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2007 Environmental Water News


December, 2007

Feds mull water release to Grand Canyon

Federal officials are considering releasing a large amount of water from the Glen Canyon Dam into the Grand Canyon early next year in an effort to rebuild beaches and aid endangered fish.  If approved by the Interior Department, water released from the dam just south of the Arizona-Utah border would scour sand from the river bottom and deposit it on beaches. Shrinking beaches have led to the loss of half the camping sites in the canyon in the past decade.  The Glen Canyon Dam cut the natural flood cycles that had maintained the ecosystem for millions of years. Before it was dammed in 1963, flows ranged from heavy springtime flooding that cleansed the river's sand and gravel bars to slow late fall flows.  If the project is approved, it would be the third time the dam was opened beyond power-generating capacity. Similar experiments were done in 1996 and 2004.  Scientists plan to conduct $2 million in experiments on how the flood affects food sources, trout, water quality and sandbars.  More broadly, it is a test of ways to better manage the ecosystem of the Grand Canyon to offset impacts from the dam, required under a 1992 law.  Scientists contend that with periodic floods it might be possible to allow fish and plants that thrived in Canyon before the dam was built to recover.
Associated Press_12/21/07

Saltwater ships pose hazard to Great Lakes

When it comes to protecting the Great Lakes from exotic species imported by saltwater ships there's bad news, and there's worse news.  The bad news is that an investigation of the ballast tanks of 41 ships entering the lakes found 93 different kinds of animals, 13 of which haven't been seen in the Great Lakes before.  The worse news is that an examination of the fouling on the outside of a ship has found dozens more potential exotic invaders, many of them freshwater species from all around the world.  The studies by David Lodge of the University of Notre Dame and John Drake of the University of Georgia are among the first to both quantify the numbers of potential invasives and figure out the species or at least the genus of the exotics to get a better handle on which ones might make it in the lakes.  "Previous studies focused on ballast water and sediments (in the ballast tanks)," Lodge said. "We think there may be as great or an even greater risk from the (creatures) living on the outsides of the ships."  Lodge said he and Drake were surprised to find that even after months in salt water, the fouling scraped from the ship still contained numerous freshwater organisms, including seven freshwater organisms that haven't yet been seen in the lakes .  The fact that Drake and Lodge found hundreds of creatures is more fuel for the argument to keep saltwater ships out of the Great Lakes. HollandSentinel.com_12/20/07


Polluting Philly drinking water costs Merck $20 Million

Merck, the global pharmaceutical research company, has agreed to resolve violations of federal and state water pollution control regulations arising from spills of pollutants at its pharmaceutical plant outside of Philadelphia. The spills entered a waterway that supplies 40 percent of Philadelphia's drinking water.  In one of the most comprehensive remediation settlement agreements for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Merck will pay $10 million to deploy systems that will prevent future discharges of pollutants from the facility, federal and state officials announced today.  A consent decree filed in court requires Merck to pay $1,575,000 in penalties and civil damages for past violations and spend at least $10 million to implement increased monitoring, tracking, testing and assessment tools for its waste stream.  In addition, Merck will spend about $9 million for environmental projects to improve water quality and/or protect Wissahickon Creek as a source of drinking water.  "Perhaps more than anything else, this settlement says to every company that discharges dangerous chemicals as part of its operations that it is accountable to the environment and the community," said Pat Meehan, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Environment News Service_12/14/07

Arctic summers ice-free 'by 2013'

Scientists in the US have presented one of the most dramatic forecasts yet for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice. Their latest modelling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years. Professor Wieslaw Maslowski told an American Geophysical Union meeting that previous projections had underestimated the processes now driving ice loss. Professor Maslowski's group, which includes co-workers at Nasa and the Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences (PAS), is well known for producing modelled dates that are in advance of other teams. These other teams have variously produced dates for an open summer ocean that, broadly speaking, go out from about 2040 to 2100. BBC News_ 12/12/07

Water district wins EPA award

Santa Clara Valley Water District, which helped county residents and businesses save more than 18 billion gallons of water a year, has received a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2007 Water Efficiency Leader Award.  These water savings, made possible by the water district’s many water-use efficiency programs, amount to about 12 percent of the Santa Clara County’s annual water use and are enough to serve 110,480 families a year.  The award is designed to recognize companies, utilities, government organizations, and individuals that display leadership, innovation and water saving. The other five national winners are Intel Corporation, Frito-Lay, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center, and Allan Dietemann of Seattle Public Utilities.  Press Release_12/5/07

BP unit pleads guilt in Alaska oil spill case

The Alaska subsidiary of BP PLC (BP) pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal environmental crime for failing to prevent a crude spill in the Prudhoe Bay oil field.  BP Exploration Alaska Inc. admitted to one violation of the Clean Water Act for the 200,000-gallon spill in March 2006.  Last month, the company agreed to pay $20 million in fines related to the spill, which was the largest ever in the vast, oil-rich arctic region known as the North Slope. The settlement was one of several struck in October between the oil and gas giant and federal investigators.  CNN_11/29/07

National Wildlife Federation given $650,000 for water conservation project
National Wildlife Federation is receiving a gift of $650,000 in support of the organization's Texas water initiative from The Meadows Foundation of Dallas.  The money, which will be received over two years, will fund the Texas Living Waters Project, an initiative that promotes environmentally and economically sound water resource management.  National Wildlife Federation, the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund are working together on the project. The organizations will use the money to promote water conservation and the sustainable use of the state's groundwater. It will also be used to maintain water in river and coastal estuaries at levels that support wildlife habitats. Austin Business Journal_11/28/07

U.S. House panel questions failure to study TCP in Southern California water

A House committee is demanding to know why federal regulators failed to assess potential public health damage from extremely high levels of a toxic industrial solvent found in Southern California drinking water before the mid-1980s. Trichloroethylene, widely used in the defense industry, was discovered in aquifers under the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys, which supplied drinking water to nearly 2 million residents. Across the nation, the chemical is one of the most widespread water contaminants. A letter sent today to the chief of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry by the House Energy and Commerce Committee said the agency failed to conduct the recommended health evaluations in communities across the nation, an apparent lapse that went unnoticed for more than a decade. Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is classified as a carcinogen by California's Environmental Protection Agency and some international agencies. TCE has been enveloped in growing controversy over the last few years as evidence mounts that it causes cancer. It is the most widespread water contaminant in the nation, affecting hundreds of military bases, aerospace centers, government laboratories and general industrial sites. Los Angeles Times_ 11/26/07 (logon required)

Rialto, California declares a perchlorate water emergency

Rialto city officials have declared a state of emergency, citing concerns about a shrinking water supply in danger of further contamination by dangerous chemicals. The City Council voted on the declaration Tuesday in an attempt to secure state funding to halt the spread of industrial perchlorate in city groundwater. The growing, six-mile-long chemical plume in the north end of the San Bernardino County city contaminates 360 million gallons of groundwater each month. The declaration criticizes state and local regulatory agencies for failing to aggressively enforce cleanup efforts, and warns that Rialto would be "extremely vulnerable" in the event of a "catastrophic interruption" of its clean water supply. More than 40 companies are alleged to be involved in the contamination, including Goodrich Corp., Pyro Spectaculars and Black & Decker. The cleanup could cost as much as $300 million. Perchlorate, used in rocket fuel, batteries and fireworks, can interfere with thyroid function and produce birth defects. Los Angeles Times_ 11/24/07 (logon required)

Groups fight Michigan water-withdrawal bill; Plan could hurt fish, tourism, they say
A coalition of Michigan environmental and fishing groups sounded an alarm Tuesday that a state Senate bill could open the spigot to dangerous levels of water usage from streams, threatening fish and tourism.  The bill's sponsor said the groups' analysis is exaggerated.  At issue is how much water big users like agriculture, bottled-water companies and manufacturers could use under legislation that aims to limit water withdrawals from surface and underground sources.  Michigan's preeminent trout stream, the Au Sable River, could face a flow reduction of as much as 22% in some stretches under the maximum water withdrawals in the bill, the Michigan Environmental Council, Trout Unlimited and Anglers of the Au Sable say.  Detroit Free Press_11/14/07

Zebra mussels continue to spread in Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks, Osage River

Since being detected in 2006, zebra mussels have continued to proliferate and are now spreading to the lower Osage River and threatening to wreak havoc not only on the lake but the riverway, as well. The most recent find on the lower Osage River was the first for that stretch of waterway. Until now, the mussels appeared to have been confined to the upper Osage River on Lake of the Ozarks. Economic damage results when zebra mussel colonies clog utility and municipal water intakes, foul marine engines and encrust the submerged surfaces of boat hulls, docks and other structures. Among the biggest ecological concerns is the danger that zebra mussels pose for native mussels and crayfish, many of which are endangered or in decline. Lake Sun Leader_ 11/3/07

October, 2007

Nebraska groundwater levels slow decline, even rise in some areas: University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers

Above-normal precipitation after seven years of drought, well-timed rains and more efficient irrigation practices all may be factors in the relatively good news reflected on the latest groundwater level maps, said Mark Burbach, an assistant geoscientist in UNL's School of Natural Resources (SNR). One-year increases were particularly notable along the Platte River from Columbus to Fremont, Neb., south into Butler and Saunders counties and north into Dodge County. Increases also were recorded in central Nebraska along the Platte and Republican rivers. Tri-State Neighbor_ 10/25/07

view Nebraska groundwater maps

Along northern California's American River, plans for a dam wash out and a river stretch is restored

