Scientists Detect “Chemicals of Concern” in Recycled Oil Drilling Water Used to Irrigate Crops
Scientists from UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley Labs and PSE, an Energy Science Institute recently completed a report that identifies chemicals and their toxicities in the recycled water from oil drilling that is used to irrigate some crops in California’s Central Valley. The Central Valley crops are shipped nationwide and account for eight percent of U.S. agriculture. Oil companies and the Cawelo Water District tested the water and determined it is safe. But scientists who analyzed the chemicals said 40 percent were in the “chemicals of concern” category. NBC-TV Bay Area 2/17/17

Around the U.S.

New York to Fix Water Contamination Plume on Long Island

The state of New York has begun a new study to determine how to eliminate a contamination plume affecting 250,000 people in the town of Bethpage on Long Island. The plume was created decades ago by chemicals discharge from a Gruman plant that manufactured planes and weapons for the U.S. Navy. Basil Seggos, commissioner of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, said Feb. 17 the state during the next few months will determine the extent of the plume and how to eliminate it. WABC-TV 2/17/17


West Virginia Boil Water Alert Lifted
A boil water warning has been lifted for more than 320 residents of Boone County, West Virginia after West Virginia American Water determined a contamination threat had been fixed. Backflow from a church bathroom Friday went into the Camp Creek and Julian-area water systems, triggering a “Do Not Use” notice that stayed in effect until Saturday. Water quality tests confirmed residents no longer need to boil their water, the company reported. WSAZ-TV 2/19/17


Florida Loses to Georgia in Water Wars Ruling

In a major setback to Florida, a special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court sided Tuesday with Georgia in a decades-old legal fight over water flow from the Chattahoochee-Flint river system into the Apalachicola River.

The lawsuit is the latest development in a decades-old “water war” between the two states, which has led to $72 million in legal costs for Florida, from 2001 to this year, according to the House Appropriations Committee.

Ralph Lancaster, a Maine lawyer appointed by the nation’s highest court to oversee the case, said Florida has not proven “by clear and convincing evidence” that imposing a cap on Georgia’s water use “would provide a material benefit to Florida.”  “Because Florida has not met its burden, I recommend that the court deny Florida’s request for relief,” Lancaster wrote in a 137-page report.

The recommendation, which heads to the U.S. Supreme Court, is the result of a 2013 lawsuit filed by Florida alleging that Georgia diverts too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee- Flint river system and that the diversions have damaged Apalachicola Bay and Franklin County’s seafood industry.  Georgia countered that any limits on its water use will undermine its economy, including the growth of the Atlanta area and the state’s agriculture industry in southeastern Georgia.  A key finding in Lancaster’s report was that, since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — which controls water flow through the region in a series of dams and reservoirs — was not a party to the lawsuit, he could not devise a settlement between Florida and Georgia without the Corps’ participation.  “Because the Corps is not a party, no decree entered by this court can mandate any change in the Corps’ operations in the basin,” Lancaster wrote. “Without the ability to bind the Corps, I am not persuaded that the court can assure Florida the relief it seeks.”  Miami Herald 2-14-17


Nevada Looks to the Future of its Water
The driest state in the U.S. is trying to plan ahead to avoid serious shortages. State Engineer Jason King denied his office wants to take away domestic well rights. The state has a more than century-old “first in time, first in right” water law that puts those with the oldest water rights at the head of the line to receive allotments in times of drought. About 20 percent of Nevada’s 256 groundwater basis are considered “severely over appropriated,” meaning less water is available than has been allocated. Las Vegas Review-Journal 2/14/17


Dam crisis is wake-up call for aging California water system

In the mountainous folds of California lie hundreds of dams that played a vital role in making it America's wealthiest and most populous state. The Oroville Dam crisis this week, in which nearly 190,000 residents were abruptly evacuated from a valley below the tallest U.S. dam, illustrates the safety risks of the Golden State's aging infrastructure in increasingly populated areas. Sixty-four California reservoirs, or around 5 percent of the state's total, are restricted to holding less than their rated capacity due to earthquake risks and other concerns, a state dam safety official said.  California Department of Water Resources engineer Eric Holland, in the Division of Safety of Dams, said restrictions on capacity affected 64 reservoirs out of the 1,250 dams overseen by the agency. He said he was not allowed to identify specific dams, but that Oroville was not on the list. He did not describe what the state was doing to improve its dams, which are owned by private companies, local governments, the federal government, public utilities and the state. Reuters 2-14-17

