans: Gallup Poll

Pollution of drinking water is Americans' No. 1 environmental concern, with 59% saying they worry "a great deal" about the issue. That exceeds the 45% worried about air pollution, the 42% worried about the loss of tropical rain forests, and lower levels worried about extinction of species and global warming. All eight issues tested in the 2009 Gallup Environment survey, conducted March 5-8, appear to be important to Americans, evidenced by the finding that a majority of Americans say they worry at least a fair amount about each one. However, on the basis of substantial concern -- that is, the percentage worrying "a great deal" about each -- there are important distinctions among them. The four water-related issues on the poll fill the top four spots in this year's ranking. In addition to worrying about pollution of drinking water, roughly half of Americans also express a high degree of worry about pollution of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs (52% worry a great deal about this), and water and soil contamination from toxic waste (52%). About half worry about the maintenance of the nation's supply of fresh water for household needs (49%). Gallup Poll_ 3/25/09

EPA to review impact on water from mountain top mining

Exerting its authority under the Clean Water Act, EPA notified the lead federal permitting agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, yesterday that it planned to review permitting for two coal mining operations in West Virginia and Kentucky. Mountaintop mining involves the removal of summit ridges to expose coal seams and the dumping of debris into valleys, a practice EPA says is likely to pollute water and severely damage or destroy streams. New York Times_ 3/24/09

World Water Forum declares safe drinking water a ' human need'; stops short of 'human right'

The week-long congregation of heads of states, ministers and experts at the Turkish capital of Istanbul dissolved on March 22 with a pledge to move water high on the national development plans while promoting more effective use of financial resources available from several sources for the sector. Several developing nations had urged delegates from 150 countries who attended the 5th World Water Forum to include in the non-binding Istanbul Ministerial Statement, the declaration that safe drinking water and sanitation are a "human right." Released to coincide with the World Water Day, the statement, which reflected the formal collective voice of the ministers and heads of delegations of the 150 countries, said "it acknowledged the discussions with the UN system regarding human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation. We recognise that access to safe drinking water
and sanitation is a basic human need". NDTV_ 3/23/09

Is access to clean water a basic human right? Growing movement says 'yes'

One of the thorniest issues governmental officials at the World Water Forum in Istanbul have struggled with has been this question of the right to water. A declaration to be signed by the ministers of some 120 countries attending the forum is expected to refer to access to water as a "basic need," rather than a right. The United States – along with Canada, China, and several other nations – has so far refused to recognize the human right to water. There are concerns among some countries – based on a misconception, experts say – that enshrining a universal right to water would force them to share their water resources with other nations. Christian Science Monitor_ 3/19/09

5th World Water Forum hears Europe 'living beyond its means' in water use

More than 27,000 people -- including government ministers from more than 120 countries -- have gathered for the 5th World Water Forum. But in Istanbul, this ancient city, where the thin ribbon of the Bosporus divides Europe and Asia and massive Roman waterworks still dot the landscape, it's the Earth's shifting climate that is on delegates' minds. "We are responsible," Loïc Fauchon, president of the World Water Council, said during opening ceremonies Monday." The European Environment Agency released a report yesterday warning that Europe is "living beyond its means" when it comes to water use. Meanwhile, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said yesterday that by 2030, about half the world's population -- 3.9 billion people -- could be living in water-stressed areas. The OECD report is careful to note that this figure doesn't take climate change into account, suggesting the actual toll could be even greater. New York Times_ 3/18/09

Turks choose water cannon for demonstrators at Istanbul water forum

Turkish police providing security for a water crisis forum in Istanbul say the cheapest way to keep protesters at bay is to use water cannons. Turkish police, who on Monday fired water canons and tear gas to disperse protesters gathered at the start of the forum, told state-run Anatolian they prefer to use water because it is cheaper than tear gas. Reuters_ 3/18/09

EPA, duPont agree to lower level of Teflon chemical in drinking water near West Virginia plant