Down a steep canyon from an overlook near Auburn, the American River flows unfettered for the first time in four decades – 40 years in which the federal government attempted to create what became a storied public works white elephant. An Auburn dam will likely never rise here after years of controversy and dispute – and $400 million in construction and study. Now with the natural river run restored, recreation will return, just like the scrub brush is struggling to do on the stripped canyon walls. Mired in controversy over economics and safety, work on an Auburn dam stopped in 1977, leaving an idle construction site that had derailed the river several miles below the confluence, where two forks of the American meld before flowing on to Folsom Lake. Workers had long diverted water into a tunnel that short-circuited a bend in the river to keep the site dry. After work stopped, the state attorney general's office sued the federal government to restore the river, and after several years, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation finished the job and closed off the tunnel to restore the natural flow in September. Sacramento Bee_ 10/23/07

U.S. government may cover up the polluted New River to protect health of border workers

The U.S. government is considering covering a portion of one of the most polluted rivers in the nation that flows parallel to the downtown Calexico Port of Entry. The “toxicity” of California's New River has officials at the U.S. General Services Administration concerned as it plans to build a new port of entry on the banks of the binational river that is made up of mostly urban and industrial waste from Mexico. Proponents for cleaning the river have been getting good signs from the U. S. federal government recently. On Sept. 24, the U.S. Senate passed the renewal of the Water Resources Development Act, which could allocate $10 million to help clean the river. Additionally, a bill that would authorize grants for local governments in border regions was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 4. Imperial Valley Press_ 10/15/07 (logon required)

ITT Corporation and National Geographic partner to build awreness of global water issues

ITT Corporation today announced a multi-faceted partnership with National Geographic to raise awareness of global water issues. The cornerstone of the partnership is ITT's support of
the episodic television series, National Geographic's "Strange Days on Planet Earth." ITT is the primary sponsor of the 2008 series, which will investigate the scale of the current water crisis and explore potential solutions. It is scheduled to premiere in April on PBS stations nationwide. In conjunction with the program, ITT and National Geographic will produce a companion educator's toolkit designed to educate and engage students across the United States. News Release/PRNewswire_ 10/15/07

Let the Everglades water flow: Diversion canal in south Florida to be plugged

To recover a lost link in the Everglades, the Miccosukee Tribe persuaded water managers this week to help them restore 7,900 acres in western Broward County to their natural, soggy state. The South Florida Water Management District agreed to take the unusual step of plugging one of the canals that keeps South Florida dry -- to allow water to reclaim a swath of Miccosukee land south of Alligator Alley. The tribe said it was willing to sacrifice developable land beside Interstate 75 for a return of wet prairies with sawgrass and tree islands, transforming land left parched by decades of draining the River of Grass to make way for farms and subdivisions. The district agreed to pay $600,000 to plan and complete the work of installing pilings and filling in the canal. Water managers are building water-treatment areas and massive reservoirs to clean and redirect water that can be used to rehydrate the Everglades. South Florida Sun-Sentinel_ 10/13/07

Texas leads nation in number of water polluters

Texas led the nation in the number of facilities discharging pollution at levels exceeding federal clean water guidelines, according to a new report from an environmental watchdog group. The Austin-based Environment Texas said that in 2005, 318 facilities in the state reported 1,340 incidents in which they discharged more pollution than permitted under the federal Clean Water Act. The group also reported that more than 53 percent of Texas' industrial and municipal facilities discharged more pollution in 2005 than permitted under the law. Harris County was No. 1 among all U.S. counties for the most facilities that exceeded their Clean Water Act permits at least once, according to the report. The report was released Thursday to commemorate the 35th anniversary next week of the Clean Water Act. The other 10 U.S. states with the most violations during that period are Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida. More than 20,000 bodies of waters in the United States are too polluted to meet basic quality standards, according to the EPA. About 850 billion gallons of raw sewage is dumped into U.S. waterways each year, according to the report. Under the 1972 Clean Water Act, facilities are called upon to report any improper discharges. Government regulators can then assess penalties, although in Texas they typically do not, according to a recent state auditor's report. Star-Telegram_ 10/12/07

Indiana seeks to ease rules for lake polluter
State offers U.S. Steel a pass on some regulations

Indiana is moving to scrap, relax or omit limits on toxic chemicals and heavy metals dumped into a Lake Michigan tributary by the sprawling U.S. Steel Corp. mill in Gary, according to environmental lawyers and former federal regulators who have reviewed a proposed water permit.  Language outlining the changes is buried in 117 densely worded pages under consideration by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which provoked a public outcry this year when it gave a nearby BP refinery permission to significantly increase pollution discharged into the lake.  BP explicitly asked to dump more pollution. By contrast, Indiana regulators and U.S. Steel officials insist the latest proposal will not allow the Gary Works to increase the amount of oil, grease, metals and chemicals pumped into the Grand Calumet River before it empties into Lake Michigan. The permit appears to tell a different story, raising questions about Indiana's enforcement of federal and state laws intended to clean up the nation's lakes and rivers.  Chicago Tribune_10/12/07

Report: Ohio among nation's top water polluters
Ohio ranked first in the nation in the number of times its major factories and cities released an unauthorized amount of harmful chemicals and untreated sewage into waterways, according to a report released by an environmental group Thursday.  Cities and industrial facilities across the 50 states frequently deposited more pollution into the nation's waterways than the 1972 federal Clean Water Act allows, said the report from the nonprofit group Environment Ohio.  The group looked at 2005 water pollution data from cities and industries that were deemed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to release a significant amount of toxins into major waterways.  Ohio had a total of 1,797 instances in which industrial facilities and cities exceeded levels allowed by permits. Newsday.com_10/11/07

As the Clean Water Act Nears its 35th Anniversary, Polluters Continue to Contaminate America’s Waterways

"Just the tip of the polluted iceberg"

More than 57 percent of industrial and municipal facilities across America discharged more pollution into our waterways than their Clean Water Act permits allowed in 2005, according to Troubled Waters: An analysis of Clean Water Act compliance, a new report released today by U.S. PIRG.  The goals of the 1972 Clean Water Act are to eliminate the discharge of pollutants into waterways and make all U.S. waters swimmable and fishable. Over the last three and a half decades, this landmark environmental law has made significant improvements in water quality, but the original goals have yet to be met.  Using the Freedom of Information Act, U.S. PIRG obtained data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on facilities’ compliance with the Clean Water Act in 2005. U.S. PIRG researchers found that:

• Fifty seven percent of all major U.S. industrial and municipal facilities discharged more pollution into U.S. waterways than allowed by law at least once during 2005.

• The average facility exceeded its pollution permit limit by 263 percent, discharging close to four times the legal limit.

• The ten U.S. states with the highest percentages of major facilities exceeding their Clean Water Act permit limits at least once are Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Ohio, Connecticut, New York, North Dakota, California, and West Virginia.

• The ten U.S. states with the most exceedances of Clean Water Act permit limits during 2005 period are Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, California, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida.

Report authors noted that the findings are likely “just the tip of the polluted iceberg,” since the data that U.S. PIRG analyzed includes only “major” facilities and does not include pollution discharged into waters by the thousands of minor facilities across the country.  Press Release_10/11/07

Click Here to download the full report.

Study: U.S. ethanol production brings water risk

As attention turns more and more toward using corn and other products to produce ethanol for fuel, experts warn that increased production of these crops could pose a threat to the nation's water supplies. Both water quality and the availability of water could be threatened by sharply increasing crops such as corn, said Jerald L. Schnoor, professor of environmental engineering and co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research at the University of Iowa. Schnoor is chairman of a National Research Council panel that studied the potential impact of increased use of biofuels on water supplies. The committee report was released Wednesday. Water supplies are already stressed in some areas of the country, including a large region where water is drawn from the underground Ogallala aquifer, which extends from west Texas up into South Dakota and Wyoming. AP/USA Today_ 10/10/07

Drinking water from Virginia's Lake Manassas fails U.S., state standards

Drinking water from Lake Manassas had exceeded the allowable levels of total trihalomethanes under the state's water regulations and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency testing, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Total trihalomethanes (TTHM) are the most common byproducts of chlorine in the water system reacting to algae, leaves and other organic materials, said Michael C. Moon, director of the Manassas Public Works Department. The water system is allowed to have an yearly average of 80 parts per billion but was told it reached 82 sometime between July and September, Moon said. Manassas uses chlorine to disinfect the drinking water from Lake Manassas. Lake Manassas supplies water to 38,000 people and businesses. Manassas Park and Prince William County have been taking limited water from the lake because of the drought. This summer, the drought and heat helped algae to grow in the lake. The city's last violation was in 2002, during another severe drought, officials said. The long-term health effects of those byproducts in humans is inconclusive, and the water is safe to drink, Moon said. But TTHM has been known to cause cancer in animals, he said. The Manassas City Council will vote to accelerate planned upgrades at the water plant this month, Moon said. The move will allow the Virginia Department of Health to review plant designs while the city opens a bid and selects a contractor before the end of the year, "so as not to face this next summer," Moon said. The upgrade includes a switch from chlorine to chloramines, which because of its chemical mixture would disinfect the water but not create the byproducts, said Dominic Brancaccio, Manassas's assistant director of sewer and water services. Lake Manassas is 10 feet below capacity. Washington Post_ 10/7/07 (logon required)

