Lawmakers question MPCA on Lake Pepin
A pair of Minnesota lawmakers expressed frustration with a developing plan to evaluate pollution problems in Lake Pepin, a widening of the Mississippi River between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The comments came at a joint meeting of House and Senate environment and natural resources committees.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is several years into an assessment of lake pollutants, a precursor to an effort to clean up the water body.
State Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, and state Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, questioned whether the agency’s current evaluation is too narrow, and doesn’t include such emerging issues as endocrine disruptors, chemicals that cause biological changes in fish and other creatures.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
Aging U.S. sewer systems often pollute
It was drizzling lightly in late October when the midnight shift started at the Owls Head Water Pollution Control Plant, where much of Brooklyn’s sewage is treated.
A few miles away, people were walking home without umbrellas from late dinners. But at Owls Head, a swimming pool’s worth of sewage and wastewater was soon rushing in every second. Warning horns began to blare. A little after 1 a.m., with a harder rain falling, Owls Head reached its capacity and workers started shutting the intake gates.
That caused a rising tide throughout Brooklyn’s sewers, and untreated feces and industrial waste started spilling from emergency relief valves into the Upper New York Bay and Gowanus Canal.
–The New York Times (From the Times’ Toxic Waters series)
Invasive Asian carp may have reached Great Lakes
The decade-old battle to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes might be over.
New research shows the fish likely have made it past the $9 million electric fish barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, a source familiar with the situation told the Journal Sentinel.
The barrier is considered the last chance to stop the super-sized fish that can upend entire ecosystems, and recent environmental DNA tests showed that the carp had advanced to within a mile of the barrier.
That research backed the federal government into a desperate situation because the barrier must be turned off within a couple of weeks for regular maintenance. The plan is to spend some $1.5 million to temporarily poison the canal so the maintenance work can be done.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Lake Vermillion park negotiations on hold
Already a long shot, Minnesota’s efforts to add another state park on the east side of Lake Vermilion could get squeezed even further when the state Legislature resumes in February.
Talks between U.S. Steel Corp. and the state Department of Natural Resources have been on hold for months, with no detectable movement. Meanwhile, U.S. Steel is proceeding with plans to develop housing on the 3,000-acre site along the picturesque northeastern Minnesota lake.
But any lingering hopes of a breakthrough are dampened by several developments.
DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten said the agency and the company are “standing down” until after the agency completes an environmental review of U.S. Steel’s proposed Keetac mine expansion project near Keewatin, Minn. He said both sides consider that process a distraction and want to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
South Florida puts sweeping limit on lawn watering
Recognizing the need to conserve water and increase protection for South Florida’s water resources, the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board has unanimously approved sweeping year-round water conservation measures that place permanent limits on landscape irrigation throughout the region.
The rule limits irrigation of existing landscapes to two days per week, with some exceptions.
The Year-Round Landscape Irrigation Rule is designed to curb water use in South Florida, which is the highest in the state at an estimated 179 gallons per person per day. Outdoor irrigation uses up to half of all drinkable water produced within the region. Up to 50 percent of the water applied to lawns is lost to evaporation and runoff with no benefit to the landscape, according to the district.
–Environment News Service
Wisconsin mine offers window on Minnesota dispute
A closed Wisconsin mine is playing a prominent role in the ongoing debate over mining for metals like copper and nickel, a debate that’s currently raging in Northern Minnesota.
Depending on whom you talk to, the Flambeau mine near Ladysmith, Wisconsin, is either a perfect example how metals like copper can be mined without harming the environment, or it’s a sad example of regulators ignoring serious problems.
–Minnesota Public Radio
Huge S.D. dairy cited for manure
A gigantic dairy operation near Minnesota’s western border is violating manure storage law and suspected of allowing pollutants to enter public waterways.
South Dakota’s largest dairy, Veblen East, and its neighbor Veblen West have been operating since the summer with too much manure in their huge lagoons, or ponds. Permits require that the ponds have at least two feet of space at the top so that manure won’t overflow when it’s windy or rainy.
–The Star Tribune
Nevada solar project abandons groundwater plan
A solar developer caught in the crossfire of the West’s water wars is waving the white flag.