California Still on Drought Restrictions In Spite of Downpours
California is recovering from a six-year drought but the State Water Resources Control Board Feb. 8 rejected proposals to declare the drought over, saying it will revisit the issue in May. One of the wettest seasons on record has pulled much of Northern California out of the drought but aquifers remain low in other parts of the state and lower rainfall in Southern California continues the official drought status. Even so, the state’s snowpack is at 184% of average for this time of year and parts of both Northern and Southern California have recorded record rainfall. Los Angeles Times-2/8/2017

Contaminated Drinking Water

Researcher's website a warning system for toxic, lead-contaminated water

Lead poisoning is different from other modern health risks, notes epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding. No medicine can reverse the damage and no amount of diet and exercise will help. The only solution is prevention. This reality was at the forefront of his mind last year when he began following the alarming data on high levels of lead in drinking water in Flint, Mich.

"Although I didn't previously work on environmental epidemiology, I couldn't just sit there doing nothing," said Feigl-Ding, a researcher with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Nutrition Department. "Working in public health, I just really had to do something about the situation. For diabetes or heart disease, there are interventions to treat it, worst-case. However, for lead poisoning there is not. Lead poisoning's brain damage in children basically is permanent.


Though municipalities routinely test water and send the data to the U.S. government, the information is not comprehensive and can be difficult to find and understand, Feigl-Ding said. He concluded that a critical missing piece of the puzzle was an easily accessible information portal and alert system connecting citizens to potential problems in their community.


Feigl-Ding assembled an all-volunteer team of software engineers and programmers, who, with head engineer Pius Lee, worked over six months to devise a new web platform, The site has several functions, including a U.S. map that allows users to enter an address or ZIP code to find water quality data for their location. The site also has a crowd-sourcing feature where individuals can upload test results of their own. For those who want to get their water tested, the site offers at-cost testing for lead, arsenic, mercury, copper, chromium, and cadmium, as well as more comprehensive tests for pesticides and other contaminants. - 2/1/17


Growers Oppose Desal in Drought-stricken Area of South Africa
Desalination is one of the last options a South Africans regional government leader said will be considered in a drought-stricken province. Dam levels are below 35% in the Western Cape area. Growers in the area which supplies much of Cape Town’s fresh produce said the government should concentrate on preserving the aquifer. EWN 2/16/17


Leaked Docs: Trump Backs Huntington Beach, Calif. Desal Project

The proposed $1 billion Poseidon Water desalination plant in on a list of 50 infrastructure projects nationwide that are a priority for President Trump, according to a leaked administration document that was reported in the Kansas City Star and The News Tribune. Poseidon has been trying to build the plant since 1998 but is opposed by environmentalists who argue it would kill sea life, among other issues. Even if the Trump administration backs the project, it must be approved by state and regional agencies. Orange County Register_1/25/17

International Water Summit 2017: GCC countries are global leaders in desalination
The UAE and other GCC states are global leaders in desalination, and have proved the value of the technology in underpinning water security worldwide, said a report released at the International Water Summit (IWS) which opened in Abu Dhabi, UAE January 16.

The world uses almost 87 million cu m of desalinated water every day, and the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region accounts for 44 per cent of that figure, according to the International Desalination Association.

In the GCC alone, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar are all among the world’s 10 largest users of desalination, it stated. 1/17/17_/

Flint Water

Closer look at what caused the Flint water crisis

Flint, Michigan, continues to grapple with the public health crisis that unfolded as lead levels in its tap water spiked to alarming levels. Now the scientists who helped uncover the crisis have tested galvanized iron pipes extracted from the "ground zero" house. They confirm in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology that the lead that had accumulated on the interior surface of the pipes was the most likely source of the lead contamination.

Flint's tap water became contaminated with high lead levels after the city turned to the Flint River to supply its water in April 2014. When they switched, officials didn't use a corrosion-control treatment to maintain the stability of rust layers (containing lead) inside service lines. Within a month of the switch, residents started to report smell and color changes to their water. After her family started getting sick, Flint resident LeeAnne Walters contacted Virginia Tech engineer Marc Edwards and asked him to test her water. All 32 samples from the Walters' home contained lead concentrations above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency action level of 15 micrograms per liter. Four samples were above 5,000 micrograms per liter, the threshold for hazardous waste. And one sample contained 13,200 micrograms per liter. Science Daily-2/1/17


Flint water has fallen below federal lead limit
Flint's water system no longer has levels of lead exceeding the federal limit, a key finding that Michigan state environmental officials said Tuesday is good news for a city whose 100,000 residents have been grappling with the man-made water crisis.

