Manure-tainted groundwater in Wisconsin

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of significant regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles where they originally were published.

Dairy manure taints Wisconsin wells

Wis. — All it took was an early thaw for the drinking water here to become unsafe.

There are 41,000 dairy cows in Brown County, which includes Morrison, and they produce more than 260 million gallons of manure each year, much of which is spread on nearby grain fields. Other farmers receive fees to cover their land with slaughterhouse waste and treated sewage.

In measured amounts, that waste acts as fertilizer. But if the amounts are excessive, bacteria and chemicals can flow into the ground and contaminate residents’ tap water.

In Morrison, more than 100 wells were polluted by agricultural runoff within a few months, according to local officials. As parasites and bacteria seeped into drinking water, residents suffered from chronic diarrhea stomach illnesses and severe ear infections.

–New York Times


EPA vows to get tough on Chesapeake

The federal government said that it would seek an unprecedented role as the environmental police of the Chesapeake Bay — enforcing new rules on farmers and keeping a closer eye on state-level bureaucrats — in an effort to halt the estuary’s long decline.

If the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan works, a bay known for soft-touch oversight could become one of the most aggressively regulated bodies of water in the country.

“People don’t believe there are going to be consequences if they don’t follow” some pollution rules now, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. She said the agency’s tougher stance on the Chesapeake could be copied with other watersheds around the country: “We want to make this a laboratory to show that it can be done.”

–The Washington Post


Blue-green algae bloom poisons dog

A dog died during the weekend after swimming in Fox Lake, west of Fairmont,  apparently as a result of exposure to toxic blue-green algae. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the dog’s owner said the dog swam in the lake on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 13, and was dead within hours.

Blue-green algae “blooms,” like those on Fox Lake and some other lakes around the state, can produce toxins.  These toxins can be deadly to dogs or other animals if ingested, particularly when they clean themselves after contact with the water.

Blue-green blooms can occur throughout the summer, but the recent warm weather and lack of rain create ideal conditions for them.  For more information, click here.

–MPCA news release


Zebra mussels found in Pelican Lake

A local resident found a zebra mussel attached to a native mussel in Pelican Lake north of Pelican Rapids in Otter Tail County. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources biologists searched the lake and found both adult and young zebra mussels, suggesting that they have been in the lake for more than a year.

The DNR will continue to search for zebra mussels in connected waters, especially downstream of Pelican Lake. Downstream connections to the lake could lead to the spread of zebra mussels via the flowing water as far as the Red River.

It’s the first discovery of zebra mussels in Otter Tail County and the Red River Watershed. This is the fifth new Minnesota lake to be identified as infested with zebra mussels this year.

–Minnesota DNR news release


Conservation district searches for zebra mussels

A day after zebra mussels were found in a northwestern Minnesota lake, divers combed through White Bear Lake to see if it might be susceptible to the invasive species — even though the creatures have never been seen there.

Zebra mussels, which threaten to alter the ecosystems of Minnesota’s 12,000 lakes, have been discovered in at least 30 bodies of water in the state. But when aquatic scientist Steve McComas and his crew spent five hours studying the depths of White Bear Lake in Ramsey County, it is believed to be the first time a government agency in Minnesota has taken the proactive step of examining a lake where there hasn’t been a problem.

–The Star Tribune


California farm seeks OK for $73 million water sale

While area farmers are struggling through a third year of drought, letting land lie fallow because they can’t afford to irrigate it, a large Kings County farm operator is a step away from a $73 million deal that would send 14,000 acre-feet of water to the Mojave Desert over 10 years.

The price, more than $5,200 an acre-foot, could be a record. Robert Cooke, chief of the State Water Project Analysis Office, said the most he’s ever heard paid for water was about $3,000 an acre-foot.

An acre-foot is the amount of water that would fill an acre 1 foot deep, or 325,851 gallons. The average household in the Visalia area uses about 290,000 gallons of water annually, according to the California Water Services Co.

The deal for the Kings County water, awaiting final approval by the California Department of Water Resources, is between Sandridge Partners, owned by the family of the late Silicon Valley real estate developer Stephen Vidovich, and the Mojave Water Agency.

–The Visalia Times-Delta


A new breed of invasive: Hippos

Even in Colombia, a country known for its paramilitary death squads, this hunting party stood out: more than a dozen soldiers from a Colombian Army battalion, two Porsche salesmen armed with long-range rifles, their assistant, and a taxidermist.

They stalked Pepe through the backlands of Colombia for three days in June before executing him in a clearing about 60 miles from here with shots to his head and heart. But after a snapshot emerged of soldiers posing over his carcass, the group suddenly found itself on the defensive.

As it turned out, Pepe — a hippopotamus who escaped from his birthplace near the pleasure palace built here by the slain drug lord Pablo Escobar — had a following of his own.

–The New York Times


White House outlines new oceans plan

With demands on US ocean resources control growing quickly, the Obama administration outlined a new comprehensive ocean management plan to guide federal agencies in restoring and protecting a badly stressed U.S. coastal and ocean environment.

The policy shift proposed by the president’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force holds enormous potential for sweeping changes in how the nation’s oceans are managed, including energy development, experts say.

At its core, the plan would set up a new National Ocean Council to guide a holistic “ecosystem-based” approach intended to elevate and unify what has long been a piecemeal approach by US agencies toward ocean policy and development — from oil and gas exploration to fisheries management to ship transportation to recreation.

–The Christian Science Monitor


New invasive crayfish in Wisconsin

A  new invasive crayfish that can harm native fish, frog and crayfish populations was found in Wisconsin late last month, presenting an early test case for a new invasive species rule aimed at keeping new invaders from gaining a foothold in Wisconsin, state invasive species officials say.

“This is exactly what the Natural Resources Board and the Legislature expected us to do with this rule: respond to citizen reports of new invasives, check it out, and if it’s on the prohibited list, get out there as quickly as possible develop a containment and control strategy,” said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank.

The red swamp crayfish, found by a citizen Aug. 25, 2009, in a Washington County subdivision pond, is prohibited under the new rule that took effect Sept. 1, 2009, and which gives the DNR authority to take fast action to eradicate prohibited species.

The crayfish was confirmed Aug. 26 by Milwaukee Public Museum experts as a red swamp crayfish, a Louisiana native raised by southern aquaculture operations, often sold to school teachers for their classrooms and to restaurants.

–News of the North


Wisconsin mink farm fined for tainting groundwater

A mink farm in St. Anna in Calumet County has been ordered to pay $15,000 and replace several neighboring wells to settle groundwater contamination claims brought against it by the state.

Fuhrmann Mink Farm, Inc., which operated a mink production facility near St. Anna for over 50 years, has also agreed to remediate nitrate contamination at the site of its former mink farm. Claims against the farm were brought under Wisconsin’s  water pollution prevention and spill remediation laws, according to a press release from the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office.

According to the complaint, Fuhrmann Mink Farm installed an onsite disposal system for its food process wastewater in 1979, but never connected this system to its waste stream, according to the release.

–FDL Reporter