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a consent order to E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. that sets a new action level for PFOA – also known as perfluorooctanoic acid, or C-8 – in drinking water for communities surrounding the company’s Washington Works facility in Parkersburg, W. Va. The chemical is used to create non-stick surfaces, such as Teflon. An EPA news release said only a small number of residents will be affected by lowering the amount of PFOA to 0.40 parts per billion from the current 0.50 limit. "Based on current data, approximately 14 private residences may need a treatment system or connection to a public water system," said the EPA news release. It added that under the new order, DuPont will offer connection to a public water system, treatment, or temporary bottled water to people on public or private water systems if the level of PFOA detected in drinking water is equal to or greater than 0.40 parts per billion. PFOA is a synthetic chemical that is not currently regulated under federal environmental laws. It is has been used to make fluoropolymers – substances with special properties used in many industrial applications, including the manufacture of consumer products such as non-stick cookware and all-weather clothing. It is very persistent in the environment and is found at low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population. Studies indicate that PFOA can cause developmental and other adverse health effects in laboratory animals. News Release_ 3/12/09

UN report warns population growth, climate change sparking water crisis

Surging population growth, climate change, reckless irrigation and chronic waste are placing the world's water supplies at threat, a landmark UN report said on Wednesday. Compiled by 24 UN agencies, the 348-pagethird World Water Development Report gave a grim assessment of the state of the planet's freshwater, especially in developing countries, and described the outlook for coming generations as deeply worrying. Water is part of the complex web of factors that determine prosperity and stability, it said. Lack of access to water helps drive poverty and deprivation and breeds the potential for unrest and conflict, it warned. AFP/Yahoo_ 3/11/09

EPA sets new plan to prevent coal ash spills

Responding to last year’s massive coal ash spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority facility in Kingston, Tennessee, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today laid out new efforts to prevent future threats to human health and the environment. The agency’s plan includes measures to gather critical coal ash impoundment information from electrical utilities nationwide, conduct on-site assessments to determine structural integrity and vulnerabilities, order cleanup and repairs where needed, and develop new regulations for future safety. The December 2008 release of coal ash from TVA’s Kingston, Tennessee facility flooded more than 300 acres of land, damaging homes and property. Coal ash from the release flowed into the Emory and Clinch rivers, filling large areas of the rivers and killing fish. TVA cost estimates for the clean-up range between $525 million and $825 million, which does not include long-term cleanup costs. News Release_ 3/9/09

Climate change accelerates water hunt in the U.S. West

It's hard to visualize a water crisis while driving the lush boulevards of Los Angeles, golfing Arizona's green fairways or watching dancing Las Vegas fountains leap more than 20 stories high. So look Down Under. A decade into its worst drought in a hundred years Australia is a lesson of what the American West could become. Bush fires are killing people and obliterating towns. Rice exports collapsed last year and the wheat crop was halved two years running. Water rationing is part of daily life. In the U.S. West, there is very little water left untapped and global warming, the gradual increase of temperature as carbon dioxide and other gases retain more of the sun's heat, has created new uncertainties. Reuters_ 3/9/09

Business suffers with world water shortage

From cotton farms to factories that make high-tech computer chips, companies face huge risks from droughts like those searing California and Australia and that recently parched the U.S. Southeast. Climate scientists say droughts will become more common as higher temperatures evaporate water supplies and overuse drain aquifers faster than they can be replenished by natural cycles. Large cities in China and India are also at risk from droughts as mountain glaciers shrink on the Tibetan plateau. The risks to big business range from actual physical shortages of water, to rising costs for meeting water quality regulations, to conflicts with local communities. Reuters_ 3/9/09

Global warming could mean flooding catastrophe for New York City: Report

Water levels around New York City could rise by 2 feet or more in the coming decades and average temperatures will likely go up 4 to 7.5 degrees, according to a report released Tuesday by a panel of scientists convened by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The city must adapt to global warming or risk having to rebuild facilities after flooding, Bloomberg said in releasing the report by the New York City Panel on Climate Change. Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies was co-chairperson of the panel. The New York City report was funded by a $350,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. AP/Newsday_ 2/17/09