The 90th percentile of lead concentrations in Flint was 12 parts per billion from July through December — below the "action level" of 15 ppb, according to a letter from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to Flint's mayor. It was 20 ppb in the prior six-month period.

Flint's lead levels are again comparable to other U.S. cities, state officials told Associated Press ahead of an official announcement. 1/24/17_

Congressional Republicans Quietly Close Flint Drinking Water Investigation

The year-long investigation into contamination of the Flint, Mich. drinking water blamed state officials and the federal Environmental Protection Agency for contamination that affected nearly 100,000 residents. The committee’s findings offer no new information and essentially summarize what emerged during several high-profile hearings earlier this year. AP/Los Angeles Times 12/16/16

Obama Declares Lead Drinking Water Emergency in Flint, Michigan; Governor May Seek More Federal Funds

President Barack Obama Saturday declared a federal emergency in Michigan, freeing up to $5 million in federal aid to help with the lead water crisis in Flint. The declaration means the federal government will pick up 75% of the cost of bottled water, filters, cartridges and other supplies, up to $5 million, state and federal officials said. If the $5 million is exhausted, Congress has the option to approve additional funding. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder this week made the request to help the city of 100,000, which began experiencing high lead levels in its water after a switch of water source to save money. The president declined a further request by the governor to declare the situation a major disaster, which under law applies to natural disasters and certain other situations, state and federal officials said. The state is looking into an appeal of that decision, the governor’s office said. The water crisis has been unfolding for months in the Rust Belt city, which is still synonymous with closed General Motors plants and the decline of the U.S. auto industry. State officials and others now believe lead began leaching from service lines and plumbing into residents’ drinking water when the city switched its water source to the Flint River in April 2014. The temporary switch was part of a cost-cutting move away from Detroit’s water system before Flint could begin receiving water from another authority in 2016. The city stopped using the Flint River as its water source this fall, after the extent of the contamination became apparent. The percentage of children in Flint with elevated levels of lead nearly doubled from 2.1% before using water from the Flint River to 4% in 2015, according to a report released in September by a medical center in the city. Wall Street Journal 1/16/16

Michigan Attorney General Apparently Changes His Mind and Investigates Lead in Flint Water

Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office is investigating the Flint water crisis. Less than a month ago, an aide said an investigation was unnecessary because federal authorities and other agencies were reviewing the matter. Flint's tap water became contaminated with lead after the city switched water supplies in 2014 while a new pipeline was under construction. Corrosive water leached lead from old pipes. Gov. Rick Snyder has apologized for lead-tainted water in Flint. He is requesting a federal disaster declaration and millions of dollars that could pay for clean water, filters and other essentials. White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the request will be considered "expeditiously." AP/ABC News 1/16/16

What Did Michigan's Governor Know About Lead in Flint's Water, and When Did He Know It?
Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency Tuesday due to lead in the Flint water supply. The same day, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it is investigating what went wrong in the city. Several top officials have resigned, and Snyder apologized. But that’s only so comforting for residents. They’re drinking donated water supplies—though those donations are reportedly running dry—or using filters. Public schools have been ordered to shut off taps. Residents, and particularly children, are being poisoned by lead, which can cause irreversible brain damage and affect physical health. It could cost $1.5 billion to fix the problem, a staggering sum for any city, much less one already struggling as badly as Flint is. On Thursday, while declaring the state of emergency, Snyder wouldn’t say when he became aware of the lead problem in Flint. The Atlantic 01/09/16

International News

Neighbors Create a Water Supply in Combat-Battered Mosul Iraq
More than three months of street fighting wrecked the water and sewage systems in eastern Mosul but neighbors pulled out their shovels, sledge hammers, drills and other tools to dig their own wells. New York Times 2/16/17


Patented New Wastewater Treatment Technology is Turned On in Unity Saskatchewan

The Town of Unity, located in Saskatchewan, has fired up a first-of-its-kind-in-Canada wastewater treatment system, and they have high hopes for the technology. In fact, the community's administration believes that the results of the treatment system will surpass the "release of water to a fish-bearing environment" standards. The new wastewater treatment system is manufactured and distributed in Canada by Tecvalco Ltd.  "The Unity project is an integral first for use of the MemFree system on wastewater treatment in Canada," noted Tecvalco president Mike Menger. Marketwired- 1-30-17

Low-cost iron hydroxide coatings can clean heavily contaminated water
As one of the primary components of rust, iron hydroxides normally pose corrosive risks to health. An A*STAR team has found a way to turn these compounds into an environmentally friendly coating that repeatedly absorbs large amounts of pollutants, such as dyes, from drinking water at room temperature.