After 10 days, boil-water order lifted for all West Palm Beach areas

That means all residents can now use the water without boiling it first, though they should let the water run for two to three minutes. Officials said the decision came after strenous sampling, identifying a possible source of the contamination and running chlorine through the system. Plus, they said, no one reported illness for the past two days. Officials have named Gold Coast Linens, a commercial laundry, as a possible source. Operating with well water, the business might have pumped ground water or dirty laundry water into the city's system, Mayor Lois Frankel said, stressing that the business remains a potential source and not the certain culprit. Palm Beach Post_ 10/7/07

E. coli in Spanaway WA water prompts school closures
The Spanaway Water Co. has urged its 20,000 customers to boil their water after routine tests showed the presence of E. coli bacteria. The discovery has prompted local officials to close a handful of schools for Thursday.  E. coli was detected in two routine water samples and total coliform bacteria was found in a third. E. Coli can cause serious health problems, especially in children and the elderly.  The state Department of Health says it's working with the company to find the source of the contamination.  Seattle Post Intelligencer_10/4/07

Construction site believed source of West Palm Beach, Florida E coli bacteria; Boil water order extended through Friday

At an afternoon press conference updating the water situation, Mayor Lois Frankel said the city has inspected more than 50 construction sites, but has not been able to determine the source of the contamination that was detected in routine tests last week. Since Friday, the city has been flushing chlorine through the 600 miles of water pipes to flush the bacteria out of the system. Frankel said the city expects to continue with chlorination until about Oct. 13. Frankel assured that tests proved the contamination was not coming from the water plant itself, but occurred somewhere in the piped distribution system. Asst. City Administrator Ken Reardon said that consultants working with the city have said contamination could have started with a "pill-bottle"-size colony of bacteria, which can multiply by the thousands every 20 minutes. South Florida Sun-Sentinel_ 10/2/07

Water in Oregon's Siltcoos Lake toxic; Residents warned not to drink or even touch it

Authorities learned Monday night that the blue-green globs floating in the water are actually poisonous, an outbreak of a toxic algae bloom. The Dunes City mayor authorized a telephone notification of all residents near Siltcoos Lake Monday night to warn them of the danger. It has been estimated that up to two-thirds of Dunes City's 1,200 residents drink water from either Siltcoos or Woahink Lakes. AP/KMTR_ 9/18/07

Humans implicated in rising water vapor

Scientists used computer models that simulate the climate to show that the rise in water vapor could not have been caused by natural climate fluctuations alone. But when man-made greenhouse-gas emissions are included in the models, the resulting atmospheric water vapor increases are very close to those actually observed over the past two decades. Lawrence Livermore Lab atmospheric scientist Ben Santer is lead author of the study that appears Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Water vapor is part of a positive feedback loop between water and temperature. Warming the air causes more water to evaporate from the surface, which increases the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. More water vapor traps more heat and raises the temperature which in turn causes more water to evaporate. Contra Costa Times_ 9/17/07

New Ventura County, California storm-water restrictions to cost millions

Tough new regulations intended to keep trash, bacteria and other pollutants out of local waters could cost Ventura County communities as much as $140 million a year, according to a preliminary estimate by the county Watershed Protection District. That's more than $400 for each of the county's approximately 330,000 households. The figure is the high end of a range of cost estimates developed by engineers and analysts trying to gauge the implications of a groundbreaking set of storm-water regulations proposed for Ventura County by the Regional Water Quality Control Board. The low-end estimate is $60 million. The wide range reflects the deep uncertainty associated with the new rules, which represent a significant departure from the way untreated runoff from city streets, yards, parking lots, housing tracts and businesses has been regulated in the past. The rules, for the first time, would establish strict limits on the quantity of pollutants allowed into lakes, rivers and the ocean and levy steep fines against those who don't comply. Ventura County Star/MSNBC_ 9/16/07

August, 2007

Arsenic in water a risk to 140 million people
Naturally-occurring arsenic in drinking water poses a growing global health risk as large numbers of people unknowingly consume unsafe levels of the chemical element, researchers said on Wednesday.  The problem is bigger than scientists had thought and affects nearly 140 million people in more than 70 countries, according to new research presented at the annual Royal Geographical Society meeting in London.  Arsenic can cause lung disease and cancers, even long after people stop drinking contaminated water, said Peter Ravenscroft, a researcher at the University of Cambridge.  "What is new is the extent of arsenic pollution is much bigger than people realized," Ravenscroft said in a telephone interview.  "There is a very important connection between arsenic in water and arsenic in food, especially where people grow irrigated corps." World Health Organization guidelines set a safe limit of 10 parts per billion of arsenic in water supplies but tens of millions of people in the world drink unsafe water above that level, researchers said.  At present, Bangladesh is the worst-affected country. There, hundreds of thousands or people are likely to die from arsenic poisoning, the researchers said.  REUTERS_8/29/07

Dig deep to see if you are ready for a well

Vince Eberlein, a filtration technician with Northern Virginia Drilling, said some people, accustomed to the reliability of public water, are shocked to find out how temperamental wells can be, with service varying depending on the weather, geological features, power failures , and the quality of construction or materials used in the well itself. Bored wells, like their older, picturesque equivalent -- hand-dug wells with large openings, hand cranks and a water bucket -- are becoming obsolete. Their shallowness, about 60 to 80 feet deep, makes them more susceptible to contamination. Today, drilled wells are more common. Only about six inches wide, such wells have a minimum depth of 75 feet; 150 feet or more is preferable. Washington Post_ 8/26/07

Colorado firm to remove radium from Canoncito, New Mexico water

Water Remediation Technology LLC has signed its first New Mexico contract to remove radium from drinking water. The company will treat water from two wells that serve 100 residents in Canoncito, about 15 miles east of Santa Fe. WRT will treat the water under a 10-year contract with the Canoncito Water Association, and be responsible for removal of the radium from the treatment site to a licensed facility, preventing future contamination in the area. The radium concentration in the wells in Canoncito is more than twice the Environmental Protection Agency's limit. In 2005, the New Mexico Environmental Department ordered the Canoncito Water Association to improve the quality of drinking water by late 2008 or face fines and other civil penalties. In 2006, the EPA deemed the water in Canoncito unsafe to drink, forcing residents to use bottled water for drinking and cooking. New Mexico Business Weekly_ 8/13/07

Floating Artic ice shrinking at record rate

The area of floating ice in the Arctic has shrunk more than in any summer since satellite tracking began in 1979, and it has reached that record point a month before the annual ice pullback typically peaks, experts said. The cause is probably a mix of natural fluctuations, like unusually sunny conditions in June and July, and long-term warming from heat-trapping greenhouse gases and sooty particles accumulating in the air, according to several scientists. New York Times_ 8/9/07 (logon required)

Lake Superior changes mystify scientists

Deep enough to hold the combined water in all the other Great Lakes and with a surface area as large as South Carolina, Lake Superior's size has lent it an aura of invulnerability. But the mighty Superior is losing water and getting warmer, worrying those who live near its shores, scientists and companies that rely on the lake for business.  Superior's level is at its lowest point in eight decades and will set a record this fall if, as expected, it dips three more inches. Meanwhile, the average water temperature has surged 4.5 degrees since 1979, significantly above the 2.7-degree rise in the region's air temperature during the same period.  Casper Star Tribune_8/3/07

New California drinking water rule on perchlorate limits could cost San Bernardino-area water district $30 million

New state regulations setting a legal limit for the chemical perchlorate in public drinking- water supplies could cost a San Bernardino-area water district as much as $30 million. The rules, expected to be imposed this fall, will allow no more than 6 parts per billion of perchlorate -- a component of rocket fuel and some fertilizers -- in drinking water. The East Valley Water District, which provides water for about 70,000 people in the eastern area of San Bernardino, Highland and unincorporated areas, now averages slightly more than the new limit and has had a reading as high as 8.6 parts per billion at one well, said Ron Buchwald, the district's engineer. A double-digit percent water rate increase is being considered to help pay for costs related to the construction of one plant to treat supplies for the chemical. Other major Inland water providers already meet the standard. Perchlorate disrupts the thyroid gland's ability to absorb iodide, which is needed to make the hormones that guide brain and nerve development of fetuses and babies. Press Enterprise_ 8/2/07

Chicago's Mayor Daley threatens to sue BP over lake pollution

Calling it an "issue that goes to the heart and soul of the Midwest," Chicago's Mayor Daley on Wednesday held out the possibility of filing a state or federal lawsuit if jawboning doesn't work to stop the BP refinery in northwest Indiana from dumping more pollution into Lake Michigan.  The State of Indiana has issued a permit that allows BP to discharge more ammonia and suspended solids as part of a $3.8 billion expansion of the company's Whiting refinery, one of the largest facilities of its kind in the nation.  The permit effectively gives the oil giant the green light to release more treated waste water -- including 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more solids -- than it already dumps into Lake Michigan.  Daley has sent a letter of protest to the Indiana governor. The Chicago Park District is circulating petitions along Chicago beaches. North Shore mayors and congressmen have vowed to fight the industrial discharges. They pushed a non-binding resolution through the U.S. House condemning discharges into Lake Michigan by a lopsided vote.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has responded to the controversy by insisting that the Indiana permit falls within the allowable legal limits of the Clean Water Act.  Chicago Sun Times_8/2/07