Minnesota group tries to block PolyMet copper nickel mine
An organization called "Water Legacy" has formed in an attempt to block the PolyMet copper nickel mine from mining metals from the state's Iron Range.  Representatives of "Water Legacy" say the project would destroy 3,200 acres of forests and wetlands and potentially pollute ground and surface waters with sulfuric acid and mercury.  Polymet spokespeople say they can extract metals without damaging the environment.   Water Legacy is asking government agencies to stop Polymet from going any further until all questions about risks to human health and environmental concerns are answered.  KBJR_2/13/09

New Jersey Assembly moves step toward adding fluoride to drinking water

Supported by medical professionals but opposed by environmentalists and water companies, a plan to require all of New Jersey's public water supplies be treated with fluoride cleared an Assembly committee today. Assembly Health Committee Chairman and bill sponsor Herb Conaway said it is "appalling'' New Jersey sits near at the bottom of the national list for the number of people who have access to teeth-strengthening fluoride. About 184 million people in the country drink fluoridated water, dental association officials said. In New Jersey, municipalities are free to decide whether to mandate water fluoridation. Only about 22 percent of the state's residents get fluoride-treated waters from their tap. Newark Star-Ledger_ 2/9/09

Water shortages could wipe out California agriculture and threaten cities, U.S. energy secretary warns

California's farms and vineyards could vanish by the end of the century, and its major cities could be in jeopardy, if Americans do not act to slow the advance of global warming, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said Tuesday. In his first interview since taking office last month, the Nobel-prize-winning physicist warned of water shortages plaguing the West and Upper Midwest and particularly dire consequences for California, his home state, the nation's leading agricultural producer. In a worst case, Chu said, up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water vital to agriculture. Los Angeles Times_ 2/4/09

January, 2009

Opinion

'Cheap' water costly for environment

Conservation hurts local government's bottom line
Armed with a judge's OK, Florida's Seminole County says it will soon begin pumping millions of gallons of water per day from the St. Johns River. It's a smart move from the County Commission's perspective, as it will provide an abundant source of "cheap" water for future growth while generating revenue from new utility customers.  But for the rest of us, the plan is a stinker.  Over-pumping  of the St. Johns River would lead to increased salinity, more toxic blue-green algae and the loss of wetlands and associated species. The dirty little secret that governments don't want us to know is this: They make money every time you turn on the tap, with excess revenues in some municipalities flowing back into general funds. As residents conserve water, those revenues fall, creating holes in local budgets. Every drop saved cuts into the bottom line, creating a disincentive to conserve.  Orlando Sentinel_1/30/09

Want clean water? Turn on the lights

New York City wants to use the sun's power to provide clean drinking water for its nine million residents without adding more of the potentially harmful chlorine it uses as a disinfectant. More specifically, City officials are building a water disinfection facility some 30 miles north of Manhattan on a 153-acre property in the Westchester County towns of Mount Pleasant and Greenburgh that will use ultraviolet (UV) light to destroy water-borne pathogens such as Escherichia coli, giardia, and cryptosporidium in reservoirs that serve city dwellers.  The city currently uses chlorine to disinfect its drinking water, which is piped in from New York State's Delaware County and Catskill watersheds about 100 miles north.  Scientific American_1/28/09

In Australia, backyard water tanks may help spread dengue fever

Backyard water tanks, a key weapon for Australian households in the battle against drought and climate change, may prove a double-edged sword if they help the mosquito that spreads dengue fever to penetrate deep into southern and inland Australia. Melbourne researchers who set out to measure how much further the dengue mosquito might spread as the climate heats up discovered that water hoarding by households was likely to prove a much bigger help to the insect. Lead researcher and zoology lecturer Michael Kearney said there had been a "dramatic increase" in domestic rainwater storage in response to drought. The Australian_ 1/28/09