Conventional activated charcoal treatments have trouble removing heavy metals and bulky organic compounds from water. Instead, iron hydroxides are being increasingly used because they can form stable chemical bonds to these unwanted pollutants. Researchers have recently found that turning iron particles into miniscule nanomaterials boosts their active surface areas and enhances chemical absorption processes.  1/25/

Floating towards water treatment

Floating wetlands may seem odd but are perfectly natural. They occur when mats of vegetation break free from the shore of a body of water. That got ecological engineers curious about how they affect the water they bob up and down in.

A group from Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania and the University of Oklahoma, including researcher William Strosnider, has found that the floating wetlands show promise for water treatment. They engineered four different floating treatment wetlands designs using different materials and wetland plants.

"The main result is that engineered floating treatment wetlands could affect water quality in many of the same ways that naturally-occurring floating wetlands do," Strosnider says. 1/25/

Extracting more from wastewater

Fresh water scarcity and energy security are two critical global challenges facing us today. Researchers at KAUST have now created an advanced material that can address both problems simultaneously by producing clean water and hydrogen from wastewater.

Electrochemical membrane bioreactors recover clean water for reuse and energy from wastewater by integrating micro- or ultrafiltration membrane cathodes with a microbial electrochemical system. This works by using a material full of pores small enough to block the passage of bacteria while allowing treated, clean water to pass through. The same material also acts as an electrode in an electrochemical circuit that recovers energy through the hydrogen-evolution reaction.

Previously, porous, flat electrodes have been used as both the cathode for the oxygen-reduction reaction and as the membrane to filter treated water; however, hollow fibers offer a greater surface-area-to-volume ratio, which improves the system's performance. The drawback of this geometry is that these more complicated structures can be difficult to create and to optimize. For example, materials made from polymers are cheap to produce and flexible, but in general, because they act as electric insulators, they are not used as electrodes. 1/24/

Beer and Wine Makers Turn to Charged Microbes for Clean Water, Power

About 50 miles north of San Francisco, a brewery is quietly using a new type of technology, originally created to be used on a space station, to clean 50,000 gallons of dirty wastewater a day and generate energy in the process.

At the back of the brewery of Lagunitas Brewing Company, in Petaluma, Calif., three large shipping containers house an unusual design of electrically charged microbes that consume pollutants in beer wastewater and generate usable biogas. The technology was created by an MIT spinout called Cambrian Innovation, which is beginning to grow its customer list considerably in Northern California.

On Tuesday, the Boston-based startup announced that it will build one of its water-cleaning, and energy-generating, systems for its first winery: Napa Valley’s Rombauer Vineyards. The winery, famous for its chardonnays, will use the tech to treat all of its wine-making wastewater while also generating 30 kilowatts of electricity and heat.

Wineries and breweries have long been some of the earliest adopters of new energy and water technologies, as their vast water and energy use can cost them a lot of money. Many wine and beer makers in Northern California are also focused on building brands with environmental leanings. Some of the earliest customers of Tesla’s stationary batteries have been wineries and breweries. 1/24/

Wastewater solutions eyed for Ghana agriculture

Ghana's water supply is devastatingly vulnerable to the point where, one Western researcher believes, the country's 25 million people could soon be at risk – "an alarming thing we should all be concerned about."

Environmental Engineering graduate student Ahmed Abuhussein recently spent five months in the west African country where he addressed institutional, social and technical gaps in applying treated wastewater in agriculture – a possible solution to the area's water woes. With 66 per cent of Ghana's withdrawn water earmarked for agriculture (which makes up almost half of the country's GDP) the use of treated wastewater could have a significant impact.
Currently, 81 per cent of the country's wastewater is not being treated and of the 9 per cent being collected, less than 6 per cent is 'appropriately' treated. Abuhussein conducted field work at a local waste stabilization pond and interviewed local authorities, industries and non-for-profit organizations in the country. _1/13/17







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