July, 2007

No filtration needed for New York City water: EPA

Federal environmental officials announced yesterday that New York’s drinking water was so pure that it would not need to be filtered for 10 years if the city maintains its efforts to protect the water supply. The announcement, held at the reservoir in Central Park, means that New York can avoid paying an estimated $8 billion to build an enormous plant to filter nearly one billion gallons of water a day from its Catskill Mountain reservoirs. Officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency said the city would have to continue its land protection efforts in the Catskills and its program to upgrade the sewage treatment plants of watershed communities. New York is still required to filter water from the Croton system by building an underground plant in the Bronx that will cost more than $2 billion and is scheduled to begin operating in 2012. New York Times_ 7/31/07 (logon required)

Environmental hazards kill 4 million children a year: WHO

Four million children under the age of five die every year due to environmental hazards including polluted air or water, or exposure to chemicals, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday. Poisonings, acute respiratory infections, diarrhea diseases and malaria carried by mosquitoes which thrive in dirty water account for most of the toll, the United Nations agency said in a technical report. "This is something that intuitively we have always recognized, but we never put a number to it," WHO expert Jenny Pronczuk told a news briefing. Africa is the region with the most environmental-related diseases, followed by parts of south east Asia, she added. Reuters_ 7/27/07

Download the WHO report on Children's Environmental Health

Climate change threatens Latin America's water supply: World Bank

Global warming is drying up mountain lakes and wetlands in the Andes and threatening water supplies to major South American cities such as La Paz, Bogota and Quito, World Bank research shows. The risk is especially great to an Andean wetland habitat called the paramo, which supplies 80 percent of the water to Bogota's 7 million people. Rising temperatures are causing clouds that blanket the Andes to condense at higher altitudes. Eventually this so-called dew point will miss the mountains altogether, said World Bank climate change specialist in Latin America, Walter Vergara. The World Bank-funded research was conducted at Colombia's Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies. The World Bank will publish details later in the year, Vergara said in a telephone interview on Friday. Vergara was lead author of World Bank research published last month that found Ecuador would have to spend $100 million over the next two decades to cope with glacier retreat -- by for instance drawing drinking water from the Amazon basin. Reuters_ 7/20/07

Washington DC water officials say chlorine spikes temporary

D.C. water officials this afternoon tried to assuage fears that a spike in chlorine pollutants in the city's tap water pose a health risk.  At a news conference today, leaders of the Washington Aqueduct and the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority said high levels of chlorine toxins found in the water by a national environmental group this spring are likely temporary and should not put the system's 1.1 million consumers in any danger. The toxins are linked to cancer, reproductive problems and developmental delays in children.  Testing by the Environmental Working Group was an attempt to measure the chlorine toxins in tap water when the District's water supply was being treated with high doses of chlorine in April and May. The lab results, based on water tested at private homes, an elementary school, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, the U.S. Capitol and other places, showed 40 percent of the water samples had concentrations of chlorine contaminants far higher than federal safety limits.  The findings suggest that the chemicals needed to help turn the polluted Potomac River into potable water created a different but largely silent health risk to consumers. The chemical compounds, called disinfection byproducts, are formed when organic matter in the river water reacts with the chlorine used to treat the water for drinking and kill disease-causing microbes.  Washingtonpost.com_7/19/07

Environmental Law Institute released handbook that explains law and science of the U.S. Clean Water Act

Last year's Supreme Court ruling in Rapanos v. United States left regulators, activists, and landowners nationwide scrambling to understand the scope of Clean Water Act jurisdiction over wetlands and streams. The ELI Handbook is a necessary and informative complement to the joint guidance document issued last month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to guide their respective field staff in making jurisdictional determinations in the wake of the Rapanos decision. With the support of the Turner Foundation, and the assistance of numerous experts in wetlands science and law, ELI has analyzed the key case law, compiled the relevant scientific studies and literature, and provided a set of jurisdictional "checklists" to assist the legal layperson in determining whether a particular wetland or stream is covered. PRNewswire/USNewswire/earthtimes.org_ 7/18/07

Download the Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Handbook

Operators of a proposed copper mine in Arizona mountains plan to replace water; opponents still firm

The operators of a proposed copper mine in the ecologically diverse Santa Rita mountains would more than replace water used in the operation and would hide the open pit behind a man-made ridge, they said Thursday. The changes were not enough for some environmentalists. If the detailed operations plans submitted to the U.S. Forest Service are approved, Vancouver-based Augusta Resource Corp. would begin construction on its private land about 15 miles southeast of the city in 2009. In February, the Pima County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution asking Arizona's congressional delegation not to allow mining and mineral exploration anywhere in the Coronado National Forest. The open-pit mine would not use water from the delicate Cienega Creek watershed. Instead the company would use groundwater from west of the mine and buy Central Arizona Project water to replace it, said Jamie Sturgess, Augusta vice president for projects and environment. The company already has bought and stored a two-year supply, he said. The area would actually gain water in the deal, he said. For every 100 gallons of groundwater the mine uses, Augusta would put 105 gallons of CAP water back into the ground. New technology would allow the mine to operate with half the water used by traditional mines, although the project would use about 100,000 acre-feet, Sturgess said. One acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre of land to a depth of 1 foot. Although he hadn't reviewed the new plan, Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll, a Republican, said the project uses too much groundwater and has too much potential for pollution. He will continue to lobby against the mine, he said. Arizona Daily Star_ 7/13/07

Ratheon, Air Force face EPA fines for water contamination in Tucson, Arizona

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chastised Tucson-based Raytheon Co. and the U.S. Air Force on Friday for continued contamination near a water treatment center serving 50,000 people. The plume of contaminated groundwater was found near the Tucson International Airport Area Superfund Site, where Raytheon and the Air Force share a 1,365-acre facility called Air Force Plant 44. Water samples collected there in 2006 found high amounts of trichloroethylene and dioxane. The contaminants migrated north of the facility and into a water treatment plant that provides drinking water for 50,000 residents. The plant treats water for those contaminants, making it safe for residents to drink. Still, the EPA wants Raytheon and the Air Force to clean up their collective act, requiring them to improve their extraction and treatment system. If they do not follow the order, the EPA will fine both entities up to $32,500 a day. EPA officials said the site has a 50-year history of contamination from aircraft, unlined landfills and electronic facilities. Since 1951, Raytheon (formerly Hughes Aircraft) has disposed of numerous metals and chlorinated solvents at the facility, the EPA found. BizJournals/Yahoo!_ 7/13/07

EPA orders cleanup of McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey

Federal environmental officials have ordered McGuire Air Force Base to clean up PCBs, pesticides and other contaminates that have seeped into soil and groundwater at the Burlington County facility over the last 60 years. Since 1982, the Air Force has found possible contaminants on 41 areas of the 3,500-acre base, including landfills, fire training areas, pesticides mixing shops, fuel storage and leak areas, underground tanks and fuel lines. The EPA will oversee the cleanup along with the state Department of Environmental Protection. Star-Ledger_ 7/13/07

Ferries are on the right path to give waters a daily checkup

Washington's fleet of island-hopping ferries thrill legions of tourists, haul thousands of commuters and now -- they're being eyed as future guardians of Puget Sound.  The green-and-white vessels would be fitted with testing devices to continuously sample water quality, making the flotilla of ferries an early-warning system for everything from harmful algal blooms to oil and sewage spills.  Carol Maloy, who leads the state Department of Ecology's marine monitoring team, runs the most extensive monitoring program for the Sound. The program relies on a seaplane hopscotching from Olympia to Bellingham, stopping between 40 different rotating locations to test the water.  Seaplane sampling has been done for the past 35 years, but the method has its limitations. The planes can't be used when it's windy, foggy or dark -- creating occasional gaps in the data. And the testing is done only once a month. With ferries taking samples day and night, the picture would become much clearer. Problem spots would be quickly identified, toxic algal blooms could be tracked and scientists would gain an understanding of conditions they form in.  Seattle Post Intelligencer_7/12/07

Rules to protect Great Lakes from ship-borne organisms are inadequte

Scientists urge saltwater flushing to remove nonnative species

Current rules aimed at minimizing the number of nonnative species that hitchhike into the Great Lakes on oceangoing ships are inadequate and often impractical, a University of Michigan researcher and colleagues from five other U.S. and Canadian institutions have concluded.  The authors of a three-year study recommend that "saltwater flushing," the practice of rinsing a ship's ballast tanks with deep-ocean water before it enters the St. Lawrence Seaway, be added to a set of requirements called the Code of Best Practices for Ballast Water Management. In 2002, the St. Lawrence Seaway corporations in the United States and Canada adopted rules making compliance with the code mandatory for entry into the seaway. The study, released July 10, focuses on so-called NOBOB (no ballast on board) ships, those that carry no pumpable water in their ballast tanks. More than 90 percent of the cargo ships entering the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway are NOBOBs, and nonnative organisms can lurk in the residual water and sediment left in the mostly empty ballast tanks.  Various approaches for sanitizing ballast water---using chemicals, heat, ozone or ultraviolet radiation, for example---are being explored but have not yet been adopted. In the interim, saltwater flushing provides an inexpensive alternative that would likely kill most of the lingering freshwater organisms in NOBOB ballast tanks, said U-M nutrient chemist Thomas Johengen, one of the study's co-leaders.  "We think that saltwater exposure is an effective way to protect freshwater systems. If we could apply it in every NOBOB, we think that we can close a loophole," said Johengen, an assistant research scientist at U-M's School of Natural Resources and Environment.  Newswise.com_7/11/07