Climate change could take 1,000 years to reverse

The carbon dioxide already here and the heat that has been absorbed by the ocean will exert their effects for centuries, according to an analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Over the long haul, the warming will melt the polar icecaps more than had previously been estimated, raising ocean levels substantially, the report said. And changes in rainfall patterns will bring droughts to the American Southwest, southern Europe, northern Africa and western Australia comparable to those that caused the 1930s Dust Bowl in the U.S. The lead author is Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who conducted the study with colleagues in Switzerland and France. Reductions in rainfall would last centuries, the report said, decreasing drinking water supplies, increasing fire frequency and devastating dry-season farming of wheat and maize. Los Angeles Times_ 1/27/09

Clinton names Todd Stern climate change envoy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton named Todd Stern on Monday as the special envoy to lead U.S. efforts to fight global warming and forge new international accords on reducing carbon emissions and developing clean energy. The appointment -- which accompanied other energy policy steps announced by President Barack Obama -- signaled a break from the Bush administration's climate policies, and Clinton's pick promised "vigorous, dramatic diplomacy." Stern coordinated climate change policy from 1997 to 1999 in her husband Bill Clinton's administration, acting as the senior White House negotiator in the Kyoto talks. About 190 countries are trying to craft a broader climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol that binds wealthy nations to emission targets between 2008 and 2012. The new deal is supposed to be wrapped up in Copenhagen by December. Reuters_ 1/26/09

Wisconsin hiker set to raise awareness of global water issues

Trek to begin March 22 - World Water Day

John Hopf quit his job as manager of a high-end health club recently in order to hike the Appalachian Trail to raise awareness and money for clean water in other parts of the world. He is calling his effort Hike 4 Water.  Because of Hopf's longstanding desire to be involved with "something bigger than myself," he decided to turn his hike into a fundraiser. He talked with some of the clients at the health club, and one of them suggested he take up the cause of clean water.  "I was actually kind of embarrassed that I had never heard of this problem," he said. The funds he raises will be used to purchase sand-and-gravel water filtration systems for families in Guatemala and wells for communities in Africa.  Hopf chose March 22 as his start date because it's World Water Day.  His journey will take him through 14 states from Georgia to Maine. The trail is 2,175 miles long, and someone has calculated it's 5 million steps, he said.  Herald Times Reporter_1/22/09

Coal-tar sealcoats pollute nearby soil and water.
A new study published by Environmental Health Services reveals that parking lots treated with coal-tar-based sealcoats are a major source of cancer-causing contaminants that can pollute air, soil, water and wildlife, posing a significant health risk to humans who may breathe, drink or eat them in fish and other food.  Coal-tar base sealants contain high levels of chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). A mix of different types of PAHs are found in the sealant.  The long-lived PAHs widely pollute the environment, wildlife and people. These highly dangerous chemicals are expected to cause cancer in people. As the black, shiny sealcoats wear away over time, small, dusty particles form. The specks can contain PAHs and other chemicals found in the sealants. Wind and water disperse the particles into the surrounding environment. Wind carries the contaminated dust almost everywhere -- into the water, onto other pavements or onto land used for gardens or crops.   The dust is also washed off the surfaces into local lakes, streams and other waterways by rain and snow melt. The stormwater runoff can contain high levels of PAHs. Some researchers suggest that coal-tar based sealcoats are a major source of PAH pollution in streams. Often, high levels of PAHs are found in the sediments of the lakes and streams accepting the stormwater runoff. Click here for the full report. Environmental Health News_1/22/09

Tungsten possible problem in drinking water

In an article published this week in Chemical & Engineering News, researchers suggest that not enough is known to determine whether tungsten is safe, and that studies need to be conducted to assess how much is in drinking water and the soil – and whether it poses dangers for humans, animals and plants. Experts say that tungsten is safe when used in its pure form in light bulb filaments, jewelry, and electrical devices. But researchers quoted in the article and interviewed by ScientificAmerican.com say that when tungsten gets into the soil (through, say, light bulbs in landfills), it reacts with substances such as oxygen, forming new chemicals such as polytungstates that may cause growth and reproduction problems in plants and animals. Scientific American_ 1/20/09