Solar Millenium, a German developer, had proposed using as much as 1.3 billion gallons of water a year to cool a massive solar-power plant complex it wants to build in a desert valley 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
That divided the residents of Amargosa Valley, some of whom feared the solar farm would suck dry their aquifer. Others worried about the impact of the $3 billion project on the endangered pupfish, a tiny blue-gray fish that survives only in a few aquamarine desert pools fed by the valley’s aquifer.
Now Solar Millennium says it will instead dry-cool the twin solar farms, which would result in a 90 percent drop in water consumption.
–The New York Times
EPA must set Florida water pollution limits
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must come forward with a set of numeric limits on freshwater pollution by Oct. 15, 2010, under a consent decree approved by a federal judge in Tallahassee.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled from the bench that a Jan. 14 consent decree penned between the EPA and environmental groups including the Florida Wildlife Federation was both reasonable and valid.
The ruling, which was made after nearly three hours of testimony, was a defeat for a coalition of critics including agricultural interests, power companies, fertilizer manufacturers, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services.
–The Orlando Sentinel
The mystery of Bangladesh’s arsenic-tainted water
It was a twisted cycle: In the 1970s, Bangladeshis used surface ponds or rivers to collect rainwater for drinking. But thanks to garbage dumping and sewage, that water became a breeding ground for disease. So UNICEF sought to fix the problem—the agency helped residents drill simple wells that drew water from a shallow aquifer. But this remedy became a tragedy. Bangladesh’s groundwater was laced with arsenic. Now, in a study in Nature Geoscience, a team from MIT has answered one of the outstanding pieces of the Bangladesh puzzle: Just how all that arsenic got into the water in the first place.
Bangladesh occupies the flood-prone delta of the river Ganges [New Scientist], and that river brought the arsenic to the region’s sediments. But why doesn’t it just stay in the sediments once it’s there? Back in 2002, another MIT team began to answer the question by showing that microbes digest organic carbon in the soil in such a way that frees up the arsenic, but they couldn’t say where that carbon itself came from until Rebecca Neumann and colleagues figured it out this year: man-made ponds left behind by excavations.
EPA funds study of storing CO2 in aquifers
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded an $897,225 grant to the University of Illinois for a three-year research project to find out the environmental impact of injecting carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from a source such as a coal-fired electric generating power plant into Illinois’ deep underground water reservoirs for long-term storage.
Researchers will use field work and modeling to determine the effects of CO2 sequestration on ground water aquifers. The plan is to see whether CO2 injection could cause changes in reservoir pressure and possibly result in salt water migrating from deeper ground water and contaminating fresh water near the surface.
Although underground injection of CO2 for such things as enhanced oil and gas recovery is a long-standing practice, CO2 injection specifically for geologic sequestration involves different technical issues and potentially larger volumes of CO2 than in the past.
–EPA News Release
Health Dept. studies new threats to water
Using money from the sales tax increase approved by voters last year, the Minnesota Department of Health has begun a new Drinking Water Emerging Contaminants project. The Legislature last spring appropriated $1.3 million over two years for the project.
Health Department staff will evaluate chemicals that are potential threats to drinking water, but do not have health-based guidance values. These chemicals may include substances that have not yet been detected in groundwater, but are present in surface water or soil and have the potential to contaminate drinking water. Evaluations may also be done for chemicals that have recently been found to be more toxic than previously known.
The department has created a web page to describe the program.
–Minnesota Health Department
What to do about endocrine disruptors
Nearly a year ago, toxicologist Linda Birnbaum was named director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program. She sat down with Environmental Health News journalist Jane Kay in San Francisco to answer questions about the environmental health risks we face today.
As head of the federal institute examining environmental health, Birnbaum and her staff are taking on many controversial topics, including Bisphenol A and new flame retardants in consumer products. She talks about those issues and explains how scientists are trying to figure out what role chemicals and contaminants may play in breast cancer and other diseases and disorders.
California water bond laden with pork
Lawmakers want voters to borrow $11 billion next year to keep California supplied with clean water, but more than $1 billion of the money is earmarked for projects that have little or nothing to do with quenching the state’s thirst.
The bond proposal includes funding for bike paths, museums, visitor centers, tree planting, economic development and the purchase of property from land speculators and oil companies — all in the districts of lawmakers whose key votes helped it pass the Legislature.
–The Los Angeles Times