EPA scaled back rules on wetlands

After a concerted lobbying effort by property developers, mine owners and farm groups, the Bush administration scaled back proposed guidelines for enforcing a key Supreme Court ruling governing protected wetlands and streams. The administration last fall prepared broad new rules for interpreting the decision, handed down by a divided Supreme Court in June 2006, that could have brought thousands of small streams and wetlands under the protection of the Clean Water Act of 1972. The draft guidelines, for example, would allow the government to protect marsh lands and temporary ponds that form during heavy rains if they could potentially affect water quality in a nearby navigable waterway. But just before the new guidelines were to be issued last September, they were pulled back in the face of objections from lobbyists and lawyers for groups concerned that the rules could lead to federal protection of isolated and insignificant swamps, potholes and ditches. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, charged with enforcing the Clean Water Act, finally issued new guidelines last month, which environmental and recreational groups complained were much more narrowly drawn. These groups argue that the final guidelines will leave thousands of sensitive wetlands and streams unprotected. The changes in wording between the September and June versions of the guidelines were subtle, hinging on broad scientific questions raised by the Supreme Court ruling over the nature of wetlands and natural drainage systems. The most nettlesome of these issues was whether regulators need to show that a wetland is directly connected to a navigable body of water in deciding if they have jurisdiction to require permits under the Clean Water Act. The alternate reading, favored by environmental groups, is that it is enough to prove that a wetland or stream is part of a large watershed that drains into such waters. Environmental advocates said the policy adopted in the June guidance reflected the concerns of developers and polluters and could have a profound effect on how federal water laws are applied.  New York Times_7/5/07

June, 2007

Water world
The Earth’s population has doubled since 1950, but the amount of available fresh water has stayed the same. While the statistic alone might be enough to cause concern about a water shortage, it’s compounded by the fact that water use has tripled in the same amount of time, and the freshwater supply is increasingly at risk of contamination by pollution, water-borne disease and shifting rain patterns caused by global warming, according to a recent report released by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report indicates that 40 percent of the world’s population could suffer water shortages by 2050.  sijournal.com_6/29/07

In Pictures:

Raw sewage

Increased pollution is threatening the sustainable use of Lake Victoria, a vital resource for Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. 

Click Here for a photo report from BBC News. BBC_6/26/07

Arsenic in Pennsylvania's private water wells may pose health risk

Is your water poisoning you? If you own a well, it's up to you to find out. New laws regulating arsenic in drinking water apply only to community water supplies. Private well owners take note: if you haven't tested your drinking water for arsenic, you probably should. In Pennsylvania, Bucks County has just about the worst problem with arsenic in the state. Arsenic is a silvery-grey metallic element found in certain types of rock. It can easily leach into underground water flowing around the rock. It also was used in pesticides and for industrial uses and can contaminate water that way. There are more than 1 million private well owners in Pennsylvania. Arsenic is a carcinogen, linked to cancer of the bladder, kidney, liver, prostate, skin and more, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Ingesting high levels of arsenic, through contaminated food or drink, can kill, making the most severe form of arsenic a favorite poison in murder mysteries and the play and film “Arsenic and Old Lace." Exposure to lower levels can cause nausea and vomiting, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels and more. For decades, the acceptable level for arsenic in U.S. drinking water was 50 parts per billion. That threshold was set in 1942, with, critics charged, little to no scientific foundation. In 1996, Congress substantially strengthened the nation's drinking water laws on several fronts, including requiring public water suppliers to tell people what is in the water they drink. That's why we now get annual reports detailing contaminants in our drinking water. The 2006 reports are due to customers by July 1. The 1996 amendments also requested tightened standards for certain water contaminants — arsenic, radon, disinfection byproducts, cryptosporidium and sulfate. After some governmental waffling, the EPA in 2001 lowered the arsenic threshold from 50 parts per billion to 10. 6/11/07

New EPA policy muddies the water, critics charge

Taking into consideration a decision reached last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have issued new guidelines for the protection of wetlands and bodies of water under the Clean Water Act. Critics charge that the new rules impede the organizations' ability to look at the big picture when considering how to protect wetlands.  The HP ProLiant DL360 G5 server pinpoints problems earlier with Systems Insight Manager software -- and Integrated Lights-Out Management lets you manage multiple operating systems remotely.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have issued new joint guidance for their field offices for the protection of wetlands and bodies of water that are protected under the Clean Water Act.  The new guidelines come in the wake of last year's Supreme Court decision over the identification of wetlands, streams and rivers that are subject to the Clean Water Act. The decision of two consolidated cases, Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. United States, has sparked criticism for not clearly specifying which waters are subject to EPA and Army Corps protection.  While non-navigable waters, streams and many wetlands may still be managed by the EPA and Army Corps, the agencies' jurisdiction may need to be decided on a case-by-case basis in lower courts.  Technewsworld_6/6/07

Melting snow, ice may cause water shortages, floods: UN

Melting snow and ice caused by global warming threatens to cut water supplies, flood coastal areas and raise greenhouse gas emissions, affecting hundreds of millions of people from Bangladesh to Alaska, a United Nations report said. Rising temperatures are shrinking snow cover, sea ice, glaciers, permafrost and lake ice in areas from Greenland to Antarctica and the Himalayas, according to the report, published today in connection with World Environment Day. These changes are likely to accelerate if greenhouse gases thought to cause global warming aren't reduced, the study showed. Delegates meeting in Bali will seek to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the main global treaty for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, which expires in 2012. U.S. President George W. Bush, who has rejected Kyoto, last week urged 15 of the world's biggest polluting nations to agree on a global emissions reduction goal by the end of next year. Bloomberg_ 6/4/07

Download the full report

May, 2007

Los Angeles water wells threatened by chromium 6

More than four years after being warned that a creeping chemical plume was threatening Los Angeles' water supply, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has shut down at least one drinking-water well because of contamination of the San Fernando Valley aquifer. The North Hollywood well closure means that, for the first time, Los Angeles will be unable to draw its full allotment of groundwater, forcing it to import water at a cost of $7.3million. But more troubling than the cost, Department of Water and Power officials say, is the possibility that the contamination will spread and ruin Los Angeles' only local water supply - the gigantic San Fernando Valley underground reservoir that can serve residents in an emergency. While reluctant to point fingers, DWP officials said they're frustrated that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not act more quickly to treat the contamination. Los Angeles imports 85 percent of its drinking water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Colorado River, with the San Fernando Valley groundwater basin supplying the rest. Melvin Blevins, who was watermaster for the Upper Los Angeles River Area, warned in 2003 that chromium 6 contamination posed a "clear and present danger" to local water supplies. EPA Superfund Section Chief Fred Schauffler said the agency shares city officials' concerns and is studying how to deal with the contamination. The EPA already oversees a massive groundwater cleanup in the Valley that started in the 1980s, when chemicals dumped during the World War II-era munitions and aerospace industry boom began showing up in local water supplies. California was supposed to adopt a new standard for chromium 6 three years ago, but state officials said last week they are still studying the chemical's potential health risks. The threat to L.A.'s groundwater comes as the DWP and Los Angeles County are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to increase the amount of water in the aquifer. Los Angeles Daily News_ 5/26/07

Car wash's water tested in search for contaminant PERC in Queens, New York water

In its search for the source of a chemical that contaminated tap water in several Queens neighborhoods, the city tested well water yesterday used by a Queens car wash after finding that it had been illegally connected to the city’s water system, officials said. The business, Cambria Car Wash, was connected to city water lines while at the same time using water from a well, said Anne Canty, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. The department has been testing samples of tap water in the affected neighborhoods for the presence of the chemical, tetrachloroethylene, which is used in dry cleaning and auto body repair. Levels slightly above the federal standard for the chemical, also known as perc, were first found in a sample collected during routine testing on May 1. Exposure to large amounts of perc can affect the nervous system, but the amounts found in the water in Queens were not expected to cause health problems, the department said. AP/New York Times_ 5/12/07 (logon required)

Florida water managers move ahead with cleaning Lake O
Water managers said Wednesday they're speeding ahead with $11 million worth of projects to scrape noxious muck from Lake Okeechobee, seizing on one of the ecological bright spots of the region's shriveling drought.The work is aimed at gouging a total of 3.8 million cubic yards of muck from various spots around the lake.  At the same time, the projects will remove a little less than 1 percent of the polluting phosphorus coating the 730-square-mile lake's bottom. And it will unclog some navigation canals near Belle Glade's marina.  The projects are possible because 18 months of abnormally dry weather have dropped the lake to within 4.5 inches of its all-time record low water level. That means much of the lake's bottom is now dry, muddy beach - accessible to trucks and bulldozers, not boats.  The lake once had a sandy bottom, but decades of manure- and fertilizer-laden runoff have left it coated with about 300 million cubic yards of muck and more than 30,000 tons of phosphorus. The muck smothers potential plant habitat, and the phosphorus sloshes around the lake in stormy weather, worsening the lake's pollution woes. Palm Beach Coast_5/9/07

$100 million settlement to clean perchlorate from Southern California groundwater site

Perchlorate contaminating the Santa Clarita Valley's underground water supply is to be cleaned up under an estimated $100-million settlement of a federal lawsuit against former and present owners of a shuttered munitions and fireworks factory announced Wednesday. The suit was filed by four area water agencies in November 2000 against Whittaker Corp., Remediation Financial Inc. and Santa Clarita LLC over pollution at the 996-acre site known as the Whittaker-Bermite plant, which for decades operated in the heart of Santa Clarita. Five public wells were shut in 1997, about a decade after the plant closed, after the perchlorate contamination was discovered. Perchlorate compounds are used in the manufacture of explosives, munitions and rocket fuel. Under the agreement, a treatment plant will be built to clean up pollution in two local aquifers. The settlement is still subject to federal District Court and Bankruptcy Court approval. The current site owners filed for bankruptcy in 2002. Los Angeles Times_ 5/3/07 (logon required)