EPA, Perdue reach water protection agreement
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a Jan. 6 agreement with Perdue Farms, Inc., to help protect the nation’s waters in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.  EPA and Perdue have signed an agreement to implement the Perdue Clean Waters Environmental Initiative, an effort to provide training, assessments and assistance in reducing the environmental impacts of poultry farms.  “Runoff from improperly managed poultry farms can harm water quality, as well as plant and fish life. This agreement will ensure that Perdue contract growers, here and in the Southeast are in compliance with regulatory requirements and have reduced their impact on our waterways,” said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for EPA mid-Atlantic region.  Sussex Countian_1/15/09

Shell Oil to pay $1 Million for water pollution in Puerto Rico

A Shell petrochemical company in Puerto Rico has agreed to pay a $1,025,000 penalty and spend at least $273,800 enhancing its pollution controls and monitoring to remedy the Clean Water Act violations for discharging pollutants into a creek that flows to the Caribbean Sea.  Shell's facility, which the company purchased from Puerto Rico Sun Oil, LLC in 2001, has a permit from the EPA to discharge treated stormwater, process wastewater and sanitary wastewater under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.  EPA and Shell agreed on steps the company had to take to bring the facility into compliance after the purchase was made.  But the federal agency said in its complaint that Shell failed to fulfill the agreement. Instead, the company violated the Clean Water Act by discharging pollutants in excess of permit limits, discharging pollutants into Santiago Creek and the Caribbean Sea at unpermitted locations, failing to report discharge data, and lacking adequate operation and maintenance of a discharge pipe into the Caribbean Sea. Environment News Service_1/15/09

EPA may limit rocket fuel in drinking water
The Environmental Protection Agency is taking a second look at its decision not to limit the amount of a toxic rocket fuel ingredient allowed in drinking water. Late last year, the agency proposed not setting a drinking water standard for perchlorate, which has been found in at least 395 sites in 35 states at levels high enough to interfere with thyroid function and pose developmental problems in humans.  At the time, the EPA said setting a standard would do little to reduce risks to public health.  The agency said Thursday it would postpone making a final decision until the National Academy of Sciences studies the matter. In the meantime, it recommended that levels of perchlorate in drinking water not exceed 15 parts per billion parts of water.  The Defense Department used perchlorate for decades in testing missiles and rockets, and most perchlorate contamination stems from defense and aerospace activities.  AP_1/9/09

Court cancels EPA Clean Water Act exemption for pesticides

Environmental groups today celebrated their victory as an appeals court vacated a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that has allowed pesticides to be applied to U.S. waters without a Clean Water Act permit.  On November 27, 2007, the EPA issued the final rule, which states that pesticides applied in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, are exempt from the Clean Water Act's permitting requirements.  The Clean Water Act regulates the discharge of pollutants into the nation's waters by, among other things, requiring entities that emit pollutants to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, NPDES, permit.  For nearly 30 years before adoption of the 2007 EPA rule, pesticide labels issued under the FIFRA were required to contain a notice stating that the pesticide could not be "discharged into lakes, streams, ponds, or public waters unless in accordance with an NPDES permit." "This decision will help ensure, in communities across the country, that aquatic pests are addressed in ways that protect both water quality and the public health," said Chuck Caldart of the National Environmental Law Center, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.  Environment News Service_1/7/09

Rising levels for Great Lakes reported

Great Lakes water levels are on the rise again after a decade of losses.  Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predict levels in the Great Lakes will be higher in the first half of 2009 than they were in 2008 -- the second year in a row the water will have risen, if estimates prove true.  U.S. Army Corps officials attribute the rising lake levels to rainfall and snowfall, particularly storm systems that bring in water from outside the Great Lakes Basin. Locally generated storms or lake effect systems simply redistribute water that is already in the Great Lakes. Systems from outside the region bring in new water -- water that can add to the lake levels.  From a historic low in the summer of 2007, Lake Superior should reach a level that is more than a foot higher by June. The Lake Michigan/Huron system should be up nearly half a foot from 2007, and Lake St. Clair could have risen by 2 inches since that time.   The Detroit News_1/7/09

 

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