Iowa's Water

First, face the truth about our dirty water
Then demand enough money for cleanup

While it's bad news that Iowa's impaired-waters list just grew longer, it's also an opportunity to recognize that more must be done to prevent pollution and clean it up.  More than 130 new water bodies were added to the preliminary list, prepared every couple of years to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. That brings the total to 366.  The additions are being made because of better water monitoring, which means the state has a clearer understanding of what is going on in its streams, rivers and lakes. Yet only about 40 percent of Iowa's waters are monitored, said Rich Leopold, the new director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He would like to monitor all of them, noting that Iowa's water-monitoring budget has been static at $3 million a year for many years. Meanwhile, federal funding has dropped.  When Iowa's new, higher water-quality standards are fully in place, Leopold expects to see the number of impaired waters perhaps double or triple. And he does not want Iowans to shy away from this:  "If it's bad, it's bad, and let's say it. Then we start telling the truth about who is causing the problem. It's going to be different in different areas, but agriculture is big. They are going to have to be part of the solution. Then we start targeting and fixing the problems."  Demoines Register_5/4/07

Human error put lye in water

Town reassigns two employees

The state Department of Environmental Protection said yesterday that operator error was responsible for the excess of sodium hydroxide in the Spencer public water supply last week, creating an emergency that spanned several days.  Martin Suu-berg, regional director of the DEP’s Central Region office, said that based on interviews and an investigation with the help of the state Environmental Police, it was determined that operators repairing a leak in the sodium hydroxide feed system had left the apparatus in “manual operation mode.”  Once the repairs to the feed pump were made, the oversight came in not returning the sodium hydroxide feed pump to “automatic” operation.  Without naming the two operators, Spencer Town Administrator Carter Terenzini said they had been reassigned to other duties within the Utilities and Facilities Department.  In the interim, he said, licensed operators from Weston & Sampson Engineers Inc. of Peabody had taken over the operation of the water treatment plant and pumping station. Telegram.com_5/3/07

April, 2007

Spencer , Mass. water crisis improving

Town residents told flush pipes, boil water

The Massachusetts Department of Environment Protection said yesterday, a day after excess lye was released into the water system, that residents can use town water again, but only if they boil it after flushing out water pipes.  Town Administrator Carter Terenzini made the announcement yesterday afternoon.  He said he hoped the boil order would be lifted in its entirety by tomorrow morning.   At 6:33 a.m. Wednesday, a 911 call for medical assistance alerted the town to “a system malfunction that had put a heavier than usual dose of sodium hydroxide (also known as lye and caustic soda) into the (town’s) water supply,” Mr. Terenzini said.  About 100 people have been taken to area hospitals for decontamination and treatment. As of 3 p.m. yesterday, Mr. Terenzini said, no one was still hospitalized for contact with or swallowing of the tainted water, nor did the town anticipate anyone else would be admitted to the hospital.  Mr. Terenzini said it was too early to speculate on how the sodium hydroxide feed pump malfunctioned, but it did not appear to be a deliberate act. He also said it was too early to calculate the economic impact of the emergency on local business or the town. Worcester Telegram & Gazette News_4/27/07

Tennessee advisories reflect new, more conservative water quality criterion for mercury in fish

The Department of Environment and Conservation has announced several additions to Tennessee’s list of precautionary fish consumption advisories as a result of the trigger point for issuing a mercury advisory being lowered to 0.3 parts per million (ppm).  “Recent studies indicate that mercury has potential neurological effects on children at lower levels than previously thought,” said Paul Davis, director of the Division of Water Pollution Control. “Because of this new research and based on EPA’s new water quality criterion, the mercury advisory trigger point is being lowered to a more conservative level.”  State law requires the department to inform the public and post warnings where contaminants in fish pose a possible threat to people who might catch and eat them. Three existing advisories in Shelby, Loudon and Monroe Counties were modified to include mercury and seven new precautionary advisories for mercury were issued today. Two existing “do not consume” mercury advisories for the North Fork Holston River and East Fork Poplar Creek were not altered. Tricities.com_4/26/07

Chemical in water burns residents

Warning: 'Don't touch the water'
Dozens of Spencer, Mass. residents were taken to hospitals with burns or rashes after the town's water supply was treated with too much corrosive lye, officials said.  People were advised not to use or touch the water, said Ed Coletta, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, is routinely put into water to reduce acidity and limit pipe corrosion, Coletta said, but too much was used.  Los Angeles Times_4/26/07

U.S. EPA orders Bay Area company to comply with Clean Water Act
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Bay Ship and Yacht Co., a ship repair facility in Alameda, Calif., which discharges storm water to the San Francisco Bay, to comply with federal Clean Water Act requirements.  The EPA is ordering Bay Ship and Yacht to perform regular inspections of industrial and construction activity areas, develop and implement an updated storm water pollution prevention plan and submit weekly inspection reports to the EPA.  On Feb. 28, EPA inspectors found that Bay Ship and Yacht had violated its discharge permit and the federal Clean Water Act by operating with inadequate storm water pollution controls and pollution prevention plans and failing to perform routine inspections and monitoring of storm water discharges.  Polluted runoff is the leading cause of water pollution in the San Francisco Bay. Storm water runoff can carry pollutants from industrial sources metals, oil and grease, acidic wastewater, bacteria, trash and other toxic pollutants into nearby water sources. The EPA requires industrial facilities to prevent water pollution by complying with federal and state water pollution requirements.  WebWire_4/19/07

Prescription drugs seep into Lake Michigan and Grand Rapids' drinking water

Trace amounts of pharmaceuticals, including birth-control hormones and anti-seizure drugs, are leaving the city's wastewater treatment plant for the Grand River, with some showing up in Lake Michigan and in the city's drinking water, according to a newly released government study. Scientists believe the drugs are too diluted to harm humans, though they acknowledge no one knows the threat posed by ingesting tiny amounts of drugs in water over a lifetime. The immediate concern, scientists say, is the impact on wildlife, mostly fish. The test results are being used in a new campaign to teach people not to flush unused medications down the toilet. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American Pharmacists Association launched the public education campaign -- SMARxT DISPOSAL -- to reduce the flow of medications into the nation's sewer systems. A portion of the more than 3 billion prescriptions Americans fill each year are flushed down toilets or discarded in landfills; some of the compounds end up in lakes and streams, according to federal officials. Grand Rapids Press_ 4/14/07

New York City wins 10-year exemption on water filtration

After a long and exacting review, federal environmental officials have concluded that New York City’s upstate water supply is still so clean and pure that it does not have to be filtered for another decade or longer. The Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement today extending the city’s exemption from filtration requirements through 2017 means New York will not have to spend as much as $8 billion building a massive filtration plant that would cost millions of dollars a year to operate. As a condition for the extension, the city has agreed to set aside $300 million over the next 10 years to acquire land in the 1 million-acre upstate watershed. City officials and environmental advocates had expected the federal government to issue a five-year extension and were thrilled that it turned out to be twice as long. New York Times_ 4/12/07 (logon required)

E.coli found in water for Fisher Ferry, Mississippi

Customers of the Fisher Ferry Water District are being urged to boil tap water for at least several days because tests have shown E.coli in the south Warren County district. The Mississippi Department of Health issued the alert to its 1,800 customers Saturday after a positive sample was taken during the week, said Fisher Ferry system director Cheryl Van Norman. Low chlorine levels may have contributed to the presence of the bacteria, Van Norman said. State health officials generally attribute the presence of E. coli in water purification systems to problems with the treatment process or the pipes that distribute the water. E. coli is a main species of bacterium living in the lower intestines of animals, which indicates human or animal waste may be present in water samples testing at a high probability for the bacteria. Vicksburg Post_ 4/8/09

UN warns of extinction, flooding from global warming

A United Nations panel warned global warming will cause extinctions to mount, water shortages to spread and droughts and floods to become more frequent as man-made emissions of greenhouse gases cause the Earth to warm. The Arctic, sub-Saharan Africa, small island states and the big river deltas of Asia are among the most vulnerable areas, Martin Parry, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group that produced today's report, told reporters at a press conference in Brussels. Today's report, the second of four to be issued by the IPCC this year in its first comprehensive overview of scientific evidence since 2001, is aimed at informing policymakers of the known and predicted impacts of climate change, and of ways to adapt to global warming. At present, 35 countries and the European Union are bound by the Kyoto Protocol, which requires them to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by a combined 5 percent by 2012. The U.S. rejected the treaty in 2001, and large developing nations such as China, which is on track to overtake the U.S. as the world's biggest emitter by 2009, aren't set targets under Kyoto. Bloomberg_ 4/6/07

Drugs are in the water. Does it matter?

Residues of birth control pills, antidepressants, painkillers, shampoos and a host of other compounds are finding their way into the nation’s waterways, and they have public health and environmental officials in a regulatory quandary. On the one hand, there is no evidence the traces of the chemicals found so far are harmful to human beings. On the other hand, it would seem cavalier to ignore them. The pharmaceutical and personal care products, or P.P.C.P.’s, are being flushed into the nation’s rivers from sewage treatment plants or leaching into groundwater from septic systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, researchers have found these substances, called “emerging contaminants,” almost everywhere they have looked for them. Worries about water-borne chemicals flared last summer when researchers at the United States Geological Survey said they had discovered “intersex fish” in the Potomac River and its tributaries. The fish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, were male but nevertheless carried immature eggs. Scientists who worked on the project said they did not know what was causing the situation, or even if it was a new phenomenon. But the discovery renewed fears that hormone residues or chemicals that mimic them might be affecting creatures that live in the water. In a survey begun in 1999, the agency surveyed 139 streams around the country and found that 80 percent of samples contained residues of drugs like painkillers, hormones, blood pressure medicines or antibiotics. The agency said the findings suggested that the compounds were more prevalent and more persistent than had been thought. Christopher Daughton, a scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency and Thomas A. Ternes of the ESWE-Institute for Water Research and Water Technology in Germany brought the issue to scientific prominence in 1999, in a paper in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. New York Times_ 4/3/07 (logon required)

World climate change spending unequal

The world's richest countries, which have contributed by far the most to the atmospheric changes linked to global warming, already are spending billions of dollars to limit their own risks from its worst consequences, such as drought and rising seas. But despite long-standing treaty commitments to help poor countries deal with warming, these industrial powers are spending just tens of millions of dollars on ways to limit climate and coastal hazards in the world's most vulnerable regions - most of them close to the equator and overwhelmingly poor. On Friday, a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. body that since 1990 has been assessing global warming, will underline this growing climate divide, according to scientists involved in writing it - with wealthy nations far from the equator not only experiencing fewer effects but better able to withstand them. For example, Africa accounts for less than 3 percent of the global emissions of carbon dioxide from fuel burning since 1900, yet its 840 million people face some of the biggest risks from drought and disrupted water supplies, according to new scientific assessments. New York Times/Eugene Register-Guard_ 4/1/07

March, 2007

EPA publishes 2006 annual report on Clean Water State Revolving Fund

Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program in 1987 to serve as a long-term funding source for projects that clean and protect the nation’s waters. With over $60 billion in funds available for assistance to both large and small communities, it is the largest federal funding program for wastewater infrastructure projects across the country. Operating in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico, the CWSRF program has provided $57.7 billion to 18,611 projects since its inception. In 2006 alone, the CWSRF funded $5.0 billion in high priority projects. News Release_ 3/26/07

Download a pdf of the full report

UK's River Thames 'clean enough' for salmon after nearly 200 years

The young salmon, were released into the Thames tributary, Lambourne river, at Welford, near Newbury, Berks. Thames salmon died out in the 1830s, with salmon from other sources, which do not breed there, present from 1974, the Environment Agency (EA) said. It is hoped a salmon population will be back in the River Thames in 5-10 years. An EA spokesperson said the new salmon should stay in the river for a year before heading downstream through London, and up to Greenland before coming back to breed. BBC News_ 3/26/07

WWF says pollution, dams threaten rivers
The Yangtze River gets more than half of China‘s industrial waste and sewage. Europe‘s Danube has lost most of its surrounding wetlands. And the Rio Grande has become so shallow that salt water is seeping in, bringing ocean fish that threaten freshwater species.  Only 21 of the planet‘s 177 longest rivers run freely from source to sea, with dams and other construction destroying the habitats for migratory fish and other species by altering the water‘s natural ebb and flow, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said.  "Unabated development is jeopardizing nature‘s ability to meet our growing demands," said Jamie Pittock, who heads WWF‘s freshwater program.  The Danube — home to more than half of Europe‘s fish species — has lost 80 percent of its surrounding wetlands and flood plains because of dams, the report said.  In China, pollution in the main stem of the Yangtze River has increased by more than 70 percent over the last 50 years. Almost half of the country‘s industrial waste and sewage is discharged in the river, the report said.  In the Rio Grande, low water levels have allowed salt water to enter and ocean species to crowd out freshwater fish. Excessive extraction, primarily for agriculture, is threatening the river, which flows along the U.S.-Mexican border.  Brocktown News_3/21/07

download pdf of full report

Arctic could have iceless summers by 2100; Could trigger worldwide rain and snow changes

A review of existing computer climate models suggests that global warming could transform the North Pole into an ice-free expanse of ocean at the end of each summer by 2100, scientists reported today. The researchers said that out of the 15 models they looked at, about half forecast that the sea-ice cover — a continent-sized expanse that shrinks and grows with the seasons — would seasonally vanish by the turn of the century. One model predicted the Arctic would be ice-free each September as early as 2040, according to the article in the journal Science. The computer models were included in a landmark United Nations report last month that blamed human activities for the "runaway train" of global warming. The disappearance of the ice would lead to a dramatic reshaping of the Arctic that would accelerate warming of the oceans and potentially change precipitation patterns worldwide. The Arctic's end-of-summer ice expanses already have been declining by about 9% each decade since the 1970s. Los Angeles Times_ 3/16/07 (logon required)

February, 2007

Hopi runners to carry the Gift of Water as communities in northern Arizona honor water

Long-distance athletes from the Hopi villages atop Black Mesa in northern Arizona will run from the "center of the universe" to Sedona, Ariz., in April. They will be literally Carrying the Gift of Water across land, time, and cultures.

The 130-mile, three-day journey from the mesas to the banks of Oak Creek Canyon has been organized by Sedona's Institute of Ecotourism to raise awareness of the impact that humans have on the earth's very limited supply of fresh water. The idea was inspired by the 1,500-mile Hopi-to-Mexico City Run last March when runners from the Hopi villages took messages about the Hopi water ethic to the 4th World Forum on Water. That event was organized by Black Mesa Trust, a grassroots organization founded in 2000 to stop use of water from the pristine Navajo Aquifer underlying Black Mesa to slurry coal mined there by Peabody Energy to the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada. Native Times_ 2/20/07

Low levels of carcinogenic chemical PFOA found in New Jersey drinking water systems

The chemical is used to make nonstick cookware and all-weather clothing. It was found in drinking water systems across New Jersey, according to tests conducted by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The initial results of state testing of drinking water supplies before they are treated showed low levels of the chemical -- perfluoroocatano acid, known as PFOA -- that are "consistent" with what has been found in the rest of the country. DEP officials say it's safe to drink treated water in New Jersey. At the same time, the DEP is testing to determine what dangers the chemical could pose. Last year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency asked eight manufacturers to stop producing PFOA by 2015. The EPA says the chemical is used to make water- and grease-proof products, including microwave popcorn bags, nonstick cookware and upholstery. Federal officials say it has been found in 95 percent of Americans, and has been linked to cancer and development problems in animal studies. Star-Ledger_ 2/14/07

North Dakota stops de-icing roads with salty oil well waste water
North Dakota has stopped splashing roads with salt water left over from oil production, at least until it has results from a laboratory checking the waste water for contamination, officials said.  The state Health Department learned last week that the Transportation Department had been using oil well waste water, up to 10 times saltier than sea water, as a de-icer in parts of North Dakota since the late 1960s.  Environmentalists worry it may have hurt wetlands and water supplies. The state chapter of the Sierra Club has not found other states that spread the wastewater as North Dakota has.  The state Industrial Commission is looking into the practice, said Don Canton, a spokesman for Gov. John Hoeven.   "We're looking at whether there was a lapse in permitting, a lapse in proper application or a lapse in the law," Canton said.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring the state's actions, said Diane Sipe, an agency spokeswoman in Denver.  Canada.com_2/8/07

Roaring Fork Conservancy ready to float ideas for Basalt River Center

The non-profit conservation group is planning an education center that could be as important to Basalt, Colorado, as the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies is to Aspen. Roaring Fork Conservancy officials say their river education center will be unparalleled in Colorado and a popular draw for the small town. The conservancy has slowly been collecting ideas for a unique and eye-catching center, which will be designed by renowned architect Harry Teague. The Roaring Fork Conservancy is dedicated to protecting the water quantity and quality in the vast Roaring Fork watershed, which includes the Crystal and Fryingpan valleys. It also promotes protection of the watershed ecosystem. The organization celebrated its 10-year anniversary last year. Aspen Times_ 2/4/07

Global warming called 'unequivocal'

In a bleak and powerful assesment of the future of the planet, the leading international network of climate change scientists concluded for the first time Friday that global warming was "unequivocal" and that human activity was "very likely" to blame. The warming will continue for hundreds of years, they predicted. The scientists, members of the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, said that new science had also allowed them to conclude that the warming caused by human activity was probably influencing other aspects of climate change, including a rise in the number of heat waves, extreme storms and droughts, as well as ocean warming and wind patterns. The scientists, representing 13 countries and whose work was vetted by representatives from hundreds of nations, left little doubt of where they stood. Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said the report represented a tipping point in the accumulating data on climate change, even though the basic message of the document — that human activity is creating dangerous warming — was widely accepted. Climate change will cause far-flung ramifications for both humans and nature, according to the 21-page summary of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was approved early Friday by officials from more than 100 countries after three days and nights of wrangling over wording. International Herald Tribune_ 2/2/07

Report summary for policymakers

El Nino ending; brace for colder weather

An El Nino occurs when surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean rise to above-average levels. The phenomenon affects the jet stream, alters storm tracks and creates unusual weather patterns. Moderate to strong El Nino conditions typically bring warmer-than-average weather to the northern United States during winter. The latest outlook is a change from one that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued on Jan. 12 when the Washington-based agency said El Nino would persist through March. NOAA forecasters now expect below-average temperatures across the Midwest, Northeast and mid-Atlantic states during February. The winter got off to a warm start in December, when U.S. temperatures were the fourth-warmest on record, according to NOAA data that goes back to 1895. Bloomberg News/Buffalo News_ 2/2/07

And Southern California could be in for a dry spell. Los Angeles Times_ 2/2/07 (logon required)

January, 2007

Wyoming's proposed coal-bed methane water rules too strict - industry

Hundreds of workers risk losing their jobs if Wyoming enacts stricter regulations for water discharged by coal-bed methane wells, industry officials say. The state's Environmental Quality Council is considering new rules for barium, sulfates and other contaminants in the groundwater discharged by the gas wells. On Thursday, Yates Petroleum, Devon Energy and Marathon Oil officials urged about 200 coal-bed methane workers, landowners and businessmen to submit comments. Industry officials said the proposal threatens the more than $1.5 billion annual revenue the coal-bed methane industry provides for landowners, the state and the federal government. John Wagner, administrator of the DEQ's Water Quality Division, said Friday that the proposed rules would indeed prohibit the discharge of most coal-bed methane water on the surface. Gov. Dave Freudenthal hasn't said that he would approve rule change. AP/Billings Gazette_ 1/27/07

Invasive mussels could threaten California water supply pipelines
Federal, state and local officials are on the hunt for an invasive mussel that has been spotted in California for the first time ever and could clog water supply pipelines.  Quagga mussels were found earlier this month at Lake Mead in Arizona and at Lake Havasu near the Whitsitt intake facility for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  The discoveries launched a wider search for infested reservoirs and pipelines in California that are connected to the Colorado Aqueduct.  The aqueduct delivers water to an estimated 18 million people in urban Southern California, including Los Angeles and San Diego. The mussels can choke pipelines and threaten native species of fish by competing for their food.  The invasive mussels likely hitched a ride on a private boat from Michigan's Great Lakes to Lake Mead and Lake Havasu. Because the mussels are young - between 6 months to 2 years old - officials are hopeful that they can manage the situation.  The freshwater mollusks were accidentally introduced to the Great Lakes region in the ballast of ships from eastern Europe and the Ukraine. They can plug pipes up to 12 inches in diameter, and restrict flow in larger pipes. The colonies can also speed corrosion of pipes and other underwater infrastructure.  Until the quagga mussels were found this month in Lake Mead, they had not been spotted in the western United States.  Mohave Daily News_1/26/07

Biggest threat to U.S. drinking water? Rust
It never sleeps

From an attack by militants to a decline in snow melt caused by global warming, public fears about the water supply have heightened in the United States.  So who would have thought the top worry among water experts turns out to be rusty pipes?  "If you clean up water and then put it into a dirty pipe, there's not much point," said Timothy Ford, a microbiologist and water research scientist with Montana State University.  "I consider the distribution system to be the highest risk and the greatest problem we are going to be facing in the future," Ford said.  Towns and cities across the United States spend more than $50 billion each year cleaning water sourced from rivers, lakes and underground aquifers.  More than 170,000 public water systems are at work to keep tap water flowing into American homes and meeting the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974.   Reuters_1/24/07

AWWA supports EPA WaterSense Specifications for High Efficiency Toilets

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced

criteria to be used to certify high-efficiency, high-performing toilets under WaterSense, EPA's
Water Efficiency Program. WaterSense, is designed  to improve the market for water efficient products and practices. Jack  Hoffbuhr, executive director of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), said, "We all play an essential role in respecting and conserving our water resources. An Awwa Research Foundation report showed that toilets account
for nearly 27 percent of indoor water use. Households can reduce indoor
water use by as much as 35 percent by employing conservation measures such
installing high-efficiency toilets.  AWWA believes EPA's WaterSense program is an innovative way to help  consumers choose high-efficiency devices with confidence."  Press Release_1/24/07

Cutbacks imperil U.S. government climate studies, panel says

The government's ability to understand and predict hurricanes, drought, and climate changes of all kinds is in danger because of deep cuts facing many Earth satellite programs and major delays in launching some of its most important new instruments, a government panel has concluded. The two-year study by the National Academy of Sciences, released last week, determined that NASA's earth science budget has declined 30 percent since 2000. It stands to fall further as funding shifts to plans for a manned mission to the moon and Mars. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, meanwhile, has experienced enormous cost overruns and schedule delays with its premier weather and climate mission. As a result, the panel said, the United States will not have the scientific information it needs in the years ahead to analyze severe storms and changes in Earth's climate unless programs are restored and funding made available. Washington Post/Boson Globe_ 1/21/07

Chlorinated water may raise bladder cancer risk
Drinking, bathing or swimming in chlorinated water may all increase the risk of bladder cancer, according to a study reported in the January issue of American Journal of Epidemiology.   Chlorination is a process in which toxic chlorine is used to disinfect water.   Both chlorine and certain by-products of the process are toxic.   Trihalomethanes, a major by-product, has already known to raise cancer risk.  The study led by Dr. Cristina M. Villanueva of the Municipal Institute of Medical Research in Barcelona and colleagues was meant to investigate a possible association between bladder cancer and exposure to THM in chlorinated water.  For the study, researchers enrolled 1,219 men and women with bladder cancer and 1,271 control individuals who did not have the disease.   They surveyed the participants for their exposure to chlorinated water through drinking, swimming, showering and bathing. They also tested THM in 123 communities involved in the study.  People exposed to household water with more than 49 micrograms per liter of THM, which is common in industrialized countries, were at 200 percent higher risk of bladder cancer compared to those who exposed to household water with less than 8 mcg per liter, according to the study.  Those who drank chlorinated water were 35 percent more likely to develop bladder cancer than those who did not. Swimming in chlorinated water was linked to a 57 percent increased risk of the disease.   In addition, taking longer showers or baths and living in municipalities with higher THM levels were also at increased risk of cancer.   FoodConsumer.org_1/18/07

Tampa, Florida's Hillsborough River is sick

Sparkling waters that dazzled early explorers are now fouled by oxygen-destroying nutrients and harmful bacteria. Described by a 19th-century traveler as "fresh down to its mouth," the lower river is now salty much of the year. In the next few months, state water authorities will try to address the lack of fresh water flow into the lower 10 miles of the river. This summer, the state will roll out the first of several river cleanup initiatives. Tampa Tribune_ 1/14/07

Record warmth (again) in 2006

On the fever chart of rising temperatures, 2006 was the warmest year on record for the 48 contiguous states, pairing a lethal summer heat wave with a winter so mild that in some places daffodils bloomed out of season and bears forgot to hibernate, government climate experts reported Tuesday. Based on an analysis of readings from 1,200 weather stations around the country, the average annual temperature in the Lower 48 states last year was 2.2 degrees higher than the mean temperature for the 20th century and fractionally warmer than in 1998, which previously held the temperature record, reported scientists at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Indeed, January 2006 was the warmest on record in the U.S. and December was the fourth warmest since record-keeping began in 1895. In five states, December temperatures set record highs: Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. Each of the last nine years has been among the 25 warmest years on record in the U.S. — an unprecedented hot streak historically, the scientists said. Eight of the last 10 years are the warmest on record worldwide. Climate experts at the British Meteorological Office last week predicted that this year could easily become the warmest year globally on record. Los Angeles Times_ 1/10/07 (logon required)

Change said likely on perchlorate issue
The federal government's attitude toward perchlorate contamination, sharply contrasted in recent years by California's efforts to deal with the potentially dangerous chemical, could be about to change.  Tens of millions of dollars have been spent throughout the state to remove perchlorate - an ingredient in rocket fuel and dry-cleaning solvent - from drinking water supplies. State officials are close to establishing a mandatory limit on the amount of the chemical allowed.  At the same time, the federal government has set a non-mandatory limit for perchlorate contamination that is four times higher than what California is considering, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently nixed a requirement to even test for the chemical in drinking water.  Changing the seemingly lackadaisical approach taken by the federal government toward perchlorate will be among the top priorities of the new Democratic Congress, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-San Francisco.  "We are going to look at perchlorate in drinking water and its risks to kids and pregnant women," said Boxer in early December, announcing a series of hearings she plans to hold as incoming chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "There is a lot we need to do in protecting our families, and there is a lot the people need to know because the EPA has been moving backwards on this."  San Gabriel Valley Tribune_1/5/07

Water Quality Prediction for the Complete Idiot

Few of us are very good at predicting the future. But no matter how cloudy your crystal ball is, you can take comfort in the fact that the predictive abilities of Western hard rock mining companies are even worse.  A report released in December 2006, by the natural resources consulting firms Kuipers and Associates of Butte, Mont., and Buka Environmental of Boulder, Colo., for the environmental group Earthworks looked at the water quality predictions made by Western mining companies for environmental assessments prior to their mining operations. They then compared these predictions with what the actual water quality was after mining was under way.  In nearly every assessment, the mining operators predicted that there would be no impact or minimum impact to water quality as a result of their operations. But about three-quarters of the time, these predictions were wrong, resulting in either surface or groundwater quality deterioration in excess of established water quality standards.  Seventy-three percent of the mines in the study predicted in advance that they would have little or no adverse effect on surface water quality after they had taken steps to mitigate their impact. But after mining started, 60 percent of the mines had exceeded surface water quality standards. The numbers are similar for groundwater impacts: 77 percent predicted low impacts, but 52 percent of the mines actually exceeded groundwater quality standards.  New West Environment_1/3/07



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